Responses To Ms. Lori Gottlieb’s article: “Marry Him”, in The Atlantic magazine, March 2007.
That article was scary. Your responses were reassuring -- I don't want to start thinking that it's reasonable, even sensible to be that bitter.
What amazed me was her complete acceptance that she'd never meet anyone she could be passionate about. I'm 23 and I've already met several people I love, who love me, with both passion and ferocity. Most of those people are friends, not romantic partners, but they are huge parts of my life. How do you get to the point where not only do you not have passionate relationships of any type, but you don't believe you'll EVER have them again? Has she truly never had any loving relationships with people she's compatible with?
Maybe I'm just too young to empathize. However, I don't understand her conviction that it's better to pleasant, permanent relationship than to be alone or to engage in shorter, more compatible partnerships. Nor do I understand why she left out the option of creating a family with the people you do love, instead of hunting down someone to settle for. Should I ever find myself wanting someone to run a household and raise children with and lacking the obvious choice of a romantic partner, I imagine I'd be propositioning friends instead of blind dates. If I must spend the rest of my life with someone, I want it to be someone I know I love.
I'll keep this brief because it's late and I'm hoping to spend tomorrow with some of the amazing people I have in my life. I will not be spending any time whatsoever to bemoan the lack of romance in those relationships or take that lack as a sign that I will never have lasting romantic relationships as wonderful as my platonic ones. I am going to joyfully appreciate what I have instead of delving into bitterness over
what I lack.
Thanks for writing. Between your partners, your friends, and your clients, you seem to have a very caring approach to relationships. I've been reading your blog for a year or two now and I always appreciate your perspectives.
Oh my word that is some rather scary rambling.
A very poorly written article (I can write better than this woman and I am not a writer) this was actually published?! It looks like a drunken diary entry.
Marry someone you find unattractive, do not have sex with, and whose company you do not enjoy just to say you are not alone? That is just insane. I can only imagine that you do not have friends Ms Gottlieb?
I suppose at 23 and with no desire to marry or have children this argument is completely lost on me. However as young as I am, I am fairly certain that 'settling' for someone you don't adore is not going to make you happy.
Why does it have to be marriage anyway? I don't believe I shall marry.
When I choose to spend my time with someone it is because I enjoy their company and think that they are beautiful not because I promised til death do us part.
A woman does not need a man/sponsor, It is possible to support yourself (and a child) if that is what you choose to do. Loveless, sexless marriage for financial support and companionship is not the answer to happiness. Love, sex and intimacy are very important parts of a relationship without these things it will not work.
Sexual intimacy is also quite essential to human happiness and denying yourself that is going to cause problems.
Good luck Ms Gotileb I believe you are going to need it.
As a literary critic, I agree with
your estimation of Gottlieb's writing talent--I expected the article to be over
after about 500 words, but it just kept going!--but what astounded me the most
was her use of Madame Bovary: "When we're holding out for deep
romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will
make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable
option, especially if you're looking for a stable, reliable life companion.
Madame Bovary might not see it that way, but if she'd remained single, I'll bet
she would have been even more depressed than she was while living with her
tedious but caring husband." Madame Bovary hated her life with her
tedious, caring (debatable) husband so much that she ATE ARSENIC!!!!!!!!!
That's what happened to her when she settled--she died a very painful death of
her own devising because settling didn't really work for her! And because
staying single just wasn't an option for Madame Bovary according to the social
mores of her time, trying to say she would have been *more* depressed single is
like comparing apples and donkeys. Madame Bovary wasn't living it large
with Carrie in the City, able to support herself and
any "out-of-wedlock" babies she had--she was living in provincial
Thanks for pointing out the Marry
I think the aspect of the piece I found the most truly offensive was her attitude that other people can't actually have a differing opinion from her.
"...And all I can say is, if you say you're not worried, either you're
in denial or you're lying."
How rude is that? Goodness. A girl (oh, excuse me... 30 year old spinster) can't be single and happy and honest? Or let's take it a step further... can't be happily uninterested in bearing children? Bullshit.
And regards to how it got published: I suspect the
impressed by the Controversial Material more than anything else. Or
maybe it stuck a misogynistic chord?
Hi, Matisse! I wasn't as
shocked by Gottlieb's piece as you were -- I've encountered crap like that
before -- but I was shocked that it ran in the
Anyway, the thing that stuck out to me was how shallow she assumes women are. She tells women to date men who are short and bald, as though they would never consider such a thing if it weren't for her timely counsel. And in the same breath, she says that passion's not all it's cracked up to be, as though a woman can't find passion with a short, bald man! How insulting.
I do agree with her that wild, heady, earth-shaking romantic love is neither necessary nor sufficient for a successful marriage. However, she seems to be arguing that any man will do for a woman of a certain age. Marrying someone who doesn't make your toes curl is one thing, if you're willing to give up toe-curling indefinitely; marrying someone who doesn't share your values, doesn't communicate well, and may in fact lack a basic sense of respect for other people, is quite another.
And, of course, the heterocentrism of the piece goes without saying. All women are desperate to get married? What about the women who love people of a gender they're not permitted to marry?
There are no words to express how
bad I thought that article in the
What I find so interesting in this, is what about the man's opinion? Ok, the women are settling, so they can be supported and have kids. That was great in 1450, they needed to be supported and were in fact just there to have kids. Many of them, since they died so easily. However, 558 years later, not so much. Women have an opinion of whom they marry, AS DO MEN. Why should a guy settle either?
I found this article so incredibly sexist! Yes, it's bad for women; but it's extremely bad for men as well. Why should anyone marry for reasons other than love? Unless you're creating alliances between countries, I think the idea of settling should be over.
Science is now predicting that the first person to live to be 1000 years old is currently turning 50. That means that the average person, due to nanotechnology, will live to be 800-1000 years old. Do you really want to spend that with "some guy" or "some girl?" I think if we're going to keep living so long, 30 isn't really much of a milestone.
Where the hell did the 30 mark come from anyway? Women are having healthy children in their 40's now (or even older)! If you're settling, do you really need to hang out with your husband for 10+ years before having kids? I'm 32 years old, and intend on adopting children (MAYBE) when I reach my early forties, after I've traveled some more and experienced more of my life. I don't feel a clock ticking anywhere but my mantel.
Personally, I think this woman has some serious issues, as will her poor child. A person who thinks this way should NOT be raising children, nor writing anything the public can even see! It doesn't just offend feminist women, it offends everyone.
It's funny you were so upset by
this column! I think what you're missing is that this woman's whole perspective
is based in a kind of lust that you've admitted you just don't have -- baby
lust. Luckily for this person, she was able to indulge her real lust here
without needing to involve some random guy in the picture, so while she sounds
whiny she's not really that badly off. To me, it seems like she mainly feels that
her life would be easier with a second person around to support her
relationship with her baby. Your example from your own life dealt with marrying
someone who you expected to be your primary relationship, and getting that
wrong would be pretty tragic. In her case, she feels that it doesn't matter too
much whether she loves or feels passionate towards her husband because she
already has an intense love relationship. She is more or less looking for a
business partner to support her primary relationship, and offering sex and her
sparkling presence as the salary -- and I agree with you, she's not doing a
very good job of selling it - but that's probably because she's embarrassed, or
feels it's unrealistic, to ask for the relationship she really wants which is a
co-parent. Too bad there's not a board for that on Craigslist.
Family really is some serious vanilla polyamory. For many of us, the experience of having children with a partner is our first and maybe only experience of how love is not a zero-sum game, how adding more love relationships just increases the amount of love in your life.
More people to love takes some of the pressure off of individual relationships too, which is perhaps another reason she feels a little more open about the marriage relationship she's looking for. ("Open to different things" would have been a much better phrase to use than "settling". I totally agree, she's doing pretty much nothing for her cause by pushing the "settling" concept.) I'd say her biggest problem is that she's committed halfway to life on her own terms, outside of the traditional rules that say you can't have a baby unless you're in a heterosexual marriage, but she doesn't quite have the balls to see it through and figure out now how to add sex, friendship, and loving support for her child without demeaning herself and other people.
I realize that we've never met or spoken before, but I wanted to share my own experience with a relationship based on at least one of us settling.
I started dating one of my closest guy friends last year. He had previously had issues with women, had body image issues (an eating disorder during his mid-teen years), and didn't consider himself very lucky in love.
I hadn't to that point really found a man that I felt I could pursue romantically without getting bored; my friend challenged and inspired me, so I figured dating would be a natural jump.
Unfortunately, the romantic relationship lasted all of about 3 weeks. He said "I love you" after the first date. I panicked, because I realized that, sure enough, I didn't love him back. I tried to, I really did, but I just felt guilty and sad for trying to force something that wasn't there.
Obviously, things for us were were not meant to be. We broke things off romantically, and consequently, my attempt at settling has cost me the friendship of someone I genuinely care about. He won't even speak to me, not even a simple hello when we encounter each other on campus.
The article by Ms. Gottleib made me very sad to think that some lovely, trusting girl will take her advice and end up in a relationship just for the sake of being in one. I think its awesome that you're willing to speak up and give significantly better advice.
I appreciate your refutation of Lori Gottlieb's "Marry Him!" -- I read it yesterday and was also appalled. I also tried to settle... fortunately I didn't make it to the marriage stage, but the year it lasted was horrid and the breakup was worse.
thank you for responding to that awful Atlantic article. I felt a range of emotions as I read it, and before I got to your blog post I marveled at how long and rambly it was. Your articulate rebuttal was strong and spot-on.
My girlfriend and I were talking about the original article this morning and we thought we'd share our thoughts with you for your follow-up. basically we were talking about the scarce kernels of truth buried in the muck.
It's hard enough work to build a stable loving household within a marriage based on love. The grind of mundane details quickly rubs away whatever 'romantic' veneer was present when the relationship started, and you have to cope with everyday annoyances and challenges. I would argue that one huge reason for the divorce rate that Ms Gottleib referred to is the disillusionment of folks who went into marriage expecting some kind of fairy-tale dream or those who have settled for a partnership without love. Only the truly phlegmatic person could stay in such an arrangement without going mad.
At first her use of television characters as argumentative support was baffling to me. I don't think that my interpretation of this strategy of hers would please her, frankly. I think it is indicative of a population of people who truly are influenced and motivated by what they see on the television. Ads and fictional characters seem inordinately important to some people (my in-laws, for example). The tail wagging the dog, in my mind. Unfortunately this kind of manipulation of the slack-jawed mases is not new, churches have been doing it for decades!
I, too, read Ms. Gottlieb's article
with a sense of horror. I settled
in marriage, not once, but twice. The first time it didn't cost too
horribly much, psychologically speaking, other than the realization I
was married to someone I had absolutely no respect for and was acting
out about that (read: sleeping around at an incredible rate).
The second time, though -- when I married because I thought it was the
thing to do, despite the fact that I suspected I was marrying "the
wrong David," when the "right David" was gay and lived over 350 miles
away -- that one really was soul-destroying. I settled for David; then
I settled for an open relationship that he wanted because he was far
less sexually experienced than I was. I finally quit settling when he
became publicly insulting. His second wife settled so much she ended
up in a mental hospital, where he simply dropped her off on the way to
And this is even without children being involved. The concept of
inflicting all this on innocent bystanders is beyond horrifying.
I think one of the (many) errors in judgment Ms. Gottlieb makes is her
underlying assumption that everyone is just like her. I can understand
making that error; it's one I've often made myself until circumstances
rise up to remind me that, no, most people -- and especially most
women -- really are not like me. I suspect it's easier for you to keep
that straight, so to speak, as an "out and proud" sexual outlaw.
From reading her article, I would guess that she lives in
that she's Jewish, and that she's known most of the same people all
her life. She's never known what it is to be truly uprooted, either
voluntarily or otherwise. She thinks every other woman in the world
think just like she does, and she will downplay and denigrate any
differences in approaches to life.
so much for your article encouraging women not to ever "settle". This
is something that is very important and needs to be said over and over and over
again so that people stop seeing relationships as a contract for producing
children, and women as "wombs in need of financing" (and men as
sperm-factories with a paycheck). Those who encourage women to settle are
thoroughly anti-feminist and anti-relationship and it's sad. What's even sadder
is people still fall for that nonsense.
So, the case Ms Gottlieb builds for
"settling" is premised on the notion that one can never find a "soulmate" who perfectly fulfills all your needs.
Isn't that problem far more satisfactorily addressed by polyamory? I
believe you've written before about how polyamory takes stress off
relationships because you're no longer demanding that your partner fulfill you
in all ways. I'd love to read a column by you attacking the very concept
of this Catch 22 between "perfect soulmate"
Of course the interpersonal skills displayed by Ms Gottlieb in her choice of subject might suggest that she's not a good candidate for any kind of relationship, "poly" or otherwise...
I don't know if you read all or much or any of the emails that people send to you but I was so cheered by your critique of Gottlieb's sad diatribe that I felt compelled to write and thank you. I think your calling the kind of marriage she advocates the "wrong kind of whoring" is incisive, albeit radical in a culture that so often celebrates the conventional at any cost. I heard Gottleib do a commentary on NPR on Valentine's day which was apparently a riff on the article she wrote. I decided I did not care to read the article after hearing her meditation on the glories of monogamous matrimony despite the disarming honesty of her blandly married friend who tried to dispell Gottleib's fantasies with a strong dose of reality--to no avail.
I won't go into heavy detail here (and please don't print these in association with my name), but I did (as a male) exactly what she's describing: I settled. I settled for Ms. Good Enough, because it was someone I got along with well on a personal basis. I knew I wasn't in love with her, but I'd been rejected by the love of my life and, well, needed someone to dull that pain.
Awful, eh? Well, I got what I suppose that approach deserves: over twenty years of a passionless "partnership" (as the writer put it), "formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business." I didn't know really how unhappy I was, particularly sexually, where the mix of libidos and interests was completely out of whack.
So, what the writer says she longs for ("that sense of having a partner in crime. Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you on your bullshit and puts up with your quirks") is exactly what I DID have, and for two decades. And it wasn't enough. I didn't need a buddy or a sibling, I needed someone I passionately adored in a non-platonic way.
Just as you described: it cut off the air to some vital part of my soul, and I did come close to withering and dying. Fortunately, I found the circumstance and the courage to get out, and I'm now re-married to someone I deeply love. Sure, I can't think of NOT having done what I did with what I had to deal with at the time (and I too can't imagine a world where I didn't have Biff and Buffy, as the writer puts it). But thankfully, I was able to leave it behind me.
I love reading your column, and I
really enjoy this week's version. I was born in the south, and even with all of
the progress made in the last fifty years or so, as far as women's
independence, there is still this funky notion lurking that one must marry when
in a long-term relationship. People think, "Oh you've been dating two
years, when is he going to propose?" To which I usually answer,
"Hopefully no time soon, because then I would have to turn him down!"
I had been dating a guy for 5 years, so I got pretty good with my replies.
Whatever happened to people who wanted great careers and to follow the dreams
they had that didn't involve children? I am beginning to think a gene mutates
them at 30 or something. And what's to become of those of us who cannot/ do not
want to have children? Do we become spinsters? Are we to be looked down upon by
I think even a lot of women who consider themselves independent start generally freaking out when they hit 30, as if they're going to morph into some fat ugly version of their former selves while their uterus disappears. It's really sad, especially with everything that modern medicine can do: ex. fertility at older ages and a longer life span.
I appreciate you telling people not to settle, because I know a lot of people who have, and are either miserable or divorced. And I am only 25! It will be interesting to see what has happened by the time my acquaintances are in their 40's.
I agree with everything you said
about the Atlantic article. And I was even
annoyed by some extra stuff you didn't mention. I know this isn't exactly
the POINT, but it's as if she's continuing to deify the "traditional family"
even while having started one that isn't. Or that she's imagining that for
a kid to be raised by his bio dad is such an ideal that we (other women,
whoever the hell she's talking to) shouldn't want to compromise that ideal
in any way . . . yet, she did, and on purpose.
I don't know if she's just incredibly hypocritical or terribly uncreative.
The only point she made that I could kinda sorta see was saying that there
might not always be a terribly high correlation between qualities that
arouse sexual passion and qualities that make for a good "teammate" in
raising a child. Or, for some, they might be negatively correlated, as if
one leads a terribly exciting life or has a super fascinating career, one
probably has less time for baby chores.
So why doesn't she get together with her "self-empowered" friend in the same
boat and they can "teammate" for each other? She's a proven quantity,
right? They get along already, and have very similar needs. Live together,
reduce living expenses, have more disposable income, more supervision for
the kids, more help with running other household stuff, someone to talk
about their "trivia" with, etc.? No, I'm not suggesting they become
lesbians, although that would be convenient. Just be each other's
"teammate," since they seem to agree they need one. And then that also
frees them up to continue searching for some guys they can actually love . .
. with more free time, more cash, and a built-in babysitter, no less. That
would be like having your cake and eating it too!
I'm a dyke, so yeah, this seems extra stupid to me. Meanwhile, on a
slightly unrelated note, I also think it's a sick sad reflection on our
culture at large that so few breeders desperate for children ever think to
adopt. This woman didn't even seem to consider that as even a possibility,
even though it would have helped out with the whole clock issue. But this
article actually made me feel sorry for the men she's dated recently, and
feeling sorry for heterosexual men isn't something that comes up a lot for
me. If that doesn't mean she's pretty unlikable, I just can't think what
“So I will say it again: don’t marry someone you’re not in love with. It will cut off the air to some vital part of your soul, and it will wither and die.”
I don't doubt that your experience
included that phenomenon. But I think you may want to consider the
somewhere-over-2 billion people in marriages and/or families that came about as
a result of arranged marriages.
Now being American, I happen to find the whole Asian/African arranged-marriage thing goofy on a several levels, but it does constitute an existence proof of a hugely-followed, socially-entrenched, even businesslike approach that can be summed up as: don't-bother-just-settle-in-advance.
It's lasted for several thousand years and doesn't look likely to disappear anytime soon. Of course, there are complexities to the overall arranged-marriage picture beyond the fact that it's formalized settling. But it does suggest there may be something more to settling than you've given that concept credit for.
I'm straight-down-the-middle on my
feelings on this. I wonder, for a
start, how much differently it would have played if instead of
"unmarried" she'd focused on "unpartnered." I know *zillions* of women
who wouldn't give a damn about turning 30, 40, 50 or beyond without a
ring on their finger. I know very few who wouldn't have a twinge about
hitting a Big Zero birthday without a committed partner - of whatever
gender and commitment status is their personal ideal.
I also wonder to what extent this is an ambit claim: in taking a
strongly unpopular stance, she's opting to swing for the fences and be
sure to get on the radar, rather than taking the more reasoned, more
nuanced, asterisked-to-death position that may be closer to her actual
views. The article is so overreaching and strident it's hard to
imagine anyone, even the author, actually believing every word as
I'm with you on your basic point: No one should marry anyone they
don't love. That way lies a life of poisonous resentment.
I'm with her on what I suspect is her basic point: Married life (or,
more accurately, committed lifepartnership, however you envision that
for yourself) has much less to do with unending intellectual and
sexual passion than with day-to-day, building-a-life-together
compatibility. This is doubly or triply true if you want kids. We
should stop doing young women the disservice of telling them to hold
out for romantic fairy-tale mates who may never appear, and encourage
more realistic discussions of choices, trade-offs and compromises.
No one should *ever* "settle" for someone they don't love and cherish.
If you "get a cold shiver down your spine at the thought of embracing
a certain guy," then dear GOD, do not marry him.
But on the flip side, if you "have certain requirements," if you find
after years of looking around that no one possesses all the qualities
on your mental checklist, then yes: we should encourage people,
especially youngish people, to think really damn hard about whether
they will be happier in the long run holding out for everything in the
list or revising the list and considering a wider pool of mates.
(There is no right answer to that; I mean exactly what I wrote, 'think
about' and 'consider.' If someone honestly decides that sharing living
space with a partner who isn't their absolute ideal is worse than
being along, that is a completely valid choice. But be willing to own
And more than anything, I'm curious about the male reaction to this. I
do hear a lot of my female friends hashing through these things: 'Why
am I in my 30s and alone; what's wrong with me??' or 'Why am I married
to someone who fails at basic aspects of life functionality??' What's
the take on the other side? Is there genuinely less angst, or is it
just angst that the (usually female) writers of these sorts of
articles don't know of or understand?
Thanks for the brilliant counterpoint to Gottlieb's revolting column. I wanted to add a couple of thoughts.
There is one thing I actually agree with her on. Our society espouses a little scripted formula for life, involving One True Love(TM), buckets of passion, marriage, kids, and happiness ever after -- and recommends that one should find all that in a single partner by the time you're 25. Like her, I think that's pretty much unrealistic bullshit for most humans.
There are myriad other solutions to this hypothetical conundrum. One could live without love, or without marriage, or without children, or without monogamy (raising kids with a stable friend and dating for passion) ... these are all possible. Or, even, you could have realistic expectations of relationships, and find a blend of satisfaction in all the aspects. But no. To Gottlieb, marriage and children are assumed non-negotiable, therefore there is only one possible solution: love must go.
Why does she assume that love can be sublimated, but the other desires (procreation, marriage, stud husband income) cannot?
One other little gripe. She says: "The dream, like that of our mothers and their mothers from time immemorial, was to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after."
Gottlieb needs to learn a little freaking history. The concept that anyone had a right to expect love in marriage was a 19th century invention*: Conservatives at the time were horrified, writing that the unrealistic expectation of love in marriage would destroy civilization by causing divorces! (And they were right about the divorces.) The dream she refers to doesn't go back to time immemorial, it goes maybe as far back as her great-great-grandmother. Going back to time immemorial, rather, was an assumption that most marriages were loveless economic arrangements. Lori's plea, then, is simply an instruction to women to turn back the clock 150 years for the sake of their only priority in life: motherhood.
(*Recommended reading: Marriage, a History by Stephanie Coontz)
In response to the article you
wrote about today:
First of all, as I was reading it I threw up a little bit in my mouth! Reading this drivel seriously makes me want to die, or maybe just kill her instead. I can't believe someone would seriously advocate marrying someone you don't really deeply care about simply to be married (as if this is truly some prize in and of itself). To me this seems like the problem with marriage in this country. People think that getting married is the ultimate step in someone's life so they push themselves into loveless marriages that just end up as loveless (and often downright nasty) divorces. Can we please stop teaching women and girls in this country that their only worth is as wives and mothers.
On another note, I agree with you that her argument really makes no sense. Living the dream really should include motherhood (for those who truly want it - and not all women do!!!) and being loved by someone, not motherhood and marriage to someone you wouldn't even have dated last year.
Marriage is really just a legal arrangement not a expression of love.
Ugh! I think this woman may have single-handedly pushed back women's lib 20 years.
Just so people know I am under 30, happily married (to a man I dated for 5 years before marrying him), a mother of 1, and I have a Master's degree from NYU (Ambition and Love are not mutually exclusive!). And I can tell you right now, that if I didn't love my husband, I damn well wouldn't still be married to him.
I kept waiting to get to the punchline in Ms. Gottlieb's article. Once I
realized there was no joke, I couldn't finish it. I'm still shivering
from the horror of it, actually.
Thank you for sharing the link and your thoughts.
First of all, I agree with your argument that the article is repetitive. It is long and winding when it could have been much more concise. I also agree that the arguments Ms. Gottlieb makes are not evenly supported through out the piece. She points out that there are many different opinions but never goes on to explore them, citing solely what she herself feels. She uses personal experience as a stand in for completely defending her position. I believe you are right to criticize her writing in this way. What I question is your vehemency.
I know from reading your blog that this is a topic you have very strong opinions on. Marriage is a very major thing. It's one part emotional binding, one part legal binding, and many parts a binding I can not really describe. I value your opinion on many topics (especially books, I love your choice of books) and usually agree with you.
Yet, the opinions Ms. Gottlieb expresses in her article are, at times, very close to my own. I am honestly unsure whether she meant, "If you want a home and children, you should marry any solvent, sperm-producing guy who asks, even if you don't love him, while you're young and your "marital value" is high." when she was presenting her argument. What I got from the article was that if one wanted to find "Mr. Right", it wasn't going to happen. You shouldn't marry him for his child-producing, wage-earning potential. You should marry the guy that fits almost all the way into the cookie cutter shape you have pictured, and if he's not the love of your life, well, what are the chances of you meeting that guy anyway? There definitely was an element of "settling" for good fathers and wage earners, but she was basing the piece on what she feels she needs most in her life, not what she felt all women want (though she really doesn't go through much trouble to distinguish the two).
"However, Ms. Gottlieb goes beyond that, suggesting that women should abandon the idea of passionate love altogether, and view ourselves as mere wombs that need subsidizing, and men as stud animals with paychecks." is definitely not something I got out of this article. Admittedly, I am a somewhat more sympathetic audience. Having a husband and children is not something that factors even remotely into my plans for the future. But I do see, and can apply to myself, some of what she is saying. I am not adverse to simply...staying comfortable. I can see the relationship I am currently in lasting most of my life. The man I am with is no where near my perfect match, but we get along. He is not the kind of person I would have ever pictured myself with, but we communicate on almost the same wavelength and he is, for lack of a better word, comfortable. He is not the love of my life. But as Gottlieb says, "even if he's not the love of your life, make sure he's someone you respect intellectually, makes you laugh, appreciates you-". In the eternal words of break ups everywhere, "I love him. I'm just not in love with him." And I really don't see that as a problem.
First of all, you were right; the
article you referenced was a stylistic nightmare. The number of times she
reused the word 'settling' made my head hurt all by itself, to say nothing of
the hemorrhaging brought on by the repetitious, circular, and in the end
totally pointless nature of her arguments. This is a woman who's
supposedly passed high school, yes? If I'd turned that in in my English class I probably wouldn't have scraped a C,
based on how poorly thought-out it is. (In fairness this email will
probably have several similar stylistic errors--to say nothing of unnecessary
tangents--so my apologies in advance for that, and assurance that yes, I am
aware of my hypocrisy about these things.)
That said... she may actually have something of a point, but where she goes wrong is in applying it to all 'women of a certain age.'
There are some 30+ singles (or 40+ singles, to take the author as an example) who have screwed up their romantic lives so utterly that they don't believe in their own ability to find love. If they are totally convinced that they will not find their soul mate and that a contented marriage is the best they can do, then even if they do, by some mischance, find someone they actually love, they will still probably not be happy. It's amazing what the human mind can convince itself of when it tries hard enough. It's a sort of emotional hypochondria. I would go so far as to suggest that a large percentage of those women who find themselves reading that article and going "Yes, yes, it's all so true!" also have some serious self esteem issues or poor previous relationships on which they're basing their whole experience with their gender of choice. Much in the way someone with a headache can practically grow a brain tumour because they're convinced they should have one, someone who believes they will never do better than a caring but passionless marriage will end up in exactly that scenario….
Apply this situation to aging straight women with even more issues enforced on them by their gender-roles (the load of dung that says it's impossible to balance motherhood and a career, or motherhood and a relationship, or maintain a passionate marriage for any amount of time or in conjunction with any of the above--all of these disproved by almost every woman in my family) and you've got women like Ms Gottlieb.
That's just my personal take, and I could be entirely wrong.
And who says she needs to be married anyway? Yes, it might be nice for someone to help fiscally and emotionally support her child (let's me take a moment to mention horrified I was when she referred to her child as part of what made her 'damaged goods.' If her poor kid ever reads that... wow. This is a woman who should not be a mother,) but from her own account she's been doing that just fine. She obviously has companionship, since she has so many friends to discuss the contents of that article with, so she can't really be looking for a husband there. What's wrong with having a longterm relationship without a piece of paper to back it up? If her long-term partner had fathered her child I can see where having that legal bond might be reassuring, but that's not even an issue. Why is this woman so against the concept of her own independance? Generally people only marry those they want to be in love with for the rest of their lives, if they marry at all--a long-term romantic relationship doesn't need paper to back it up (as you yourself have proven.) Ruling out child support and companionship... what is she looking for? Why does she feel the need to attach herself to a man? It's driving me mildly insane.
...y'know, everyone's romantic lives would probably be better if the world in general was allowed no longer than half an hour per week for relationship-related angst.
Jesus christ, who is this woman? I normally would have
at this point:
"Oh, I know—I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this
right now who will be writing letters to the editor to say that the
women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by
the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea
what I’m talking about. And all I can say is, if you say you’re not
worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying."
I see no point in entering any kind of discussion with someone who
insists that if I disagree, I'm lying. That's dismissive, condescending
I scanned a bit more based on wanting the context for your article but
there was no real point. Gottlieb takes "the grass is always greener" a
step too far and makes herself sick with envy for the life she thinks
she should have had, without ever once addressing her own issues: about
herself, her own self-esteem, her obvious fear of aging. What, exactly,
does she expect to make better?
I think she should put down the pen and paper and really, if she's that
desperate for companionship? Get a German Shepard.
Dear Mistress Matisse,
I enjoyed your latest blog post, as always, and here is my primary reaction to the article that inspired it [besides gales of laughter]:
From her article, it seems pretty obvious to me what Ms. Gottlieb should do: *settle* down in a stable platonic relationship of the sort she idealizes in the case of Will & Grace. What about the "close friend" she picnics with at the start of the article? As she states,
"Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small,
mundane, and often boring nonprofit business."
If all she wants is stability and sharing of responsibilities, and some time to eat lunch, why are testicles necessary? Especially since, as you astutely point out, she's effectively limited herself to illiterate men.
Dear Ms. Matisse,
…I think Gottlieb made her choices when she was young and now she's got sour grapes. I think she wanted fun and excitement 24/7, nothing "boring," nothing to make her lose the "zing." Fine! But then don't complain when you're forty and single, okay?...
But yeah. The whole thing got under my skin unbelievably. All the more so because, in some ways, I agree with her. Love, in the hearts-and-flowers "zingy" way she means it, is overrated, and IMHO, you really do need to look beyond surface characteristics to find men who are kind and caring and for whom you can feel the *real* kind of love. What hurts is the contempt she still feels for exactly those men. It oozes from between her words. It's *in* her words: "settling," as applied not to someone you can't love, but to a "boring" guy who's "overweight" or "has an unfortunate nose." Well, so now I know exactly what she'd think of my beloved husband if she ever saw him on the street. And it makes me hope she stays alone for a long, long time.
My major beef with the article is that the author repeatedly conflates marrying someone who doesn't fit your idealized picture of a man with settling for someone you don't love. In her eyes, it seems, someone who is overweight, who doesn't have a high-paying prestigious job, or who is socially awkward couldn't possibly be someone you love. The problem is not, as she laments, that there is a shortage of available men, it is that she has ruled out entire categories of men based on insignificant criteria, many of which seem closely related to whether the man will impress her friends.
So, Matisse, I agree wholeheartedly with you--definitely don't marry someone you don't love--but I think it's also important to recognize the possibility that you may find love where you don't expect it, if you're willing to keep an open mind.
As a mid-thirties woman who was
just released from the prison that was my 15-year marriage, I can say that woman
is nuts. I settled. I settled for a man who made me feel that sex was dirty
(catholic bastard) and that my kinks needed to be sublimated. I settled for
lukewarm sex that made me long for my vibrator (which he made me get rid of
because, after all, wasn't he enough?) I settled for a man who I didn't love
but because I had his child my family and society in general expected that I
should marry him. Two kids, and nearly two decades later I am sitting amongst
the ruins of a proverbial house of cards that I built layer by layer, based on
lies. I felt bad about myself. Every time he said he loved me I wanted to cry.
I felt trapped and so lonely.
Now, I am free from that life and involved with a man who not only understands me, but celebrates my kinks and makes me feel complete. I will not marry him, I will not marry anyone. I've been there, done that.
Anyone who tells someone else they should settle must be so desperately unhappy with their own lives because, after all, misery loves company. Men are not commodities and the sooner she realizes that, the better. This is obviously the musings of a woman who has never been in love. Besides, I always wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore or Rhoda or Maude; single women making it on their own. She should be slapped for what she said about Mary.
That woman is blurring all kinds of lines in some kind of whiney attempt to explain why life sucks so badly for her. Parenting is hard. Parenting alone is harder. Plenty of people who are married still have to parent alone, I think that one's probably the hardest. Settling is the solition if you want to slowly and systematically crush your own soul. I settled young, not so much through concience choice but by ignoring my own feelings about the man who became my husband. I had so little experience that I thought I couldn't break up with him because he was such a great guy - it didn't occur to me that the fact that I just wasn't that into him was a perfectly legit reason to end the relationship. Instead I dived in, got married and had a child. I finally woke up to my own feelings about this man and it was excrutiatingly painful for both of us when I left. I know leaving was the right choice for me. Of course there are times when I am alone and I miss him a little or I feel sorry for myself because I have to do something hard with no one to help me. Settling is not only damaging to oneself, it's a selfish and horrible thing to do to another person. Why should you, who doesn't even really love him take him off the market and make him unavailable to someone who would truly love him for who he is. Cruel and unusual I say! Of course despite all the evidence against it, I remain a true romantic. I believe in true love, I believe in soul mates and I believe if you give up on those things then what's the point. If you give up on those things, relationships become about aleviating one's fear of being alone as opposed to growing and loving side by side with another person(s). I'm not a writer so I will go ahead and say it - I don't like her and I hope she never convinces some poor guy to be her "settlement." She doesn't deserve him.
Aside from it being poorly written
and repetitive, and long... and having given up on trying to
continue to read half-way through, I can say...ugh.
Her poor choices as a person doesn't make me want to settle nor listen to her. Kudos to her for wanting a kid, but not everyone agrees with her mentality.
Her quote of: "They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone" makes me gag.
What kind of rationality is that? That line just screams out "desperation".
I dumped an ex purely because I felt that there's nothing worse than feeling alone when clearly you're not supposed to be (which is what marriage would be). I'm lucky I never made the mistake of marriage in that context. She contradicts herself since she's defined marriage as "a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business", implying that a marriage is to prevent yourself from feeling alone when you have kids.
Sadly, I hope that her backwards mentality due to her jadedness won't spread, and her article will elicit more controversy than anything.
Thanks for reading my response. That article has also inflamed me as well, but luckily, I have no idea what "The Atlantic" is, so I won't give her much credibility. It's like Britney Spears' mother publishing a parenting book.... who would believe anything she wrote after knowing the fate of her daughters?
I'm 38 and was without a partner for over 6 years after my previous partner and I broke up. I am still not married, and that's just fine. But I am deeply in love and deeply committed to my new (male) partner. Why did it take so long to find someone new? I think part of the reason is that many men are intimidated by me. I have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and do math for a living. I've recorded a solo album. I am articulate and precise. Scary girl. But I refused to settle and I'm now with a very smart, funny, sexy, and, yes, kinky man who wonders aloud where the line of men are, waiting to get a chance with me. He was worth holding out for.
To be honest, the whole article reminds me of the messages girls get to dumb themselves down in middle school and high school, to avoid looking too smart and certainly to avoid being too good at math or science. It's a message not to want too much, to live too much. I said to hell with that too. And yes, there was a cost, just as there was a cost to waiting for the right person. But I'm doing what I love and am with someone I love, passionately and powerfully alive.
That article--yikes! What is she thinking? (Well, as you pointed out, judging from her writing, she isn't.) I'm 47 and have been married to the same man for a quarter of a century. I was married once before (a child bride, hah!), with unhappy results. So, I have some experience in what does and doesn't work. Love isn't enough to make a successful marriage; I learned that the first time around. Love is one of the essential elements, but there are others, such as shared goals and beliefs and the ability to work together as a team as well as independently as individuals. I think friendship is as important as passion, perhaps more so in some ways (trust me, there is no place for passion while changing smelly diapers at 2:00 am), but I believe True Love contains both of these elements. And yes, after 25 years, I still believe in True Love. One thing my unsuccessful first marriage taught me was not to settle for anything less than what I really wanted. I did not become resigned, I became focused. I made a mental list: If I Ever Get Involved With a Man Again, He Must (insert desired traits here). What those traits are will vary from woman to woman. When I met my current husband, I was vehemently not looking ... but he met every requirement on The List. Eventually good sense overcame terror and I made an Adult Decision and proposed. And it's worked out very well.
Ms. Gottlieb's readers should also be aware that marriage does not equal children. My first marriage was (fortunately) childless, and though my current husband and I both wanted children and tried diligently for years to make that happen, I was in my late 30s and had actually given up hope when (surprise!) I came down with the 9-month flu. So marrying a man you don't love simply because you want a child is not only stupid, it may also prove ineffective. Infertility happens. Then where are you? And while I adore my child, I cannot overemphasize the strain child-rearing puts on even a rock-solid marriage. It is exhausting, emotionally draining, and exacerbates every little difference of opinion between you and your mate. Not to mention how truly disastrous it is for children to have to witness their parents in a miserable marriage....
I wanted to commend you on your most recent column. If it becomes
pertinent, though, you may wish to state the obvious and remind your
male readers that the advice pertains to them as well. I did not settle
when I got married; my ex-husband did, however. And yes, that was just
as much fun as it sounds.
Nothing in the world hurt as much as finding out that what I'd suspected
and pointedly ignored in favor of his declared statements was true: he
didn't really love me. It's taken me years to get over what 15 years of
that sham marriage and his pretense did to my self-esteem, my
confidence, and my sexuality.
Settling is an inherently selfish, largely non-consensual act. Your
partner is more than the sum total of their convenience to you. If you
can't place their well-being on at least an equal level with your own,
then you have no business entering a committed relationship with them.
End of story. Be fair to yourself, but be fair to your partners too.
There are far, far worse things than being alone.
"Marry someone you're in love
with. Anything else is the wrong kind of
Damn, that is the best advice I ever heard about anything in the known
universe. You should be giving marriage advice, not kinky sex advice.
Seriously. I would vote for you for president for that statement alone.
The first time I made the "mature" decision, and married the person I
"should" have married. It was the most unhappy time of my life.
The second time I married the woman I loved. We are not married now,
but I have no regrets - it was the happiest time of my life.
Anyway, you just need to give more advice.
I am a 29 year old, married,
childfree, woman who agrees with you that the author of "Marry Him"
is an idiot. Although she's not entirely off base. I'm
not a big believer in fairly tale "one true love." I think it's it's silly to hold out for a fantasy person that one has
concocted in one's head. However there is a difference between overlooking the
fact that he plays dungeons and dragons on the week ends and putting up with
someone who is rude to wait staff. Gottlieb seems to say that either man is a
good catch as long as he has a penis. I say that anyone who is rude to waitstaff will be rude to his wife later on. I also dislike
the way she goes on and on making the same point. I found myself asking as I
was reading who the heck is she trying to convince?
That said, and as I stated before she's not entirely off base. When I first met the man who I married I wasn't wildly passionatly in love with him. If fact, I remember being attracted to the friend he was hanging out with. Our first date was a pity date, to be honest. Only I decided I liked him enough for a second. Falling in love was a slow process for me, while he was madly and deeply by date two and took us dating for years before I decided that, yes, this is the man I will marry. He's not perfect, for starters he's not kinky and it's a side of myself I'd like to explore but he's ok with me finding a kinky play partner. He deals with my insercurities, my irrational fear of making phone calls and that I don't drive. It's give and take. But we get each other, we're best friends. If I wasn't married to him, I honestly believe I'd be happier alone. But then again I may be an exception, considering I'm an introvert and I don't want kids.
Also, citing television sitcoms as examples? Sitcoms are fiction. That would be like me trying to prove that magic exists by quoting Harry Potter.
I agree: she got it seriously wrong. But there is an important point there, that she's sniffing around, that she got wrong.
Some people have this image of what The One is like, and it's often made up of superficial characteristics that will fade quickly as the relationship matures.
When i was a kid, my image of The One was of a tall woman with long straight blond hair. As it turned out, the love of my life is short, with curly dark hair. Did I "settle"? Not a bit!
I realized, fortunately in plenty of time, that someone with intelligence, personality, sense of humor, worthy of respect, willing to give respect, and who shares my values up and down the line, has ALL the important characteristics. We're pushing four decades
together, and the relationship is deeper and hotter than ever.
Good for me, right? There's more than that. I see people who are fixed on a certain height, certain weight, certain hair, and so on, and turn away from what makes a life together work. They are making mistakes.
I don't think they should "settle". I think they should spend time figuring out which values are really important, and which are temporary and superficial. If someone can't tell the difference between superficial and fundamental, then telling them to
"settle" won't do any good, because they are likely to accept something else that they shouldn't. (This is why that article is so deeply wrong.)
But there actually is an important message. Go ahead and state it clearly.
You nailed it.
As a male, I agree: Lori Gottlieb certainly cast herself in the role of untouchable loser by declaring (in an agonizingly overwritten, trite, so 1990-ish, lame-ass attempt at single mommy-track cum Carrie Bradshaw humor) that shopping for the dented car is in fashion and that's what she would/will do.
But there's a more self-serving undercurrent here. She's just feeding the goat, meeting an obligation as a contributing writer, albeit with a horrid premise that didn't undergo the rigors of a smell test.
And, our dear Lori wouldn't be the first writer who needed to be saved by an editor, snatched from the jaws of bad idea, but alas no competent editor was in sight. In her case, she's probably friends with editors at Atlantic Monthly, ones so blinded by the friendship they're incapable of doing anything beyond fine-tuning her sentence structure and buffing her diction.
This piece was surely meant as mindless entertainment, words the writer dangles out in a faux first-person wink; they aren't words she would live – what allegedly upscale, bon vivant person would heed this blather of nonsense? It's meant as guiding light for her imaginary legion of fans who don't have it together as firmly as she does. In four months, the magazine will shrug and act like the article was never there; in less time, Gottlieb will carry on with a snotty swagger that says "it was just an article; I got paid for it. I'm a writer." (She wishes.)
Personally, I think what Gottlieb reveals about herself is a disconnect in what people are interested in. As I said, this is so 1990 that it's not funny. Literally. It's just that stale.
But if we must take her at her words, then I say those who announce themselves as losers are soon forgotten. So let's forget Lori Gottlieb.
Your parting words on this subject
are the best: Marry some one you love passionately or a vital part of you will
I read this as: You're soul is worth more than money. Or convenience, or security, or, social approval, or fill in the blank.
I could not agree more. In direct contradiction to my entire family I've lived the "high standards are for people who know themselves enough to negotiate; with
an eye for quality; even when it means walking away from the table". I am worth excellence because I give excellence. I'd rather live with out than try to make iron pyrite into gold.
Acceptance for the foibles of humanity versus shacking up with Mr.Right-Now are two different things. I have witnessed this over and over again. My parents are a good example.
I am a 30 female year old (professional). Never married and rarely have relationships/ date. I am satisfied with my friendships and family (plus photography pursuits). If a man makes me an offer I wouldn't want to refuse then I'll marry but otherwise
I am happy and filled with joy at my prospects in this life.
I also have a room-mate, who happens to be mother. She pays her rent with half cash and half house-keeping duties. She just finished her divorce after 30 years of marriage (25 years as a at-home mother then 5 years as a "special needs care giver" plus wife) and she has no marketable skills. Or at least nothing that pays over $10 an hour. Now in her fifties she is dependent on me to provide a decent place to live while she goes back
to school and learns a profession.
She is an excellent room mate and I can't tell you how cool it is to have my house cleaner give me checks. But the cold fact of the matter is that her investment portfolio is this: Husband: abandonment, some retirement, no marketable skills. Children: Daily support, love, place to live, food (prepared), others at request.
My mother has been humbled by her experience. (Picture getting back up after being kicked in the teeth). She is a good roommate and a hard worker. I like living
with her. She is a living reason to NOT SETTLE! Her settling didn't make her happy, or Dad or us kids....And now she gets to start all over again. Making a brand new life. The First time I asked her if she was happy, liked living with me, ok with how
things were she burst into tears. No one had ever asked her that without already knowing the answer that was expected of her.
I am re-doubled in my 19 year old decision: I will not blindly obey my parents or society. I will live to the excellent standards I set. If without a (male) lover? Then so be it. I will not compromise ON ME.
ps: My mother has heard about you since I moved to
I'll keep this very short and simple, as 10,000 words is probably quite enough on this subject already. The thing that jumped out to me in the Atlantic article (well, after the poor writing) was the assumption that every woman wants kids, and if she gets married, it's with the goal "by extension" as the author puts it, to start a family.
I'm happily committed to a long term, loving relationship with my high school sweetheart. We're still in love, it's not perfect, but it's not settling. And no, I don't want any goddamn kids. Not now, not at 35, not by myself, not with a husband. Not ever. Thanks, Ms. Gottlieb, for pretending I don't exist.