Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Settling" - or setting aside lists?

Thanks to a recommendation from a good friend, the book most recently on the top of my reading stack has been Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb.

Yes, yes - I'm married now. What am I doing still reading books by and for single women? ;) Well, I was single not all that long ago (two short years!), and I definitely haven't forgotten what it feels like to be on the doorstep of age 30 with no prospects in sight, wondering what God's plan holds for me. The months and years of waiting and wondering, struggling to balance hope with contentment, are still fresh in my memory. Besides, I have sisters and friends who are still waiting on God's timing, and I want to be available and prepared to encourage them however possible.

So anyway, back to the book! Ms. Gottlieb's basic premise is summed up in this statement: "It [isn't] about settling for less than what's going to make her happy...it [is] about learning how to value what's truly valuable" (page 313). As a single in her early 40s, she writes with a perspective of regret as she remembers several good men she turned down because they just didn't quite meet her long list of what she thought she was looking for. Talking with many single women in their thirties and forties and beyond, she's found out that she is not alone in these regrets. Age has brought with it a clearer realization of what really matters in a life partner - as well as, unfortunately, a rapidly shrinking number of available good men.

Lori puts forth the theory that almost all happy marriages involve some degree of compromise (a.k.a., "settling"), usually on both sides. He may not have a blond hair and she may not be a good cook, but they both have other qualities that qualify them to be a good life partner. In the long run, isn't patience or unselfishness what really counts, far more than "isn't a sports fanatic" or "likes opera music"? The book encourages singles not to give up all their ideals and accept the next person who is willing to be their spouse, but to really take an honest look at their "list" and narrow it down to only three dealbreaker qualities: three things you absolutely must have before you'd consider marrying a person. Just because they meet these three doesn't mean they're right for you, but it means they're worth giving a good chance.

I know I would have benefitted from this book before marriage. As it was, God used my sisters, several friends, and other sources to give me the courage to let Joe into my life and give God a chance to change my heart towards him - even though, in all honesty, he just didn't seem to be the type of guy I thought I was waiting for. I was terrified of "settling" and regretting it later. Now, after almost a year of marriage, I am more and more thankful all the time that I did give Joe a chance! No he's not perfect - but I'm sure not perfect either so why would I think a "perfect" guy would want me, even if such a creature existed? Our strengths and weaknesses fit together beautifully, and even the differences that seemed so big at the beginning - our widely divergent backgrounds, dissimilar interests, lack of mutual friends, and so on - are really not a huge deal.

So did I "settle"? In some definitions of the word, yes. I let go of a few things I always thought I'd have in a husband (i.e., someone taller than me, a musician, a homeschooler, etc.). But ultimately no, I did not, not at all: Joe has all the important qualities that make him a wonderful husband, and I'm pretty sure scarcely anyone else would have been able to put up with me as he does. ;) I would have missed out on something incredibly special if I had turned him down. That's one thing I kept thinking as I read this book: I am so thankful God brought me clarity in that confusion and gave me courage to step into this relationship, even if it didn't look (or even quite feel, at times) like what I'd expected.

Ms. Gottlieb sadly does not write from a Christian or Biblical perspective, but the book is quite clean and the vast majority of what she says is practical, down-to-earth wisdom that many singles need to hear. Granted, the advice applies only to those girls who have a suitor: not much use theorizing about lists and "settling" if there's no guy around to say yes or no to! Believe me, I well know what that's like, too. But rather than being depressing to girls in that situation, I think this book should be encouraging: it's a reminder that there really ARE good men out there, if one is willing to give them a chance...willing to look behind the few external things that don't quite fit your "list" and catch a glimpse of their heart...willing to let God write the script and choose the cast. Possibly that willingness must be in place before God brings the right guy along, so we don't turn down His gift?

This principle actually applies to many areas of life besides waiting for a spouse. Joe and I are learning it all over again right now as we continue to wait for the blessing of a child in our home. And it'd apply to other situations, too, like waiting for a job, a house, a good church, or other blessings. Our loving Father does desire to give us good gifts, He knows what we truly need and want most, and He also promises to give us the wisdom we need for each situation we face. In laying aside our "lists" of ideals, or the way we think our circumstances should play out, we're not throwing away common sense, good counsel, or prayerful caution. Instead, we are saying, "Okay, Lord - You know best what I need. Show me Your way. Give me wisdom to recognize Your gifts when they arrive - and courage to accept them."

Here's to the journey of growing in faith!

(Do read Marry Him if you get a chance: though I don't agree with or endorse everything in the book, especially because it is from a secular perspective, I think it's very much worth reading and is quite insightful.)


  1. Good thoughts... Blessings to you in the waiting for a child.

  2. Very interesting! I'd like to read that.

  3. I know what you mean about your man not fitting the list.. Jesse didn't fit mine either. And, as you, I was terrified of regretting something later on if I accepted him.

    God works in such interesting ways. I kind of wish I had read this book before! It would have made things much easier. :)

  4. I told a single lady in her 30s about the baby naming dilemma my husband and I went through. She told me quite seriously what she IS going to name her future children because SHE would never marry a man with such radical difference of opinion than hers. I don't know if it's pride or naïveté or both. Every time I talk with this same lady she always compares my stories to her futuristic stories about how her and her husband will always be 100% on the same page. She leaves no room for any potential mates to have a personality of his own. I don't think she will ever get married as long as she insists her husband be the male version of herself.