Lori Gottlieb’s book, “Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” is a polarizing piece of non-fiction. Singletons worldwide are up in arms over her call to abandon Mr. Right and look for Mr. Good Enough. Seems like swallowing the “settle” pill is just too hard for most women to stomach.
According to responses to the two articles I’ve written about her, one for The Journal, and the other for The Guardian, fans and foes are falling into two camps: those who think Gottlieb is a neurotic, desperate, extremist nut who should marry her psychiatrist—- and those (mostly women over 40) who think she is absolutely spot-on brilliant and that if only they had read her book when they were 25, they’d be married now.
To be fair, many of the complaints against Gottlieb have to do with the fact that she is dispensing marital advice without ever having been married. And as anyone who has been in a significant relationship knows, there are no rules when it comes to romance.
But if you’re itching for more Gottlieb “wisdom”, here’s an excerpt from my Guardian profile:
Lori Gottlieb is a 43-year-old single parent who desperately wants to be married. And she’s not ashamed to say so. She first aired her existential angst in an inflammatory 2007 essay for the Atlantic magazine called Marry Him! The Case For Settling For Mr Good Enough, in which she wrote, “Every woman I know – no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure – feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.”
That may have been a fate worse than death in 1950, but to put forward the same argument in 2007 seemed bizarre. Yet Gottlieb did her best to help her fellow singletons out of this hole. “My advice is this: settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling ‘Bravo!’ in movie theatres. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.” Whether it was a fixable problem like bad dress sense or the arguably more problematic absence of chemistry, she was uncompromising about compromising.
Her point was essentially an ancient bromide (don’t wait for perfection because you’ll be waiting for ever) dressed up as provocative 21st-century polemic. Even so, the article caused a sensation. In the weeks after publication, Gottlieb received more than 3,000 emails. While some married couples were grateful to be portrayed for once as hard-headed realists rather than dopey romantics, many more correspondents called her “pathetic”, “desperate” and “sad”.
It’s hard to imagine how this funny, self-deprecating woman could have provoked such outrage, but Gottlieb has a theory. “In our culture, we never want to admit how badly we want to be in a relationship because it makes us sound needy or weak,” she says. Although she is anything but repentant; indeed, she has now expanded her original thesis into a whole book that looks set to turn her into a hate figure all over again.