Thought Question: If You Could, Would You?

Yesterday, someone linked to this Atlantic article by a single woman with an IVF baby. These women have their kid, but… something is missing. Indeed, they kinda miss having a guy around the house.

Just goes to show – some people are never satisfied.

But seriously. The message of the article is “Don’t be like us!” (Because, you know, ever since we first started playing with our Barbies we threw out the Ken as unnecessary and played ‘single mom with IVF baby’) “Settle for Mr. Not-so-perfect!”

Which I find kinda offensive. Because she’s insinuating that most women have guys lined up and proposing every night but we turn them away for offenses like wearing pale yellow button downs or enjoying football. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been at risk for a single proposal. Ever. Not like those heroines in romances like North and South who get a proposal every chapter and you’re supposed to weep for their isolation and loneliness. As far as I know, there isn’t a single guy in the universe at this moment who wants to marry me (I know, I know, who can blame ’em?). I bet most of you can say that too.

But following this article, by the time women are willing to settle nobody wants to marry them. She doesn’t address guys, but I imagine it’s similar, except that if the guy is old enough and rich enough, some bimbo will be willing to take the dive.

So here’s the question: At what age would you consider yourself beyond hope? And, if you reached that age, would you be willing to ‘settle’ for many of the things you’re hanging out for right now? If, at that age, you met someone else who was willing to settle and who basically fits this description from the article:

I would say even if he’s not the love of your life, make sure he’s someone you respect intellectually, makes you laugh, appreciates you … there are plenty of these men in the older, overweight, and bald category (which they all eventually become anyway).

would you be willing to enter an amicable but dispassionate marriage with them?

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48 thoughts on “Thought Question: If You Could, Would You?

  1. Are you looking for someone ‘perfect’ in the first place? Because there is no such person.
    I think most people don’t look for ‘perfect’. So, everyone has a problem. In which case- why wouldn’t you look for someone not perfect anyway?

  2. Bz – What about as far as *you* know? C’mon. Even if there were guys who wanted to go out with me that I didn’t know about, I doubt there’s anyone who is ready to propose, right now. If there was, don’t you think he’d be sure enough to buy the ring and come on over?

  3. bad4, bz- Let me tell you a secret, in history there has never been anyone that was perfect, even Moshe Rabbainu was not perfect!

    Also one of my rabbis once told me a very interesting Gra (Vilna Gaon). He says that if someone were to ask a random person off the street to marry them, if they had the right level of bitachon (No one nowadays is on this level…) then they would be able to live happily. Although I would not advice this because anyone who would accept a marriage proposal without ever speaking to you before would probably be crazy, but maybe you deserve that if you are willing to ask them… and come on if a guy came to you right now with a ring you would not say yes.

  4. right. an matron unnamed in the midrash had the same level of “bitachon” following a conversation with r’ yose bar chalafta, and look how that worked out for her.

  5. I know this may sound odd to you but I have noticed that the older singles who have morphed into engaged and married couples seem as happy and fulfilled as any young comparable couple. I have not noticed any “settling” phenomenon. It is true that nobody is perfect.If a nineteen year old has the clarity to realize that there are items on their “wish list” of desireable traits in a marriage partner that don’t all have to be found in order to have a wonderful life with said individual, they are light years ahead of someone who is still holding out for Mr. Perfect.It may come as a surprise, but the one who you will decide is Mr. Perfect may not have all the “requirements” on paper that you thought you had to have.I daresay that if you have a person with the requisite real requirements; i.e. a yerei shamayim, a ben Torah (no matter what his occupation is) a shomer Torah and Mitzvos, that you respect, trust and are comfortable with, you have all the elements for a great marriage. Obviously if you don’t find him intelligent, or is lacking in good middos, you will neither like him, respect him nor trust him. Don’t worry about passion. Barring someone that totally turns you off physically, this takes care of itself.The best shidduch advice that I ever heard was to make a list of what traits you feel you need in a mate. Then examine the list for ones that are self-contradictory,such as ‘ambitious’ and ‘laid back and easy going’
    or ‘big masmid’ and ‘someone who will be totally participate in family happenings and take me out every Sunday’. I think you get my drift. Then once you have eliminated those, try to zoom in on the 3-5 characteristics that you feel you must have for you to be happy and identify those that you would not be able to live with under any circumstances and you have narrowed down your search for those things that you really need and those you can’t tolerate. Of course, you can always re-assess but now you will be giving those who are helping you look a clearer picture of who you are and what you need.

  6. I considered myself beyond hope at age 35. I got married at age 36 (to a woman of the same age). Through an informal shidduch. (He likes science fiction and he’s a programmer. Hey, she’s a programmer and watches Babylon 5. They should meet!)

  7. “make sure he’s someone you respect intellectually, makes you laugh, appreciates you … there are plenty of these men in the older, overweight, and bald category.”

    That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I can handle bald, but I’m not sure about the other two . . .

  8. I married young and I will attest to the fact that “voice of experience” is right on the money. Shidduchim are hard because no one can guarantee you that you’ll live happily ever after. But the least you can do is make sure to the best of your ability that he respects you, you connect intellectually, hashkafically you’re on the same page going in the same direction, and of course you’re attracted to him ie: not “fireworks” but you feel good being with him and excited to see him again. You have to like him, the “true love” will come after marriage. By me, I was scared to make the leap on getting engaged, I had no reason to say no, just it’s a huge step. My seminary teacher advised me that when everything is going well, and he’s ready, and you’ve dated quite a bit, you just have to make that jump. And I did! I gave it one more date to feel emotionally ready and then I felt 98% sure I was making the right decision. All the weeks leading up to the wedding, I felt more sure that I made the right decision. Now 2 and 1/2 years and 1 baby later, I can say I am very in love with my husband. That love grew only after we married!

  9. BTW, because of the beautiful quality of tznius that is part of every frum home, marriages that may look boring or passionless to an outsider may be anything but!

  10. The honest to goodness truth?

    I could never actually do it.

    Although I agree that if one can, it probably makes for a happier life in the long run.
    I’d probably become an oncologist or something and do tons of chesed, and try to feel as fulfilled as possible in other ways.

    Come on, all you preachy marrieds – would you actually marry someone you weren’t attracted to or didn’t think was intelligent etc. Have you? Am I the only one being honest, or am I the only one who truly married someone I love?

    Tell us the truth – this is pretty much anonymous anyway…

    NMF – So people should marry others with glaring imperfections just because no one is perfect anyway? So that afterward they can find out all the other things that are wrong with their spouse in addition to the things they couldn’t stand from Day 1? Do you think that if you know what annoys you about a person right away than nothing else will bother you later on? I don’t think I get your logic…

  11. gp- Just to make sure the case you are talking about is the Roman Woman who set up like 100s of her slaves in one day?
    If that is the case you are talking about that is nothing like what I was saying. This is because it was not the husband and wife who picked who they wanted to marry it was this woman. Also all of those people were not Jewish so I dont think the same rules apply…

  12. that’s really sound logic, i must say. here’s some more- if, like you say, “husband and wife who picked who they wanted to marry” is the ideal case, who made the shidduch – them or G-d? if not G-d, then is this midrash wrong?

  13. Dear ‘Happily Married’, and dear all the other happly married out there.

    I’m sick of beig told how you all took the plunge despite not ‘being in love’, because it’s ‘enough’ to ‘settle’ for someone smart and fun and attractive, with the same goals and outlook on life, who you click with and look forward to seing, and who likes you back just as much if not more. You tell we need to prioritize, and only focus on those ‘basics’.

    You read our blogs. Don’t you think if we found someone with all the ‘basic’ traits you list, we’d marry him, without thinking twice?

    Vent over.

  14. There isn’t one correct answer to this question. Everyone has different wants and needs. Everyone has a different idea of how he/she wants his/her life to turn out. And with whom. For some people, marriage is huge. Those people might prefer to “settle” rather than live alone. For others, there are other things in life they’d rather spend their time, energy, and emotions on. They want to get married, sure, but if the right guy doesn’t come along, they may not feel like they want to settle for just anybody. It really all depends on you. So no one should get offended by anyone’s answer. Everyone’s answer only applies to themselves.

    Btw, Frum N’ Flipping, I agree with you. Some people go out with tons of great guys and turn them all down in the end. Some people don’t get set up with any great guys. It’s very annoying when other people try to explain someone else’s single status and advise the person to do something differently. Sometimes, it’s not something you are or aren’t doing…it’s just the way things are. (And sometimes, it IS something you are or aren’t doing.) I do believe that part of dating is being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people at the right time, etc. A large part of it is in our control, and some of it…isn’t.

  15. Btw, a huge flaw in Shidduch dating is that when you’re friends with someone, you excuse certain (harmless) faults, or they just don’t matter. On a shidduch date, you have no affection for the person at all yet, but you are still being presented with the person’s faults. They hold much greater weight, then, and are much harder to excuse in light of the person’s strengths.

  16. maybe the fact that by the time they were done being picky and choosy the guys thought that they were exactly that, picky and choosy. How many guys want to go out with a girl who is known to be picky? Or a woman who will marry the guy who she considers her consolation prize?

    I also think from a psychological perspective that everyone is wired differently, people interact, appreciate, and require different things out of a marriage. To some they require the romance and attraction. To others they require trust and loyalty. While the third security and commitment to raising children. So while for the author(s) of the article may decide for them a guy who is respectful is what they want, for a different woman, they want someone who can sweep them off their feet.

    Another point and i do this often: imagine yourself single in another 5-10 years (g-d forbid), what criteria of what you are looking for in a spouse would you conceivably willing to forgo, and what do you think you will always require. Once you develop that list, look at your current criteria, and see which ones you can do without at this point in your life. Its not about settling, its about being realistic about the things you will always need, no matter what.
    I have friends who plan on going into chinnuch, and I tell them that you have to have something going for yourself other than being young and cool; Because in ten years you won’t be young, and you probably won’t be cool. You need to actually be a good teacher. In marriage, he/she may not be beautiful or rich or successful in ten years. But you have to be able to respect them and love them for better or for worse.

  17. “As far as I know, there isn’t a single guy in the universe at this moment who wants to marry me” – It’s not me, it’s you, end of story.

  18. FNF – On behalf of the marrieds, apologies if we come across as preachy. I think people are trying to people helpful, not annoying (that’s your parents’ job). No responsible married person is going to preach settling for a flawed individual, particularly one with whom you don’t have an emotional connection. Rather, each person has different priorities for marriage, and these can change over time. It’s useful to periodically evaluate the qualities you’re looking for. And it’s also important to realize that the 100% perfect person you think you are marrying is, in fact, far from it. And to not have those unrealistic expectations shattered when you discover what those faults are. And, as Erachet pointed out, not to discard a potential spouse because of the deficiencies that appear unredeemable in the short time you meet someone on a shidduch date, and don’t have the time to put it in context.

    Also per Erachet’s comment, there is a certain amount of putting one’s self to be in the right place at the right time in finding that person.

  19. gp- as much as i love to have hashkafic conversations (one of my favorite pasttimes, no joke) to have this one on a blog is not the place and would take a long time to explain, that being said let me just answer the question at hand… everything in this world happens because Hashem wants it to happen, and for no other reason. As Erachet in said in the end of comment 16 “I do believe that part of dating is being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people at the right time, etc. A large part of it is in our control, and some of it…isn’t.” At the same time that it is true that Hashem runs the world we have free choice. If we do not believe that something will work out then we Hashem gives us the free will so that we can stop it. In this case the slaves that were set up did not truly believe that this woman setting them up would do a good job, therefore as Erachet said in comment 17 “On a shidduch date, you have no affection for the person at all yet, but you are still being presented with the person’s faults. They hold much greater weight, then, and are much harder to excuse in light of the person’s strengths.” Surely these slaves felt the same way. So while it is as the midrash says Hashem who sets up the marriage by putting both of the people in the same place at the same time and for some reason they do not hate each others faults, in the end it is the couple who has the free will to actually get married. Hashem will not force two people to get married otherwise we would not have free will. This is not a contradiction with the fact that Hashem runs the world. See Rambam Hilchot Teshuva Perek 5 Halacha 1, and the Raavad on that spot. I hope I answered that question.

  20. The author of the article is clearly a bit overly demanding – but then again, she is also over 40 and not married. That means take the exasperation that the 22+ crowd that writes and reads blogs (myself included) who worry about ever finding the right one – are NO WHERE NEAR THAT – nor should we be. I would legitimately say that within the frum world, if you aren’t married by 30, THEN it’s time to start worrying. I apologize if that’s generalizing things a bit too much, but being 23 and not married yet does not mean it’s time to despair.

    No one is perfect, and I think it may be better to see glaring imperfections – and realistically accept them as something you can handle – such as that the person is ALWAYS 10-20 minutes late no matter what, for example. You’re going to discover SOME thing(s) about your spouse the starting from the morning you wake up after the wedding, because people behave differently when married, and you get to see aspects of their personality and behavior that you had no clue about, because you were never married to them.

    I firmly think that no blogger below 30 really has anything to overtly complain about. I’ll admit, it’s not fun at all to keep getting wedding invitations and seeing more and more friends appear on Only Simchas daily, but that doesn’t make me think I found find the woman I am most compatible with, DESPITE our differences. Everyone “settles” for some thing when they marry, though some issues may be bigger than others. You simply have to have in mind what the major things are that you won’t ever settle for (like needing someone who is family oriented, or will give you space and not treat you as though you were joined at the hip, or for some – a person who would never think of aliyah unless they had a weapon pointed at them), and take consideration for the more minor things you can live with, despite the fact that they irritate you (like hating their sense of style, the late thing, or something else semi-trivial).

    I would take that article as a very specific case study of a particular person and her subset of friends. I don’t think her advice applies to many people here (and I apologize if there are singles 30-40+ reading this).

  21. I think there are two different things being addressed in the article: marrying someone who does not fit your conception of what you want, and marrying someone you don’t love and don’t think about in a passionate way, but like enough (or don’t dislike enough) to share companionship and hopefully a family. The former is something that almost everyone does. The latter is something that no one wants to do.

  22. Here’s an interesting tidbit, about how I think many people get married. No matter you think they are not very attractive externally, or the wittiest, or most successful, or heck, you might not give him a second glance if you passed him by on the street. But I think that what powers attraction, is someone being interested in you, quite simply. You cant help but like someone who likes you back…even if you wouldnt consider them mr. right.

  23. Frum ‘n’ Flipping, I am sure YOU would jump, no questions asked. But, I can tell you from experience that there are far, far too many young people (more men than women, but more than enough women) who really are unrealistic in this way. In the non-frum world, it’s even worse.

  24. Yummi, no one is advocating marrying someone you are not attracted to. The real question is are you willing to settle for “good enough” or does it have to be “perfect”? Can you settle for “I like him and he’s quite attractive” or do you need “fireworks”? You mostly can’t tell much after a first date, but beyond that, if there really is no attraction, then that’s probably not the match for you. But, if there is attraction but not not “amazing”, or attraction is being inhibited by your mind (eg you’re so hung up about his clothes not being stylish enough), then it’s time to rethink priorities. Maybe not with THIS guy (no one wants to be someone’s mitzvah), but in general.

    I don’t really mean YOU in specific, and it’s not just girls who need to think about this.

  25. aww Bad4, will you marry ME?

  26. Very true about the way marraiges seem to the outside because of tznuis. I have modern married friends, who are all over each other, and seem to have alot of “sparks” in front of others. My husband and I dont touch at all in public, I don’t talk about these things openly to friends, and it could be that we seem to have “lack of passion”. And that’s part of the beauty- others have absolutely no idea.

  27. Yummie- My answer has already been stated, from people like Observer, for example.
    Not that I meant that one should want to marry someone not perfect- but that no one IS perfect. Therefore, better to know before hand how ‘not perfect’ they are, and not to look for ‘fireworks’ and so on.

    FNF- You are a stable minded individual who knows what she wants. I have no doubt that if you met the person who was all of those good character traits (possibly with some minor imperfections) you would be happy to get married. But many singles have, as an earlier poster stated, unrealistic expectations. Hence the other comments.

  28. I have been noticing a dichotomy between the single commenters and the married ones. That alone can shed some light on the situation. I think that what some singles are looking for is a feeling that they think they should have with THE PERSON. The happily married ones are those who understand the elements that fuel the love (and the passion) for the long haul. The intense physical attraction that can happen between two people as soon as they meet,often precludes their thinking through whether the shidduch is a good one in other ways. That feeling can fade very quickly when the other party may show him/herself to be self-centered, less than compassionate when the chips are down and non supportive in general(which is often too late). This is not to say that two people who fall “madly in love” which usually stands for having a strong physical attraction, cannot have a great marriage but I would think it would have to be in spite of it and not because of it. A very smart person once said that the biggest aphrodesiac is the husband washing the dinner dishes.

  29. 😀 I hate to laugh on the party here, but it seems to me that the guy described by observer/FnF is what I would call ‘perfect’…

    just kidding – can we go out first? Can I pick you up tomorrow night at 6:30?

  30. How many dates are you allowed to have before you have to decide to fish or cut bait? I know it might differ in certain circles, and it might not be stated out loud as a requirement; but these limits make it really hard to get a slow-moving relationship off the ground. True, often you can tell if someone is not right for you after a single date, or two; but many others who SEEM “not right” after just one or two dates might actually be winners. In the “real” world, you would keep meeting that person in the kosher cafeteria or by the office printer time and time again, and the relationship would have more chance to grow and develop naturally. There is no question that the shidduch system makes things harder.

    Does the shidduch system cut down on violations of negia and other issurim? Absolutely. I think that’s why it’s so universally used. And yet, I would rather have my child violate negia than enter into a marriage that’s wrong for him or her; or even miss out on a lifetime of happiness because of the pressure to make a decision too quickly. I know I shouldn’t say that publicly, but I’ve said it on public blogs before and I’ll say it again.

  31. JUST TO CLARIFY: I’m not saying I want my child to violate issurim, chas veshalom; just that in situations that make it more likely to find a life partner, there is more risk that these violations will take place. It’s a difficult thing to weigh.

  32. Bad4,
    You’ve been too busy with your blog if you first read this old article now.
    Every single woman I spoke to who read it was offended, every married woman “got it.”
    Years ago a woman in my high school class made her oldest son’s bar mitzva and was sitting down to send invitations out to all the people she’d liked and loosely kept up with from her high school class, and one name on the list was a woman who was still living in her Mom and Dad’s basement. She sent out the invitation to this single and included a letter that said, “I just wanted to tell you that all the marrieds from our high school class, myself included, settled, in order to get married. In most cases, we didn’t realize that what was we were doing at the time, but that is what we all did, and none of us today have perfect, great husbands, so my hope for you is that you too will settle soon!” She was motivated by a great deal of pain – to be 35 and see this one, sad woman the same age living in her parents’ basement while she was making a bar mitzva – although obviously the chutzpah and insensitivity would prevent others from saying the same thing. And truthfully, look at the men we’d all chosen: one heavy, one short, one who couldn’t make parnossa, one dopey, one from a seriously dysfunctional home, and on and on. (My husband is perfect though of course!)
    Point being, that everyone single should ask themselves, how old am I and what is realistic for me to get. If you are 20 or 22, reject anyone for any reason. You are young, why rush? But at 24-25, ask yourself, would I consider this guy if I was 27-28 and single? If so, let me consider him now, not later when I have less options. If you are 27-28, would you date this guy for longer if you were 30? Then date him now, he may be married when you are 30. Also, a lot of comments here seem to be about, can I marry someone I am not attracted to? Nobody says to do that, but could you let yourself be attracted to someone who is short? overweight? etc.

  33. A true story (at least I think it is – someone who I trust told me this one): A yeshiva bochur realizes he is an older single. He has gone out with many girls already. One day he takes out his list and looks over to see which of the girls he went out with could have made him a good partner. He picks out his “most likely” calls her up and discovers she is now married. He calls number 2, she is available, they go out, get engaged and married (and supposedly live happily ever after).

    Did the yeshiva bochur “settle”? Or, did he just realize that if you have gone out with enough people, then there are probably some who were rejected for nonimportant reasons, and you could happily marry? I think he was just really smart.

  34. I think there are way too many generalizations here from the marrieds…I don’t know any single women in their 30’s (myself included) who are waiting for “fireworks” or expecting to fall in love with Prince Charming.

    Plus, you don’t always know the real reason why somebody rejected a particular person, even if you are the shadchan. My sister once asked a Rav if she could tell the shadchan why she was saying no to a guy (he’d revealed information regarding a mental/emotional issue, though the shadchan didn’t know about it) and she was told that she couldn’t. So the shadchan (one of her married friends) thought she was being ridiculously picky, and of course, never set her up again with anybody else.

  35. Anon- while I might understand why your sister asked a Rav, I might not. What about the next girl he gets set up with? A shame that she has to go through heartache (or even a single date) with this guy with mental illness. Why do we ask a Rav something, when we already know the common sense answer? Our community has some problems.

  36. Lori Gottlieb now has a book based on her article; it’s also called “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good-Enough.” It’s very good. The most convincing part is a chapter toward the end where three women describe how happy they are with men they ‘settled’ for. The book is available from the library and Amazon.com.

  37. bad4 re:32- Didn’t you want to go out with a guy only at 6:30 in the mornings?? Just to let you know that there are plenty of guys that would want to go out with you if somehow it had been suggested or set up. A few people mentioned to me recently that they would definitely be interested in finding out more about you if you had been suggested or somehow met each other.

  38. TP – now I have finals in the morning, so that doesn’t work.

    And anyone is free to email me if they’re more than casually curious.

  39. I am “beyond hope”, ie. 42.

    I find it kind of reassuring. Less than ever would I settle for a compromise. On the contrary. I am more afraid than before that a marriage might not work out the way I whish. I am more and more satisfied to be alone.

    I would have liked to have children, but I also see that is a tremendous amount of work.

    I am a lot with children (from friends) and like my role as a non-parent.

  40. If the sex is good than you can settle on a lot of other things. Then again if its that good it can hardly be called settling.

  41. Regarding that book that quotes 3 women who are happy with the men they settled for… so let’s say I know three who are miserable. What does that mean? Nothing.

  42. Speaking as someone who did exactly that – settled based on “this makes sense in my brain” – and knowing that it didn’t work for me, I’ll say that I do still believe “amicable but passionless” (and who knows, maybe even attractionless) can work. Caveat: As long as both parties are aware that this is a marriage made for these reasons. If one person is in love and one person is making a rational choice, it probably won’t work out so well. But if both partners have their eyes open, I think amicable can grow into something very satisfying.

  43. Reading the article by someone not Jewish/frum I was struck by one question: How does she define love? It seems to me that for her, love is something intensely passionate and always amazing. If you always see stars, then that’s love. But, I think love is based on respect, trust, mutuality, similarity of values/opinions etc. of course you have to feel attraction and excitement, but that’s not the defining factor of love (although what do I know, never having been in a relationship…)Therefore, when she says people should settle for someone who they don’t love-maybe I agree, it all depends on how she defines love. (But-I also didn’t finish the article-got annoyed with the author halfway through lol)

  44. BTW North and South is the best! never finished the book b/c had to return it to the library, but the BBC movie is amazing!!!!

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