A Marriage That's Good Enough

Corinne Colbert

hide captionNewsletter writer Corinne Colbert lives with her family in Athens, Ohio. She is also president of her local parent-teacher association, through which she often talks with other mothers about their expectations of themselves and their marriages.

Photo courtesy of Corinne Colbert

My husband is not my best friend. He doesn't complete me. In fact, he can be a self-absorbed jerk. We're nearly polar opposites: He's a lifetime member of the NRA who doesn't care for journalists, and I'm a lifelong liberal with a journalism degree. On the other hand, he doesn't beat or emotionally abuse me. He doesn't drink or chase other women. He's a good provider. So I'm sticking with him.

Some people would call that "settling," like it's a bad thing. But I believe in settling.

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines "to settle" as "to place in a desired state or order; to quiet, calm or bring to rest; to make stable." In short, it means that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Alas, too many of us buy into a different adage: that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. From movies to magazines to commercials, we're told we should demand more from lives that are, for many of us, pretty good. We're supposed to look better, eat better, find better jobs, be better lovers and parents and workers. A stable marriage isn't enough; it's supposed to be a fairy tale. Perfection is the goal.

But at what cost? Would I really be any happier if I took up yoga and ate more soy? If my spouse wasn't just my partner, but also was my soul mate? I doubt it.

Settling, in my sense, is about acceptance. I'm a pretty happy person, in large part because I'm honest with myself about what I have. My body isn't bikini-worthy, but it's healthy. I'll never write for Rolling Stone as I once dreamed, but I am making a living as a writer. I yell at my sons and let them play too much GameCube, but I'm still a good mom.

Of course, some situations are worth improving. If your weight jeopardizes your health, exercise and change your eating habits. If your job makes you truly miserable, find a new one. If your marriage is toxic, end it. Chances are, though, you probably have what you need: a roof over your head, food on the table, a job that pays the bills, and family and friends. If you're unhappy, ask yourself: Am I unhappy because I really don't have what I need, or because I just want more?

So, yes, I'm settling. Sure, I wish my husband would kiss me more often, tell me he loves me every day, and get as excited about my accomplishments as I do. Emptying the dishwasher without being asked and giving me unsolicited foot massages wouldn't hurt, either.

All that would be nice, but it's not necessary. I'm happy with my husband who, despite his flaws, is a caring father, capable of acts of stunning generosity and fiercely protective of his family. Thinking about him may not set me on fire as it used to, but after 17 years and two kids, our love is still warm. And I believe that's good enough.

Independently produced for All Things Considered by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with Viki Merrick.

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