Is It Time to Settle for Mr. Good Enough?
Single 40-Year-Old Takes New Look at Marriage
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
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Commentator Lori Gottlieb recently turned 40. She's not married and she's come to the conclusion that her romantic view of marriage is the reason why.
Ms. LORI GOTTLIEB (Author): I was talking to a married friend on the phone the other night, you know, one of those annoying friends who's been happily hitched for 10 years and has three adorable children. So I was ranting about how Valentine's Day reminds me how lonely I am and how much I envy my married friend for being so in love and sharing her life with her best friend.
I just want to find my best friend, I whined into the phone. My friend started laughing so hard she could barely speak. My husband's not my best friend, she said, my best friend is you.
She explained it like this. If I told my husband even half of what I tell you, he'd die of boredom and tune me out and then we'd get into a big fight about how he's not listening to me. Besides, instead of nagging him every day, I complain to you.
Okay, I thought, maybe the best friends thing was overrated, but I still envied my friend. I mean, here I am all alone, alone, alone, alone, alone, and she always has her husband there. This got an even louder cackle from my friend. Her biggest complaint other than the fact that her husband drools on the pillows at night, is that between work and child care, she and her husband barely see each other. In fact, she sees her kids and her work colleagues way more than she sees her husband, so if anyone should be lonely, she said, it should be her.
Wow. Marriage was starting to sound depressing. But it was also making me feel a lot better about being single until I remember the things that made me saddest about Valentine's Day - all those images of couples embracing. At least my married friend had passion in her life. I mean, she and her husband still kiss on the lips when they greet each other in public. But that's the most nooky we get, she said. What makes for a good romantic partner, she confided, doesn't necessarily make for a good spouse.
Then she explained that most marriages are more like a partnership formed to run a very small non-profit business. And that once you're married, love isn't about who you want to go on vacation with, it's about who you want to run a household with, you know, who you want to work with to pay the overhead, stock the lunch room, and manage your employees - the kids. The weird thing is she meant that in a good way. The weirder thing is, it may not be the conventional notion of romance, but it sure sounded romantic to me.
I wondered if the reason I am still single is that I've had the wrong idea about love all along. So now I have a new Valentine's Day fantasy, next February 14th, I'll be on the phone with my best friend complaining about my husband when he beeps in on call waiting and explains that he's stuck in a meeting but he'll pick up the toilet paper on the way home. I'll tell him to put it on our expense account and be sure to make it to our seven p.m. staff meeting with the kids. He'll remind me to call back our bosses, his parents to wish them a happy Valentine's Day.
But then, sitting all alone at the computer while he's preparing for our job interview with the kitchen remodelers in the morning, I'll smile and think, boy, I am so lucky to be in love.
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SIEGEL: Lori Gottlieb is the author of an article in next month's Atlantic Monthly called "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough." She lives in Los Angeles.
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