For the first time, Census Canada reports that there are more people living alone than there are couples with children. People live on their own for many reasons such as divorce, death of a spouse, personal choice or extreme halitosis. Some, like actress Heather Graham who was recently interviewed on the subject, prefer to remain single than be stuck in an unfulfilling marriage. But, for those who want to be in a relationship, when is it time to ‘settle’?
According to psychotherapist and writer Lori Gottlieb, the answer is: as soon as possible. In her book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling, Gottlieb recounts her own experience as a single woman who wanted to start a family but didn’t want to settle for second-best when it came to a husband and father. So she used a sperm bank and had a son. And then wrote a bestselling book warning women not to do what she did.
“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 theaters.” A self-help book doesn’t get more prescriptive than that.
While men face similar dilemmas about partnering up, wondering if they should keep playing the field to see if they could do better, women do not have time on their side. As Gottlieb argues, the most advantageous time in a women’s life,(her 20s), for choosing a good mate is exactly the age when she is least likely to have the patience for the kind and steady guy who would probably make a terrific husband and father but is less than spine-tingling dating material. Another decade goes by, and then another. By the time she’s in her forties, the list of eligible men has dwindled down to a 50-year old guy with a history of major depression, a widower still mourning for his departed wife and a forty-something actor/waiter.
And, guess what? Even if you would be willing to settle for one of them, they may not be willing to settle for you!
What a lot of women forget is, just as your blind date is older and fatter and beginning to go bald, they are too. To add insult to injury, some of those guys still want their own family and are less interested in your recent promotion to vice-president than the vintage of your ovaries.
Heather Graham says she is not opposed to marriage but only if the guy meets her criteria. They include an interest in yoga and meditation, travel to Asia for her charity work, and television binges on Homeland, Girls and Downton Abbey. (Pssst, Heather, maybe Rupert Everett is single?)
As for the rest of us who are not skeletal, seemingly ageless movie stars, it behooves us to relax our ideals a smidge. Gottlieb’s perspective is that marriage is less like a passion-fest and more like “a partnership to run a small, somewhat boring, non-profit.” And, she says, she means that in the best possible way.