Why should women settle for Mr Second Best?
A new book claims that thirty-something women need to lower their expectations of men. Deirdre Reynolds reports
Searching for Mr Right? If -- like your twenties -- he's nowhere in sight, it could be time to settle for Mr Alright instead, according to a new book.
Marry Him: The Case of Settling for Mr Good Enough hits bookshelves here this week. And with Valentine's Day less than a fortnight away, author Lori Gottlieb warns single women over 30 that they'll spend it ordering Chinese takeaway for one if they don't stop being so fussy.
The controversial tome for 'spinsters' argues that women waiting to be swept off their feet are likely to be left on the shelf instead.
"The theme of holding out for true love permeates our collective mentality," writes Gottlieb, a 40-year-old single mum who wishes she had "settled" for one of the "perfectly acceptable but uninspiring" men she rejected during her quest for the ideal husband.
"My dream, like that of my mother and her mother, was to fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. Women are loath to admit it in this day and age, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won't tell you it's a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she'll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child)."
In an age when Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' is the unofficial anthem of freemales everywhere, Gottlieb has already struck a raw nerve with unwed women Stateside. Originally an article in Atlantic magazine, her supposition was picked up by Oprah Winfrey's O magazine and polarised readers. Now the hotly debated book is set to be turned into a movie.
But could those of us holding out for a hero actually be getting so irate because there's some truth to Gottlieb's book?
"There can be a desperation in women who want marriage and children but have not yet met Mr Right," says marriage therapist Owen Connolly, "particularly the over-30s".
"However, I don't agree that every woman wants to settle down with a man and have kids. The majority do, but there's also a sizeable minority who decide to remain single.
"The woman looking for a White Knight is usually the 'Daddy's Princess', who wants to make a man responsible for her happiness. But desperation shouldn't drive a woman to settle for just anyone."
Between Mr Darcys and McDreamys, though, who can blame a girl for hoping one of her frogs will finally morph into a prince? Gottlieb blames everything from feminism to Friends for encouraging women to believe in happy-ever-after endings.
"We're conditioned to crave that Big Love," she adds. "It's painful how pervasive the fantasy is that The One is out there. We grew up idealising marriage ... so we walked away from uninspiring relationships that might have made us happy."
Stomping on the hearts of romantics everywhere, she even suggests settling for Mr Second Best instead: "We have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr Good Enough might be equally viable ... What makes for a good marriage isn't necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship."
On this last point, psychologist Owen (found at www.counsellor.ie) agrees.
"People can be swept off their feet by romance," he says. "It might happen in Hollywood movies and Jane Austen novels, but in real life the chances of that one special moment leading to a successful partnership is about the same as winning the lotto."
So are we supposed to give up on fairytale romance and marry the first fecker that flashes a diamond in our direction? Not quite -- but Owen urges women to move the goalposts a bit.
"Women need to remove their internal image of Mr Right and make space for the man that shows he is kind, thoughtful and generous.
"No woman should entertain the idea of a man being 'second best' -- it's a mindset that will inevitably leave her feeling cheated and wishing she married someone else.
"There's an old saying that goes 'Marry the man that loves you and love the man that marries you', and that's the best advice of all."