Should you settle?

Scott Croft and Candice Watters respond in Boundless to Lori Gottlieb’s article “Marry Him: The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough” in the March 2008 Atlantic. Here’s a sample, the same one Croft uses:

My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection…. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.

Whenever I make the case for settling, people look at me with creased brows of disapproval or frowns of disappointment…. It’s not only politically incorrect to get behind settling, it’s downright un-American. Our culture tells us to keep our eyes on the prize … and the theme of holding out for true love … permeates our collective mentality.

Croft and Watters both make many good points, but they both insist that what they advocate is not “settling”. Croft writes:

What’s more, nobody really “settles” in a biblical marriage because God has designed marriage as a wonderful gift that gets better with age. This is what people worried about settling don’t seem to get. They think joy in marriage is all about the original choice one makes about whom to marry, rather than how the nurture and build their marriage. Again, this misses the picture of biblical marriage.

Read Song of Songs. Look at the implied deepening of a marriage that has to take place if Ephesians 5:22-33 is to be lived out. Sure, it takes hard work. But if two people are truly faithful as spouses, growing in God’s word, studying one another deeply and attentively with an eye toward uniquely ministering to and serving each other, both will find that 10 years in they are known and loved and cared for better and more deeply than when they were newly married. That doesn’t hinder passion, people. It builds it. More on this in later articles perhaps.

Candice Watters writes:

Choosing to marry a man ā€” whomever he is ā€” inevitably involves compromise (on his part, and yours). That’s why it’s not truly settling. It’s just making a decision. Something we do every time we pick one thing over another. In most areas, it’s called being decisive. For some reason we’ve made indecision noble when it comes to dating.

Watters article is better about this than Croft’s, but I think they give Gottleib too little credit for the insights at which she has arrived. Of course, she has a secular view of marriage, she’s secular (at least so far as she describes herself in the article.) But she’s right that there’s a kind of settling here. Choosing is settling, settling is deciding. “I’ve considered chocolate; I’ve considered vanilla and I’m settling on vanilla.” I’m not neccesarily taking a position on which is better, I’m just not holding out for butterscotch to come along.

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