Settling for “Mr. Good Enough”

Dear Neil: I am a 36 year old single woman who has never married. I have dated literally hundreds of men from all walks of life—from professionals, to artists, to ski bums, to doctors and to performers—and a whole lot of other men who don’t neatly fit into an easy category. But every man I’ve dated turns out to have a fatal flaw. He already has children, he’s too old, too young, not educated enough, works a lot, likes to watch sports a lot, is too athletic (or not athletic at all), we don’t have the same tastes in music, he doesn’t relate well to my friends and family (who I’m close to), he dresses badly, isn’t handy around the house, is too clingy, isn’t good looking, has a poor sense of aesthetics, there’s no chemistry—you name it.

I have been looking for the past 15 years for my soul mate. Why is he so hard to find? Most of my friends have married and started a family, but I seem to be stuck in this never-ending cycle of failed dating relationships and never getting married. Why? Because of my biological clock, it feels as if time is getting short for me, and I will not have a child out of wedlock. Can you help me?

Waiting in Vancouver

Dear Vancouver: Clearly, you have a list of desirable qualities, traits or requirements that you seek for a long-term relationship with a man, and no man is living up to your ideals. So you have essentially two choices: either keep looking for Mr. Right—even if that means not finding a husband in time for you to have a family, or permit yourself to find and accept “Mr. Good Enough.”

There is potentially a vast difference between the two, and the most significant difference is that there are far more men who might be “good enough” if you were willing to discard your very large list. Of course you want a stylish dresser who has great taste and who is attractive. Of course you want a caring and nurturing guy, and a good provider, and someone who wants to be a dad and who will make a wonderful and loving dad. There is nothing wrong with any of these desires. But as you have no doubt learned, many of the men who fit this description are already taken, and if you don’t stop trying to find the perfect man, you’re going to wind up rejecting every guy you meet.

Is shared musical taste more important than honesty? Is being non-athletic a greater priority than kindness, or good communication, or affection? Has it never occurred to you that you can teach a man to learn to be a good dresser, that you can help him connect and feel close to those people you feel close to, that you could grow to love, bond with and feel close with his children, that you can hire a handyman instead of needing to marry one?

Two people often do not have the same sense of style, taste, education, interests, libido, parenting styles, temperaments, eating habits or communication styles, yet many of these people marry each other and are reasonably happy and content together. Also, we influence the people we’re in relationship with, so you no doubt could assist a man in developing greater awareness of how to look good, or what constitutes a great meal, or a great concert, or an appealing home.

No doubt some of his traits or behaviors you will find annoying or irritating, but that’s life as a couple, and every couple learns to develop tolerance for the less appealing qualities of his/her mate. That’s what life is like with a real person and not a perfect one.

Here’s my suggestion: find someone you like being with, who you feel some degree of chemistry with, someone you find easy to relate to, who has similar goals about marriage and having children, someone who is trustworthy, honest and affectionate—and give him a real chance to succeed with you. You have been holding your heart back till you find the perfect guy. But even if you were to find the perfect guy, that does not mean that he will want you. Instead of searching for Mr. Right, allow yourself to find and accept Mr. Good Enough. I suspect you’ll have a far greater chance of succeeding.

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