Picking Mr Good Enough


Compromise seems to be a dirty word these days. We deserve the best! We should never settle! It has to be Mr. Right, not Mr. Good Enough. But does "good enough" mean settling? Everyone has flaws; I know I do, so why should I expect Mr. Right not to have a few flaws too? Surely that just makes him human?

Lori Gottlieb's book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough drew the battle lines on this subject when it was published. In her book, Gottlieb argues that women should not be holding out for "Mr. Right" but should hook up with "Mr. Good Enough". Why waste your life on useless dates and meaningless flings, always thinking that your prince is around the corner, when you can settle for someone who ticks most of the boxes and is not too bad? "There are so many really wonderful men out there, men who want commitment, who want to be married, who are attractive and smart and interesting," Gottlieb says. "They may not be movie-star attractive, they may be awkward at first, they may not fit our cultural image of who Mr. Right or who Prince Charming is. But we should not pass them up."

A particularly interesting point Gottlieb makes in her book comes from a discussion she had with Barry Schwartz, a social scientist. According to Schwartz, there are two kinds of people in the world: maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers are not good when it comes to dating and entering relationships (and staying in them!) Whereas satisficers are. Schwartz uses a shopping analogy to explain this theory. Two women, one a maximizer and one a satisficer, decide to go shopping for a new jumper. Both have very clear criteria of what this sweater should look like, how much it should cost and how it should feel (v-neck, not itchy, pink, etc.). The satisfier walks into one or two stores, finds a sweater that meets all of her criteria and buys it. She's done and is satisfied with her purchase. And how is the maximizer woman doing? Well, she has walked in and out of at least five stores. She actually found a sweater that matched all her criteria in the first store she went into, but she thought she should check out the store down the street just to be sure … and the store next door. And maybe one more. Maybe she can find a better one. Maybe she can find a better one on sale. Two hours later she thinks she has found THE sweater so she finally makes the decision and buys it.


So who is happier with their sweater? Most people would say, obviously the maximizer; she looked longer, was more discerning and explored more options. Wrong! In the end the satisficer will always be happier with her purchase as she knows she got the best she wanted; whereas, the maximizer will always wonder if she really did get the absolute best one. A satisficer is not looking for the absolute best but she does still have high standards. The difference is that she stops when she has found something that meets those high standards. She does not wonder if she can do better if she looks longer.

So what's more important? Holding out for Mr. Right, acting like a maximizer? Or be a satisficer and pick Mr. Good Enough, confident in your decision? And do we even need these labels? I have said before that the concept of happily ever after has been taken over by Hollywood and that no "real" relationship can live up to the expectations of those who watch the romantic movies churned out year after year. Perhaps Mr. Right IS Mr. Good Enough and perhaps he's a real man with real flaws and (more importantly) real feelings, which is ultimately what every woman wants.

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Nancy Travers


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