Forty-one-year-old single mother and journalist Lori Gottlieb has written
candidly of spurning "good enough" men in search of the perfect
romantic mate. But in her provocative new essay for the Atlantic,
Gottlieb advises singles -- especially women -- to consider settling when it
comes to a love relationship, arguing it will likely lead to long-term
In her essay, Gottlieb likens a "good-enough marriage" to a small
nonprofit business with a likeable mate who can problem solve. Gottlieb spoke
exclusively with WebMD about the reaction it has generated.
By Laura Berman
It happens at my speaking engagements, of course, but also at cocktail parties and PTA meetings, even in department stores: People who've learned that I'm a sex therapist have tons of questions for me. Some just want to hear more about what I do, but most are concerned with very specific issues — things they've been wondering about but haven't felt comfortable asking (until they run into me shopping for shoes!). I'm happy to answer, if time and the setting permit. Not only does...
"I've gotten quite a response, and it's been all over the map,"
Gottlieb tells WebMD. "Married people are very supportive of the point I am
trying to make. Some single women applaud me for saying out loud what many are
thinking but not saying. But many single women think it is an affront. They
think it is an unpalatable challenge to an empowering world view that you can
have it all."
At the heart of the "good enough" argument is that too many of us
have been brainwashed into a "fairy tales and fireworks" view of
romance that lacks long-term stability. Gottlieb writes that marrying Mr. Good
Enough is a viable option, especially if the goal is to land a reliable life
partner and create a family.
"The point of the article is not to settle for any schmo off the street,
but a good guy you like, enjoy the company of, and have realistic expectations
of," she says.
"If you want to be with somebody and you're holding out, you may end up
with nothing," Gottlieb says. "That's the crazy-making part -- you're
Defining the Good-Enough Marriage
London pediatrician Donald Winnicott coined the term "good-enough
mother." A good-enough mother stands in contrast to a "perfect"
mother. She provides a safe environment, connection, and ultimately,
independence, to facilitate the child's development. A good-enough mother meets
some, but not all, of her child's needs.
Can the good-enough theory apply to romantic partners as well?
"Good enough, rather than the fairy-tale model, which is a big
disappointment, is a reasonable way to picture married life," says Louanne
Cole Weston, PhD, WebMD's sex and relationship expert.
Katharine Parks of Chillicothe, Ohio, married John at 19 and has been
happily wed for 32 years. She says the terminology is right on target. "In
American society, we are always going for much more than we actually need.
We're expecting too much from a relationship. I think realizing this is as
'good as it gets' and that life isn't 'once-upon-a-time' is important to
building a life together."
Scott Haltzman, MD, a clinical assistant professor at Brown University's
department of psychiatry and human behavior, says the issue of settling for a
certain person or behavior in a relationship is one of the principles of
happiness -- if you reframe it as "acceptance."