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The 'Good Enough' Marriage

Experts and couples discuss whether settling for 'Mr. Good Enough' is better than waiting for the perfect soul mate.

Defining the Good-Enough Marriage continued...

"We live in a culture where we're being told through all forms of media, 'Don't accept anything but the best.' We all marry 'the wrong person.' I think the real challenge of marriage is to get out of the romantic, over-idealized phase and into the 'now what' phase. Making adjustments, modifying expectations, and settling is something that happens throughout the entire relationship, not just the day you stand in front of the altar," he tells WebMD. "We need to broaden our view of what acceptable means."

Pepper Schwartz, PhD, a relationship expert at perfectmatch.com and professor of sociology at the University of Washington, acknowledges that the term "good enough" carries a negative -- and unnecessary -- connotation.

"The implication of settling or good enough is that at some core level you will be dissatisfied," Schwartz tells WebMD. "It's a downer concept for sure. The whole feeling has infected society in a way that is shocking." She draws a sports analogy. "I'm a good skier, I have a lot of fun skiing, but I don't say I'm a 'good enough skier.' I wish we could just call it a 'good marriage.'"

Schwartz says that being in a state of constant aspiration is a form of "self-torture."

"If I had to settle for a new Oldsmobile when what I really want is a Porsche, I'll never be satisfied. In truth, the Oldsmobile is new, it's pretty, and it works. Why wouldn't I be satisfied with it?"

Haltzman notes in his book, The Secrets of Happily Married Women: How to Get More out of Your Relationship by Doing Less, that for centuries happiness was not a factor in good marriages. Rather, marriage was a practical matter that ensured social and financial security and provided for offspring. It's only over the last century that couples have expected marriage to bring them happiness. We're learning as we go.

David Rice of Alpharetta, Ga., agrees. Married for five years to Cynthia, he points to his parents' long marriage and the role model of World War II couples. "Think back to those soldiers, who just wanted to get home to a woman who came from a church-going family, could dance, and was happy to marry a nice guy. Prerequisites have changed."

He admits that his romantic journey didn't go as planned. "At the ripe old age of 44, I felt the time was right and I wanted to get married. I found somebody I could build something with, but regardless of the attraction, it wasn't puppy love. I actually treated it like a business decision, as cold or callous as that might sound. I didn't feel I had time to make a couple of mistakes. I felt I had to hit it out of the park."

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