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...
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."
A Pragmatic View of Marriage
Experts and married couples both agree: It's a fantasy to think you'll achieve perfection in a relationship. Chemistry, while important, is not all-important, and the "soul mate" concept sets the bar unrealistically high.
"The good-enough marriage that de-emphasizes romantic love in favor of a pragmatic relationship is a very important topic that addresses the idealization of romance and the failures that inevitably occur due to unattainable expectations," says Michael D. Zentman, PhD, director of the postgraduate program in marriage and couple therapy at Adelphi University.
Belinda Rachman, an attorney in Carlsbad, Calif., has been married to Eliot for more than 20 years. "I made a rational choice that had nothing to do with romantic love and have been very happy. I had a written 'man plan.' As each successive relationship failed, I took a look at what I had to have in a man, what qualities I had to have and what was negotiable; I knew I didn't want to go on another emotional roller-coaster ride. When I look at the utter mess made by couples who have based a marriage on being in love with no thought to basic compatibility, I know I made the right choice."