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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.

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."

Terri, an artist based in Roswell, Ga., who has been married for eight and a half years, says the good-enough concept resonates with her. 

"I did have a fantasy idea of what marriage was going to be. By the time I got married in my mid- 30s, I had a lot of dating experience and the bubble burst.  We had a child within the first year of marriage, and it got pretty practical pretty quickly," says Terri, who asked that her last name not be used. "The ever-shifting process of coming together, compromising, and the day-to-day of housekeeping and child rearing have taught me to accept Thomas for who he is. When that happened, I truly felt a sense of relief, a comfortable feeling of where I have landed. I'm much more relaxed."

Recognizing Mr. or Ms. 'Good Enough'

In Tyler Perry's films, the girl often gets the guy -- but there's a caveat: He's not usually the guy she pictured herself with. In fact, it's usually a regular guy -- the proverbial "diamond in the rough" -- that she's overlooked.

As we mature and learn more about who we are, recognize our inadequacies and learn to accept those of our mate, we are better equipped to "screen in" candidates who are good enough, experts say.

Gottlieb believes many of us -- herself included -- have dismissed potential mates based on looks, habits, or other superficial "deal breakers." In her article, she writes about her own change of heart in terms of what romance and marriage is or isn't supposed to be. 

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