This post was inspired by a new favorite blogger, where she wrote about Lori Gottlieb's new book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, and why she's insulted by the term "settling". I agree with this blogger on all accounts, though I've decided to tackle the case for settling from the relationship angle.
A long time ago, when I was just a little girl, I was hooked on Disney movies. I would watch and rewatch Cinderella, and then I'd retreat to my room and act out my own fairytales with my Barbies. In these little fantasies I had, Ken and Barbie fell madly in love and had cute little plastic babies. Barbie was, of course, a princess, and Ken was her prince. Eventually, they became King and Queen of Plasticland, and were never heard from again. Until the next day, when I watched Sleeping Beauty, and Ken and Barbie got to fall in love all over again.
A few years later, after Ken and Barbie were sent into retirement, I discovered a new outlet for my romantic fantasies--- romantic comedies- back before someone pressed their "rinse, wash, and repeat" button and they actually felt somewhat original. I watched these movies, and instead of retreating to my room to play with Barbies, I retreated into my room to write in my journal. I would pen angst-ridden words about the guy out there I would never find- the Freddie Prinze Jr. lookalike who would steal my soul, sweep me off my feet, and ride with me off into the sunset. Yes, as a teenager, I was terrified that I would end up alone. I can't tell you how many times I'd put 98 degrees songs on repeat and fantasize about the kind of guy who would sing those lyrics directly to me. My poofy hair and chubby physique were enemies even then because it was absolutely what kept me from finding the man of my dreams, the man all these fictional women seemed to land so easily, and in just 90 minutes.
Fast-forward to my twenties. Now, I am only 21 years of age, and before you laugh and tell me I know nothing about relationships because I don't even know who I am, understand that, for a multitude of reasons, I grew up way too fast. I don't regret it, but it's simply a reality. Ok, so here we are, my twenties. At present, I live with a man I've been dating for what will be three years on April Fool's day. We have a dog and a bird, and I cook him dinner every night and we are very happy at this point in our lives and our relationship. We even see it being a long-term kind of thing. BUT WHY THE HELL DIDN'T I GET THE MEMO THAT A RELATIONSHIP TOOK WORK!? Why didn't someone tell me that I would sometimes have doubts?! Why wasn't it explained to me that eventually the hormones and endorphins shooting all through my body that made me feel those "just fine jumping off a bridge because I was so damned happy and oh, my God we are on top of the world" kind of feelings would eventually fade and I would actually have to decide if I liked this man? Whose idea was it to stop the Disney movies and the romantic comedies as soon as the guy and the girl got together, before all the reality set in? Why didn't, in my days of playing Barbies, I consider that Ken may have had an adulterous affair with the younger babysitter named Skipper, would my delusions of love have been easier to recover from? If someone had made a sequel to Pretty Woman to show that even Julia Roberts and Richard Gere weren't always attending operas and climbing ladders and making it glamorous to be hookers and were actually sometimes having bad sex and ignoring one another and gaining five or ten pounds after the comfort factor set in, would I maybe have been more prepared for what it took to make a healthy relationship function?
I really think it's possible. Because I can tell you, I learned all those lessons the hard way. It took me quite some time to realize that just because I didn't get so nervous/excited everytime I laid eyes on Shawn that my stomach felt like it was doing flipflops, that that didn't mean there was something wrong with my relationship. It took many off days to realize that off days were acceptable in a long-term relationship. That I would not always feel like spending hours in front of the mirror just because I was going to see him. That we would fight, that he would ignore me to watch the Colts play. That I would ignore him when Grey's Anatomy was on. That he would be messy to live with, and leave the toilet seat up sometimes and that did not mean that our relationship was doomed because he was not the perfect guy.
I do not think it's a coincidence that with the onset of Disney movies, romantic comedies, and this fairly modern notion that love means 100%, blissfully happy 100% of the time, and that hormones and endorphins make it easy and you never have to work to get it right, that divorce rates have also risen. It is not quite love if the person is flawless in every single way, love grows in accepting the flaws about the person because their qualities pale the flaws in comparison. There are some days when I do look at Shawn and get butterflies, some days that I am overwhelmed and quite surprised by how much I love him, but there are some days that are just okay, too. And, I'll admit it, some days that pulling my hair out strand by strand would be more tolerable than being in the same room with him. But we are a team, and we are committed to one another, and that means not running at the first sign that things don't compare to what we grew up seeing in the movies.
To sum it up, I do see what Gottlieb means when she says "settling", but, like the other blogger, I, too resent the term settling. I have not settled for anything. I do not think that I could do better because I think that similar problems and ups and downs would arise with another person, I just may not be so lucky in another relationship to have someone as committed to the relationship as I am. Gottlieb's got a good thing going, I think she just used the wrong term. We should not have to feel bad about the connotations that go with the word "settle" just because we have chosen to open our eyes and choose not to believe the lies we've been told, we should celebrate for being so liberated. It isn't settling, it's being realistic.