Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough

by Lori Gottlieb


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An eye-opening, funny, painful, and always truthful in-depth examination of modern relationships and a wake-up call for single women about getting real about Mr. Right.

You have a fulfilling job, great friends, and the perfect apartment. So what if you haven’t found “The One” just yet. He’ll come along someday, right?
But what if he doesn’t?  Or what if Mr. Right had been, well, Mr. Right in Front of You—but you passed him by? Nearing forty and still single, journalist Lori Gottlieb started to wonder: What makes for lasting romantic fulfillment, and are we looking for those qualities when we’re dating? Are we too picky about trivial things that don’t matter, and not picky enough about the often overlooked things that do?
In Marry Him, Gottlieb explores an all-too-common dilemma—how to reconcile the desire for a happy marriage with a list of must-haves and deal-breakers so long and complicated that many great guys get misguidedly eliminated. On a quest to find the answer, Gottlieb sets out on her own journey in search of love, discovering wisdom and surprising insights from sociologists and neurobiologists, marital researchers and behavioral economists—as well as single and married men and women of all generations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451232168
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 92,868
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lori Gottlieb is the New York Times bestselling author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good EnoughStick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self, and a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, People, Slate, Self, Glamour, Elle, Salon, and the Los Angeles Times. She is also a frequent commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Husband Store 1

Part 1 How Did We Get Here?

The Dating Trenches 15

The Romantic Comedy That Predicted My Future 33

How Feminism Fucked Up My Love Life 43

Speed Dating Disaster 61

Part 2 From Fantasy to Reality

Older, and Wanting to Be Wiser 73

$3,500 for Love 86

The What Versus the Why 107

Mondays with Evan-Session One: The Percentages 119

It's Not Him, It's You 128

Part 3 Making Smarter Choices

Don't Be Picky, Be Happy 145

Mondays with Evan-Session Two: The Wrong Assumptions 157

The Men Who Got Away 167

Pulling Another Sheldon 178

Mondays with Evan-Session Three: The Lowdown on Alpha Males 184

What First Dates Really Tell Us 191

Are Women Pickier Than Men? 203

Part 4 What Really Matters

Mondays with Evan-Session Four: Wants Versus Needs 215

The Business of Love 226

Love at Twenty-seventh Sight 244

Mondays with Evan-Session Five: The Chemistry-to-Compatibility Ratio 252

Dump the List, Not the Guy 263

Part 5 Putting It All Together

The Good Enough Marriage 273

A Visit with the Rabbi 282

Claire's Story-Getting Over Myself 291

Alexandra's Story-Mr. Right in Front of Me 297

Hilary's Story-Finding What I Needed 302

My Story-A Dating Public Service Announcement 308

Epilogue: Where They are Now 316

Acknowledgments 319

What People are Saying About This

Gretchen Rubin

Marry Him shows women how to find true happiness when seeking love - by giving them a new way to look at the world. Gottlieb manages to be hilarious yet thought-provoking, light-hearted yet profound on the questions of - why do we fall in love? What qualities really matter in a marriage? For what reasons do we make the decisions that affect our whole lives? Like provocative relationship classics such as The Rules and He's Just Not That Into You, Marry Him will set people talking for years. (Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project)

Jill Soloway

What makes Marry Him so powerful is how unabashedly, painfully HONEST it is. I don't know a single woman who won't recognize some aspect of herself in these pages. Finally, here's a cautionary tale for anyone wondering why she hasn't found Mr. Right— with a hopeful message about the Mr. Right Nows, the Mr. Close Enoughs and even the Mr. What the F*#%s. (Jill Soloway, writer and Executive Producer for "Six Feet Under")

Amy Sohn

Lori Gottlieb's smart, insightful witty observations gleaned on her own unusual romantic path signal an important new voice in single-girl lit. The Rules turned single women needy, He's Just Not That Into You made them depressed, and Marry Him finally sets them free, preaching that in the long run, "good enough" might be better than great. (Amy Sohn, author of Prospect Park West)

Pepper Schwartz

"I wish I could round up every single woman I know and assign this book for discussion. Gottlieb helps women see how our cultural or private fantasies build up so many expectations that they destroy the possibility of real love and, eventually, marriage. Marry Him is a big fat lesson in how not to get in your own way. Any woman who wants to find true love and hasn't been able to should read this book."--(Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., relationship expert at

Diablo Cody

What Lori Gottlieb is saying isn't subversive— it's smart. A thoroughly entertaining reality check, it will make single women laugh and squirm, and married people appreciate their spouses even more. (Diablo Cody, Academy Award winning screenwriter of Juno)

Rachel Greenwald

Engaging, hilarious, brutally honest, and eye-opening! Marry Him is a hopeful tale about finding love by getting real. (Rachel Greenwald, New York Times bestselling author of FIND A HUSBAND AFTER 35)

Helen Fisher

"This is a daring and wise book. Gottlieb tells it like it is: In our modern world of excess, too many of us have unrealistic expectations about men and love, and even more unrealistic views of ourselves. Women (and men) should take Gottlieb's message to heart: 'Look for reasons to say yes.' It could change your life."--(Helen Fisher, Ph.D., Rutgers University and author of Why Him? Why Her?)

Reading Group Guide


You have a fulfilling job, a great group of friends, the perfect apartment, and no shortage of dates. So what if you haven't found The One just yet. Surely he'll come along, right?

But what if he doesn't? Or even worse, what if he already has, but you just didn't realize it?

Suddenly finding herself forty and single, Lori Gottlieb said the unthinkable in her March 2008 article in The Atlantic: Maybe she and single women everywhere, needed to stop chasing the elusive Prince Charming and instead go for Mr. Good Enough.

Looking at her friends' happy marriages to good enough guys who happen to be excellent husbands and fathers, Gottlieb declared it time to reevaluate what we really need in a partner. Her ideas created a firestorm of controversy from outlets like the Today show to The Washington Post, which wrote, "Given the perennial shortage of perfect men, Gottlieb's probably got a point," to Newsweek and NPR, which declared, "Lori Gottlieb didn't want to take her mother's advice to be less picky, but now that she's turned forty, she wonders if her mother is right." Women all over the world were talking. But while many people agreed that they should have more realistic expectations, what did that actually mean out in the real world, where Gottlieb and women like her were inexorably drawn to their "type"?

That's where Marry Him comes in.

By looking at everything from culture to biology, in Marry Him Gottlieb frankly explores the dilemma that so many women today seem to face--how to reconcile the strong desire for a husband and family with a list of must-haves so long and complicated that many great guys get rejected out of the gate. Here Gottlieb shares her own journey in the quest for romantic fulfillment, and in the process gets wise guidance and surprising insights from marital researchers, matchmakers, dating coaches, behavioral economists, neuropsychologists, sociologists, couples therapists, divorce lawyers, and clergy--as well as single and married men and women, ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties.

Marry Him is an eye-opening, often funny, sometimes painful, and always truthful in-depth examination of the modern dating landscape, and ultimately, a provocative wake-up call about getting real about Mr. Right.


Lori Gottlieb is the author of the national bestseller Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self and a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, People, Slate, Self, Glamour, Elle, Salon, and the Los Angeles Times. She is also a frequent commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered.

  1. In the prologue, Lori Gottlieb realizes that while she’d never made an actual list of qualities she was looking for in a guy, she did have a very specific unconscious checklist in her head. Do you have a list—a physical one or a mental one—of your ideal mate? What would be on your list?
  2. Has your “list” from question 1 changed over your lifetime? Are all of the current qualities realistic—or statistically likely—in one person?
  3. Do you have a “type”? Is your type consistent with the qualities you consciously look for? Do you run into the same relationship-ending problems repeatedly?
  4. What does “husband material” mean to you? Do you think “tall, dark, and handsome” or “long-term compatible”? How have any of your previous dates measured up to your ideal?
  5. What does “settling” mean to you? Would you settle for nice life with a nice guy? Why or why not? Do you settle or compromise in other areas of your life? Where’s the line for you between making a realistic compromise and settling for something that’s beneath you?
  6. What does “true love” mean to you? Do you believe in a soul mate? Have you ever thought you’d met your soul mate before but later changed your mind? What do you think of Rabbi David Wolpe’s interpretation of “soul mate” in chapter 23?
  7. In chapter 3, Lori Gottlieb describes how feminist ideals led her to mix up her priorities when it came to dating, and how the idea of “empowerment” led her away from what she truly wanted. Do you agree that feminist ideals – when applied to dating – have had an e impact on women’s overall relationship happiness? Do you think women often confuse what they actually want with what a modern woman is supposed to want? What does “having it all” mean to you?
  8. Of the qualities you desire from question 1, why are these important to you? Can you separate these qualities into “needs” and “wants,” as Lori does in the book?
  9. One man in the book says that women expect “one-stop shopping” – a mate who fulfills them across the board – but that he thinks one-stop shopping is overrated because he can get some needs met by his wife, some by his colleagues, and some by friends and family. Do you think women have more expectations in relationships than men? If yes, how? Do you think women, more often than men, focus on the negative in their dates/significant others rather than the positive? If so, why?
  10. In chapter 10, Gottlieb recounts social scientist Barry Schwartz’s description of maximizers and satisficers. Are you a maximizer in dating? In other areas of your life?
  11. Have you ever dismissed a guy after a first date that was fine, but had no sparks? Do you think you worry too much about instant chemistry or common interests instead of about common goals and values?
  12. Why do you think it is so difficult to let go of the ideal guy and be less picky in practice?
  13. In one of Lori’s sessions with Evan, the dating coach, he asks her to write down all the ways someone would have to compromise to be with her and she lists her less-than-appealing qualities for which some guy would have to compromise. What not-so-appealing aspects would a guy have to put up with to spend his life with you? (Be honest!) Would you make these kinds of compromises to be with a guy, or would you rule him out and go for someone “better”?
  14. Chapter 19 discusses the Westerner-idea of “falling in love” vs. love developed over time in arranged marriages. Do you believe you can “fall in love” with someone after, instead of before, marriage? What “practical” factors should women take into account when looking for a spouse? Is it okay if he’s a sexy artist but makes no money? If he’s stable and loyal but short and bald?
  15. Do you think expectations for marriage have changed from generation to generation? If so, discuss how and what causes these differences. In an era when women no longer need a man for financial support or even to have a child, what do you think a husband is for nowadays and why do you want one?
  16. In the book, Lori makes a lot of assumptions about potential dates based on their profiles, but later ends up dating a guy she was initially reluctant to e-mail. If you’ve tried online dating, have your experiences been similar to Lori’s? What assumptions do you make about men based on their online profile essays or photos? How accurate do you think those assumptions are?
  17. How did it make you feel to read about the realities of dating as women age and the “reverse power curve” for men and women? Lori says she was in denial – that she knew dating got harder, but was still convinced that she wouldn’t fall through the marital cracks. Do you think you take into account these realities, or do you think that no matter how old you are, you’ll still be desirable to the men who interest you?
  18. Have you ever fallen for an “alpha male”? What’s attractive about men like this? Have you ever dated someone who was less ambitious or successful than you are? How did you feel about that?
  19. What is your own personal “chemistry-to-compatibility ratio” – as described in chapter 20? What did you think of the studies by scientists Martie Haselton and Helen Fisher on the biological factors involved in feeling “chemistry”? Have you ever noticed a pattern in which you’ve mistaken “chemistry” for a dysfunctional attraction?
  20. Were you surprised by the studies that researcher Paul Amato discusses in “The Good Enough Marriage” (chapter 22)? Would you be satisfied in a “good enough” marriage or, like some of the women he mentions, would you get divorced and look for something better? How likely do you think it would be for you to find something better than “good enough”?
  21. Of the women who tell their stories at the end of the book, to whom do you most relate and why? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation and, if so, how did you handle it?
  22. After reading Marry Him, are there any changes you might make in your approach to dating or relationships? Have you realized anything about what you want and what might make you happy in the long-term that you weren’t aware of before? If so, what? Has your idea of “Mr. Right” changed at all?

Customer Reviews

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Marry Him 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think the title is misleading, this book isn't about settling for someone who wont make you happy it's about self-awareness, determining what actions and thoughts have prevented you from finding the partner/relationship you want in your life. This book is aimed at women in their mid to late 30s and the book is filled with stories from women and men in that age group both single and married. The author (single mother in her early 40s) uses herself as a guinea pig and enlists the help of matchmakers, dating gurus, a rabbi and researchers to explain why its so much harder to find someone as you get older. There is so much information presented in this book from experts, the author and the people interviewed that I think it would be impossible for someone to not find a story/theory they can relate to their situation. This is the best $15 I've ever spent. The best thing about this book is that it's not an advice book, no silly ideas like- dressing sexy and going to a sports bar, just a mirror to help you see where you are going wrong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been needing this reality check and this book probably just saved me from a lifetime of loneliness. If you are sick of advice from friends that lead you to be more alone- take this book to heart. I know today that i am going to marry the man of my reality!
TampaGirl More than 1 year ago
I'm 30+ and still single. This book made me realize how picky I've been throughout the years. It made me accept that the prince charming that I've been dreaming about since a little girl is just a fantasy and that I needed to have more realistic expectations. This new way of thinking is only fair because I am not a princess myself. Also, this book gave the word "settling" a new definition in my life. It doesn't mean that I should compromise and marry any loser. Just that I should be more open minded.
panderia82 More than 1 year ago
The perfect slap in the face for all of us perpetually single girls. It's not about settling for Mr. Joe Schmoe, it's about letting go of all your preconceived notions of what a happy marriage should be so you can find that Mr. Right. We follow along in Gottlieb's quest to open herself up to it all, from her reluctance to change her way of thinking to her eventual transformation and acceptance. The book to share with all your female friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was inspiring, uplifting and hilarious all at the same time. I am sharing it with all of my friends regardless if they are married, single or dating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a new one, but the concept is good that women should be more reasonable and less critical in looking for a mate. With that said, if you already know this, there is a better way to spend money than buying this book. The entire book is basically a compilation of various researches followed by the author's rambling about herself. Sharing one's experience is one thing, going on and on about "me, me, me" is another. The book reads like a bad attempt to stretch what can be sufficiently and more efficiently said in a paragraph into 300-something pages. Despite most earnest effort, I ended up skipping several chapters as the author continued to repeat the same content over and over, simply in different sentences. For what matters, spelling and grammar errors are spotted frequently; section titles and subtitles rarely reflect the content. If you must read this book, I suggest going to the book store and flipping through it before spending money on it. But I do understand everyone responds differently to one book, so if you happen to really like it, please don't let my criticism affect your decision to purchase one. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could absolutely relate. This book was exactly what I needed to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read 1-3 nonfiction books a week and this one is a total game changer. This book has opened my eyes to things I never really gave though to and is wonderfully insightful. If you're dating, not dating, having issues in your relationship, this book. Best relationship book I've ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author gives detailed information and real life experiences. Will definetely give you a sense of urgency to get paired up as soon as possible. Message here is if you wait too long you are going to get the guys no one wants. Basically crumbs someone else didn' t pick or leftovers.
Akil More than 1 year ago
First of all, I am a man. I am 27 years old, and I saw this book reviewed in a magazine. I was initially interested in it because I once dated someone, and I think she passed over me the way the author passed over many of the good prospects she had in her younger days. All in all, I enjoyed the book. But, I realize the me reading it isn't going to help the situation. Women need to read it, and realize that they need to be more open about who they date and who they dismiss and their reasons for the dismissal. (sorry for the run-on sentence) I am looking at the so-called "independent single ladies." You can have a man, a good man, just don't expect him to be the president or a CEO. He can be a regular guy who is loving, caring and kind, and will be a good husband to you and a good father to your children (if you want them, of course.) I just hope some women are able to reevaluate their preferences and opt for someone good enough and happiness, instead of waiting in the wings for perfection, and running the risk of ending up 40 and alone. Think about it.
amf0001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Timely and wise, a book abour relationships today, and what happens when you leave it too late... I know a lot of women like those Lori Gottleib describes and my heart goes out to them, and I'm pleased to be able to offer something that might get them on to a different track.
gigi86 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Finally! A book that gives a voice to pragmatic romance!A wonderful peek into contemporary dating practices and the issues women face when they can't settle (or realize they might have to) until it's slim pickings. As a feminist, it's hard not to bristle at the title. After all, why should everyone marry? Why should we have to settle? But if you read far enough, you'll see that the author never claims to present a solution to anyone other than women like herself: women who want to get married and (probably) have children. If those things are important to you, it is imperative you read this book.As our culture has shifted toward a place where we prioritize self-actualization above all else, it's easy to approach finding a mate (and marriage) as a tool to better yourself. The problem is this can make us feel entitled at precisely the time we should be the most humble. Only when we can accurately assess our needs and the baggage and flaws we bring to the table can we find the absolute best mate for long-term happiness. This book will get you in the right frame of mind to find real joy with someone.
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