Plenty of People Settle, They Just Refuse To Admit It

It’s become de rigueur of xoJane to publish posts from women lacking self-awareness, especially when to comes to dating.womenwriterin

Last week, one of xoJane’s regular contributors lamented about the shallowness of men in Manhattan.

I love New York, but I hate dating here. I have no problem meeting men, but I have yet to meet someone with whom I’m mutually interested in anything more than casual hookups, and at this point, I’m leaning toward wanting something serious. However, there’s a popular theory that, with so many attractive, single women in New York, many men are always looking for something that might be “better.” 

As I said to the author, the “bigger better thing” idea is one held by both men and women in this city. It’s not exclusive to men. I pointed out that there were probably plenty of men that wanted to date her. She just didn’t want to date them because she was attracted to something different aka better. Oh, blindsopts. How I love them.

One of the dangers of writing about this sort of thing on the internet is that , if you do it long enough, you build up a rather sycophantic audience of followers who tell you exactly what you want to hear. In this woman’s case, she’s constantly pandering for compliments about her looks and body and she gets them. The problem is that she’s hearing those compliments from women. Not men. As I said to the writer, if it’s a relationship she wants, she would probably have more luck if she went back to the guys she originally gave a pass and gave them a second look. It’s blasphemy to suggest that maybe she’s aiming  a little high and that she stop focusing on the superficial hipster musician type and go for different guys. See, that would be considered settling and we all know how people feel about that.

This one, an essay from a writer bragging about her engagement, is well on it’s way to hitting the 500 comments mark, with most of the comments being snark filled and sarcastic about the rather unseemly tone of the piece. The piece is, well, yet another example of the twisted narrative that gets sold to women about getting engaged. The article is titled, “Why I didn’t settle, and why you shouldn’t either.”


As it turns out, some savvy commenters did barely a minute’s worth of Googling and found out the woman’s fiancee, uh, has a skeleton or two in his closet. By Upper East Side Rich Kid standards, it’s barely noteworthy. Big surprise, a rich kid who came from money thought the rules didn’t apply to him. Yawn. However, that lends support to my theory that people who have to look for mates well outside their geographical location usually do so because something is preventing them from finding a partner closer to home. Learn it. Live it. Love it. It’s a big fat red flag. People get so caught up in the fairy tale aspect of stories like this that they don’t stop to do any critical analysis.

I feel really conflicted about even writing this, as the author has given me some positive press. I don’t think she’s a bad person.  If I didn’t feel that this story contributed to the already grossly skewed narrative of getting engaged and married that is sold to women, I wouldn’t say anything. Y’all know how I feel about people who are married for a hot second or who got married or engaged under questionable circumstances who then take on some position of authority on the subject that they  haven’t actually earned. They do that for a couple of reasons.

First, they want to prove they aren’t defective in some way. When you write about dating, especially your own personal dating experiences, and years go by without any serious takers, you start to worry that people think there is something wrong with you. (Side note: There is. You write about your dating failures on the internet. You’re welcome.) xoJane is infamous for it’s collection of women who can’t seem to get anybody to date them, and I can assure you a lot of it has to do with the fact that they publicize their neediness and lack of confidence on the internet. Again, you’re welcome.

The other reason they do it is because they want to best other women. It’s intra-gender competition at its finest.

I get twitchy when I see stories like this or the ones other writers from other women-oriented sites write about their engagement and marriage. And by “like this” I mean sketchy.  In these cases, there’s always more to the story and the relationship rarely played out exactly how the writer said it did. Salient points are being left out of the story intentionally. But many women don’t realize that. They just see that ring and start to wonder what is wrong with them that they can’t get a guy to propose, too.  The reader assumes the author stayed true to herself and found exactly what she was looking for.

But did she? That’s the real question. If all she wanted was a ring, then she didn’t settle. See, it’s easy to find a guy to be with you is all you want is bragging rights and phony air of superiority. There’s no challenge there. Anybody can do that. That’s why it’s crucial to read stories like this with a huge grain of salt. You’re not getting the whole story. Trust me on that.

A lot of people settle. They just won’t admit it. That’s why settling has gotten such a bad rap. It’s far more common than people realize.

What people don’t understand is that it’s not settling if you were never going to get what you originally wanted in the first place without a great deal of effort. Admitting that to yourself is not compromising a certain value set, it’s acknowledging a delusion and re-adjusting your settings.






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30 Responses to “Plenty of People Settle, They Just Refuse To Admit It”

  1. Mandy Says:

    If you had every single 20-something write a list of all the important characteristics in a mate, and then you checked in with every married one of these people a few years later, I bet that not a single person’s mate would meet all the characteristics. Did every single person settle? I guess it depends on your definition.

    If your requirements are “soft skill” requirements like 1) treats you nice, 2) is attractive to you, 3) challenges you intellectually, 4) wants the same things out of life that you do, then you should NEVER settle on anything less. However, if your requirements are “hard skills” like 1) has an ivy league degree, 2) makes at least six figures, 4) speaks multiple languages, 5) is over 6 feet tall and has all his hair, etc., then grow up. And yes, unless you want to be single forever you’re going to have to “settle” on something less.

    • Eliza Says:

      I agree with Mandy. I hear women, that are in their 40’s and into their 60’s – cry about wanting a man that makes 6 figures, will take them on exotic vacations, is extremely fit, intellectual (whatever that means to them), has all their hair…are you kidding me?! At the age of 50, 60+? They are basically looking for some unicorn. I know one woman who just turned 50–she’s about 5’1 – yet wants a man that is 5’11-6’0 tall. It’s idiotic to demand what is termed as “hard skills”–when what ultimately will matter is how that person treats you–yes, you need to be attracted to some degree…shares similar values, wants similar things out of life. It’s absurd to expect to meet someone to meet these demands. Expect to be single for quite a long time if that’s your order. It’s not settling, it’s called being realistic and acknowledging what is important.

    • Nicole Says:

      Yes… Whether or not we all “settle” depends on how you define it.

      The engaged chick originally didn’t want to date someone who lived across the country, but she did, and it apparently worked out for her. Is that settling? Or just being flexible? We could all probably ask the same question about our own relationships. Did I settle for a guy who has kids? A lot of women would consider that settling, but I feel more like I got a surprise bonus, 2 really awesome kids in my life in addition to a great guy.

      To me, settling implies giving up on something that really matters to you, something that may make you resentful or frustrated down the line, leave you wondering if you could have found a better partner if you’d waited. Someone who really wants a family staying with a partner who doesn’t. An ambitious professional pretending she’s ok with her boyfriend living on his mom’s sofa because she’s afraid she’ll never find anyone else. The other stuff that sometimes gets referred to as settling – dating someone who is older, shorter, makes less money, lives far away, etc – isn’t really settling if you realize how little that stuff actually matters in comparison to finding someone who makes you happy.

      • maria Says:

        really, really well said, I think a lot of times people confuse “settling” with being more flexible and open minded. big difference! I agree, when I hear people say “he/she settled” I imagine they are staying with somebody who wants very different things out of life/not compatible because they do not want to date again, or are terrified of being alone.

        • Julie Says:

          I think most women see this as the definition of settling – marrying a guy she isnt attracted to because she is lonely or desparate.

          Marrying the garbage man is not settling if you are in love with him. Settling is when the best thing you can say about your husband is, “He’s a good man”.

  2. BostonRobin Says:

    And then the pic, with a rather average looking guy. Don’t get me wrong, he actually seems perfectly decent and normal. But not the super-hot bodice-ripper type that I assume women mean when they shout their “never settle!” battle cry.

    Eventually, most people just get tired of being alone and make a decision, conscious or not, to let petty demands go.

  3. Snowflake Says:

    I just want this engagement season to be over and done with… The whole I won tone of the article is just sad. Won what? Sorry I don’t get it. Winning the engagement ring? The 5 – 6 figure wedding… talk to me when life hits, kids, illness, losing a job(s) due to the economy, talk to me after decades of going through hardship (financially and not)..

    I hear or so many people saying oh look they are so happy (on the engagement/wedding day etc).. yeah so? A marriage, a good marriage is not superficial, its not based on how big your rock is or where your wedding reception took place, or who/what your dress etc..

    The whole substance is lost on all these young women.

    Speaking from a woman who was married for 7 years (divorced young too) and got married much too young… it takes more than money and bling to build a lasting relationship that can weather life.

    • KK Says:

      Yeah, my feeling on the piece was, “bitch, you didn’t win a damn THING. You got engaged, great. But it’s meaningless. You WON when you’ve been in a happy relationship for years and years.”

  4. Fyodor Says:

    It seems like first principles don’t really get you very far in these discussions. Everyone agrees that people shouldn’t insist on every single “ideal” quality and everyone agrees that you shouldn’t give up too many of your preferences.

    But the “how much” and the “what” is really the hard part.

  5. bbdawg Says:

    I am not sure what this “settling” thing means, I just know you if you like someone or not. Everyone has preferences but if you meet someone you really like and it’s mutual, you will take their imperfections.

    As for the articles, they’re fine. These are just fluffy articles, like I used to read on Glamour magazine when I was in my early 20s, not the “truth”. So the woman got engaged, good for her. That’s the goal of a lot of women on dating websites – to get off of them ASAP. That’s why these articles get traffic. That’s why she’s bragging. She doesn’t have to be getting creepy messages from low-end dudes who can’t tell the difference between YOUR and YOU’RE anymore. Good for her.

    I don’t think anyone thinks this is the end all or be all. I don’t think anyone really thinks relationships are fairly tales or that all your problems will be gone when you’re married. It just means that some people prefer a committed relationship with someone they care for over the endless barrage of men you have to sort through constantly when you’re dating. That’s just not very enjoyable or fun. You deal with it, you dress up and show up and meet new people. But given the choice, I’d much rather be with someone I care about than go on 2-3 dates a week with strangers. That’s why these articles will continue to pop up. It’s the “I did it and you can do it too” thing.

  6. Julie Says:

    “As I said to the author, the “bigger better thing” idea is one held by both men and women in this city. It’s not exclusive to men. I pointed out that there were probably plenty of men that wanted to date her.”

    Oh my, yes. Reminds me of the time I met a school teacher who lamented that it seems like the women of new york judged him for his low income and didn’t want to get serious with him. He related a sob story about dating a lawyer for several months before initiating the exclusivity talk only to be told that she saw him strictly as hookup material.

    I sympathized and a couple of days later we made plans for our second date for that saturday night. In a total d**k move, he flaked on me two hours before the date….via email.

    I certainly wish him luck in finding his unicorn hot, young attorney who wants to marry a middle aged, pot bellied special ed teacher with missing teeth.

    • AAORK Says:

      Damn, it’s gotta suck when you’re rejected by a “middle aged, pot bellied special ed teacher with missing teeth” .. ;P

      • Julie Says:

        At the time I was dating a lot and was rejected by so many men I didnt really care especially not after just one date. What irked me was his rude behavior. There was more to the story which I wont bore you with. Essentially, if someone doesnt have the decency to call/text and cancel on very short notice and doesnt care that someone may travel an hour each way to meet him, well, I get to laugh at his misery and his dilusional self image.

        • Dori Says:

          Ummm… If was that ugly, how did that lawyer see him as hook-up material? Perhaps he was not entirely truthful.

  7. maria Says:

    all the excellent advice you have given marci (i read xo jane) has seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. she ONLY ever responds to comments where people tell her how beautiful she is.

    if marci is going for arty, brooklyn, williamsburg types then she is making dating difficult for herself and really swimming against the tide. I live in NYC and have a similarish build and age as marci, and get plenty of attention and dates online–just not from arty, musician, skinny hipster guys. I know what kind of women hipsters date, and the reality is, they are not dating women who look like me or Marci, and no matter their age, they are not dating women in their mid 30s. there may be exceptions, but its just not happening. go to dinner or a gallery space, or a show in williamsburg/bushwick blah blah any day of the week and tell me what you see. I have been on a few dates with Brooklyn hipster guys when I was in my 20s (I think being a native New Yorker fascinated them) and those were the guys who would always flake, make plans and not follow through. These are the guys who are very superficial. they just want to be cool, want to be seen as cool and interesting and they are exhausting.

    I find dating in NYC tiring and disappointing, but its not very difficult, not as difficult as Marci is making it out to be. I know a lot of my dating problems have been on me–and I have been working on changing them in therapy and have been seeing a lot more success with my dating life. If you keep doing the same damn thing, going after the same people who simply do not want you, then it is going to be very difficult anywhere you go–this goes for men and women. there are plenty of nice, normal single men in queens, long island, bronx etc who don’t fit the popular hipster mold–I guarantee if Marci opened herself up to dating guys like that, she’d probably have a boyfriend almost immediatley.

  8. Julian Says:

    what if someone publishes their “dating failures” and it’s because they are frustrated and tired of playing the game with other people? I am sure that there are many people who relate to “dating failures” and it’s not only because there is something wrong with them or inherently wrong with openly writing about them. And we can’t always assume that the person is omitting certain things out of their dating horror stories; I can find plenty of people who will agree that there is definitely something amiss when it comes to our society particularly when it comes to dating, marriage and commitment. Perhaps, people are now writing about it because they are fed up and want to know they are not the only ones who feel this way. It all depends.

    • Noquay Says:

      Very true. In a small town, one cannot speak of your failures/heartbreaks as everyone knows everyone. Speaking ones truth may have serious consequences as does holding it all in day after day, year after year. My worst heartbreak involved someone I work with yet I cannot speak of it. For someone with no family, no like minded community, its really isolating. Those of us who didn’t date around much, got into ltrs that lasted, missed out on experiencing a lot of red flag behaviors, and now, reluctantly back into dating, are somewhat naive. Dating blogs tell others stories that you can learn from so you do not repeat the same mistakes.

  9. AC Says:

    “If your requirements are “soft skill” requirements like 1) treats you nice, 2) is attractive to you, 3) challenges you intellectually, 4) wants the same things out of life that you do, then you should NEVER settle on anything less.”


    Much like the term “league” I think the term settling constantly gets misinterpreted. The four criteria Mandy mentions are really all anyone should abide by. Anything less is as much of a recipe for failure as this:

    “I know one woman who just turned 50–she’s about 5’1 – yet wants a man that is 5’11-6’0 tall.”

    As Eliza implied, the woman mentioned above is single because she’s obsessed with the superficial. As much so as the man who insists his women have huge tits.

    There’s a huge difference between “liking what you like” and having some moronic bucket list of superficial traits.

    At the end of the day, the real definition of settling is sacrificing your own happiness and well being for fear of being alone.

  10. KK Says:

    I was gonna comment on some of what you’d written on XOJane, and then decided against it. i THINK some of the issues with that writer was in tone, as I think she was trying to be glib, but it really didn’t come across that way. Kind of like the woman who wrote the article about cheating on her husband.

    I really, truly do not think that dating/marrying someone who lives far away means something is wrong with you. It is MUCH harder than one can imagine, and I think the author in the original post is being really naive – if you’ve been together for a year but most of it has been long-distance, then there is a LOT you don’t know about the person. On the other hand, they’re just engaged. If they’re wrong for each other, let’s hope they figure it out before they marry.

    I think the only time you’re settling is if you’re not with someone around whom you feel amazing, in general. If the guy doesn’t earn as much as you like, or if he’s not so fucking hot that you secretly worry your friends might try to fuck him but that also makes you feel really proud – that’s not settling. That’s realizing that superficial things don’t really matter.

    I think the author of the original article found out about a guy who sounded amazing. They had a great connection. Both felt it. And so they have decided to make it work. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that neither could find someone close by. Maybe there was a guy down the street who is just as great – she just hadn’t met him yet.

  11. Speedy Says:

    Its a meaningless distinction.

    It isn’t a coincidence that the notion of settling gained currency just as dating became commodified. In an era of seeming endless choice and options, everyone is settling by definition. There is always the chance of something or someone better, maybe you can find them on a dating website amongst the thousands already there, or maybe they’ll create a profile next week.

    The irony is that settling, choosing out of like three people in your home town and its done, is what people used to do and they never talked it about it as such.

    Settling is really just something people say about other people as a bitchy canard at this point, it shouldn’t be a term people use in polite company.

    • DrivingMeNutes Says:

      Agree and I don’t see the point of arguing about the definition of a word that has a um settled meaning. Settle, compromise, are synonyms. Settle means giving up something of value and getting something of value in return, usually in the context of some sort of pain avoidance or damage motivation. Everybody settles because it is a requirement of being an adult human being. So some people don’t recognize they are doing it? They are lucky because ignorance is truly bliss.

      Settling is not the same thing as “surrender” or “capitulation.” Those are other words to describe giving up and getting little to nothing of value in return. Since we already have very nice words for the concept of abject surrender, we don’t need to mess with the definition of “settle.” That said most adults occasionally experience surrender as well. Part of life.

      • DrivingMeNutes Says:

        “Damage mitigation”

      • Julie Says:

        You dont see the point of arguing about the definition of the word settle and than you presented your view of its definition? Hmmm….

        When we are talking about pretty emotionally charged language that is intentionally provacative, its best to agree on what we are talking about before getting our undies in a knot over apples and oranges.

        • DrivingMeNutes Says:

          People are arguing about what one person values more than another person. You don’t get to decide that for other people. If the ring is everything to someone, then it doesn’t matter to her if someone else values good character or good looks. It does n’t mean she settled more or less than anyone else. The only point is that, she settled, period, just like everyone else, whether she knows or admits it. Why debate it on those terms? If you want to judge someone’s values, because they differ from yours, then go ahead but don’t delude yourself that you’re doing something different.

          • Julie Says:

            I see what you mean and totally agree with you on the fact that theres no right or wrong values. If all that mattered was finding a virtuous partner there wouldnt be so many divorces.

            The problem isnt with values its about trading attraction for some tangable thing the relationship will get you. I doubt that leads to long term satisfaction…but I may be wrong. At the end of the day, you’re right, too each his own.

  12. Noquay Says:

    Dating only those that live far away is necessary when living in many areas. Since this town has a lower cost of living, most older men are here because they cannot afford to be elsewhere. A wee bit different than NYC. There are almost no educated, financially stable, healthy single men for about a 50 mile radius. No woman here dates locals unless truly desperate, we higher income chix have left in droves. We date “outside” or not at all. After my experience here, I truly feel for men who are constantly approached by chix looking for a meal ticket. My focus now is looking for jobs elsewhere in wooded but liberal areas, fixing up my home, upping my skills for a retirement career. Exit strategy. The times I did truly “settle” for locals, I found being with someone who doesn’t share your values, care about you, who you are, is a hellish ride. Having been married for 12 good years (elsewhere), I find the whole bragging about engagement/expensive wedding thing weird. We had no ceremony, told folks afterward; we were focussed on building a life together.

  13. jane Says:

    More people need to hear this. I am SO tired of hearing the latest engaged (or simply coupled up!) woman coo about how her SO is the perfect specimen of a man she’s been waiting her whole life for, she has never and will never love anyone more than him blah blah blah…until the next one when she says the same. Don’t they say, the biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves? I have no doubt we ALL settle, I just wish women would be more honest about it and admit this isn’t a disney romance, but it works and you’re happy and that is enough!

  14. Ben Iyyar Says:

    I wonder how many of us would believe that our partners may well have “settled” for us? Because, just as most of us are careful to determine if a particular partner could be suitable for us, we often forget or are unaware that we are being judged on the same basis by that partner.
    My wife was once asked why she married me and she said she felt I had “potential.” Later she told me that while she definitely liked me, she meant that I shared many of her values, that I was responsible, a hard worker in a good profession, and that I seemed serious about marriage and family. Which in many ways was exactly how I felt about her. Until than I really was pretty unaware that I had been evaluated and found acceptable, when I usually tended to think that I was holding all the Aces. Did my wife settle on me, or I on her? I think we were very fortunate to find each other. If we “settled” who cares, we are still, after thirty four years of marriage, living happily ever after!

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