Married People Have Greener Grass

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A single mother’s case of the “shoulds.”

I just read Lori Gottlieb’s "Marry Him!" article from the March issue of the Atlantic magazine advocating that women should “settle” for a husband regardless of a so-so connection. Gottleib, a 40-year-old single woman who recently had a son via artificial insemination determines: "Marriage isn't a passion-fest. It's more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane and often boring nonprofit business." And she wants in. Shocking, right?

Perhaps its because I’m currently reading (two years late) Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir about breaking her chains of depression and finding spiritual renewal after a messy divorce and painful break-up, that I don’t buy into Gottlieb’s bleak, confusing perspective that -- feminist as women today may be -- we are and will feel inconsolably incomplete without a husband.

And Gottlieb makes that distinction. She doesn’t long for a boyfriend, a friend with benefits, an ambiguous male friend who loves her baby. Nope. She wants a husband, no matter what. Why? She'd be happier having someone to give her a 20-minute respite from her son so that she can eat lunch. She’d prefer to have been married and divorced “because many ex-wives get both child-support payments and a free night off when the kids go to Dad’s house for a sleepover.”

Gottlieb objects to being “at the mercy of men,” so why doesn’t she scrap the husband idea and hire a nanny? Because she’s deep into a big box of the “shoulds” – those comparative thoughts that begin with "I should..." and inevitably leave us feeling inadequate about something we haven’t accomplished, whether or not it’s something we actually desire or need.

Maybe it’s just my almost late-twentysomething perspective, but why doesn't Gottlieb write about her son, whom she made a proactive decision to bear, as a source of joy instead of a burden she desperately wants a break from? Women choose to get married for reasons other than having kids or societal pressure, so it seems that one secret to success with any romantic -- and certainly marital -- path is to do it because you want to, not because you think you should.

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