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Is There Such a Thing as ‘Mr. Good Enough’?

Is it lowering your standards or being realistic when you decide to settle for ‘Mr. Good Enough’?

Mr. Good Enough is looking pretty great when you watch your best friend get married, and you’re not even dating anyone …

or when you go out with a “very nice” person who doesn’t exactly make your heart flutter and your adrenaline surge …

or when you’re sitting at home, alone, on a Friday night watching another ridiculous romantic comedy.

When you experience these and other reminders that you are still unattached, it’s easy and natural to have thoughts like: “Maybe I’m too picky. Maybe I should adjust my expectations. Maybe my standards are too high.”

In other words, should your criteria be sacrosanct and set in stone—or should you use a sliding-scale method of mate selection?

Not long ago, a book was published with the title, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.”1 The cover copy says the author “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.” With chapter titles like “Don’t be Picky, Be Happy” and “Dump the List, Not the Guy,” the book argues that women, especially as they get older, should have “more realistic expectations” (i.e., lower expectations).

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion—and our opinion is this: When it comes to finding the love of your life, settling for Mr. (or Miss) Good Enough is a recipe for dissatisfaction, if not disaster. Singles should determine precisely the kind of person they need to be happy.

To find a partner who is a great match for you―you should be extremely precise about what it is you want and don’t want in a partner. This doesn’t mean you have an impossibly long and complex checklist. The key is to compile lists of top ten positive qualities (must-haves) and top ten negative qualities (can’t-stands). Becoming clear about these characteristics prepares you to be a wise dater, someone who knows with confidence and clarity whether a potential partner is worth pursuing.

If you’re one of those singles wondering if you should lower your expectations, keep these thoughts in mind:

Maintaining high standards doesn’t mean holding out for Mr. or Miss Perfect. The issue here is not about trying to find someone perfect—and a good thing, too, since there’s no such person on the face of the earth. The issue is about you being clear about what kind of person you can love, enjoy, and grow with over many years. It’s about determining which qualities in a partner you can live with and which you can’t.

Conceding an item of your must-have or can’t-stand list is an invitation for trouble. Your criteria are highly personal—and the twenty items that comprise both lists should be carefully guarded. What is vital to you may not be important at all to another person. Some people can be happy with partners who have little ambition. For someone else, this same low level of ambition would be a significant turnoff. Compromising on a quality that relates directly to your predetermined must-haves or can’t-stands could very well be a relationship killer.

Wise daters are uncompromising about the big issues and compromising about the small ones. Once you’ve determined not to negotiate on your ten must-haves and ten can’t-stands, you can allow yourself more flexibility on everything else. Part of the adventure of love and romance is discovering qualities in another person you find attractive that you didn’t think you’d find attractive. You might be surprised to learn that a person has traits and tastes different from your own that you enjoy. Without sacrificing the most crucial characteristics of a potential partner, remain open-minded and flexible about all the nuances the person brings.  

The bottom line is this: Does your partner have all your must-haves? Is he or she free of all your can’t-stands? If you can honestly say this is the case, your relationship is off to a promising beginning. Once your most vital criteria are met, you are free to enjoy the wide range of possibilities your uniquely created love has to offer.


1.      Lori Gottlieb, Marry Him (New York: Dutton, 2010).