Since my love life is unusual, romantic advice from mainstream media is often so foreign to me that it could have been written by aliens. However, the March issue of the Atlantic magazine contains a piece entitled "Marry Him!" which is so astoundingly wrong-headed that I can't dismiss it as a mere cultural disconnect.
The author is Lori Gottlieb, forty something spinster, and her assertion is that women are too picky when it comes to marriage. If you want a home and children, you should marry any solvent, sperm-producing guy who asks, even if you don't love him, while you're young and your "marital value" is high. A loveless marriage, she says, is better than no marriage at all. Once you're over 30, there are no good men left, and you'll be infertile anyway. So you should "settle"—her word, which she uses repeatedly.
Ms. Gottlieb bases this conclusion on (a) her own romantic history, and (b) female characters in sitcoms. Given those parameters, I'm more of an expert than she is, because unlike Ms. Gottlieb, I've actually been married. I married for precisely the reasons she is advocating. It was a disaster.
I was in my late 20s, coming off a couple of breakups, and feeling alone and uncertain. He looked great on paper: nice looking, educated, professional, socially adept, upwardly mobile. We had common interests. My family liked him. He was even kinky. So I squashed my doubts and planned the wedding. I was very fond of my husband-to-be. I liked the idea of being married and settled, and being in love was just a silly idealistic notion anyway. This was a rational, mature decision.
The marriage crashed and burned in less than a year. Being married to a man I didn't love made me unhappier than anything else I've ever done, before or since.
So marrying someone just because he's a nice guy and you're tired of dating is a mistake. However, Ms. Gottlieb goes beyond that, suggesting that women should abandon the idea of passionate love altogether, and view ourselves as mere wombs that need subsidizing, and men as stud animals with paychecks. It's a repulsive notion—a variety of sex work that is truly contemptible. It makes a lie out of two people's whole lives. More than two, if you have kids.
(Speaking of mistakes, I am also intimately familiar with the effect publishing articles about one's sex life has on potential dates. Marriage-wise, Ms. Gottlieb has shot herself in the foot with this piece. No one is going to marry her after reading her litany of bitterness and desperation. How could you possibly feel loved by her? And besides, even if she convinced you—somehow—that she truly loved you, everyone at your wedding would be thinking, "So, this is the loser she settled for, huh?")
One makes compromises in life, and no partner is perfect. But ladies, no, do not settle—not at 20, or 30, or 40. Marry someone you're in love with. Anything else is the wrong kind of whoring.