American author Lori Gottlieb has written a book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough, in which she declares that singletons still searching for Mr Right by the age of 30 should give up and settle for Mr Second Best. In our doomed search for true love, she says, we overlook countless relationships that could have made for "viable" marriages. How many self-respecting women do you know who dream of a "viable" marriage? We are grown-up enough to know that while the perfect relationship does not exist, we can expect a lot more from marriage than just viability. Women want love and emotional connection and they want it to last a lifetime. The good news is that these things exist and they can last a lifetime. Not to believe that is to resign oneself to the notion that it is all you deserve.
From time immemorial ...
This is not the viewpoint of a demanding 21st-century woman. It is the way women have felt since their love lives were first recorded. In Jane Eyre, St John Rivers proposes to Jane because he believes she would make a good missionary's wife. Jane turns him down flat, saying: "I scorn your idea of love, I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer and I scorn you when you offer it." Gottlieb's suggestion is absurd, says Maureen Waller, author of The English Marriage: Tales of Love, Money and Adultery. "I didn't meet Mr Right until my forties and now I realise he was worth waiting for." Most women would risk ending up alone than settle for dependable, passionless Mr Second Best.
According to Gottlieb, marriage is still the holy grail for women. So it's easy to see how the temptation to skip down the aisle with Mr He'll Have To Do Because He Is The Only Impregnator Available is a strong one. But Gottlieb's watershed age of 30 is mean. There can be no single age at which Everywoman is ready to marry. In an age when divorce is so common, it can't be right to get into a relationship that is not underpinned by genuine love. Marriage shouldn't be based on a checklist of credentials but on the feeling that you can't live without each other.