Never settle for “second best”.

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There are almost an unlimited number of reasons why someone may feel they ought to go along with a dating or marriage prospect, even though they have meaningful doubts whether this is what they are really looking for.  You may feel that your date is a really nice person, and do not wish to cause them upset. Perhaps your families may be close and you wish to avoid making a fuss. Maybe you have been dating for a long time and are becoming concerned that you won’t find someone suitable. The list is truly endless.

The ‘No one is perfect’ rationale to marry someone

If you felt your date was wildly unsuitable, surely you would not seriously consider pursuing the relationship. But what if there are some positive qualities, and there is a fair level of attraction? You are thinking that it could work, if you would be willing to let go of some expectations. After all, no one is perfect, so maybe living with some degree of disappointment is realistic. It is, in fact, true that no match is ever perfect, and there will always be elements of the other person that you would prefer to be different. If someone insists that the person they are dating or are married to is one hundred percent perfect for them, that is only because they are hopelessly in love and are oblivious to the imperfections.

So, if we have to accept that the person we marry will be imperfect and that there will always be things about them that we are not too keen on, perhaps it is best that we learn to “settle” and not hold out for the “perfect one”? Moreover, you may yourself have come to the shocking realization that you are also imperfect! Hard to believe, I know. Despite your imperfections, you still are expecting that someone will love you and want to spend the rest of their life with you. So, maybe, you ask yourself, the same applies in reverse: Perhaps I have to accept this person as they are, if I want them to accept me as I am?

The ‘Marriage is about compromise’ rationale

In addition, we are told that marriage is about compromise. You cannot expect things to always go your way in a relationship. So perhaps the time to start compromising is about who you marry in the first place? We are also informed that we are happy if we choose to be happy, that happiness is a choice we make about what state of mind we choose to adopt. Perhaps if you were to decide to be happy with this person as your spouse you will end up happy in the end? 

Make sure your spouse has your essential requirements

The answer to all these questions is, “no.” Yes, you should compromise and yes happiness is a mindset. Nonetheless, your essential requirements in a marriage partner should not be given up easily. Yes, you are imperfect too, and you don’t have to marry someone perfect in order to have a successful marriage. At the same time, you don’t surrender your key priorities because you are done with being single. There may be understandable pressures from within and without, but marriage is too important a matter to be approached under duress.

Re-evaluating your priorities

The key is to be clear about your core values and most important needs. Many people assume that particular features are a “must-have”. Upon reflection, they may realize that they have never really thought it through. Perhaps some elements that had always been assumed to be vital are much less important than had been previously thought. If so, that is where you should compromise. For example, perhaps you have consistently held that she had to have a particular hair color, or that he had to have a certain educational level. When you challenge where those expectations are coming from there may be little basis for it. So, you would be right to drop those demands for the sake of a good relationship.

You might be clear that generosity is a personality quality that is essential to you. Or, it is critical to you that your spouse has a good work ethic. Then, it would be a mistake to give up on that because you get along well or find the person attractive. Small religious differences can easily be resolved, but it would be a mistake to overlook significant variations in the level of frumkeit. If you are keen to live in Boston near your parents, and he wants to take up a job in LA, that is something you may be advised to come to terms with. But if he ignores you much of the time, and seems to find other things more interesting, you have good reason to be uncomfortable with that.

Be honest and reasonable with yourself

You have every right to feel drawn to the person you will marry. If you like her personality, but feel no physical attraction or emotional connection, you should not feel bad to look for someone else. You gave it your best, but it is not working out for you. If you are concerned that the person you are dating is highly controlling or is a heavy smoker, those are legitimate worries. You are not being unreasonable if you decide to end the relationship. You are not being picky, fussy, or impossible to please. These are aspects of the person that will significantly impact you and the marriage and your life together, and you are justified in questioning the person’s suitability.

Being honest with yourself, you may acknowledge that not everyone is rushing to date you. You may consider that your age, background, height, appearance, and so on means that you don’t have endless options. Being realistic and not looking for reasons to decline potentially suitable dating opportunities makes a whole lot of sense. All that, however, only applies to non-essential matters. When it comes to aspects that are truly important to you, you should never feel obligated to settle for second best.

Stay focused on the important things

We often don’t want to admit it, but we can feel under pressure to marry someone within a certain timeframe, or from a particular social group, or with particular qualities. We are also prone to be put under pressure from parents, from peers, from a shadchan, etc.  Pressure should not be a factor in your decision-making process. Being the first in your class to get engaged is not one iota of a reason.

You may be impressed with his job, or the family she comes from. You may believe that you are “marrying up” and how could you not go for it? You may feel flattered that “a person like that” is interested in dating you. All this is unimportant and should be left to one side.

You may have a younger sibling eager to start dating. There are various options for you to consider, but agreeing to marry the wrong person is not one of them. The shadchan may be saying you are picky and it is time you finally “said yes.” Perhaps there are questions around your dating, and getting good advice is not a bad idea, but that is not the reason for you to enter a marriage.

In summation: Dropping the insistence on unimportant preferences is perfectly okay, but do not abandon your truest priorities because it will mean you don’t have to date anymore. 

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