I have a good female friend who just celebrated her 33rd birthday.  She, and about ten of her closest friends, got together in New York City to celebrate her day.  After the cake and candy and catching-up and presents were finished, talk quickly turned personal as each woman in the room — all successful and all working good jobs and all well-educated and all touching their early 30’s alone in life in the Big City — realized they were all a failure at finding “Mr. Right” and settling down into a marriage and raising a family, even though that’s what they said they wanted more than anything.

Sure, they were having lots of non-committal sex with anonymous, androgynous, youngins.  Yes, they were living comfortable, but isolated, lives.  Of course they were yearning for more and more and more — and that was precisely their problem.

As my friend shared her story with me — and lamented out loud why she and all of her friends were “so successful” yet “so unhappy” — the answer to their problem was so clear that I could not tell her directly without sounding hectoring, so I softened up the truth a bit and spoon-fed her a reality not of her liking, but of her choosing.

Here’s the redacted, blunt-on, INTJ version of what I told her:

High-powered, successful, goal-oriented women have been raised by a smug, mainstream, society to form the idea that only one man — Mr. Perfect — is right for her and “she’ll know him when she sees him” and so she wastes decades of her life waiting for that Perfect Man to arrive, even though the does not exist.

People are flawed.  Most men are irretrievably broken, but a good woman can fix him just by believing in him.  There’s no such thing as the Perfect Man or even “Mr. Right.”  I’m not suggesting you lower your impossible standards for finding the right mate, but you might want to relax your checklist for acceptable suitors for fathering your children.

Oftentimes, “Mr. Good Enough” turns out, in the end, to be your “Mr. Perfect” — because you are able to live through the flaws to see the real goodness in the man that your previous societal brainwashing had prevented you from directly witnessing.

Would you give up your money and your career for a man?  What about for “Mr. Perfect?”  If you’d “give it all up” for the Perfect Man, then sacrifice a third of it to settle down with — without settling for — “Mr. Good Enough,” and the happiness you will discover will repay your sacrifice three-fold because you will find earnest feelings and genuine love you only previously experienced in your dreams about meeting “Mr. Perfect.”

When our conversation was over, my friend didn’t quite believe me — she decided she would “wait as long as it takes” to find the “right man” because cheating herself with “Mr. Good Enough” is something she’d never forgive herself for doing — and so I took a pinch of pity on her as I smiled and wished her a good day while also knowing her destiny was to become a bitter old bitty waiting to marry a notion, and not a real man; and so she will continue to sow the ghosts of her childhood imagination and reap the wild wind trying to find a suitable sire for her shriveling dreams of a brood of her own.

30 Comments

  1. David, I’m astonished to see in writing exactly what I’ve been thinking in regard to someone very close to me. It is as though the absolute force of will that enabled them to clamber to the top of their careers is expected to be put to work to find the perfect man. They may be kind, caring, thoughtful, but these attributes are only going to be shared with this paragon they are seeking. They are not perfect but want perfection in everything around them, incuding friends and family. It’s sad. I married an imperfect man and he married an imperfect woman. Decades later we are still happy and we haven’t wasted our lives.

    1. Hi Kathe!

      It’s lovely to have you here in UrbanSemiotic.com — The original Blog That Started It All! SMILE!

      Is it pretentious of me to say that I am the only Perfect Man and my wife waited to find me? Okay, no. Kidding! SMILE!

      Yes, these terrific women — with perfected self-esteem — have this ideal that they’ve hooked into: The Perfect School, the Perfect Clothes, the Perfect House, the Perfect Neighborhood, and they want “their Perfect Man” to fit into their complicated puzzle — but there’s no such man alive who can fulfill all those fantasy niches.

      We should simply pity these women, but they’re so adamant and obstinate, and doomed to a perfect loneliness, that we are instead tempted to smile back at their glossy eyes, knowing what they never will: Imperfect people can create great relationships together — but you have to give to get.

  2. The women that dream this way are so deluded that it is really beyond comprehension that they are able to function in the real world. The reality of the world should be hitting them in the face at least once or twice a year when they see time passing without finding this dream man but it never does.

  3. Wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, David. As Voltaire once said, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” or, roughly, better is the enemy of good (enough). Searching for perfection is futile.

    An angle which would add spice to the argument is also to look at how, if you make a mistake, you can also take measures to change things. Divorce is a reality and even the most “perfect” men turn out to be unfaithful or whatever. In spite of some who hold beliefs in the sanctity of marriage, unless there are children involved many would not consider it immoral to separate after an unsuccessful marriage. Once children are involved it’s far more complex… but divorce is becoming the norm (sadly, in my view). So not only are people missing out on valuable life experiences being shared with someone special, but they are missing out for all the wrong reasons.

    -Simon

    1. Great to hear from you, Simon!

      I appreciate your comment, but saving divorce as a premeditated “out” of a relationship seems like the perfect salve for a woman waiting for “Mr. Perfect” to show up at her door and sweep her off her feet. In the meantime, she’ll just bide her time with this glob of a man, and marry him, and have children with him, and then divorce the drivel of her life the second something better comes along that she perceives to be closer to “Mr. Perfect” than what she already has in hand, but not heart.

      I much prefer the idea of making a conscious decision to STOP waiting and hoping for a man that doesn’t exist, and then transforming “Mr. Good Enough” into “Mr. Perfect” with love and understanding in a marriage that will not begin with the divorce card cleverly concealed up a fluted sleeve.

      1. Hi David

        I’m not saying divorce is a get out of jail free card. I’m just thinking that many errors can be corrected. Divorce is misused and people don’t want to make the effort to make marriages work, but I strongly believe in getting out of once great situations that turn sour and cause endless heartache, domestic violence and broken children.

        Biding your time to avoid mistakes, and missing out on probable happiness, is the core of your article. I’m just giving my take on the fact that biding your time because you might make a mistake is more empty than making a go of a good situation and making the effort to make a relationship work. I have been married for nearly ten years and I work every day to keep the family unit solid. Many do not do that, but many others – in spite of their efforts – must not feel that they have to take punishment for the sake of a commitment that other parties have refused to honour.

        -Simon

        1. I think I’m understanding you, Simon. I just don’t think one should enter a marriage with divorce as an option under consideration. I think that sort of thinking leads to the inevitability of divorce. The current divorce rate for marriages in the USA is 50%. That number tells me there is too little commitment and too little devotion.

          There are some women who use abortion as a form of birth control. That, to me, is wrong, too.

          There must be better ways than divorce and abortion to resolve the morality of these core “lifestyle” issues and values.

  4. I like this part:
    Would you give up your money and your career for a man? What about for “Mr. Perfect?” If you’d “give it all up” for the Perfect Man, then sacrifice a third of it to settle down with — without settling for — “Mr. Good Enough,” and the happiness you will discover will repay your sacrifice three-fold because you will find earnest feelings and genuine love you only previously experienced in your dreams about meeting “Mr. Perfect.”
    But you know it’s difficult to be rational enough to love Mrs. / Mr. Good Enough! Hope to deal with it logically before getting disappointed of finding Mrs. / Mr. Perfect.

  5. Totally it makes men sometimes feel like ugh no men can do right!!! Then you have to take a deep breath and realize that some of these women that actually believe this are these women that are such in la la land and truly make themselves believe in the TV. shows and movies such as Sex in The City. For some women that try and believe in this crap are so brainwashed by the media that they make themselves try and believe that there is this “perfect guy” out there and by damn I’ll literally wait until the earth blows up, sometime he’s just magically going to show up and poof she’s off riding on the horse with this “perfect guy” (he has the absolute perfect teeth, the exact right eye color, the “perfect” abs and of course he just naturally developed those abs without ever working out, and he’s 10 feet tall at the minimum lol but she preferably wants him to be 20 feet tall).

    Next thing we know women are going to start bringing collapsible ladders on dates that fit in their $25,000 Gucci bag she bought on her credit card, can’t pay it off and she’s going to have to use the ladder to just get up to his chest and still ruin her neck because she has to keep looking up since he’s “oh so tall”. Oh yeah and to her “tall” mean protection and he of course won’t ever hurt her even though he’s a good 3, 4 or 5 feet taller than her and 400 to 500 lbs of pure muscle steroid douche lol. Oh yeah on top of all that she has 100 pages of “requirements”, he must bring a “perfect” conversation on the first date and it has to be “perfect” instantly and she wants to be able to tell within the first 3, 5 min of the 1st date that he’s the one instantly and she’s going to ride of on the horse with him, he’s going to have millions upon millions of dollars, the can never ever run out of money, she want’s to be able to sit on her ass all day every day blah blah blah. Oh yeah and of course he certainly can’t be the least bit nervous on the first date or she want’s to stomp off, call her girlfriend, bitch and cry about how he’s not “perfect” and he was nervous but it certainly was all ok for her to be nervous. OK whatever!!!!!!! Yeah get over yourself you’re not “all that” and your not that hot. Yeah your probably attractive but not “smokin hot” even though you think your a 10 but reality is your probably a 7.5 to an 8 lol.

  6. I also find it interesting how many women come off as so selfish and have the attitude of me me me me all me all about I without even thinking about their parents and friends. Their parents want grandchildren and are waiting all the while she’s bitching and complaining about how she can’t find the “perfect guy”. Her parents probably have told her over and over there is no such thing as “perfect” all the while her parents are married and celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary her parents are the typical married parents that naturally argue, fight, figure out stuff and come back and love each other. But the daughter somehow got stuck in her mind that this imaginary “perfect guy” exists and the daughter is like effin damn it he is out there somewhere even though there are billions of people out there and she thinks there is this just one “perfect guy” that’s going to simply waltz up to her and whisk her away on that white horse without her even going out.

    Yeah she’s going to continue to believe that until she finally realizes that all her friends are married, starting their own families, don’t have anymore time to hang with her and the time they do hang with her her friends are sick and tired of her constantly complaining about the not “perfect guy” showing up. Her friends then tell her that their husbands are not even close to perfect, she the wife is not perfect either and they are completely happy. Then the single girlfriend is so bitter and pissed off that her friends have gotten married, started their families, have kids and she wants that perfect guy even though her friends and family have constantly told her the “perfect guy” never ever ever exists. When she finally say’s screw it most guys don’t want much to do with her because she is so bitter and angry with the world. Women like this have to learn that it’s not all about THEM, no such thing as “perfect guy” or for that matter no such thing as “perfect people” and until they figure that out, she’s going to be miserable and not many people will want to hang out with her or date her. Life is just going to keep passing her by while people go on with their lives and leave her behind.

  7. Wonderfully written article, David.
    I am a 25 year old female and I most certainly agree with the points you made.
    Our society has warped the perception of love and I agree with your statement that divorce shouldn’t be an option when considering marriage.
    Doing so DOES inevitably lead to divorce, but that also says a lot about our approach to relationships and marriages. Do we try hard enough? Do we put in as much effort as we should? Sadly, the answer is no – hence the alarming divorce rates.
    On another note, our society has changed drastically and women have become more independent, successful and goal-oriented than ever before. While I’m all for women being successful and independent, I think it is this certain type of “attitude” and lifestyle that contribute to the “I won’t settle for less” mentality.
    How many women in their 30’s-40’s are still single with biological clocks ticking loudly in their ears? They are the very same women that put their careers atop everything else and fail to realize the importance of personal growth in life and love.
    You’re right – there is no such thing as a perfect man, and the perfect woman doesn’t exist either. It’s all a matter of accepting each other’s flaws and devoting lots of time, effort and energy to make it all work.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Liza.

      I know so many women in their 30s who “don’t want to settle” for the “wrong man” while all their married with children girlfriends urge them on — with the underlying idea being — “I don’t want to marry one man and be in love with someone else.” Huh? What sort of fantasy ideal is that? It’s a convoluted world view that was clearly propagated by bad parenting as a child and now the husband-less woman pays for that parental ineptitude for the rest of her life wallowing in her own delusion.

  8. I recently overheard some ladies talking about how in all of their 20’s they constantly would tell men NO if men asked them out and they were now saying how they felt like they were getting a bit depressed and it showed on their faces. These ladies were attractive but not overly “hot” and it got me thinking how when women continually say no because they have that distorted “Perfect Man” syndrome maybe women even the “hot” ones don’t realize it but men catch on to that and seriously start ignoring them because they have that aura that radiates off that says I’m completely closed off and I will instantly say no. Men can totally sense that aura and even though she’s attractive and might be on the “hot” side men will totally ignore her and start to shun her, and her “hot friends” because we (men) know she’s just instantly going to say no and men are like sh*t I’m certainly not going to waste any time on her because we know if we ask she’s just instantly without thought she’s just going to say no. But back to my point is that these ladies that constantly say no all in their 20’s and starting into their 30’s are becoming those “old maids”.

    Ha Ha Old Maid is not just a card game and a myth for a lot of ladies it’s a sad reality. It’s sad and becoming more common about many ladies becoming old maids. I think in the near future women are going to have this (OH SH*T) reality check and be like what have I done? A lot of ladies will start saying to themselves I’ve constantly said no to so many men, I’ve had this pure made up “perfect guy” fantasy (he doesn’t exist) I’m 30, have about 5 to maybe 7 yrs left to have kids, yes ladies science isn’t going to change that much that you can actually have a healthy baby in your 40’s. She’s saying to herself I have no serious guy prospects and all I have done to myself is dug such a huge hole, so depressed that I’m not getting anywhere with men and now men are constantly say no to me (except for quick flings) because I have this closed off body language . Duh!!

    Women are like that won’t ever happen to me but holy shit in this day and age old maid is seriously staring a lot of women right in their eyes looking right at them especially the ones like described in this article (the ladies that constantly say no to almost every man except for the quick one nighters). Most of the women that do the no are the ones that constantly do the nose up in the air exasperated NO. Men have started to get the radar and can sense that she has that aura that radiates the constant always NO. Back when we were younger it was more of a running joke among women and like oh no we will never end up like that, we will never ever be old maids. This is totally one of those (WATCH WHAT YOU SAY) moments. For a lot of women these days the “old maid” is very true.

    Always saying NO and being the ladies that say no to every man because they have that distorted “perfect man” syndrome the always NO is starting to bite women in the butt, men are starting to catch on to women that always say no and men are running away from them because they know she’s just going to say no and men are like so why even waste any time on her if all she’s going to do is always no matter what just always say no. Reality is for a lot of single women particularly the stuck up women, the women that have that complete false fantasy “perfect guy” imagination Old Maid is staring them right in their eyes!!! There is a huge price for some women that always say NO and that is Old Maid!!

  9. We all know this is true. However, I solved the problem another way: I packed up my bags and moved to France.
    In this country, women think that those New Yorkers you describe are sick, backwards people. They see shows like Sex and the City as a curiosity, but they absolutely cannot believe that women behave like that over there. They think it’s a sad state of affairs. And as far as infidelity goes, well one has to look no further than the reactions to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair.
    French women happily attach themselves to a man who loves them and shows some promise, without being perfect, and then push full steam ahead, as the notion of family is of firstmost importance to them. They stay seductive, sexy and thin their entire lives because they know that it pleases their husbands, and because, well, they like being feminine. And the divorce card is always the very last, and undesireable, resort.
    To the French, being “feminine” does not necessarily imply having all the power and being in control. In fact, it means being confident, yet accepting to be cared for and showing maternal qualities. Once a woman falls in love with you, if you are good to her, it is forever.
    I have to say that I’m not being completely fair. I’m French-Canadian and work for a French company, so it was easy. But the same applies to any other country in the region.
    The low birth rate in my own country, compared to the very high one here, should eventually set the tables straight someday anyway.

  10. Hey, interesting article here. I am a woman, and agree as well that there is no “perfect man”; knew it all along (despite the nagging childhood self that still wishes all those fantasy stories were real and whatnot.)
    I regret to say that one bad experience, my only one to date, has ruined my perspective on dating and men. I feel that I’ll be just another lonely lady, aging and waiting forever. I don’t even desire children or marriage– at the very least, just sincere, devoted companionship.
    I just don’t care for our society, how hypersexualized everything is, how morals seem to be declining. Bet the majority of men are regular porn watchers. Does monogamy even exist (or rather, one-woman men?) Are there men who look, as normal, but never cheat (or even more rare, hardly feel the desire to?)
    I probably have high standards, probably unrealistic goals, but I’m looking for someone sincere, who doesn’t *want* to be with anyone else (to be fair, i don’t intend to seek such a partner until I cultivate myself into someone worthy of staying with. I wonder if it’s possible to find a man who is not sex-crazed in this day and age. It feels like the things i want are simple, yet impossible. And difficult to express as well…

  11. to be honest, and don’t shoot me down, but i don’t care about finding someone to breed with just yet, as i am a mature student who is currently studying, the last think i need to be concerned about is chasing some fictitious Mr ditch water dull ken doll. if i wanted someone, i’ d want someone who is human, who i would click with because he’s human not a ken doll, or a reject from jersey shore. to be honest I’ll probably want to stick with the geek types – they would, to put it in gamer terms, pwn the ken doll and alpha douche types any day!

      1. i don’t care really, i’m too busy to think about dating, even if it means that i’ll stay single all my life, nothing against men, but anything better than chasing some fictitious prince!

  12. another thing – i don’t believe in knights in shining armour as nine times out of ten, even the best knight in shining armour will turn out to be a dipstick in tin foil! 😛

  13. it also works both ways – there are some men who want some sexy flawless woman and turn down those that are not hot enough! i’m pretty fed up with the biological drive excuse! it’s high time we stopped acting like a load of savage cavemen, ditched the clubs and the stepford syndrome and accepted each other for who we are!