Your Call: How Do You Know If It’s Settling or Being Smart

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Leave your suggestions in the comments section below. 

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Dear Em & Lo,

How do you know the difference between being discerning and being too picky? I hate the Princeton Mom but I’ve read smarter articles about not waiting too long to settle down, especially if you want a family. To go with the person who’s just good enough, rather than perfect (since no one’s perfect). But my last few relationships haven’t been with people I can see making it long term with. They had many pros but a few cons that just felt like deal breakers to me. I can compromise, but I don’t want to betray myself or my values. Still, I’m in my late thirties and am starting to get worried. At what point do you just settle and hope for the best?

Fence Sitter

What should F.S. do? Leave your advice in the comments section below.




  1. If you ever feel you have “settled” for someone, then you are making a mistake. Regretting a decision before it’s even made is illogical and probably beneath you.

    There is a difference between having an unrealistic and superficial set of expectations AND being someone who goes with the guy she’s with right now simply because he’s there.

    Building a relationship takes time, effort, and a real honesty. Take the time to get to really know the other person. Think about whether or not you can see yourself talking to them in your old age. Would they have your back if you got sick? Can you negotiate and compromise when you run into something you don’t like about them? Perfection is ridiculous; none of us are perfect. But can you live with the flaws…that’s the bigger question. Together, those are the questions for “forever”, in my (married) opinion.

    Do throw away any checklists you have – other than the basic being able to hold a job part and similar dealbreakers that are more about lifestyle – the rest (height, movie taste, etc) is superficial. Truly practicing openness and finding the good in other humans no matter what will lead you to the right person. There’s no time frame to stick to. Just maturity.

  2. I’m with Johnny on this. If her list of dealbreakers starts to get long, that doesn’t bode well. The nature of the dealbreaker is just as important. Also, if she can’t talk about them without saying, “Yeah but” or laughing nervously – again, not so good.

  3. You’re asking a tough question.

    I’d do some soul-searching. If your reluctance to be with your past partners is because you felt in your heart that they weren’t a good match for you, then I’d wait. If your reluctance, on compassionate yet honest self-reflection, is based on past traumas or fears of settling down or whatever, then I’d work on that. If you haven’t found the right match, then wait. If your reluctance is due to unexamined issues or wounds, then you need to work on those ASAP.

    Keep in mind that an unhappy marriage is way worse than being single (I’ve been there), and you really, really don’t want to have children unless marriage is healthy and happy. For the kids, if nothing else.

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