Mr. Right or Mr. Okay? New Study Says Go For the Second One

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  Remember when all the sages were saying, wait for Mr. Right, no matter how long it takes, rather than settle for something (-one) less?  Well now, they're all saying it's okay to go for Mr. Second Best.

I've been very lucky.  I met someone I knew I wanted to marry the night I met him.  Of course, it took ten years to get him to the altar, but I've never been one to settle.  And it certainly hasn't been all wine and roses but knowing now how hard marriage is, there's no way I would have survived this long (31 years in March), if I'd had to go through these struggles with someone I only slightly cared for.

I remember, right before meeting my husband, how I'd come off a disastrous relationship with an older (married) man, only to meet a guy through friends who really wasn't my type, but he was nice and we seemed to get along.  So I began dating him, and before I knew it, we were in a relationship, too ("Single"? "Married"? "It's complicated."). At least he didn't find out about it on Facebook (not invented at the time).

It soon became clear that he had a drinking problem, wasn't very ambitious and his idea of reading the newspaper was flipping through sports, then looking for the TV section.  (Of course, today I argue with my husband about everything in the newspaper, as we're at  opposite ends of the political spectrum, but at least it's stimulating -- except when I want to kill him.)

Still, I stayed for quite a while (having a boyfriend was better than not having one).  But finally, it wasn't, and I broke it off   It never got to the point where we talked marriage but to think now that it might have gone there if we'd stayed together, makes me a little queasy.

It wasn't that he was a bad guy.  But I didn't love him.  And to think of trying to get through what I have with my husband -- in-law conflict, cancer, infertility, job loss -- with this man I only felt like for, well, it would never have worked.

But researchers have determined that settling for “Mr. Okay” is a better evolutionary strategy than waiting for “Mr. Perfect," according to

When studying the evolution of risk aversion, Michigan State University researchers found that it is in our nature – traced back to the earliest humans – to take the safe bet when stakes are high, such as whether or not we will mate, the Web site reports.

 “Primitive humans were likely forced to bet on whether or not they could find a better mate,” said Chris Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and co-author of a paper on this. “They could either choose to mate with the first, potentially inferior, companion and risk inferior offspring, or they could wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come around. If they chose to wait, they risked never mating.”

And I suppose there's some truth to that.  Would I have settled for Mr. Second Best if I wanted desperately to have a child?  Since this part of life didn't hit me till my early 40s, what were the chances?  We had to work hard to have our son but I couldn't imagine doing it with anyone else. 

So does it make sense to wait for Mr. Okay?   “An individual might hold out to find the perfect mate but run the risk of coming up empty and leaving no progeny,” Adami said. “Settling early for the sure bet gives you an evolutionary advantage."

There's no question, my life has been harder since I don't seem able to settle (which certainly does not mean that everything has turned out right).   And I wouldn't begin to recommend it to anyone else (my husband -- and son -- think I'm nuts).  But for me, there's been reward in the risk. 

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch


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