Single Black Male: Why Do Men “Settle?”

October 1, 2012  |  


This week I was asked to address the following: Why do men settle?  We talk a lot about “settling” in the office and what makes folks resort to that. Sometimes it’s perplexing why seemingly good men settle since it seems that they have more choices than women. As for men I know who have settled, I definitely know they settled because it’s pretty obvious when someone is not in love with his/her significant other.

To address this topic, I’ll need to shamelessly promote a few prior write-ups. First, I’ve written about Why He Married the Regular Girl before. Secondly, “settling” is subjective. I’ve written about that before in a piece aptly titled Maybe You Should Settle. I’m of the opinion that we all eventually settle. Technically, there will always be someone available that is more attractive, smarter, younger and perhaps even a better fit than our current mate. That is why we refer to it as “settling down.”

At some point in life, in theory, you have to make a choice that you only want to be with your wife in spite of and despite of the fact that there are other women in the world you will be attracted to before you die. To me, commitment is more about honoring vows to one woman and less about constantly reevaluating whether I “settled” to be with her.

What qualities do men settle on?

I should clear something up: men don’t search for the same qualities in a potential wife as women search for in a potential husband. In other words, the qualities a woman desires in a potential husband are not the same qualities a man desires in a potential wife. They might even be the exact opposite (e.g. preferring a taller man vs. a shorter woman).

I have my theories on what women look for in a potential husband, but since I’m not a woman and I don’t feel like arguing about how little I know about women (and I assure you it is very little), I’m going to focus on what men look for in a potential wife. I can’t speak for all men, but I can speak for most men, because I am a man, I know men, and unlike when dealing with a woman in which they have an interest, these men have no reason to tell me what they think I want to hear as opposed to simply answering the question.

When I asked around, most men seemed to desire a wife that they are attracted to, can have fun with, who is reasonable, supportive, and who is motivated to pursue similar goals in life. Please notice I made no mention of sex; there is no mention of income; and there is no mention of education. Is this because men don’t care about sex, income, and education? No, don’t be ridiculous. However, few men have made the decision to marry or not to marry their wife based strictly on how good/bad her sex, income, or education. In most cases, you are not going to sex your way into a proposal, spend your way into a proposal, or use your vast educational achievements to impress your way into a proposal. For many men, those qualities in women act as the support, not as the foundation, for why he sees a given woman as wife-material.

What’s love got to do with it?

Women hold on to grudges, men hold on to heartbreak. A man will get his heartbroken in elementary school and use that experience to guide his view on women and love for the rest of his life. I’m exaggerating but only slightly. If a man gets his heart broken badly enough when he’s young, he might become so jaded by the experience that he chooses to never place himself in an emotionally vulnerable position for the rest of his life. In doing so, he isn’t looking for a woman to fall in love with. He is settling for a woman to spend time with.

You can maintain a relationship without love. People do it every day. While the blogs usually focus on the plights of the single black women of the world, it’s not like every black man on Earth is running around falling into the waiting arms of every woman he wants. The majority of men do not have a handful of lonely women waiting around for him to beckon so that he can validate them by finally putting a ring on it. Despite all the false bravado, Drake is not the only man that “gets lonely too.”

Many men will settle out of comfort, fear, or both. In their mind, something is better than nothing. These men figure that if they have someone to hang out with that cooks, cleans, gives them sex, and meets whatever other basic qualities he deems important, then what more does he need? Should he risk comfort to pursue love? For what? Love doesn’t pay the bills.

Do you think men settle as often or more often than women? What makes you believe these men settled and why do you think they did so in the first place? Do you feel like you settled in a past or current relationship? What made you feel like you settled or had no choice but to settle?

WisdomIsMisery aka WIM uses his background as an internal auditor to provide objective, yet opinionated, qualitative and quantitative analysis on life, love, and everything in between. As a Scorpio, many women wish death on WIM and some have attempted to hasten its arrival. WIM is not a model, a model citizen, or a role model. See more of WIM on his weekly write-ups for SBM and on Twitter @WisdomIsMisery.

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  • I think the reason most men settle is because the girl loves his dirty drawers. A woman that will give him what he wants, won’t nag, and lets him get away with a bunch of stuff, if he’s going to settle that’s who it’ll be with. Usually men settle if the woman is beautiful but other features are lacking: personality,cooking, etc.

  • Sunnycocoa

    News flash: EVERYONE in a relationship settles. When two people come together they enjoin previous and current experiences, beliefs and knowledge bases. There is nothing to do BUT settle in order to maintain a relationship because no one is perfect to anyone else. Either face that fact or grow old alone.

  • Yokessm

    Settle my foot, if anyone settle in relationships its women.

  • Adrina

    Settling is subjective. To “settling” is a sign of maturity. You no longer have the desire to “date around” and look for the next best thing. And there is always someone better BUT you may not be ready for that type of person/relationship OR that person may have flaws that are so great, you would wish you stuck with what you had. And I think women settle more than men due to these articles that say there’s a man shortage, don’t date outside your race, and blah, blah, blah. So they get lazy a– Tyrone who have no goals and ambitions and try to change him. Women are notorious for this, especially insecure ones. Men will just go on to the next one.

  • Dawnn

    Women do settle more than men. They will take these men who are disrespectful, has no job but he can lay pipe in the bedroom, sit at home get high and drunk, smoke weed all day, running the streets, producing babies all over the country and don’t take care of them, married or involved with other people. You have some women that will settle for these type of men and think that they can “change” them..

    • TRUTH IS

      LOL LOL….#truth

  • Mia

    Oy, that was depressing. I for one cannot settle. I don’t have impossible expectations either. Its a FEELING I go after. The two men that I loved were as different as night and day yet that “feeling” was the same. If I don’t have the feeling of undying love for the man I’m with, I’d rather be alone.

  • I agree with this argument. I went out with a man for 3 years and believe he intentionally ruined our relationship because he didn’t want to let another person into his heart and risk getting hurt.

    • TRUTH IS

      What a wuz

  • Gigi

    Brother WIM, you have provided my with the final piece of the puzzle. I have been pondering this issue for a while in regard to an associate of mine. And truth be told, he explained it to me but not with your eloquence. Thank you.

  • Darrk Gable

    As a married man, let me first say that, about 80% of what WIM said is true, at least in my case. Hence the subjectivity of the topic. What works for me may not work for someone else. Secondly, settling, has a bad connotation.

    If it’s look at from the terms of say, settling a stomach, it’s actually beneficial. It calms the stomach, and allows for an easier day, or life. Or even when folks make mention of settling down, it’s looked at positively, or as a sign of maturing. Why when personal preference is factored into the equation, then settling is viewed as negative? It is about what works for someone personally, and that shouldn’t be open to debate, period.

    • Gigi

      Deep and very insightful.

    • TRUTH IS

      “Settling” in this context has a negative conoctation. Settling is used meaning you thought you couldn’t do better to you just took what you got but in actuality you can do better

      • Bree

        You can always do better. You can always get a better job and a better car and a better partner. Reality is, you may not be qualiified and/or have enough experience or the right personality type ot do the job you want to do. I wanted to be an actress when I was young. But I don’t know if I could actually do it. I also wanted to be a ballerina, but I wasn’t willin to kill my feet to do it. And you can always get a better car, but you may never have the money to get the car you want. And even if u do get the car you want, new and improved ones come out every few months. And as for a better partner, just like there is always someone worse off than you, there is always someone better off than you too and better looking and there always will be.
        So I completely 100% cosign with Wis. Settling is subjective to the individual. Other people may look at your life and in their opinion you settled. However, if your completely happy then in your mind you have everything you want and you haven’t settled for anything. It’s like the shallow Hal movie. Once Hal’s mind changed and the way in which he saw women, all the fat and ugly women became beautiful to him. How they really were didn’t matter. All that mattered was how he viewed them. Everything we see in life is based on our perception.
        “The eye pimps the brain.” So pretty much everything we see with our eyes is subjective and relative to each individual person and their perception of things.

    • Bree

      cosign completely Darrk.

  • justme

    First and foremost settle is subjective which someone has mentioned already. With that in mind we all have different views and to make this short and sweet; as long as you are happy who cares who you think is settling. But, since this is topic of discussion and we as black people like to tear one another down and put them back together thru our eyes, I will entertain. If you look at your situation as settling, you are settling and setting yourself up for failure. If however, you find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and both of you realize this without any reservation and without the approval of others; you are on the road to a long relationship.

    If I wanted to make this relative I would say women like to throw this word around simply because men initiate and when women feel like they little or only some control over this they will try to reduce the one you are with to 1). justify it for them, 2). to bring that man on their level, and 3). create division.

    How can men even look at it as settling when you chose your mate!


    Women do settle more often than men….don’t we all wonder how a man can drop one love for another!?!

    • JaneDoe

      Easy, I always feel men are always waiting for the next best thing. Once hey find it they leave. Women are more stable

      • TRUTH IS

        Agreed….women are more faithful and loyal

        • lola289

          But is that always a good thing?

  • Ms Priss

    Omg, yes. I often wonder why they settle too. Majority of my male friends are in what they call “situations” and for the life of me I don’t understand why. I think most guys go for the women like their mothers and get bored or the female they were with for umpteenth yrs and so they figure what the heck. I see it all the time especially when I am out and the guy is with his wife/significant other looking all kinds of miserable..

    • “Situations” don’t usually happen before a man commits. It happens after a man commits and the woman is no longer the person the man fell in love with. She may change things about herself that we hadn’t bargained on which makes it difficult to stay in that relationship.

  • Disqus

    This was a poorly written article. It barely touches on anytyhing worth pondering about and outside of the shallow content, the structure is disorganized. I’m sorry I wasted 5 minutes reading, and re-reading to see if I missed something here.

    • Disqus 2

      Ouch!That was a bit harsh…

      • Na Na

        Lol definitely

        • child of god

          i actually thought it gave a great description on how men and women look at different things but to each is own, i think you can have love and happiness you just have to find someone that truly and unconditionally loves you for who you are and what you stand for.. Money isn’t real issue because the economy is bad so everyone will have financial struggles, all or beauty fades w/ old age, and I know plenty people that are very educated but they are so educated that they think they are better than others only to find out they don’t have common sense.. In a nutshell, how you carry yourself and treat others goes along way and it always depend on you, no matter how rich, educated or beautiful you are you can always treat people good and that quality never fades unless the person lets it.. Thats what we as men want…

          • JaneDoe

            Preach… Nice to hear it from a males point of view.

            • Native_Noir