Define (and then defend or deplore) settling

From a reader: “My roommate is deliberating over whether she wants to marry her boyfriend of a year and a half. They are both in their late 30’s and want kids, so there’s obviously a lot of pressure on the situation. They care about each other a lot but both seem to have some reservations about whether they are sufficiently compatible; they have very different lifestyles and different tastes in people, which might be evidence of some underlying differences in values.

“Do you have basic guidelines for what is too much to settle for?”

Since this is a third-party question—and therefore, for all practical purposes, probably a rhetorical question—please feel free to treat it as one. Where are the lines between making a great pair because of your differences, making a great pair despite your differences, and making a bad or mediocre pair because of your differences?

- Carolyn Hax

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