One of the more frequent areas of discussion/debate in the ‘sphere as far is marriage is concerned is “settling.” While the subject rarely is the chief topic of any post, it does seem to come up an awful lot (One example of this phenomenon can be found here). Usually, although not always, it is a question that drives this. Some of the most common include:

– Should someone “settle” when they marry?

– When is “settling” acceptable in marriage?

– Is “settling” better than the alternative?

All of these are good questions, and worth thinking over. I think it is about time that I addressed this topic on my blog; actually, I’m surprised I haven’t really covered it directly before.


But rather than addressing those questions, I would like to direct my readers to this post by Denise over at Love the Possibility (which I have recently added to my blogroll). The post, “Singles- What’s Your BATNA?” examines the question of “settling” in terms of a business negotiation, and I think really helps to frame how the issue should be addressed.  The previous questions fold into her analysis and so don’t need to be answered separately. Here is a sample:

“BATNA” is a concept used by legal and business negotiators to figure out the point at which they will no longer compromise and will walk away from the table.  It stands for “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.”  Essentially, different parties face one another at the table with an idea of what they want the outcome of their negotiation to be.  They need something from the other and know that they might have to compromise to get it, but don’t want to compromise too much.  They want to get as much as they can without giving up more than they’d like.  To figure out the point at which they will no longer compromise, they think about what their best alternative would be if no agreement were reached and everyone went home with empty hands.  Then, they compare the other side’s offer to that alternative.

I encourage everyone to read the whole post. Denise has provided the best compact yet comprehensive take on the issue that I have seen to date. I would simply re-blog it, except I have a few ideas of my own that I want to contribute in the next section. Since it was her idea, any thoughts specifically on the BATNA model should probably be left over at her blog.


After I read Denise’s post, and thinking back to the post at Hearthie‘s blog which I linked earlier, something clicked. The discussion over at Hearthie’s had swirled around what was “ideal” and whether people strove for it or not. The framework that Denise has provided has helped me see that “ideal” in the context of what people are looking for, what they can get and what they think they can get. A model formed in my mind over how such a “negotiation” might work inside someone’s head. All of the terms I have below are my own. I’m sure that there is some technical or professional language which covers the same thing, but I decided to keep it simple (and on my own terms). Here is how I see it:

At the top you have the Ideal. This is what someone secretly hopes for, the potential spouse they would ask for if the stars and moon aligned to give them everything and anything they wanted. Of course, while this is what everyone wants, they also know that it isn’t realistic to shoot for. So its mostly just hopes and dreams.

Below this you have the Goal. This is the best potential spouse that someone believes is attainable for them. It is based on what the individual person believes that they can realistically attract/gain commitment from. The Goal is something that a person will actually aim for and actively try to achieve. A person who finds a potential spouse at the Goal “point” is likely to either offer or accept commitment from them, knowing that they will find better.

Even lower than that you have the Break. This is the point where someone starts to question the value of the deal. They might hesitate before going lower than this point, and will certainly investigate other options. I suspect that when most people talk about “settling” here in the ‘sphere, they mean accepting as a spouse someone lower than the Break.

At the bottom you have the Limit, or BATNA point that Denise talks about. This is the absolute lowest “value” in a spouse that someone is willing to accept. If they can’t find anything above this, they are likely to “opt out” of marriage.

Also, between the Goal and the Break is an area I call the Standard. This is where Denise’s explanation on material alternatives is helpful. Potential spouses who fall in this region  point are neither immediate acceptances or immediate rejections. Instead, they are evaluated against what is actually available as an alternative, what might be available as an alternative, and the perceived value of the potential candidate.

Here is an model I made a while ago to represent the 1-10 system of female SMV, although I think it can be applied (number wise) to MMV as well. I’m using it as an example of how this model might play out.

1-10 Scale of women with Ceiling and FloorsThe Ideal would be the 10, which is, as this model points out, “out of my league” or unattainable save in fantasy. At 9 we have the Goal, which is a value that a man might feel is attainable for him. Should he attract a 9 that would accept his proposal, a rational man would “wife her up” knowing that he couldn’t do any better. All of the women from 9 down to 6, the “attractive” range, would fall in the Standard region. At the boundary between 6 and 5 we have the Break, where a man would hesitate before going lower. And finally at the 4/3 boundary you have the Limit.


Before I wrap up, there are a couple of ideas I want to throw around.

The first is that hypergamy creates much higher Goals and Limits for women than is the case for men (yes, I know, obvious). What seems to be one of the more common complaints, especially in the Christian part of the ‘sphere, is that many of the “Daughter of the King” types elevate their Goals and Limits to stratospheric levels, with the Limit often being the same as the Goal.

The second is that both men and women have trouble with the Limit. Some men really do have too high of a Limit, just like women. However, another problem that often comes up around here is that some men have too low of a Limit, and will “wife up” women they should have nothing to do with.

Third, everyone probably has a clear idea of what their Limit is. And it is something that, with some discernment, can be realistic. But a Goal involves a lot of guesswork, as it is difficult to estimate the best spouse you can get, and so people risk setting it too high or too low.

I’m sure that folks have their own observations and thoughts to add, so feel free to mention them in the comments. I will be around infrequently over the next few days, so don’t expect to see me comment or reply to anyone (although I will try and keep an eye on things to mod as needed).


Filed under Attraction, Courtship, Marriage, Men, Women

37 responses to “Settle(ment)

  1. Lyn87

    What people call “settling” is often nothing more profound than that they finally come to realistic understanding of their own SMV/MMV and act accordingly

    Part of understanding BATNA is also understanding how it interacts with ZOPA (Zone of Possible Agreement). I’ll give an example. Let’s say I want to buy a particular car from you. There is a price below which you will not sell, since you would take a loss. You may also have another offer that you are considering. Whichever of those is higher is your BATNA, since you would rather walk away from the table then knowingly lose money. For simplicity’s sake let’s say your BATNA is $15,000. You will take more than that if I offer, up to infinity. So if I offer you $100,000,000, you’ll sign right away. – Not that I’m likely to do that, of course.

    Now let’s say that I have $20,000 budgeted to spend on a car. That’s my BATNA, and I will walk away from any deal that’s more than that. I will consider a deal that’s less than that, of course, and if you offer me the car for $100 I’ll sign right away – not that you’re likely to do that, either.

    So what we both have is a range of prices: yours is your BATNA and above, and mine is my BATNA and below. If there is overlap we have a ZOPA. If not, we don’t. In general, you get what you pay for, and you’re MMV largely determines what you can reasonably demand in the marketplace. This concept is known as assortative mating. What complicates things is that in the MMV market there are millions of buyers, millions of sellers, everyone is both a buyer and a seller, nobody knows anyone else’s BATNA, nobody has perfect knowledge of what the other sellers are offering, and there are dozens of factors in play that vary in value between individuals

    Feminism lowers a woman’s MMV. It has done so to the point that many of them can only pair off with men who they consider to be below their BATNA (as if…), hence the constant feminist wailing about “Where have all the good men gone?” It’s not that there are no good men – it’s that any good man with a lick of sense would recognize that any feminist is beyond his BATNA: he can do better, even by just walking away.

    My first guest-post in the manosphere was at the Spearhead back in March of 2011, and it dealt with this very subject. The link is here in case anyone wants to read it:

  2. Lyn87


    …come to realistic… should be …come to a realistic…

    …table then knowingly… should be …table than knowingly…

    …you’re MMV… should be …your MMV…

    I hate it when I do that.

  3. Maeve

    I suppose where I’m having the disconnect is that (at least from my view) marriage is something that results from an already established relationship – IOW – two people meet – they form a relationship that develops into love they decided to get married. That was my path. There was no settling – I married the man with whom I was deeply in love and with whom I knew I could have a life (lets just leave the outcome aside for the moment). The undertaking you’re talking about is a very different path – it’s like getting one of those shape sorter toys – there are spots for different shapes and little kids need to figure out which one fits in the spot – you’re looking for the wife-shaped one (I mean the rhetorical “you” – not you personally Donal 🙂 ). I think this is harder endeavor, because there are ENDLESS characteristics you can use to determine what will make up the “wife shape” – so many, in fact, that there may not be anyone who has that shape.

  4. Aquinas Dad

    As you might guess as a theologian and Distributist I loathe the attempt to classify people by their ‘market value’.
    But to the point about ‘settling’. I don’t think the real issue is about understanding ‘value’ I think it is about not understanding the differences between what your priorities *are* and what they *should be*. I use this example when talking to home schooling parents just startting. I’ll ask,
    “What are your goals with your kids?”
    and they’ll answer,
    “Top in math, science, and history; strong writers and excellent readers who love to read; well socialized with many strong friendships; and a strong understanding of theology”
    “OK. Now give me a list of 5 specific things in order or priority”
    “A strong faith; good reading; good math; good writing; social skills. They can learn the rest”
    “OK – just the very top three”
    “Faith, reading, math”
    “Now just one”
    So, what *were* you going to focus on before this little talk?”
    “Uhhhhh. Not faith”
    OK, it is easy for me to say this since my wife is smokin’ hot but when we met ‘her physical appearance’ was fairly well down my list of targets. It was an ‘also nice’. My list (I was not religious then) was
    1. Honest and trustworthy
    2. Smart
    3. likes to read
    4. thinks I am funny
    5. active
    6. not a pushover
    7. pretty

    And I was very conscious that only #1 was set in stone; I would accept 4 of the other 7 as a ‘win’. The girl I was dating casually when I met my wife was 1 through 6. Frankly, while she was fit she was not a pretty woman. And I didn’t care. The thunderbolt of meeting my now-wife was a game changer, sure, but there it is.

    As a Catholic? Well, working with my sons I know what the ‘list’ for my oldest is;

    1. Devout Catholic and virgin
    2. Is attending or will attend the Latin Mass
    3. SAHW
    4. Wants to marry young
    5. Likes to read

    He is in the process of searching now. A family in our parish has daughters that are, frankly, gorgeous. Tall, nice figure,long red hair, green eyes, sing in the choir, make their own clothes, daily communicants – the whole nine yards.
    He won’t date them. They insist on college before marriage.

    Think about it

  5. Lyn87

    Aquinas Dad,

    I’m not sure why you think that “theologians” must reject the “market” analogy, or what Leo XIII’s misunderstanding of supply-and-demand in allocating the means of production has to do with this. If you wish to apply distributionist theology to the marriage market, you would have to view all your preferences with suspicion, since distributionist theology teaches that desirable attributes ought to be evenly distributed across the population, and attempting to concentrate them is wrong in God’s eyes. Obviously Leo XIII was no economist (nor much of a theologian, if the truth be told), nor did he know much about the mating dance – yet another reason why Paul insisted that bishops be “the husband of one wife” (I Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6). There’s nothing inherently theological about understanding supply and demand – it is merely a way of explaining existing phenomena that generally applies to most human interaction. Brilliant millionaire supermodels don’t marry penniless paraplegics with Down’s Syndrome. The gorgeous girls in your parish are unlikely to marry them either: it’s not hard to understand why. The competition for such women is fierce, and for several years they will have their pick among many potential suitors.

    But by putting faith on the same continuum with other things, like likes to read, you may be doing your sons a disservice. There is a difference between screening criteria and evaluation criteria. Screening criteria are those things that are deal-breakers – the must-have traits and the must-not-have traits. For me, Serious Christianity was a screening criterion, since we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14). I was pretty strict on that one, and wouldn’t consider a woman unless she was serious about her Christianity and did not hold obviously heretical beliefs. (I broke up with a fairly well-off model because she was Catholic for that very reason, but YMMV).

    Any woman who fails the screening criteria should not be considered at all. Among the ones who pass, evaluation criteria come into play. The “nice-to-haves” are evaluation criteria. Would you counsel your son against marrying an otherwise excellent candidate because she didn’t like to read as much as you think she ought? I would hope not. I’ll use Maeve’s post to springboard here – when she met someone who was suitable (passed her screening criteria), she got to know her husband. I submit that he probably ranked pretty high on her evaluation criteria, as your wife did for you and my wife did for me – and vice versa in each case. That’s important, because I rejected women who met my screening criteria in favor of my wife, who did better on the evaluation criteria than any of the others… but if I hadn’t been her best option, if wouldn’t have happened either. Each party needs to bring enough to the table to convince the other that he/she is the best of the available options (supply and demand again). High marks on the evaluation criteria are generally the things that generate attraction, which may lead to more. That’s not to say that anyone creates an actual decision matrix and rank-orders people on it, but merely an acknowledgement of what we all know: assortative mating is real, and what you can offer corresponds somewhat to what you get.

    Donal is correct: and if a man has high expectations for a wife, he must be able to meet the high expectations of the most sought-after women.

  6. Aquinas Dad

    “…Leo XIII’s misunderstanding of supply-and-demand in allocating the means of production…”
    I stopped reading there to reply to this. I will read the rest in a few minutes.
    Recently HH Francis reaffirmed the teachings of the Church on economics and trade to howls from certain quarters.
    “The Pope”, they cried, “is ignorant of economics!”
    My reply was two fold.
    First, the idea idea that economic activity is somehow not involved with or subject to morals and ethics is, frankly, a contemptible error. ALL human activity is subject to natural law, INCLUDING the human activities of buying, selling, and investing. Thus, as the Vicar of Christ the Pope has the training, ability, and duty to address it.
    Second, people are actually trying to argue that the Pope is wrong because he disagrees with the Liberal economic theories of Libertarians, etc. because he is ‘ignorant of the topic’? He is a *Jesuit*, remember?
    There is an old joke that if you want to keep something secret put it in an encyclical. I have often seen confirmation of this when discussing Distributism.
    tl;dr – your comment only reveals your ignorance of the topic at hand.

  7. Aquinas Dad

    To continue,
    ” distributionist theology teaches that desirable attributes ought to be evenly distributed across the population, and attempting to concentrate them is wrong in God’s eyes”
    False. Distributism is *not* ‘redistributism’. Indeed, the Popes and Distributist theorists even describe the accumulation of wealth as a sign of success and that poverty can sometimes be evidence of a need for change in the morals and activities of individuals. The ‘distribution’ is ‘Distributism’ is the goal of having *more* entrepreneurs and *fewer* non- or low-skilled workers.
    “The Problem with [laissez-faire] Capitalism isn’t too much Capitalism but too few Capitalists” is a core quote of Distributists,.
    Your comments on HH Leo XIII’s skills as an economist are obviously worthless. And based upon your exegesis of Paul I suggest you cease your attempts at amateur theology, as well.
    The rest is just a rehash of what you wrote above, adding nothing.
    Thank you for your time, Lyn.

  8. @ Lyn

    Thanks for those terms. I will fix up your post when I get a chance.

    @ Maeve

    I don’t doubt that you didn’t think transactionally when you married. I suspect that very few people do, at least, until they start to feel like their options are limited. Also, I think there may be an “after the fact” transactional attitude that some people develop over time.

    One of the questions this post was meant to raise was whether people should think transactionally.

    @ Aquinas Dad

    I’m actually a bit surprised by your initial response. The Bible is quite clear that some women make for better wives than others. Matters are less clear on the reverse, however. But certainly for men “one girl is preferable to another.” This should also be evident from the fact that the Church treats/recognizes marriage as a contract.

    The list for your son is pretty solid. The story of the family that wants to send its daughters away to college before marriage is irritating. He may not have any choice but to play by their games, sadly. There are only so many good families, and nearly all of them (at least for Catholics) have bought into the “you MUST go to college” line.

    Thats all I can contribute now.

  9. I second donals remark on the sadness of seeing women encouraged, and I’ve even seen them forced, to go to college by families

  10. Aquinas Dad

    My quibble is not with realizing that people are different or that some people will make better spouses than others.
    Things things are self-evidently true.
    My quibble is with using the language or ‘market economics’ as part of what is ultimately a spiritual decision. The language and meta-concepts we use are critical to our approach to a subject.
    Asking yourself “How can I increase my SMV and MMV?” is, yes, a very different question than asking yourself “How can I be a better husband and father?”.
    Think about it.
    First and foremost, as Christians we must reject the very *concept* of a “sexual marketplace”. Yes, people are sexual. Yes, people want, like, and will have sex.
    I have 5 kids. I know this personally.
    BUT! the entire idea of a ‘sexual marketplace’ insists that we think of sex *outside* of its legitimate context (within marriage as a debt owed to the spouse, etc.) and rather as a free floating commodity that can be weighed, measured, and exchanged. It false into the Modernist trap of thinking of sex as something separate from marriage.
    This is a core error and incompatible with legitimate Christianity.
    In a similar vein, thinking of others -and yourself- in terms of “marriage marketplace value” reduces others and yourself to commodities, like houses or cars.
    Quick aside – am I saying that self improvement, grooming, etc. are bad? Certainly not! But people are never to be seen as means or as commodities.
    If you are rating a woman by a series of ‘evaluation criteria’ from 1-10 like comparing hotels on Travelocity how much actual weight are you putting on what matrimony really *is*, i.e, a sacramental bond that includes Christ? Unlike Protestants who view marriage as just another form of contract that has Christ involved as he is in everything else Catholics know better – we know that matrimony is an ongoing liturgical act that adds divine grace not just to the couple or family but to the entire world. To participate in marriage is to very literally participate in the salvation of the world.
    Why else do you think human salvation history begins with the creation of man and woman for each other and ends with the wedding fest of the Lamb?
    The commoditization of potential spouses is to treat them as a means AND to ignore the sacramental nature of marriage.
    I am in a class, so more later.

  11. Ev


    “There is a difference between screening criteria and evaluation criteria. Screening criteria are those things that are deal-breakers – the must-have traits and the must-not-have traits.

    Any woman who fails the screening criteria should not be considered at all. Among the ones who pass, evaluation criteria come into play. The “nice-to-haves” are evaluation criteria.”

    Thanks for this. I’ve been grasping for terminology. As Athol Kay broke down sh*t tests into fitness tests for betas and loyalty tests for alphas, you have offered labels that apply to the courting process.

  12. Ev

    @Aquinas Dad

    “If you are rating a woman by a series of ‘evaluation criteria’ from 1-10 like comparing hotels on Travelocity how much actual weight are you putting on what matrimony really *is*, i.e, a sacramental bond that includes Christ?”

    Matrimony is sacramental, evaluation is just common sense. Evaluation takes place before matrimony. Once the sacrament occurs, there is no more evaluation. The two are now one whereas before they were not one but two. First be savvy, then be loyal.

  13. ” I’ve even seen them forced, to go to college by families”

    This is true. While I wanted to go to college because it is required in order to be a nurse midwife (and lets face it, no men are going to do the job), my parents still would have made me go to college.

    I do think that it doesn’t benefit most women to go to college.

    Also, I have to agree with donalgraeme that assortative mating is probably best. It is best if single women meet the criteria of a man they would want and vice versa.

  14. Maeve

    Donal – you are very correct, I was not thinking in transactional terms at all. Actually, I didn’t really have any particular criteria for a husband other than that he (1) agree to be married in the Catholic Church and (2) agree that any children be raised Catholic. That was pretty much it – well other than that we had to love each other, but that seemed a given, otherwise why even bother. Really interesting thing to me was that the only issue the H raised was that there would be absolutely no, under any circumstances whatsoever, corporal punishment of our kids – and he insisted that if the grandparents would not agree to this, then the children would never be left alone with them for any period of time. I’m just finding it interesting – the huge differences between how the H and I approached marriage and how others do. And I’m not really sure how I feel about the transactional approach. Maybe the difficulty for me relating to the issue is that I was never in a position where I was specifically looking for a husband. And I’m really adding nothing of value to the conversation either.

  15. @AquinasDad:
    “the entire idea of a ‘sexual marketplace’ insists that we think of sex *outside* of its legitimate context (within marriage as a debt owed to the spouse, etc.) and rather as a free floating commodity that can be weighed, measured, and exchanged. ”
    This is a very insightful comment. The sexual market place, when applied to women is like the terms alpha/beta when applied to men. I do not think it wise for Christian women to get caught up in this terminology when waiting for a spouse.

    “Unlike Protestants who view marriage as just another form of contract that has Christ involved as he is in everything else”
    That’s a very bold statement to make that is completely wrong. While there are some protestants who think this way, certainly not all. There are protestant denominations which are a lot stricter than Catholics, but they are viewed as legalistic or cult-like. While some are, for the ones that are not, they view marriage and mold it after Christ’s relationship with the church.

  16. Lyn87


    You are absolutely correct: I don’t think anyone here has suggested that we ought to view each other as commodities, but rather that using an economic analogy has some utility.

    As for the “Protestant” view of marriage, I also agree. I have been Protestant at least since I was expelled from Catholic kindergarten for refusing to bow down to a statue at the age of five. I’ve know an awful lot of Protestants over the years, coming from a fairly conservative theological background, and I’ve never met one who thinks of Christian Matrimony primarily as a contract.

  17. whether people should think transactionally.

    Does it help evaluate the deal? Does it help select an appropriate spouse?

    If so, then yes. If not, then no. It seems clear to me that at least part of the evaluation should have a transactional element.

    Christian Matrimony primarily as a contract.

    Since the state assumes the ability to divide and redistribute, marriage is less of a contract, and more of a nonbinding promise. Christians may think of it as a covenant, but the involvement of the state materially changes fhat to a forced wealth sign over.

  18. Lyn87

    @ an observer,

    You are spot-on about state involvement in marriage being a problem. Marriage is a personal and religious institution ordained by God since the Garden of Eden. To think that a couple requires the permission of the state (in the form of a marriage license) to be married is absurd.

    My father is a retired minister and my parents are about as straight-laced as they come, but I’ve convinced them that a state-issued marriage license is nothing more than a piece of paper that creates a polygamous marriage with three parties (husband, wife, state). My wife and I were married in a church, and if tomorrow the state discovered some flaw in the paperwork that nullified the legality of our marriage, we would still be every bit as married as any other married couple with the “proper” paperwork. It is our vows that make us married – not the paperwork we filed with the county. It is the state that turned marriage from a covenant into a contract, and then from a contract to a non-binding promise to expedite the undermine of the authority of the husband and destroy the nuclear family.

  19. Lyn87

    @ Ev,

    “First be savvy, then be loyal.”

    You’re like a word ninja. That’s awesome.

  20. @donalgraeme| Glad you found the post useful. This post has also given me something to think about.

    “The Bible is quite clear that some women make for better wives than others. Matters are less clear on the reverse, however.” This reminds me of the verse from Sirach 36:21: “A woman will accept any man as a husband, but one girl is preferable to another.” I think that with the caveat that the man takes responsibility for providing and is loving, that the idea that “any good egg will do” is probably more applicable to the concept of husbands than to wives.

  21. So, I turned this into a little exercise for reflection and found the results to be pretty interesting in a way that made sense of past and present experiences. Two things jump out at me. One, like Lyn mentioned, there are so many people looking for and offering different things, that things can get complicated. Someone might be high on your list and seemingly within range, but things don’t work out because you all are looking for different things, and vice versa (compatibility issues). It’s easy to lay out the importance of certain attributes, but more difficult to quantify the dynamic between you two. Do you easily laugh together? Easily understand one another? Have the same vision for how you will live life? Those are intangibles that seem to end up playing a very significant role in this process.

    And I’m tempted to say that the break zone is probably not worth bothering with, as things could easily go south. It would seem that someone in that zone would only be appealing subject to very particular conditions. So it’s unstable.

    I also see much more clearly what some have said about faith not being attractive to women. I think it more appropriately goes into the “compatibility/filter” category.

  22. Elspeth

    The truth is that marriage is a transaction; a spiritual first and foremost.

    I for one, did not settle. I was also a girl whose door was not being knocked down by suitors yet married a man for whom offers from women was commonplace. If anyone “settled”, he did and he doesn’t think so.

    I recently wrote about one of our very early and foundational struggles:

    It worked out for us in the end, but you definitely need to approach marriage through more than the eyes of “love.”

    I think the more relationships a person has behind them (particularly if female) the higher the likelihood that she feels as if she “settled” even if she really didn’t.

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  24. Aquinas Dad

    I apologize for earlier posts – I was using an unfamiliar device and autocorrect was not my friend.

    [DG: I removed a large segment of this post that was nothing more than a denominataional squabble.]

    If you are a Protestant what is your attitude towards marriage and divorce? Do you see the breaking of an engagement for other than a serious reason (promiscuity, degrees of blood) as a sin? Do you see divorce as a sin that cuts you off from grace? Do you accept civil divorce as bonding? Allow someone with a civil divorce only to remarry and fully participate in the life of your church?

  25. Aquinas Dad

    Back to the point at hand,
    Why am I quibbling about the use of economic analogies in the preparation for the sacrament of matrimony? Two main threads; the first I listed above (the commoditization of human beings and the conceptualization of sex and even marriage as goods to be bartered for); and that for a number of distant and lousy resons these discussion tend to default to a sort of ‘Austrian/laissez-faire Capitalism mode’ which is a Liberal and amoral mindset.
    Of course, there are other analogies we could use. Like, oh, I don’t know…
    How about warfare?
    Think about it – in warfare the goal is to achieve your goals and to seize territory and then, of course, to maintain control. You have to overcome obstacles, react to unforeseen problems, etc. You must maximize your own might, minimize your own weaknesses; you must honestly and carefully asses the ‘enemy’ to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
    I am sure that with a few hours, some of my books on strategy and tactics and a handful of references to von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu I could create a great analogy of ‘courtship as warfare’ or, even better! “The Art of Courting”….
    Yeah – the reasons I will not are many, including the fact that any analogy is of limited utility *but mainly* because on at least a meta level it will cause those who use this analogy to view courtship and even marriage as conflict.
    Boxing metaphors were very popular through out the first half of the 20th Century – I am sure that a clever person could build a strong analogy for dating and courtship from boxing. But, again, same issues – the metaphysics of the analogy are adversarial.
    “But Aquinas,” you say, “analogies are just tools that we use to help us conceptualize complex situations”
    “and I reply “Exactly!”
    I earlier wrote about home schooling and educational goals. And while I appreciate the statements on screening goals, etc. they just illustrate the very problem with viewing dating, marriage, etc. from the viewpoint of economic transactions. Yo see, my point was –
    Certain things are *beyond price or even worldly value*.
    After all, “…what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”
    As a parent I must say – if my sons end up famous billionaires and kings of the earth but are atheists I have *FAILED*. Not ‘well, certain screening criteria may not have been met, but I am pleased overall with the ROI”, I have failed because no other criteria of success are worth a nickel if they are doomed. In the face of such decision making economic analogies fail because they are not of or about supernatural truths.
    Put it another way – what is the MMV of a rich interior prayer life? Especially if no one knows of its depth other than you and God?
    [and how could someone else but you or God know these things?]
    My opposition to the use of economic analogies for anything involving the sacraments is ebcause they are totally inadequate

  26. Elspeth

    If you are a Protestant what is your attitude towards marriage and divorce? Do you see the breaking of an engagement for other than a serious reason (promiscuity, degrees of blood) as a sin? Do you see divorce as a sin that cuts you off from grace? Do you accept civil divorce as bonding? Allow someone with a civil divorce only to remarry and fully participate in the life of your church?

    We don’t believe in divorce. We believe that if you depart from your spouse you are not allowed to remarry wile they live.

    Engagements are another matter in my opinion. But we haven’t given a lot of thought to or spoken about that. I’ll have to ask the man and see what he says.

  27. Pingback: Life is transactional | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

  28. Lyn87

    [DG: Removed inter-denominational squabbling.]

    Christianity forbids it in most cases, and does not permit “annulments” by people named Kennedy, for example. I’m about to get on a plane and can’t go into great detail right now, but Matthew 19 deals with it pretty thoroughly. Remarriage is forbidden except for cases of adultery according to that passage. There are various schools of thought about the applications of that passage, but Christians who view the Bible in the strict sense are in general agreement. I won’t pretend that all Protestants hold the line on this, because secularism has crept into several of the Protestant denominations as well. My pastor and I disagree on this very point – with regard to the status of a marriage undertaken by a divorced person who subsequently comes to salvation, for example. Perhaps I’ll pull it apart more later, but the plane isn’t going to wait for me.

  29. I would only add that I don’t think that “value” is necessarily economic (and “economic” isn’t just monetary, either.) There are all types of negotiations that take place and objectives people want to achieve that involve intangible goods such as faith, morality, family, and the like.

  30. Lyn87

    @ Denise,

    I would only add that I don’t think that “value” is necessarily economic…

    I couldn’t agree more. The whole SMV/MMV thing is merely an analogy to understand some aspects of the mating dance. Jesus himself primarily taught the masses using analogies in the form of stories that we refer to as parables. Since the greatest teacher who ever lived used analogies as his primary means of conveying deep spiritual truths to the masses, that’s good enough for me. All analogies have a point beyond which they cannot be taken, of course, as they illustrate an aspect of the thing under consideration, and are not useful when considering other aspects of the thing. Thus it would be incorrect to think that the SMV/MMV economic analogy described the entirety of the subject at hand. The economic analogy refers to something we all instinctively understand: that what you offer limits what you can reasonably hope to get. Anyone who has ever thought, “She’s out of his league,” or “He’s could do better than her,” or any similar sentiment, has thought the same thing.

    There are all types of negotiations that take place and objectives people want to achieve that involve intangible goods such as faith, morality, family, and the like.

    So true. That’s one big reason why it’s so complicated, and why BATNA/ZOPA is only useful when considering things at the macro level. Because attraction and love are not mechanistic and the stakes are high, discernment is important.

  31. A number of the comments in this post devolved into inter-denominational squabbling. This is not the place for a Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox fight. If I want that to be discussed, it will be in a post for just that purpose. As a result, I deleted several comments and heavily edited others. If further comments in that vein are made in the future, they too will be modified as required.

  32. @ AD

    The Marriage Market isn’t like a commodities market. This isn’t a contract for commodities, it is a contract for services. As a man, I am looking to “hire” a helpmeet, a “First Officer”. That means a lot of careful evaluation and screening. Most attributes have a value, but you can’t simply assign a number to them easily. No offense, but your comments are increasingly non-topical.

    Deep Strength has a good post on this which covers a lot of what I was going to add:

  33. Aquinas Dad

    I am sorry that you feel that I am increasingly off-topic but, at the risk of increasing that impression, you’re kinda’ making my point for me.
    Please; Iam not trying to upset or offend anyone. My day job actually involves economic analysis and statistics, so i do this all the time. I get that markets/etc/ can be very useful tools. But not every project needs a power drill.
    To a Catholic marriage, the Sacrament of Matrimony, is, yes, a contract. But that is just a small fraction of the reality of what it is. It is, really, a sacrament.
    “Baptism,” I argue, “is just another contract. In exchange for the ritual of water sprinkling and a liturgical rite I join the Body of Christ manifested in His Church.”
    …. uh-huh. You could argue that, and there is a kernel of reality there, sure. But in reality Baptism is a transformative supernatural experience that very literally changes who and what we are. So if I approach having my children baptized from the framework of Austrian economic analysis of markets, well….. What value does my son’s immortal soul have? Should
    “Well,” says alternate universe Aquinas, “the Episcopalian church is MUCH closer. If I baptize my children there, why, I’ll save $10 a week in gas alone! Combine in opportunity costs of the longer drive and over the 20 years of being a parent, well, being an Episcopalian will save me $10,000….”
    In reality, those calculations are meaningless, aren’t they?
    Same with Last Rites, Holy Orders, and yes – matrimony.
    “…it is a contract for services.”
    Maybe. Maybe it is. But perhaps it isn’t. Or perhaps it is so much more that the ‘contract for services’ part is almost meaningless.
    If you marry on the eve of war, consummate, depart for the front and return missing your body from the waist down, is the contract null and void because you cannot provide the ‘contracted services’, whatever they may be? What if she is crippled in an auto accident?
    Conversely, if I go out and find a skilled, willing woman and we create a business contract where I care for her material needs while she cooks and cleans for me and we exchange sex on a routine basis (purely a business venture mind you) so that we each duplicate all the steps and actions of a husband and wife -but as business- should I expect Christ to participate in that contract by granting us supernatural strength, protection from sin, an abundance of grace, and the support of the Communion of Saints?
    Of course I shouldn’t? Why? because Matrimony resembles a contract and has elements shared with contracts…. But it isn’t a contract.
    “Most attributes have a value, but you can’t simply assign a number to them easily”
    That is part or my point.
    In the end my objection to the use of economic terms and concepts in association with marriage is because it is an attempt to use an explicitly secular, explicitly amoral meta-framework of limited application and accuracy to make decisions concerning supernatural graces.
    I am not requiring anyone to agree with me, but I hope you will think about it carefully.
    After all, what is the value of your soul?

  34. @ AD

    Your last comment was rather difficult to follow and thus to respond to. Here is what I can come up with on the fly:

    1) Marriage is not like the other sacraments in its contractual nature. Comparing it to baptism just doesn’t work.

    2) Yes, marriage is more than just a contract for services. But that is part of what it is, and you cannot deny it.

    3) All human behavior is transactional to some degree. Jesus told us to count the costs, among other things. Follow the link I left above to DS’s site.


    because Matrimony resembles a contract and has elements shared with contracts…. But it isn’t a contract.

    Wrong. And you and I both know it. You are contradicting yourself here.

    5) Listen, I get that you dislike the secularization of the Church, the infection of secular concepts into Christian doctrine. I really do, and I agree with you that it is a problem. But that isn’t what is happening here.

  35. lauratheringmistress

    I think I am getting distracted by the SMP valuation model. Fundamentally, what a man values for a purely physical, short term interaction is different from what he values for a long term relationship. Same for a woman.

    The difficulty is that we are forced by the “love match” model of seeking mates to filter for sexual attractiveness first when this really shouldn’t be the primary criteria for a spouse.

    To put it bluntly, you would be a fool to wife up a 9 unless she was also superior to all other candidates in relevant areas like virtue, good sense, overall femininity, domestic skills, etc. And you might miss a gem of a woman whose appearance is only average but is ideally suited to you temperamentally.

    Like I said above, plenty of good men are being missed for the same reason. They are good husband material but are being filtered out because the women choosing have no good criteria for judgment.

  36. Pingback: Evaluating The Intangible | Donal Graeme

  37. Aquinas Dad

    A more direct approach than mine, but essentially the same. The telos of marriage-minded Catholics is rather different than the telos of PUAs; this is one of the primary reasons “game” is immoral. Evaluating a potential wife using the teleology of “game” will therefore skew your search and the results.

    I have been pretty clear on this; matrimony has many of the elements of a contract and resembles a contract but not only are those elements a small part of matrimony, it doesn’t make matrimony only a contract for services.
    Matrimony is a covenant “by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”.
    Covenant is a different word from contract for reasons, BTW.
    Listen, I get that everyone has preferences in spouses that may not be purely spiritual. I really do get that.
    But in the talk about physical preferences, SMV, MMV, etc. I do not recall your mentioning a number of things that are, IMHO, far more critical to the search for a good spouse than her BMI. If I have missed your reference to how you will be using/relying upon these, please forgive me and I look forward to discussing them, too.
    What are they? well, some are
    – your confessor’s opinion of a potential spouse
    -your interactions with her family and their feedback to you
    -your family’s opinion of any potential spouse
    -the results of mutual prayer with a potential spouse
    -the promptings of the Holy Spirit concerning a potential spouse

    That’s a solid start of things that as a husband, father, and theologian consider of much greater importance than her height or even her fashion sense. I am also unclear if Heartiste has found a way to evaluate these criteria as part of MMV.
    OK, I *am* being a little harsh, but I feel that may be needed to get you to see what is in my opinion a possible danger.

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