This post is a sequel to and expansion upon my post Settle(ment). In that post, I delved into transactional thinking and whether or not people should “settle” when looking for a spouse. Interestingly enough, the concept of settling drew little discussion compared to transactional thinking. Given that evaluating potential spouses drew more response, it was worth exploring further. [Warning: this post doesn’t really do a great job of that.]
I have two goals with this post. First, I would like to respond to some points raised in Settle(ment), to mention a few comments that I thought were especially insightful and to clarify a few things. Second, I would like to provide a little insight into my evaluation process when looking for a wife.
Before I address anything specific, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Deep Strength has written a post which is something of a response to my previous one. His post, Life is Transactional, can be found here.
Commenter Ev had a good line when the sacredness of matrimony was brought up: First be savvy, then be loyal.
Maeve mentioned a bit of her marriage story, which can be found here and here. Her story is probably a typical one- two young people meet, get to know each other, fall in love, and then marry. [That is overly simplistic, of course, but carries across the main point.] I found her story to be fascinating because she wasn’t looking specifically to marry, but still had two criteria that she required in a husband. Without intending to be rude by singling her out, I would point to her story as an example of how not to do things. Christians should be deliberative when the subject of marriage is concerned, and should not act aimlessly.
Now to clarify a few matters. First off, a lot of folks seem to be confused by the concepts of SMV and MMV. Lauratheringmistress left a comment which provides an example of this, plus some other misunderstandings. Her beginning paragraph is a good starting off point:
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.
This is incorrect. I suspect the confusion arises because many people (Laura included) believe SMV and MMV are two entirely different things. They aren’t. Rather, SMV is folded into MMV, so that it is part (but only a part) of MMV. Remember, SMV is based solely on attractiveness. And men are always attuned to the attractiveness of women. This means that what a man looks for in a woman in a physical sense in a short term interaction is still what he values in a long term relationship. The difference is that when evaluating for long term relationship material a man also looks for an additional set of attributes. This is where a woman’s character and other “intangible” qualities come into play.
For women, the process is not entirely dissimilar. Male SMV is based off of the LAMPS/PSALM set of attributes, which are sometimes referred to as “Alpha traits.” These are critical for short term interactions. Male MMV includes all of those factors, in addition to a number of other character traits (like loyalty, stability, compassion, etc.) which are sometimes referred to as “Beta traits.” These are crucial for long term relationships. The problem for men and women alike these days is that men seem to have either the one, or the other. Not both.
What all of this means is that we cannot ignore the role that SMV plays with MMV. I mention this because I have noticed that women seem to downplay the importance of “looks” when offering advice about marriage. The phrase I hear most often is “looks aren’t everything.” I’ve heard this in many different forms, and Laura herself contributed an example of it:
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.
Now, before I go on, I want to point out that Laura is not necessarily wrong in her comment. Marriage is a total package deal. Having said that, reading that paragraph told me that there seems to be a general misunderstanding on the part of women in how men value the importance of attractiveness in women. So let me clear this up for my female readers: we value it a lot. It is really, really important to us on an instinctual, primal level. And yet, at the same time, we also have much broader filters than women do when it comes to attractiveness. The result is an interesting situation where men value physical appearance far more than women, and yet have such broad filters that we tend to find more women attractive than women do the other way around. That does not mean, of course, that we men are slaves to this instinct. We aren’t. We can and should judge a potential wife on criteria other than just how attractive she is.
But women need to keep in mind that for them, “looks” is just one criterion amongst many when judging a man’s attractiveness. But for men, it is everything when evaluating female attractiveness. It is not something that we can just set aside without a lot of mental discipline and self-control. This desire for attractiveness is deeply rooted in our unconscious mind, and our happiness as men is actually determined in part by how attractive our wife is. Also, with only a few exceptions, most other attributes can be trained or acquired by women/wives over time, but attractiveness is pretty much fixed without resorting to plastic surgery. I’m telling you this in an attempt to convey just how much we give up when we downgrade attractiveness compared to other attributes in potential wife candidates.
With all of that taken care of, I thought I would provide a brief window into my thought process when it comes to evaluating a woman as a potential wife. Some of the attributes that I am going to cover are easy to measure, they aren’t really intangible. But plenty of them are. How do you measure someone’s faith, after all? Or give it a value? It is often a guessing game, and comparisons are often the only way you can measure some of these. Because none of this is an “exact science”, this whole section is going to be rather incoherent. As I write it out, I realize it is a continuation of what I started with this post.
The Big Four-
This is the name I give for the four most important attributes and qualities that evaluate in a potential wife. These are the “make or break” attributes, or “screening criteria.” A “failure” here removes a women from the pool of candidates. The first two, Chastity/Sexual History and Age, are immutable, that is, they cannot be changed. Then there is Attractiveness, which can be affected to some degree through dieting and exercise, although only plastic surgery can significantly improve it. Last is Religious Devotion, which is mutable. One thing I would like to note about the first three is that they are “core” criteria for all men. Whether they realize it or not, all men consider a woman’s age, her sexual history and her attractiveness when evaluating her qualities as a long-term prospoect. Men are hardwired, for want of a better term, to consider these factors.
Chastity/Sexual History: As a screening criteria, this one is relatively simple. A woman with any kind of real sexual history is out. I am looking to marry a virgin, and unless I transgress myself this is not going to change at any point (barring divine command). [If I had fornicated in the past, this would be a more complicated evaluation process. I would look at the number of partners a woman had, the nature of the relationships, how long they lasted, when the last one was, etc. Also, I would try and evaluate whether she had genuinely repented and whether she was an Alpha Widow.]
Age: This is an especially important attribute for several reasons. For one, a younger woman is more likely to be able to have children, can have more children, and the children are likelier to be healthy. Age also significantly impacts female attractiveness and how long a woman has left at her present level. In addition, the older a woman is, the more likely she is to be set in her ways, and the more negative behaviors she is likely to have picked up. Unlike some men, I don’t draw a line in the sand when evaluating a woman by her age, except when it comes to being older than me. For many 25 seems to be that bright line, after which they won’t consider a woman for marriage. Myself, I use a sliding scale. The younger a woman is, the higher her overall value. Just because a woman is in her mid to late twenties doesn’t mean I will rule her out. Instead, I evaluate women more critically in all other areas the older they are. In terms of how this might play out, what it means is that I might rate a “6” who is 18 and is deficient in feminine virtues to be roughly equal to an “8” who is 28 and has more of those virtues. It is about tradeoffs- the younger the woman the more children she can have and the longer I will be married to her at her present attractiveness. Overall, a younger woman will have a larger margin to work with in other fields. All of which goes to show why women should try to marry when they are younger.
Attractiveness: As far as attributes go, this is pretty straightforward. While it might be fleeting, it is important to help establish “wife googles”, and as the study I linked earlier suggests, affects a man’s mental well-being. I cannot really offer any insight into how I evaluate this attribute, because beauty is one of those things which is easy to point out and difficult to explain. Something which does sort of relate to this though is how well a woman takes care of herself. A woman who eats right and exercises regularly will score higher in this regard than one who doesn’t, even if the latter rates higher on the “1-10” scale. This is because the woman who takes care of herself will age better and maintain her looks for longer.
Religious Devotion: What I am looking for is a devout Christian woman who is committed to living a biblical marriage. I will consider non-Catholic women, but they must be willing to convert. It isn’t enough in my view for the children to be raised as Catholics, I have seen the tension that occurs in mixed-religion marriages. That is something I intend to avoid. As far as measuring devotion, I will look at a number of different things, including: was she born to the faith or did she convert later? How involved is she in Church and in church related activities? Does she spend time on her own accord trying to improve her faith? What I am trying to judge is if she is serious about her faith, or whether she is just in “autopilot”, and is a Christian because she was born one and her faith has never been challenged. Basically, I am trying to evaluate the Fruit of the Spirit to get an idea of the depth her faith. Needless to say, this is very important to me; it is a matter of protecting myself from divorce, as well as ensuring my children are raised well and that I have a positive influence in my life. I haven’t forgotten what happened to Solomon.
Here are some of the “lesser” qualities that I look for in a potential wife. It isn’t so much that they are important, but they tend to be easier to change/fix. These are evaluation criteria, the kind of attributes that would “add value” to the marriage. They are in no particular order.
1) Femininity- How feminine a woman is overall.
2) Temperament- How easy a woman is to get along with.
3) Personality type- Whether she has a personality type that will match well with an INTJ (me).
4) Cooking abilities- Can she cook? How well, and what?
5) Cleaning aptitude- Can she maintain a home, and do so without much prompting?
6) Mothering capacity- Very intangible. Whether she would make a good mother or not. Measured by how well she gets along with children, her overall interest in having children, openness to homeschool, etc.
7) Submissiveness- How accepting she is of her place in the marriage hierarchy.
8) Intelligence and curiosity- Would impact whether or not we could have engaging conversations with each other. Also important for children, both directly and through homeschooling.
9) Earning capacity- An overall measure of her ability to earn money for the household. Can include work at and away from the home.
10) Initiative/Entrepreneurial spirit- Slightly different from above, but measures a woman’s overall ability to improvise, to save, and to think up new ideas to benefit the household.
I could go on and on, so I will stop there. The key thing to understand is that I am looking for a woman who adds value to my life, a helpmeet. I expect to be able to make most ends meet myself when it comes to finances, so what I want is a woman who fills in other gaps. Someone to provide solace; someone to warm my heart and my bed. Applying the Captain/XO analogy, I am going to be leading the household much of the time, so I am looking for someone to help manage it.
When I evaluate a woman, I will be trying to discern not only where she is in each of these categories, but also her capacity and willingness to improve in areas that need work. In many respects her willingness to improve is the most important attribute she can have. Everyone needs work in at least some areas, and everyone “slips” in their standards over time. I don’t know what life will be like in ten years, so a woman who is willing to make necessary changes is a woman with value.
All of this comes out to a balancing game in the end. As I alluded to earlier, a very young woman who is less attractive, but is willing (eager even) to improve will be high value, just as a woman somewhat older who has perfected the feminine arts and takes care of herself will be high value. Thinking on this, unlike SMV, MMV is very much a matter of comparison when women are concerned. Unlike SMV, I’m not sure now if you can assign it an arbitrary numerical value. While a woman’s beauty can be measured against some abstract ideal (and is thus unaffected by the beauty of the woman next to her), a woman’s value as a wife and mother can only be measured when you have multiple women to compare. During the evaluation process, I will be comparing any potential wife to the other women I know, including both female family and friends to get an idea of her value. And I rather suspect that she will be doing the opposite with me.
This post ended up being less focused and less informative than I intended. I seem to be making a habit of that lately, and I apologize. Hopefully at least a few of you found this helpful. My next few posts over the coming week should be better, although I make no promises.