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He's the One
Measuring male marriageability
I recently shared my advice for men on finding a wife. Now I’m going to share my advice for women on finding a husband. While a few bigots will object to the idea of males advising females, the only question that genuinely matters is whether my guidance is good.
To start, most of my advice for men turns out to be gender-neutral. Including all of the following:
Figure out your top priorities - and be flexible about everything else.
Give personality a very high priority and looks a low priority.
In ordinary language, look for partners who are: happy, rational, loyal, and self-disciplined - and avoid partners who are sad, emotional, fickle, or impulsive.
In terms of the Five Factor Model of personality:
Strongly avoid Neurotics.
Strongly prefer partners with high Conscientiousness.
Remember that Agreeableness is a mixed bag, because irrationality is baked into being “highly Agreeable.”
Prefer partners close in Extraversion and Openness to yourself.
Intelligence functions like a personality trait. High is good, but a large gap is bad because it impairs communication and common interests.
While common interests are good, common values are better. Above all, find a partner who wants about the same number of kids as you do.
Profile and be friendly to build a large pool of possibilities.
If you already personally know any man who seems promising, directly tell him and see what happens. Tongue-tied? You can do way worse than “You seem promising.”
Once you’ve got a boyfriend, the main question to ponder is: Does he sincerely consider you supremely deserving of sweet treatment?
Spending lots of time together isn’t just a good test of whether you want to spend the rest of your life together; it’s also a chance to discover concealed or suppressed personality traits.
The treatment you receive over time will almost certainly get worse. The key question to ask is: Where’s the asymptote? An asymptote at 2/3rds of the max is top-notch.
Don’t just think of yourself as a consumer, asking “How can I get what I want?” Simultaneously think of yourself as a producer, asking, “How can I be what he wants?”
The marriage market is a market where marketing matters.
Now I turn to gender-specific advice:
For women, the best thing to be flexible about is age. Think about everything that disappoints you about young men. Although many men never age out of their flaws, a large share do. Instead of picking a young guy and hoping he’ll improve, why not find an older guy who already meets your standards? If your standards are reasonable, 5-10 years will probably suffice. Too gross? Well, you’re supposed to give looks low priority, anyway.
The correct priorities are: Personality>Financial Success>Looks. The good news is that desirable personalities have a strong positive effect on financial success, so the trade-off is modest. The main hurdle is that very high-earning guys usually have poor work-life balance. What good is a lovable spouse you barely see? Instead of profiling financially successful guys, profile guys who are financially successful relative to their work hours.
Machismo may be sexy in the short-run, but it’s a heavy burden in the long-run. Especially if you plan to have kids. Remember, virtually all traits are heritable. You do not want a son prone to aggression, substance abuse, or other scary tendencies.
Do you want a guy who talks about his feelings? Some guys simply hate opening up no matter what. Most guys, however, don’t tell women about their feelings because they correctly expect little sympathy and much judgment. Violate these expectations. Especially if you score as highly Neurotic on personality tests, strive to replace your impulsive angry and sad reactions to men’s confessions with bemusement. “Really?!” goes over far better than “How could you say such a thing?!”
In the short-run, men respond to both criticism and praise. Criticism is more impulsively appealing, but praise is a much better bet for inspiring durable devotion. “X upsets me” is grossly inferior to “I love it when you do not-X.” Why? Because most men crave female admiration, yet receive next to none. They are starving for admiration, even if they don’t realize it. Consistently give it without irony and they will love you. And if you set your priorities right, you won’t mind bestowing your admiration because you will be with an admirable man.
The male strangers who approach you are loaded with confidence, but they are utterly unrepresentative of their kind. The typical guy, no matter how otherwise awesome, is painfully shy because he expects rejection. Believe it or not, the modal number of reported lifetime sexual partners for men equals one. The best interpretation of this is that most men only master their own fear of rejection a few times over the course of their entire lives! As soon as they find a woman who accepts their overtures, a routine response is to breathe a sigh of relief and quit looking forever.
Upshot: The woman who discards the traditional “Men have to ask me” social norm has a superpower. Just profile guys who meet your standards and take the initiative, and you generate a menu of prime options. Yes, conventional wisdom says that a woman can subtly let a guy know that she likes him. But this overlooks men’s abject cluenessness and timidity. Instead, be forthright. Crazy as it seems, earnestly telling your first choice, “I should be your girlfriend” will almost never be mistaken for “throwing yourself” at a guy. Rather, these words send exactly the right message: We should try being together and see if we’re a match. You needn’t be an extreme extravert to pull this off. 3% of Avril Lavigne’s energy will suffice.
Avrilian directness also helps weed out men who are afraid of commitment. Changing a person is hard. Building a large pool of options and selecting your favorite person isn’t easy either, but it is easier.
Don’t be a feminist. I wrote an essay to my daughter on this - and a book with the same title - and they’re both worth reading. But if you have no patience for social science and moral philosophy, just be agnostic - and spurn antipathy and self-pity. Live not by loathing. Instead of worrying about whether our society treats men more fairly than women, focus on getting good treatment for yourself - and giving good treatment to others. Remember: Life already hands couples an ample supply of conflict. You don’t need a philosophy that paints your partner as a presumptive villain. (And no, I don’t think this is a straw man of feminism. It is rather a harsh statistical reality).
Freely play the “I’m not one of those feminists” card with men. Yes, most young men will tolerate feminists - or actually pretend to agree. But mainly because they prioritize looks over personality and values. If you want to get married, you don’t want toleration or feigned agreement. You want earnest mutual devotion: “Two Against the World.” The “I’m not one of those feminists” card is a strong signal that you are open to such devotion.
Playing the “I’m Not One of Those Feminists” card liberally makes you likeable to a large pool of men. Then you can select your favorite. This is much wiser than making suitors pretend to agree with you, then trying to convert them once you’re together.
Only use “Mad? Why would I be mad?” as a last resort. Indeed, strive to avoid intimidation of any kind; while fear can work, you are playing with fire. Start with the assumption that your partner means well. If they don’t understand you, the main reason is that understanding anyone other than oneself is hard. (Even understanding yourself is no small feat!) Asking clearly yet sweetly works extraordinarily well for women. The only notable danger is that it works so well that you’ll be tempted to over-ask.
“Women marry hoping their husbands will change; men marry hoping their wives won’t change. And they’re both usually disappointed.” It’s a truism because it’s truthy. The main lessons for women are: Select a man who delights you as is. Also: You can excel simply by trying to change slowly.