I recently made the virtual acquaintance of fellow blogger Dalrock. His blog looks to be just a couple of months old. His slogan is:
Thoughts from a happily married father on a post feminist world.
Cool. Sometimes I think those guys are endangered. Anyway, he must have seen my recent post on modern relationships, because he seemed to know I might like his new flowchart. He was right. I do like it. I think it’s great.
Dalrock references the case of a young woman who has just received a proposal from a man she’s been dating for two years. She doesn’t know what to do, because she has absolutely no feelings of sexual attraction for him. Apparently, the advice she received was to go ahead and marry this good man. From Dalrock:
However, what struck me more than the bad advice being dispensed was how unbelievably cliché the woman’s predicament was. She was torn (in her mind) between an old boyfriend (badboy rocker who dropped out of college to join a commune) and her new one (pre med dutiful beta).
So we have a clear case here of the age-old dilemma, nice guys finishing last. Dalrock makes the point that the devoted suitor deserves better than to be married to a woman who isn’t in love with him:
A man would be better off marrying a 6 who loved him than a 9 who didn’t.
I agree. This exchange inspired him to write Women Shouldn’t Settle, and he made this flowchart to express his view.
(Discussion continues below.)
One of Dalrock’s commenters offered this opinion about the chart:
“Women should only marry a man they are head over heels in love with.”
This is too idealistic for me. Women should marry a man they could be married to. Being head over heels in love with someone now is no guarantee of being head over heels in love with that person in the future, plus women often marry for love, only to discover after the fact that they forgot to check for any signs of long-term compatibility.
Should people be head over heels before marrying? Well, it certainly helps, though most marriages throughout history were not made on the basis of love. I think what is necessary is that both parties fully understand what the other feels. If Dutiful Pre Med Guy knows this woman is not in love with him, but still wants to marry her, then he’s signing on with his eyes fully open to the risks. Personally, I can’t imagine such an arrangement being successful in our culture. We are a culture where marriage is based on the love match, and I certainly would not counsel this woman to marry a man she wasn’t in love with. Though I might ask her what she was doing wasting this guy’s time for two years. Dalrock agrees:
If the “head over heels” term makes you cringe, I’d say hold off on renting the church.
While I don’t recommend sustaining a long-term relationship devoid of sexual attraction, I do think it’s fair to question “From whence the ever elusive spark?” This morning in a comment thread Greenfield News questioned the wisdom of Hephzibah Anderson, who had written off a man she found to be delightful company after only a couple of dates, because there was no spark:
Man, that spark…ever since it was an excuse against me, I bridle at that word. I really waffle on believing if you can create a spark. I know I wanted the guy who said there wasn’t one to dig deep and find one, yet at the same time, I’m none too eager to try and find a spark with guys who have asked me out that I haven’t been interested in.
I appreciate her honesty. An excerpt from my (wordy) reply:
I’m really torn about the spark. It’s understandable that people make sexual attraction a prerequisite. But I feel that sexual attraction is a very complicated thing. Research shows that attraction occurs among people in close proximity, and that means it’s not an instantaneous event. In my own life I have known men for a while, and then something in the dynamic changes and the sexual attraction is sparked. Perhaps it’s not just a question of looks after all for the male? Similarly, women know that the spark can occur at any time. If we think back on high school, it’s obvious that we know guys, don’t think of them that way, then bam, we’ve got a crush. Why? Maybe it was the way he spoke up in chemistry. Maybe it’s his soccer uniform. Maybe he’s a good guy friend and our feelings grow.
I don’t really have the answer. I do think the spark is important, but I also believe that sexual attraction can occur over time, gradually. It can also appear, or disappear, at a particular moment when least expected. When I was in my early 20s I worked with a guy who was a real cocky type. I couldn’t stand him, and did not find him attractive. After working with him for about a year, I had a dream about him that was super hot. Suddenly, I’d see him at work and blush. He picked up on it immediately, too, and started acting like the nice guy I knew he wasn’t. Fortunately, I restrained myself, but it was a real eye opener. Sexual attraction can hit you when you least expect it.
I encourage both men and women to really get to know a person before deciding the spark is missing. I don’t think it’s fair to keep a guy hanging around with expectations for two years. But I do think women need to keep an open mind, and allow for the possibility of sexual attraction developing after the first date. I suspect that women are throwing back a lot of really good men.