Why Progressive and Religious Marriages Are Similar – and Better – Than Others

How You Can Be a Better Partner - And Bring Out a Better Partner In Return

I’m always wary of citing references that are openly conservative because of the inevitable internet backlash about bias.

Then again, I think it’s really important to do what most liberals don’t do: acknowledge that just because a conservative has an idea, it isn’t inherently wrong.

Enter Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia.

Wilcox is – like me – pro-marriage. He comes at things from a religious angle. I come at them from a secular one. And while I can’t speak for Wilcox, I can assure you I am not anti-single or remotely judgmental of those who choose to fly solo in life. What I also know is that pretty much everyone is happier when they’re in love, which is why I remain a fierce advocate for making healthy long-term relationship choices.

Anyway, this New York Times piece proffers a different look at marriage and points out that traditional marriage is often more satisfying than egalitarian marriage. He starts off with the common assumption in our progressive society:

No one wants a world in which women are uneducated, lack choices and resources, and are stuck playing housewife against their will.

“A 2016 report from the Council on Contemporary Families suggested that in “today’s social climate, relationship quality and stability are generally highest” in more egalitarian relationships. The Bloomberg Opinion columnist Noah Smith has speculated that “maybe liberal morality is simply better adapted for creating stable two-parent families in a post-industrialized world.”

In theory, that sounds great. No one wants a world in which women are uneducated, lack choices and resources, and are stuck playing housewife against their will. What my fellow liberals rarely seem to acknowledge is that women and men are not the same and, therefore, don’t necessarily want the same things.

“The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that about two-thirds of married mothers would prefer not to work full time — a fact that is often overlooked in our public conversation about work and family, which is heavily influenced by progressive assumptions. Anna says she is grateful that because Greg works hard at his small business, she has been able to make this choice.”

That describes my marriage entirely. My wife had the same job for 16 years and loved it. Then she got pregnant. She asked for a 3-month maternity leave. Then she asked for a 3-month extension. Then she told her boss she was going on “Eternity Leave.” That was 8 years ago. We are fortunate to be able to live on one income. But the point is that there are LOT of women – evidently 2/3rds of them – who would prefer not to be in the office for 40+ hours a week. A more traditional – some say “1950’s” marriage may be a better fit for those women based on their stated preferences.

That’s where religion comes in. As an atheist, I don’t like touting the virtues of religion at all. At the same time, Wilcox’s study shows that “feminism and faith both have high expectations of husbands and fathers, if for very different ideological reasons, and that both result in higher-quality marriages for women…

In fact, in listening to the happiest secular progressive wives and their religiously conservative counterparts, we noticed something they share in common: devoted family men. Both feminism and faith give family men a clear code: They are supposed to play a big role in their kids’ lives. Devoted dads are de rigueur in these two communities. And it shows: Both culturally progressive and religiously conservative fathers report high levels of paternal engagement.”

Makes sense to me. If the hallmarks of a good marriage are men who are sensitive to their wives’ emotional cues and help out with housework and childrearing, it doesn’t matter why they do it or what their religious/political leanings are.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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  1. 1

    I found this article interesting, Evan, thanks for posting. One comment about the methodology, though, that I found to be AMAZINGLY conspicuous. Did you notice how the opinions of the wives was taken to be indicative of marital quality? I searched the article for any indication that the opinions of the husbands mattered in the assessment of marital quality – I couldn’t find it. Did I miss it?

    It’s the exact issue I have with so much of John Gottman’s stuff – the question he researches is how to avoid divorce. Divorce is overwhelmingly initiated by wives, so you avoid it by making wives happy. But is a happier wife indicative of a happier COUPLE? Stephanie Coontz, whom the article references, makes the same mistake.

    I don’t mean to imply that I don’t think men might also be happier in progressive or religious marriages….I just don’t see the evidence here. And I don’t see anyone looking for it.

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Fair point that I hadn’t considered. No answer from me.

    2. 1.2
      Malika with an L

      ‘Happy wife, happy life’ is a saying I always found rather obnoxious. There’s a bit more to it than that!

      I don’t know too many details about Gottman’s research but doesn’t he interview both parties and researches how happy both partners are within the marriage, and therefore researches what both parties would bring to the marital breakdown? The four horsemen theory focuses on how everyone can contribute to a relationship breakdown. Women instigate divorce more often but isn’t that so often a formality? The relationship is by then quite dead, for years before the divorce announcement. And both partners have contributed to its demise.

      1. 1.2.1

        Yes…and no. Gottman does provide questionnaires to both the husbands and the wives, but his methodology is extremely opaque and his framing very female-centric due to the question he is asking. We discussed this a lot on Evan’s post “Only 35% of men are emotionally intelligent.”

        I think that in some cases when women initiate divorce the relationship has been dead for years from both perspectives….but often times it has only been dead from the woman’s and takes the man quite by surprise. The reverse can also be true. How often does a man cheat and the wife asks why on earth he’d ever do so….didn’t they have everything? SHE was so very happy…

        1. Malika With an L

          I can’t remember if i took part in that discussion. From an armchair-psychologists perspective if 35% of men are emotionally intelligent, the percentage is not that much higher with women. That type of intelligence is a challenge for both sexes.

          If it was unknowingly female-centric, i think he is aware now that men and women find different topics important nowadays. There was an interview with Gottman and his wife recently in The Guardian. They were both asked what the ideal topics are to discuss on dates with your long-term partner. She talked of goals, trust and commitment. He said ‘fun and sex’. I think that is quite illustrative of the differences between what men and women weigh heavily in regards to relationship satisfaction.

          I think whether you perceive it as dead or not relies on how high a quality of a relationship you expect with your partner. I have met people who sleepwalk for decades through a relationship that doesn’t bring much satisfaction for either partner. In fact it is quite a worryingly high percentage of relationships i see around me. I suppose if asked they would say it was good, but i always wonder if one person leaves and the other wants to stay whether the person who was left was actually satisfied or willing to put up with a sub-par relationship.

      2. 1.2.2

        I prefer the phrase “Happy Spouse, Happy House”. I don’t see how a house, home, shared life or whatever you want to call it can be happy unless all parties involved are generally happy.

  2. 2

    I would be cautious in interpreting this Pew survey result: “The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that about two-thirds of married mothers would prefer not to work full time — a fact that is often overlooked in our public conversation about work and family, which is heavily influenced by progressive assumptions.”

    There could be many reasons that married mothers answered in this way, not all of which have to do with wanting a more traditional family. There could be fundamental inequities both in the degree of fulfillment available to women and men work-wise (that could influence their wishes about work hours), or in how the work gets divvied up at home even if both parents are working (namely, that the mother does much more of the childcare and housework).

    Not long ago, Evan shared an article discussing this exact issue. If married mothers are essentially doing the equivalent of almost two full-time jobs, then if they had the choice to loosen up on one of them, of course they would. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they want the traditional family setup. They may just want the chance to breathe. But it’s not clear whether the Pew survey allowed for another question: whether those married mums would rather have their husbands take over more of the child and household work while they continued to work full-time. Unless the survey also contained such a question, it’s hard to tease out exactly why the mums answered as they did. So I think we need to be careful in the conclusions we draw from these series of studies.

    1. 2.1

      Hi jo

      ‘I think we need to be careful in the conclusions we draw from these series of studies”.

      Couldn’t agree more.

      I’ve seen some bizarre interpretations and some extreme extrapolations of study findings thrown around here.

      Human research is notoriously difficult, prone to all sorts of error and bias, and everyone has their own opinions and baggage when it comes to human relationships (including the researchers themselves). These are interesting talking points, but I agree we definitely should be careful about drawing any firm or widespread conclusions.

      1. 2.1.1

        Hi Marika, I hope you’ve been well. I’ve missed your input (and jokes – is it Friday yet in Oz?). I agree with you and Jo that human data requires cautious interpretation. For example, we discussed survey data a while back, reporting that young men prefer highly educated women with high income potential….conflicting with the reality that many of those same men later choose not to date/marry such women. And the discrepancy can only be explained by the notion that people don’t always know what they want. That what they THINK they would do isn’t necessarily what they’d do.

        In the case of this study, it is entirely plausible that the same might apply – that the women might be saying one thing and doing another. So it behooves us to look at what they are actually DOING to see if it conflicts. In this case, it doesn’t. Mothers who have the economic freedom to choose how much to work are choosing to step back from the workforce either part-time (usually) or full-time (more rarely) FAR more than men. And while I agree with Jo that there is a wide variety of potential reasons for this, the fact remains that it’s the trend.

        I don’t think that women want a return to the 1950s, I think they want choice. The option to do so, the option to not. And to have that choice, they need the economic freedom that can only be provided by independent wealth or a benevolent partner willing to shoulder the burden of support. Better still, if he’d shoulder that traditionally-male burden while also shouldering part of the traditionally-female one.

        1. Marika

          It is, Jeremy, Friday morning. Joke me, baby!!

          Sorry, I wasn’t referring to that particular study (although I can see that it seemed like I was), but to human research in general, and it’s drawbacks. Also to our tendency to love research which supports our own ideas…and completely disregard that which doesn’t (we all do it)!

          Hope that clears things up. I just meant that I understand the point jo was making.

        2. Jeremy

          Ok, joke time.

          Surgeon: “Relax David, it’s just a small surgery, don’t panic.”
          Patient: “My name’s not David.”
          Surgeon: “I know. I am David.”


          Customer: “Cargo space?”
          Car Salesman: “Car no do that. Car no fly!”

          And finally, since Jo requested a Haloween joke…
          What happened to the cannibal who showed up late to the Halloween dinner? They gave him the cold shoulder.

        3. jo

          Ha – Jeremy, I like the cannibal one. 🙂

      2. 2.1.2

        Marika, I agree with you both here and in your response below, as well as Jeremy’s. Yes, how people answer in surveys is something that statistics can verify. But WHY they answer as they do is always up for interpretation. Surveys aren’t always the best vehicle to determine the ‘why.’ And we can all bring our own experiences and thoughts to the table to arrive at the ‘why,’ so the true answer probably is a multitude of reasons.

        Now, if there were a good Halloween joke…

        1. shaukat

          ‘One of the ways that our hearts are warmed is chivalrous behaviour from men, even if we didn’t consider them objectively handsome, dashing, etc. in the beginning.’

          Gosh, what nonsense. I can’t imagine how many men who didn’t meet your sexual attraction bar have wasted time/resources following this route.

    2. 2.2
      Evan Marc Katz

      One can always find ways to try to shoot down conclusions you don’t want to agree with. I have no science background but I do know a fair amount about people. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if you polled men and women and asked them both would they rather work full-time, part-time, or not at all, more women would choose part time work than men. Just as more women would choose to be kindergarten teachers – and saying so isn’t sexist, but factual. Here’s something I dug up that seems to confirm: https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2018/article/pdf/who-chooses-part-time-work-and-why.pdf

      Among prime-age workers, married women were the most likely to work part time for noneconomic reasons, and married men were the least likely to do so (16.7 percent versus 2.3 percent). Among women, those who were divorced had the lowest voluntary part-time rate (10.3 percent). Among men, the highest rate (widowed men, at 7.7 percent) was still lower than the lowest rate for women. (See figure 7.)

      1. 2.2.1

        I’ve always desired to work part time, even when I didn’t want to have children. I bought my first piece of real estate at age 30, hoping to eventually to buy another house and rent that one out, then buy another until I could live either entirely on rental income or only work part time. The real estate market took a nose dive a few years later, so that never panned out. When my last job before I retired offered 30 hour work week WITH benefits I jumped on that, and my son was well past the years that he would need a stay at home mom.

        I do wonder though if MORE men would also prefer to work part time, or if they only answered full time, because in most cases, part time work is not economically feasible. Was the question “Would you prefer to work part time ?” or was the question “If you could afford to live comfortably on a part time job, would you prefer it ?”

        Now, if I had a different type of career, like photographer for National Geographic or Movie Star, then yeah, I would be married to the job. But since most of my working years were at jobs that were pleasant enough or downright horrible, I would have preferred part time, regardless if I ever had children or not.

        1. Jeremy

          The question was, what would your “ideal” work arrangement be. Not what is economically feasible for your in actuality. More men reported that they would ideally work full-time. We are free to speculate as to why.

        2. Clare

          Sparking Emerald & Jeremy,

          I’m late to this discussion, but, based on my own anecdotal evidence (and I freely admit that’s all it is), I have noticed how many men seem to actively enjoy and thrive on full-time work.

          A friend of mine, who is also a relationship coach, says it’s because men need a “mission” in life. This mission tends to rank much higher in priority for men than it does for women.
          It’s not that work/mission is unimportant for women. Quite the reverse. I just think the ordering of priorities is different in most cases. With most of the men I know, work/mission is at least very nearly on par with marriage and family when it comes to their priorities. The men I know seem to hold the needs of their work as very important.
          Whereas I’ve noticed it’s easier for women to say “no” to work (no to working longer hours, no to a job offer, no to a transfer, no to work travel, etc.) than it is for men. The reason is, we tend to prioritise our relationships, family, home and personal well-being above work more often.

          So, I came at this via a lengthy route but I’ve noticed that, for this reason, most of the men I know see full-time work as a given. It is their raison d’etre. I do not know any men who enjoy nesting, tending and relating as much as the women I know. So I am fairly sure that if these men had more time on their hands, they would simply find another “mission” – sport, hobby clubs, being on committees, etc.

        3. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Jeremy

          I actually clicked on the link and the actual question was “At Pew Research, we have tracked people’s work preferences since 1997. The question we ask is: “Considering everything, what would be the ideal situation for you — working full time, working part time, or not working at all outside the home?”

          So they were generally asked to “consider everything” even though they weren’t specifically asked about considering finances.

          Anyway, I do believe that many men choose full time work for reasons other than non economic necessity or perhaps economic necessity is just one of many factors that go into the decision (as with women as well), but then why do men seem to have more heart attacks ? Is it work stress or something else ?

          Now that more women are in full time work, are we “catching up” to men in regards to rates of heart attacks/heart problems ?

        4. jo

          Sparkling Emerald, I’ve heard that estrogen is the main reason that women have less heart disease than men, and the onset of the first heart attack is later for women on average than for men. It’s why hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women can help them avoid heart disease. I wonder if HRT has ever been considered for men to protect against heart disease, but they might have objections for different reasons.

        5. Jeremy

          Clare, last weekend I attended one of my wife’s “Tread-sanity” classes at the gym. She’s a super-fit marathon runner while I….could stand to lose 10 pounds. One day last week she mentioned in passing that she didn’t think I’d survive one of her classes, so of course I had to go. I couldn’t help but notice that 95% of the class was female. When I was younger, the split at the gym was fairly even between the genders. But I notice that in middle age it skews heavily female all the time. I struck up brief conversations with some of the women there (I knew several of them as neighborhood moms), and I asked them why they come to such an intense class. I heard all kinds of reasons: “I like to be healthy,” “I like setting difficult goals for myself,” “I take pride in my body.” None of them actually said, “I need to be beautiful and fit in order to achieve status among other women and attractiveness among men.” And it’s not that I discount all their other reasons – they’re probably true….just not complete. And that lack of completeness explains their husbands’ absence from the gym. Because their husbands ALSO want to be healthy, like setting personal goals and take pride (to some degree) in their bodies. But they DON’T obtain intrasexual status and intersexual attraction (mainly) through their beauty. They do it through their full-time work. Which is where most of them are while their wives take Tread-sanity.

          Asking a man to give up his full-time work is like asking a woman to give up her youth and beauty. Not something she’d voluntarily do, unless the thing she wanted to obtain was even more important to her.

          Only one personality-type prioritizes (or even thinks in terms of) “personal missions.” Such thinking represents that idealistic personality-type, not men in general.

        6. SparklingEmerald

          Jo said “Sparkling Emerald, I’ve heard that estrogen is the main reason that women have less heart disease than men, and the onset of the first heart attack is later for women on average than for men.”

          Yes, I’ve heard that too. The research on heart health and gender is actually pretty complex. It seems women have them less often and at a later age, but die more often from them, yada, yada, yada.

          Since retiring, my main mission in life, is to maintain my health so I can actually finally get to enjoy the fruits of my labor, and not hand them over to the medical profession and the nursing home.

        7. SparklingEmerald

          Jeremy said “None of them actually said, “I need to be beautiful and fit in order to achieve status among other women and attractiveness among men.” And it’s not that I discount all their other reasons – they’re probably true….just not complete. And that lack of completeness explains their husbands’ absence from the gym. Because their husbands ALSO want to be healthy, like setting personal goals and take pride (to some degree) in their bodies. But they DON’T obtain intrasexual status and intersexual attraction (mainly) through their beauty. They do it through their full-time work. Which is where most of them are while their wives take Tread-sanity.”

          Jeremy – If men don’t get sexual validation from their “beauty” (which for males would be a fit muscular body) then why does most of the advice for men on how to sexually attract women tell them to hit the gym ? And from all the discussion on this blog and elsewhere, it seems that men do EVERYTHING to obtain sex, not just their jobs.

          Also, do you really expect everyone to list every single reason to such questioning ? Do you think men would ever answer that they chose their profession in order to sexually attract more women ?

          I have many reasons for working out. A combination of health and weight maintenance/weight loss (partially for vanity, partially to avoid the health pitfalls of being overweight) And while I do enjoy the compliments from the women in my exercise classes, compliments from women is not one of my reasons for working out.

          No one has ever asked me why I work out, (but people do ask me why I make green smoothies) but I would probably say something like, “To stay healthy and keep my girlish figure”. I wouldn’t get into a “complete” answer and list every health benefit of exercise, nor go into intrasexual and intersexual validaton strategies.

        8. Jeremy

          Hi SE. To answer your first question, I think that men’s physique is always a factor in our attractiveness, but more so in the sexual marketplace than in the marriage marketplace where status and income take up more of the real-estate in the pie-chart of female decision-making. The gym I described is not typical or average – it is full of married middle-aged women with high-earning husbands. Those husbands don’t need to go to the gym to be attractive to women, their jobs make them so. Were they to also be muscle-bound and fit, any increase in their wives’ attraction would likely be overshadowed by worry.

          To address your second question, of course I don’t expect people to list all their reasons for exercise (or anything, really). We all have multiple reasons for most of what we do. But we usually have primary ones and secondary ones. The women I asked listed their secondary ones and I understand why. Because it’s shameful to admit the primary ones. The point wasn’t to say that I expected women to admit them, it’s to point out why men DON’T admit their primary reasons for wanting to work full-time. Equally shameful.

        9. Clare


          While you know I appreciate your opinions and perspective, especially your insight into the way men think, which I find to be very interesting, may I say that it bothers me somewhat how much insight you claim to have into the way women think.

          You said:
          “Those husbands don’t need to go to the gym to be attractive to women, their jobs make them so. Were they to also be muscle-bound and fit, any increase in their wives’ attraction would likely be overshadowed by worry.”

          I think this is blurring the edges a bit too much. I think you are conveying a false dichotomy here, with no working out and most of their time spent on their job on one hand, and less time at work and muscle-bound and fit on the other. In actual fact, I do not think most women require their men to look like Men’s Health models, nor would they necessarily become insecure if they did.
          I know you may not have meant this, but I also really do not like the way you project instant anxiety onto women if their guy were to start taking an interest in their fitness – as if that is where our minds always automatically go and we are incapable of imputing any other motive to him other than he must be cheating.
          I really think that attraction for most women would increase substantially if their men simply worked out between once and a few times a week, or took the dog for a walk every day or went for a jog once in a while. Anything to stay healthy and stave off the beer belly which, no matter how much a man earns or how successful he is, is not attractive.
          I wish you would not speak in these generalities.

        10. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Jeremy – Thanks for your response.

          “The women I asked listed their secondary ones and I understand why. Because it’s shameful to admit the primary ones. The point wasn’t to say that I expected women to admit them, it’s to point out why men DON’T admit their primary reasons for wanting to work full-time. Equally shameful.”

          Actually, I don’t think it is so much about “shame” but more about privacy, social boundaries and not oversharing. Who would talk about their sexual goals while making small talk with strangers (except on a blog like this one 🙂 )

          Anyway, my PRIMARY reason for working out and eating healthy is to maintain my health. Of course I want to maintain my attractiveness for as long as possible, but my health concerns far over shadow that. Perhaps it’s an age thing, I am in my mid 60’s. I am well past the halfway point of life. I have seen people languish in nursing homes, sometimes due to health problems beyond their control, sometimes due to poor life choices that cost them their health. The thought of becoming disabled and in constant pain is a bigger motivation to stay healthy, than the thought that I am not as sexually attractive in my 60’s as I was in my 20’s.

          The thought of losing my health scares me more than the thought of losing my sex appeal. Of course, being healthy is more appealing, but I value my health, because I like not being in pain,and I like being able bodied as well. So when I go the gym 5-6 days a week, drink green smoothies daily and generally eat healthy, my PRIMARY reason is health. If my good health results in me being considered a “sexy senior” then that is just an added bonus 🙂

        11. Jeremy

          I agree with you 100% that most women’s attraction would increase if men worked out and became fitter. Problem is, that increased attraction won’t just be limited to the wife. Whether that becomes of focus for anxiety will obviously depend on the people involved. In the gym I mentioned, the balance of the relationships tends to be that the husbands are income/status +1 and the wives are attractive +1. Should the husbands become equally attractive, the wives would then be income -1 and attractive +0. Unbalanced. It’s not that I think that every unbalanced relationship will necessarily lead to cheating, but I’ve never observed an unbalanced relationship to be mutually satisfying because one person will perceive they’re giving more than they’re getting. YMMV.

        12. Jeremy

          BTW Clare, I was thinking last night and this morning about your “men need a mission” comment. After reflection, I think I am wrong and you are right. I was thrown by the word “mission,” to which I admit reflexive antipathy. But your concept, the notion that men need something to give them responsibility – a weight against which to pull in life – is what gives life meaning for men. And its absence robs men of that meaning, robs us of the ability to retrospectively look at the people we are, the things we’ve done, and feel that there was some value in the fact of our existence. And whereas IME most women will reflexively find their own meaningful actions in their relations to other people, for men it’s more of a quest to discover which actions we want to define us. Some never do. Some do, and have them pulled away. And lack the flexibility to find meaning elsewhere.

        13. SparklingEmerald

          Jeremy said ” In the gym I mentioned, the balance of the relationships tends to be that the husbands are income/status +1 and the wives are attractive +1. Should the husbands become equally attractive, the wives would then be income -1 and attractive +0. Unbalanced.”

          Usually, even if I disagree with your posts, I can at least see the logic or understand why you would think/believe that. But this post has me thinking “HUH ??????”

        14. Jeremy

          Do you really not see my reasoning SE? I’ll admit it might be faulty or might not extend beyond my circle. So here’s a general question for the women here: How comfortable would you be married to a man better-looking than you, who spends more time on his body than you? And once you have your answer to that question affixed in your mind, how comfortable would you be with that same man if he also earned far more than you? Obviously the logical model I’m creating here is flawed because there is so much more than SMV and SES involved in romantic decision-making….but those two are biggies. I’m curious as to what women here think. There was an article on Jezebel a while back about a woman married to a man better-looking than her, and I was fascinated to read the comments of the die-hard feminist women who read that publication….who largely were uncomfortable with the situation.

        15. jo

          Sparkling Emerald, I felt the same way – because as much respect as I have for Jeremy, that +1 / -1 / 0 comment sounded straight out of the manosphere, which often touts very immature notions of relationships. Seriously, Jeremy, if you were suddenly to become fit, would you then see your wife as less worthy of you? Would you insist she get a job? Would your marriage be in danger? Would your wife have to suffer insecurity?

          I don’t see why people have to narrow their lives in a relationship to make sure of ‘equal’ balances in terms of income, attractiveness, etc. First, that doesn’t guarantee that individuals would then seek to become their best selves – thinking only in terms of balancing their partners is a really disempowering way to think. Second, it’s bound to vary throughout life for various reasons, and to think that it always has to come out even is a really unforgiving way to think. Relationships need to have much more love and compassion than that.

        16. Jeremy

          Jo, I can see by your comment (and SE’s) that I have failed to be clear. I am not discussing the perspective of the husband, I’m discussing the perspective of the wife. How to explain?

          On this blog, we often discuss the fact that many men don’t enjoy relationships where the woman earns more money. It’s not necessarily about insecurity, though that’s what often gets tossed around. It’s about the notion that men often have preconceived notions about what is masculine, what makes them MEN, and they want to be better at those things than the women they are with. Else the women are, by definition, better at being men than they are (in their eyes). A man who views providership as a masculine quality will never be happy with a woman who out-earns him. A man who invests his sexuality into other concepts might, though, providing she doesn’t out-do him at those.

          This is something that many women notice and fail to understand – because they don’t feel the same way about providership, don’t necessarily see it as a masculine trait but rather as a genderless trait, and thus don’t perceive competition in the same way men do. But would women feel the same way if men began to encroach on the traits that women define their femininity by? This is usually a non-issue because most heterosexual men don’t encroach on those areas. But beauty is very much such an area for many women. My observation, at least in my circles, is that when men encroach on beauty, women get VERY competitive and threatened by it. Because they’re not encroaching on a genderless quality, but rather a feminine one in the eyes of the women. In the EXACT same way men see it when women out-earn them.

          When I say that my observation may be faulty or may not extend beyond my circles, that’s what I mean. That not all women might see beauty as a feminine quality, and not all women may be threatened in this regard. I did not mean that I thought I’d somehow become a cheater if I lost 10 pounds.

        17. Clare


          I understand your point, but I think you are talking in extremes, as I mentioned earlier.
          There is a vast happy medium, in which I like to think a huge part of the population dwells, that is between obese and ungroomed on one hand, and Men’s Health cover-model worthy on the other.
          If a woman goes to gym a few times a week, is not a fanatic about it, but simply wants to keep fit and healthy, and her husband does the same thing, why must this upset the balance of power?
          In my experience, a healthy amount of working out (again, just moderate working out, not being a fanatic about it) does not suddenly make a man significantly better looking than his wife if she is also working out and was quite attractive to begin with. In my opinion, this kind of moderate working out would simply stave off the excess pounds which come with living comfortably and working in an office. He is not going to suddenly transform into Ryan Gosling.
          As to your question about how we would feel being married to a man who is better looking than us. I admit my opinion may not be representative of most women, but you did ask the women on this blog, and not women in general. Personally, I’d love it. But then, I think I have a healthy and possibly inflated vanity that would just assume that I was either actually really as attractive as him or had ample other qualities which made me attractive to him. If I were to think that his attention would be wandering elsewhere or feel threatened, it would be because he had behaved in such a way that would make me think that. Not because I would feel the relationship was unbalanced.

          As I said, I have an ego which is maybe a bit too healthy at times. I always feel people are lucky to connect with me and be in relationships with me (Of course, I feel lucky as well.)

        18. Jeremy

          I agree with your middle zone, Clare, and with the notion of moderate exercise. Remember that the class I was discussing was an extremely intense one that my wife joked I wouldn’t survive. The takers of that class are not moderate in their habits or fitness aspirations.

          I understand your comment about thinking you’d be ok married to a man who was better looking due to your healthy ego. I sometimes consider the question of whether I’d have been happy married to a woman who earned more than I do. My reflexive response is that I’d be ok with it. After all, I make quite a bit of money, and so my ego in that regard isn’t fragile – like I’d imagine a woman who was always pretty enough might lack the insecurities in that regard that other women might have. And yet, in my case, when I really consider it, I must admit that I’m not sure about myself. I might be wrong. Because I DO invest my sexually into my providership. Am I really that different from other men? Or is that just my arrogance taking, and the fact that I’ve never dealt with this personally? All the other men out there who found themselves anxious or unattracted to women who earned more… did THEY predict how they would feel, or were they surprised by their own reactions when the situation arose? I’ve known so many people, men and women, who thought they were different from all others… until they discovered that they weren’t. I’ll never know if I’m like them or not, having never dealt with the situation. Never know if I’m guessing right.

        19. Jeremy

          Sorry for the double-post, but I find the topic so interesting. It reminds me of Lynx, who comments here. She told the story of how she was married to a man who was domineering, who always had to have things his way, and how she resented that. And after their divorce she found a man who was the opposite – passive, accepting….and found herself unattracted. Ironically unattracted. Because while she hated the DEGREE of her ex husband’s domineering nature, she didn’t want a role-reversal. In the same way, she tells the story that her ex always denigrated her for not earning enough money, and how she is now trying to establish herself financially so as to never hear that complaint from another partner. But would she appreciate a role-reversal? Would she want to be the richer partner, and if she was, would she see her partner as her ex saw her? She tells the story that her ex has found a new woman who is quite financially well-off, more-so than himself. I wonder if he relishes that role? My guess is that it’d depend on whether she earned her money or got it from family/her ex.

          I could see the situation of a woman who’d been married to a man who let himself go and gained weight. I could see her losing attraction to him and thereafter creating emotional distance which she blamed for the eventual divorce. I could see such a woman coming to the conclusion that she needs a man who takes care of his body, won’t let himself go. But would she be comfortable with role-reversal, with a man who was MORE attractive? I went to the dermatologist a few months ago for a skin issue. His waiting room was FULL of middle-aged women awaiting cosmetic procedures. Far fewer men. And I wondered – are these women getting work done because their husbands want them to, or because they are uncomfortable with the changing power balance that age necessarily brings? Their husbands are uncomfortable with loss of power too. Which is why they were all at work at the time, I’d imagine.

        20. Evan Marc Katz

          Readers, you may not agree with Jeremy, but please don’t dismiss his insights. I find them highly accurate and I see no reason to distort them. Simply put, OF COURSE women want to find men physically attractive. But there’s not nearly as much pressure on men to BE physically attractive as there is for women. Not from society. Not from women. There’s pressure on men to earn a greater living. So men pour more energy into work than self-care. And women pour FAR more energy into diet, exercise, and beauty products than men. And, like Jeremy said, they’re mostly not doing it for their husbands – they’re doing it for themselves and their peers – having a much harder time accepting aging than men do. My super cool wife included. We don’t have to even know WHY this is but to deny that women put an infinitely higher premium on their own looks than men put on theirs, so men are not as incentivized to stay fit because they can still get women with some money/confidence – this is not controversial at all.

        21. jo

          Clare, you’re not alone. I, and most women I know, prefer my man to look good. I’m baffled if men truly believe we would rather they not make the effort to look attractive.

          Here’s the truth of what happens, Jeremy: We feel proud to go out with our men if they look good. We feel embarrassed (or ask them to scrub up and change and shave) if they think they can go out looking schlumpy. And – I think every woman here can agree with this – we feel sorry, we feel our heart sink a little, for any woman who goes out with a man who looks as though he made no effort in his appearance.

          That’s why men can’t assume they can read women’s minds, or know everything about us and make these broad generalisations. They get it wrong so often – completely backwards sometimes.

        22. Jeremy

          @Evan, exactly. @Jo, again, please do not misconstrue my words. I did not say or imply that women don’t want men to look attractive. I said that IME they don’t want men who are more attractive than they are, who encroach on their femininity. The difference between what I’m saying and what you are is significant.

          How often have we heard, on this blog and elsewhere, complaints from women that men want them to earn money…..just not more money than they do? How often do women complain how illogical this is (from their perspective)? But it’s generally true! Most men DO want their wives to earn some degree of income, or else the power balance in the relationship skews. But most DON’T want her income to exceed his….or else the power skews the other way, specifically with regards to his own image of masculinity. Women IME are the same, but don’t recognize it. They DO want their husbands to be attractive (or else power skews one way), but not more attractive than they are (or power skews the other way, specifically regarding their sexual self-image). It is the SAME. Exactly the same.

          And just as there are some men who don’t invest their sexuality into providership and so would be fine with wives who earn more, there are women who don’t invest their sexuality into their beauty and would be fine with men who are more beautiful. But you know, mascara makes eyes look larger and more striking and does so for both men and women. How many women, the women who want attractive men, want their men to wear mascara? How many want them to wear make-up to accentuate their cheek bones? How many want their men to dye their hair or wear toupees? Tastefully done, how can we argue it wouldn’t make men look better, yet….the makeup market for heterosexual cis-gender men is basically zero. Why is that?

        23. jo

          Jeremy, like Clare, I would have, and have had, no problem with my man being more attractive than I. Looking around, there are many couples where the man is more attractive than the woman, and everyone seems fine with this.

          Also, I don’t think your hypothesis has a biological basis, because the males of many species are more attractive than the females. If human men don’t want to wear makeup and other trappings that make them look fabulous, it’s not because we women are holding them back. I think it is because (in North America at least) they themselves do not want to be perceived as gay if they are in fact straight. But we women don’t see the need for such a divide. We’re all human. We’re all visual. In a new era where women can provide for ourselves, we feel more freedom in choosing gorgeous partners – even more gorgeous than ourselves.

        24. Jeremy

          Ah, but Jo, that’s why I asked the 2nd part of my question (which neither you nor Clare addressed). Because like you, I’ve also observed some couples where the man was better-looking. My sister, for example, married a man better-looking than she. She was raised (by my father) to think like a traditional man. To ego-invest in her intelligence, her career, and her earning-potential. And so in her case, what she wanted to provide from the perspective of her ego was her providership. And what she wanted to receive was the emotional support of an attractive partner. Kind of a role reversal.

          The 2nd part of my question was, for those women who believe they’d be ok with a more attractive man (or who specifically desire one), how comfortable would they be long-term if that same man ALSO earned substantially more? I can accept the notion that some women would be ok with it….but I’d caution to resist the temptation to answer after only cursory consideration because the question is not simple. We are indeed freer today to make choices than ever….but the paradox of choice is that the more we have, the more difficult it is to make the right one (and to be happy with the one we’ve made).

        25. SparklingEmerald

          Jo said “Sparkling Emerald, I felt the same way – because as much respect as I have for Jeremy, that +1 / -1 / 0 comment sounded straight out of the manosphere, which often touts very immature notions of relationships.”

          In a long term marriage, I would hope most people have moved beyond keeping score like that. I can see in the very beginning phase of a relationship being concerned with “leagues” and “SMV” and that sort of thing, but seriously ? After 40 years of marriage to be keeping score on who’s better looking and who earns more ?

          Jeremy asked ”
          How comfortable would you be married to a man better-looking than you, who spends more time on his body than you? ”

          That’s a bit hard to answer, since all of my long term relationships have been in my estimation, equally balanced as far as looks go. My 2nd hubby, spent WAAAAY more time doing extreme physical sports, which definitely explained his buff arms and legs but he didn’t participate in those sports to look good, he was a thrill seeker, and that was the reason why. I must admit, I was very “turned on” watching him in action, or hearing him talk of his adventures. Of course that sort of thing demonstrates masculine strength, facing danger and bravery, so of course it turned me on. Funny, my 2nd hubby hestitated to ask me out, it took him A YEAR to get the nerve ? The reason ? He thought I was out of his league. I didn’t think that at all, but HE did. (I wasn’t aware of this for many years, I just thought he was shy). So maybe it’s MEN who prefer their woman be better looking like them (but earn less and be less educated and a little less smart).

          I do appreciate a man who is approx as attractive as myself. I shied away from much better looking men who hit on me in my single life, not because I wanted to be the better looking one, but these men usually led with arrogance, and put out the “I’m not looking for anything serious disclaimer” from the get go. (translation, “You are too far beneath me to consider seriously, but you’ll do for a fling” ) So I shied away due to their arrogance, and their intentions.

          I consider my husband to be about my equal in looks. Although he is more in the rugged handsome category, and I am more in the cute, as opposed to beautiful category. However, HE acts like I am gorgeous, in fact that’s how he describes me. He doesn’t seem to think he’s that great looking (I think he’s very handsome) So once again, is this a case of a woman wanting to be the better looking one, or is this a case of a man wanting a woman who he considers the better looking one ?

          I agree with Evan that women are more concerned about THEIR looks, than men are about THEIR (the man’s looks), but I am not concerned that I have to be better looking than my hubby. I just don’t want to be with anyone I consider UNattractive.

          At my age (which I don’t think you or EMK have reached) I care FAR more about my health than my looks, and when you reach a certain age and see your friends ailing, failing and dying, health becomes more important to you. Both your own health and your spouses.

          While I do enjoy the complements I get at the gym (mostly from women) on my nice figure or cute outfit, I get a MUCH BIGGER thrill when I get a good blood pressure reading (I take my BP at home) or my lab results show that I have lowered my cholestrol. I have become a tad bit obsessed with my health as I’ve gotten older. The fact that my obsession with exercise and diet has translated into a fairly nice figure and a nice complexion is an added bonus.

          Thanks everyone for your input, this makes for an interesting discussion.

        26. jo

          Jeremy, I didn’t realize you were asking us that question. No, I would not mind having a man who was both better looking and higher earning than I, as long as he wasn’t complaining and loved me. Then I would just be grateful. You talk about your sister’s ego… women don’t think that way as much in relationships, as you’ve acknowledged yourself. We are not one-up or one-down with everyone in our lives, but value equality and love and mutual respect. We don’t compete with our partners. So in that scenario, if he is not complaining, why should I? Just enjoy.

        27. jo

          Of course Jeremy, turnabout is fair play… so a question for you and any men who want to answer: how would you feel about having a wife or long-term partner who earned more and was better looking than you?

        28. Jeremy

          @Jo, To be clear about what I’ve acknowledged, I’ve written that women strive for equality in power hierarchies. Not that they don’t think about power. There is all the difference in the world between those two statements, especially when beginning from a one-down position. What you’ve written here, Jo, about women not thinking about power/status goes against every study and bit of research I’m aware of. Ask Evan if, after coaching women for years and listening to what his clients want, if he believes that status and power are unimportant to women. There’s a huge difference between not consciously thinking about something versus it not being important.

          @SE, never in the history of humanity have the words, “Calm down” helped anyone calm down. And never has being told not to keep score in a marriage prevented anyone from keeping score. Oh, we all try not to, but none of us can help but notice when our balance tips too much. IMHO, the better advice than “don’t keep score” is “try to focus less on your own score and more on your partner’s, realizing that their list is not the same as yours.” JMTC.

        29. jo

          Jeremy, once again, I feel like you’re arguing semantics and missing the point of what I’m trying to say. Just as you say others misunderstand you, so you seem to misunderstand us, especially when we don’t answer the way that you THINK we should, because you believe you know how women are supposed to think. Also, I noticed you did not answer my question, either, although I answered yours with truth.

        30. Clare

          Jeremy & Evan,

          I thought about it, and I realised that yes, I invest a lot of myself in the way I look. Especially as a romantic partner. I love to be admired by men for this aspect, and I appreciate the effect that a beautiful woman has on a man. He enjoys it, she enjoys it – everybody wins.
          And I will certainly agree that that pleasure is not necessarily there when she earns a lot of money, even more than him. I will definitely admit that both I and the man enjoy the relationship more when he can appreciate my beauty and femininity and I can appreciate his power and success.
          The questions which Jeremy asked about when pendulums swing too far in one direction or the other are good ones. I personally am a very strong advocate of balance and moderation.
          A man dating a Victoria’s Secret model might initially appreciate her beauty but become frustrated when he finds out she is vapid and entitled. A woman dating a powerful corporate type might get frustrated with a man who wants to control her like one of his employees.
          Likewise, if a man invests all of his self-worth into his job and lets his appearance go so that he becomes overweight and untidy, he may find his marriage going cool and distant. And a woman who invests an excessive amount into her appearance might also make herself and her husband unhappy for other reasons.
          I’ve personally come to the conclusion that the most happiness is to be found in trying to achieve balance. I think relationships, like most other things, thrive on balance. So when something is out of balance, one or both partners makes a course correction. So if one partner realises (or has it pointed out to them) that they are getting out of shape, they maybe go for a jog a couple of times a week. Or if one partner is not pulling their weight, that partner agrees to take on more household duties or get part-time work or whatever the case is. I really think that we want to feel that our partner is making an effort for us.
          And yes, while a beautiful, poor woman might easily be able to get a partner, just as an out-of-shape, successful man might be able to – the question is, how happy or long-lasting would those relationships be?
          How happy would I be married to a man who was both better looking and earned more than me? I’d be ok with it (I know several couples like this), but so much would depend on other compatibility factors. I think one of the reason this discussion irks me is that we are back to reducing relationships to looks and money again. There is a VAST array of behaviours and qualities which influence relationship happiness and to laser-focus on these two just seems woefully simplistic to me.

        31. Mrs Happy

          I wouldn’t mind if my partner were as, less, or more, attractive than me, and I’ve had all 3. But then I couldn’t care less how physically attractive my partner is for the most part, as long as he is strong and big and can throw me around in bed. I wouldn’t mind if my partner were both more attractive than me and earned more than me, though I’ve never had that. But bring it on, I’m sick of my heavy financial life burden. I certainly felt less pressure when I was with rich men, who earned way more than me, because feeling less overall economic stress sure was nice.

          I have never jostled for power in my romantic relationships. Never thought about power until I read about it here. It disheartens me to realise some people judge like that, actually. When I look around me socially, I see I’ve avoided people (especially women) who think like that. To value people for how they look and not what they do or who they are – looks are pretty meaningless to me, so, I’m unimpressed by those who rate appearance so highly.

          I agree Jo, it’s somewhat frustrating to say “this is my experience as a female with heaps of relationship experience”, only to be met with “the research and observations I have say x, so you’re wrong”.

          Some people think a lot about power and worth and what they value highly, and exchange of acts, and balance and imbalance, and control, and ‘what if’ and ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m better’, but I’m just into being in relationships with genuine, kind stimulating people and enjoying my life, power and one-up and one-down and yada yada yada be damned. It’s easy to just be, and accept the loving people around you are probably happy with how you be, and let it rest at that, surely?

        32. Jeremy

          My answer to your question (which was posted after my last post) is that having a wife who is both more attractive and wealthier might be the dream of many young men. Inexperienced men. But my observation over the decades of my life is as follows: That if your wife perceives herself to be your superior in power, you’re in for a bumpy ride, boy. Be careful what you wish for.

        33. Jeremy

          And I’ll preempt the next question – Evan often advises high-powered women to consider less-powerful men, men who would be complements instead of equally powerful. How does one reconcile that advice with what I wrote above, are they not contradictory? No, they aren’t.

          My observation is that when high-powered women are with less powerful men, they tell stories to themselves and others about why their partners are, in fact, better than them at the most important thing. “Sure, I’ve got more education, but he’s more street-smart.” “Sure, I make more money, but he’s fulfilling his creative destiny.” IME, as long as both members of the couple believe this story, the relationship can work out well – exactly because neither he nor her perceives her to be more powerful. But if one of them fails to believe it, regresses to the societal mean, you get a bumpy road. Because in any relationship, if one feels one is giving more than one is getting, one loses motivation to give. Love will only take you so far. This is exactly why statistics show women less happy in long-term marriages than men – they feel they’re giving more than they’re getting. Power balances.

          Whether a woman should follow advice to consider a less-powerful man depends on her ability to accept her story. To truly consider things like easy-goingness, flexibility, supportiveness, etc as true counterbalances to what she feels she brings to the relationship. Believe the story, follow the advice. In that order.

        34. Mrs Happy

          J, if many people thought eye colour was really important in a partner, and you didn’t, and others made up pop evolutionary quasi theories about why eye colour might be important, but you still reflected on your list of wants in a partner and concluded – ‘eye colour isn’t even in the top 30’ – then you not wanting a specific eye colour would not be a ‘story’.

          Not everyone wants the same things in a partner. Lots of people do, but there are outliers. I had a wants list as long as my arm when dating, but it wasn’t about power, it was about wants. Wants that would make my life better. Can you try to step outside your power theory? Imagine it’s not right, and think about why else relationships have ebbs and flows?

        35. SparklingEmerald

          Mrs H said “I agree Jo, it’s somewhat frustrating to say “this is my experience as a female with heaps of relationship experience”, only to be met with “the research and observations I have say x, so you’re wrong”.


          While all these gender studies are interesting, they should all be taken with a grain of salt (In some cases with a BOX of salt)

          Usually the studies are conducted by someone wanting to verify their own perception and in that case, they usually find what they are looking for. Also, people trolling the internet for studies will look for studies that confirm their world view and will dismiss studies that contradict their world view.

          Remember that “study” that cited this statistic: women utter an average of 20,000 words a day while men speak an average of only 7,000.? Turns out no one has been able to find the academic research that came up with this stat.. A University of Pennsylvania researcher tried to track the origin of this statistic and found that it may have come from a 1993 marriage counselor’s pamphlet. The pamphlet’s numbers were, surprisingly unsourced.

          Also, when a woman or even any woman says that this is not her experience and doesn’t describe how she feels, there is alway that other old fall back “Women don’t really no what they want”.

        36. SparklingEmerald

          MrsH said “Some people think a lot about power and worth and what they value highly, and exchange of acts, and balance and imbalance, and control, and ‘what if’ and ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m better’, but I’m just into being in relationships with genuine, kind stimulating people and enjoying my life, power and one-up and one-down and yada yada yada be damned. It’s easy to just be, and accept the loving people around you are probably happy with how you be, and let it rest at that, surely?”


          I’ve never been one to keep score and assign or subtract points based on relative looks and relative earning power. In some cases if there is such a HUGE descrepancy, score keeping wouldn’t be necessary it would be blatantly obvious. But in most relationships, just be happy and stop trying to one up the other.

          But since studies prove that I am supposed to be keeping score based on looks and earning power that creates a bit of a dilemma for me.

          I wouldn’t even begin to know how to assign the power differential according to wealth. My hubby and are both retired, neither on of us are earning our income. We are living off interest in our retirement accounts and we each own our own homes (live in mine). His whole working life he has EARNED more than I ever did, but due to market forces my 401(k) was considerably larger, due to the timing of our contributions and what the market was doing when we finally retired. We both contributed a good percentage of our paycheck to them, we both had employer matching, but my 401k ended up being substantially more than his. However, even though we both own the same version of the same home, he bought his when the real estate market bottomed out, so he has WAY more equity in his home, than I have in mine. So are we even, one up or one down ? All things considered, let’s just say we are financially even, since he EARNED more that I ever did, and all our other wealth came from things other than working so his wealth came from working a very masculine job, and much of my wealth is windfall.

          Now, as to the looks thing. I would say facial attractiveness we are even Steven. But I am currently about 5 pounds over the weight I was when we first met, and it’s not too noticeable because I work out a lot and have managed to keep a nice shape. He has gained maybe about 20 pounds, and it pretty much is all in his gut. I still love him, gut and all. I still see a handsome face, well toned arms, I still enjoy his companionship and affection, and I still admire his generosity, his integrity, his intellect and his kindness. I feel safer in his arms than anywhere else, and there isn’t anyone else that I would want to spend the rest of my life with.

          But ,previously unbeknownst to me, I am “owed” something since I am in slightly better physical shape. So how should I collect on what is owed to me ? Should I send him a bill for, $15 dollars a month (one dollar for every pound gained over my weight gain) or should I just skip the gym sometimes, and eat more cake so I can gain a little weight and we will be even ? (Of course, this is tongue and cheek).

          I REALLY am not competing with my hubby to be the better looking one or the higher earning one, although apparently every study on the matter says that I’m wrong. Of course, I’m just a woman, so I really don’t know what I want.

        37. jo

          Sparkling Emerald and Mrs Happy, amen, amen.

          SE, what you wrote is so true: men believe we’re more complex than we really are, or that we don’t really know what we want. That is untrue for me personally, and probably is for you and most women too. We know what we want, but if it doesn’t match up with what some men think we should want, they’ll claim that we don’t really know what we want. That’s just a convenient stereotype to dismiss our wants and needs, and we should end it for once and for all.

          Not to mention, not a single study was brought up to support any of these recent claims about women. So we can’t even talk about the scientific validity of it. As for the original post, I poked holes in that earlier. 😉

        38. SparklingEmerald

          Correction to my previous post “Also, when a woman or even any woman says . . . .” : should read “Also, when a woman or even MANY women say . . .”

        39. Clare

          jo, Mrs Happy, and SE,

          Yes, yes, yes. I know that women are “supposed” to be the more complex, more demanding of the two genders, but that simply hasn’t been my experience.

          It’s all very well to talk about these power differentials in theory – when you are discussing your “ideal” partner over too many glasses of wine with your girlfriends or when researchers are trying to come up with a theory to explain the behaviours of vast numbers of people. But real relationships are something quite different – when you meet someone that you click with and enjoy spending time with, thinking about who is one up and who is one down is the furthest thing from your mind.

          Or that’s how it is for me. Perhaps there are vast swathes of women doing power calculations and telling themselves “stories” in their heads, I don’t know. But for me, as I mentioned earlier, it’s extremely frustrating to be told that relationships *must* be largely determined by looks and wealth when I know that there are literally hundred or even thousands of factors which go into relationship success.

          It’s all so relative. I’ll take a silly example since Jeremy was talking about looks in this thread. I don’t find the accent of my countrymen particularly attractive. Many people love the South African accent, but to me, it is a bit flat and nasal and sounds very boerish coming out of the mouths of SA men. However, I sat next to an Irish man (whose accent I found absolutely enchanting) at a wedding and I quickly developed massive attraction for him. He was average in looks, and had he been South African, I’d not have given him a second glance.

          This is just one example of the fact that what draws us to other people and what cements relationships together is so rich and varied.

          Research fixates on what it is trying to prove, to the exclusion of other variables. And so does common wisdom.

          If I were to try and do one-up, one-down calculations about the Irish guy in my head, it might look something like this: his Irish accent makes him one-up, my more attractive looks make me one-up, his job as a primary school teacher makes him one-down, yada yada yada… I give myself a headache trying to think of it. And who really gives a crap? If you’re not someone who cares about looks beyond whether you are attracted to the person, or about money, beyond whether you have enough to be comfortable, I personally say screw the whole power balance and just enjoy being happy.

        40. Jeremy

          A while back we had a discussion on this blog about chivalry. Several women wrote about how they find chivalry to be very attractive in a man. I took issue with those statements, not because I don’t think women “know what they want” , but because in that instance what the women were saying was less important than what they weren’t saying. That chivalry is attractive in a man who is already attractive for other reasons. And not in one who isn’t. Again, see Amy Schumer’s “Milady” sketch. In the same way here, when women tell me that they’d be fine with a man who was better looking and higher status than them, I also believe them. But I also hear the contingency, spoken or unspoken, that this applies only if he is highly attracted to them nevertheless. Not that he loves them for their charming wit, but that he is highly attracted to them. And that’s as big of an if as the chivalry thing, perhaps even bigger.

          How does reading this make you feel on a visceral level? http://www.salon.com/2015/09/11/i_have_never_turned_heads_what_its_like_when_youre_not_the_object_of_desire/

          It is best when we don’t have to think about power. When we can just enjoy being happy. Mist of us only tend to think about it when it becomes imbalanced. And then we ALL do. We just call it by other names.

          Oh, and Mrs H, I understand that you are an exception to this and I understand why. But this is not a black Swan phenomenon with fat tails on the bell curve. The exceptions don’t out scale the body of the curve. It is as easy not to think about power when you have an excess of it as it is to not think about money when you inherit millions.

        41. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Clare

          Yes, relationships are a complex blend of so many different factors, and I would think that in a very long term relationship with such a shared history, that keeping score of power differentials based on looks and wealth would be the last thing on anyone’s mind, either consciously or unconsciously.

          After I have known someone for a very long time, (not just romantically) their raw physical looks just sort of fade away for me. Even very prominent physical features such as race, being very over weight, super long hair. At a certain point, I am experiencing the totality of a person, their way of speaking, their sense of humor, their trustworthiness, the fun we have together, etc. I had a co-worker friend who was extremely obese. (not just a bit chunky, she was huge) We ended up being work pals, and eventually, I didn’t even notice that she was way overweight. She was just my fun friend to have lunch with, I loved her ways and eventually, I did’t even think about her weight. Another co-worker asked me about that “really fat girl ” I eat lunch with, and I was like “Huh, who are you talking about ?” and she said “You know, the one who is as big as 2 houses” and I honestly sat there scratching my head wondering who the hell she was talking about for ahwhile, before I realized who she was asking about.

          I would like to know where all these “studies” are involving women being married to men who are much better looking. How often will a man marry a woman who is way beneath him in looks ? How often are we women lectured right here on this very blog, that very good looking men will gladly use us for sex, but would never consider us wife material ? And the sooner we learn our true SMV the better off we will be. Because thinking that we can land a very good looking man for anything other than a booty call is why we all have such a puffed up “story” in our silly little heads about our SMV, yada, yada, yada. It’s hard to imagine that there would be a large enough sample size of very good looking men married to Plain Janes, to study the effect of this looks descrepancy on each partner to make any kind of meaningful scientific study result. Since most people tend to marry partners of roughly equal attractiveness, I just don’t see any large scale studies being done on this. And in the course of time, one partner looks go way up, while the other’s go way down, I would think that would happen over a very long course of time, and at that point, the couple would have developed a deeper relationship that goes beyond keeping score on who’s better looking and who’s wealthier.

        42. SparklingEmerald


          I decided to look for studies online and I actually found an article discussing “mate value discrepancy”. Haven’t finished reading it yet, but I think it would be interesting to “consider and discuss”.

          Read and enjoy !

        43. Jeremy

          Oh, and Clare, I agree that very few people consciously think about the ways in which they are “one – up” or “one – down” with those they are dating. But what exactly do you think your brain is calculating when discerning whether or not to be attracted to any given individual? Your hormones and neurotransmitters run on algorithms determined exactly by such calculations, whether or not we’re aware of them. This is not speculation. Dan Arieli’s research, among others, shows that we accept others depending on our own perceived desirability. Imagine a woman who lost attraction to her husband due to his weight gain. Do you imagine her feelings might be different of she had gained the same amount of weight too? All perception is contingent on framing. This doesn’t mean that we only date those equal to us in looks or status, but rather that we frame the desirability of others relative to our own… And do so they.

        44. jo

          Jeremy, the whole point was not to make broad sweeping generalisations about women. And not to assume that women don’t know what we are thinking or what we want. And not to assume that when women tell you something about ourselves, we aren’t telling you the truth or the ‘primary reason’ just because you believe you know more about what we’re thinking than we do ourselves.

          You do these things repeatedly in your comments, whether or not you are aware of it.

          It’s a call for a little more humility, unless you are clairvoyant, to borrow Karl R’s phrase from a different post.

        45. Evan Marc Katz

          You guys are killing me.

          It’s both/and, not either/or.

          In other words, Jeremy is right and you’re also right, just from another perspective. The frustrating part of reading this – and why Jeremy keeps going – is that you never acknowledge he has a point. I am very familiar with this phenomenon. I listen to women all day; I know how you think. But when I explain a man’s POV on the same scenario, way too many women tell me I’m wrong. If you think Jeremy lacks humility, allow me to point out that he is trying to explain his thoughts without being distorted to a hostile and disingenuous audience who won’t concede an inch. You know how you feel. So do I. Maybe try listening and validating instead of this tactic. Otherwise you’re no better than extremist politicians who can’t concede the validity of half the country’s opinions.

        46. jo

          Evan, as per points you’ve made before, we appreciate Jeremy’s bringing up the MALE perspective. You appreciate it, we women appreciate it. What you are probably not seeing (although it is clear to the women commenting here) is that – besides sharing the male perspective – he also repeatedly makes generalisations about women that we flat-out disagree with, and now has said at least twice on this sub-thread that when we shared our thoughts, those weren’t our ‘primary thoughts’ or reasons or whatever. How would he know?

          We don’t mind if people share their perspectives. What we do mind is when people claim to know OURS better than we do ourselves. Does that make sense?

        47. Jeremy

          Re: The call for humility. I referenced the past discussion about chivalry. Do any of the women who wrote that chivalry is attractive acknowledge that it’s only attractive if the guy already is for other reasons? If so, can they acknowledge that it’s not that they “don’t know what they want,” but rather didn’t express their wants completely or perhaps didn’t quite think through their wants when expressing? If so, we have the basis for continued discussion. If not, we don’t.

          It’s so disconcerting to be living in a time when women tout the ascendance of assortative mating as a societal virtue….and deny the role of power balances in decision-making. As if it wasn’t the same exact damn thing.

        48. jo

          Also Evan, although none of the women were ad-hominem to either you or Jeremy, you called us both ‘hostile’ and ‘disingenuous’ in your own comment. Wow. People can judge hostility as they see it, but *disingenuous*? Again, why that assumption? Why assume we are not telling the truth, and instead assume we are disingenuous?

          This is exactly the problem. The concern we had with Jeremy’s comments had nothing to do with expressing a male viewpoint, which you keep bringing up though it has nothing to do with our objections. It is that he (and you?) does not believe us when we tell the truth about ourselves, instead imposes male ideas about what women think as ‘the truth’, even when we know ourselves better than anyone else.

          This repeated disbelieving of women when we express ourselves is what has led to so many of the abuses and the backlash of the MeToo movement that women have suffered – men not hearing us, assuming that they know more than we do about ourselves. Even if it’s done in a more benign way, we are so tired of it, because we have to endure it constantly. And honestly, I didn’t expect to see it on your blog, because I believed you were an advocate for us. I thought you would have called Jeremy out before this, for his assumptions about us, on our behalf.

        49. Evan Marc Katz


          I say disingenuous because I consider you bright and reasonable and yet you’re dismissing someone else’s valid reason and logic. You claim to want a fair discussion but you’re not being fair. That, to me, is disingenuous.

          Furthermore, you can tell the truth about yourselves but a) it is not necessarily the entire truth – I’m a dating coach and am acutely aware of how much self-deception men and women are under when it comes to this subject. You may think you’re immune to it, but most of us are not. b) Jeremy doesn’t have to disbelieve you to have a point – presuming the point is valid about other women. And, from my estimation, it is. So this isn’t a matter of me not recognizing your truth, but rather to say that you don’t have a monopoly on truth and that to be so blithely dismissive of intelligent discourse is insulting.

          Finally, when you said you believed I’m an advocate for women. I am. But moreover, I’m an advocate for truth. You see it as I’ve run off just about every MGTOW type that’s appeared on this blog who offers nothing constructive for women to learn about men. The flip side of it is being able to foster a conversation about women’s blind spots from a man’s perspective. And that’s where Jeremy is this blog’s greatest resource – he largely speaks as my proxy, as did Karl R before him. If you believe that this would be a better blog if it was a place where women could talk to themselves about what’s wrong with men and not hear another perspective, I have to disagree with you. Like virtually every opinion based argument (not fact based argument) BOTH sides have a truth claim. I acknowledge your truth. I’m asking you to consider that perhaps your truth isn’t the entire story. I trust you can do that.

        50. Jeremy

          Jo, I’ll add one last thing. It’s not a man/woman thing. I wrote above that I’m not sure about MYSELF. That although my intuitive response to the question “would you be ok with a woman who made more money?” was that I would be, I have to admit upon reflection that I’m not sure. Because when I refocus my thoughts from my “shoulds” to my root motivations – what do I consider masculine in myself, what do I actually invest my ego into (even though I don’t think about these things at all consciously!) I have to admit that a big part of it is providership. I’m saying, Jo, that when I asked MYSELF a question, I doubt my own answer. I don’t doubt yours because you are a woman. I am skeptical about both our answers because we’re both human. And all those other humans out there, who make mistakes that are not random but are indeed systematic….how sure were they? How different from them am I?

          We all, myself included, tend to focus on a branch and think it’s the root. Think it’s so because it’s what’s in front of us. But the roots are only in front of us if we’re facing the right way.

        51. jo

          Responding to Jeremy and Evan:

          Jeremy, while I appreciate the gentleness of your response: Even if it were true (and I am not certain it is) that we answer questions with partial truths, what is the point of asking people questions in the first place if you are not going to believe their answers, but think you already know what their answer is? ‘No, that’s not it, or that’s just part of it; you’re REALLY feeling this.’ How can you learn about others, and from others, if you already assume you know their true state? And how can you assume this anyway about people you don’t even know?

          Evan commented that your generalisations about women matched his views. But consider that you stated that women made calculations comparing ourselves to our men based on +1 -1 0 of looks and income, and all the other women commenting here and I disagreed with this. Clare, Mrs Happy, and SE all came up with descriptions that much better corresponded to what I experience personally (and we all agreed). Yet some men believe that we’re wrong, and you’re right, about OUR view on this?

          That level of assumption is, to me, mind-boggling. We don’t make vast assumptions about how all men think. We don’t second-guess your response if you answered one of our questions: note that not one of us challenged your answer to my question, Jeremy. We accepted it to be true for you.

          How can you form a relationship with someone if you can’t believe their communications? How could I want to have any sort of relationship (friendship or otherwise) with someone who any time I said something, would reply, ‘no, that’s just part of it, you REALLY think this’? Honestly, this is such a strange conversation to have to hold. I’m not trying to be difficult or contrary. I just hope you can see that people are jarred, and don’t like it, when their words can’t be taken at face value.

        52. Clare


          You were open-minded enough to admit that I was speaking the truth when I said that men need a mission in life, which I appreciate.

          I feel I have conceded some of your points. I have admitted I certainly need to feel desirable enough to the man I’m dating, otherwise the relationship holds little pleasure for me. I need to see physical desire for me reflected in his eyes, otherwise I am unable to appreciate his good lucks and financial success. It even makes it difficult for me to appreciate his wit, charm, humour, intelligence, etc.

          Again, I really believe this is because I have a healthy ego as a woman. If I am not feeling physically desired by him, I wonder what the hell my purpose is in being there. This is why I so quickly get discouraged and frustrated in a relationship where a man is not regularly trying to have sex with me. I’ve put it down to my active sex drive – and it is that – but to be honest, I think it’s also down to my need to feel appreciated as a woman, for the sensuality and feminine desirability that I bring to a relationship.

          And in this regard, you are right that I could never be truly happy in a relationship with a man who was very good looking and very well-off financially unless he also felt a high level of desire/attraction for me. As I said, for me, if that attraction is not there, I may as well not be in the relationship to begin with.

          Where I was taking issue with – well, not exactly taking issue, but more clearly trying to define – what you were saying is, what exactly is this attraction/desirability made up of or based on? I do not believe it is just looks or wealth. I mentioned the Irish accent earlier. Such a man could look like the back end of a bus and be as poor as a church mouse and I would still want to drag him into the back seat of my car and rip his clothes off. Because his accent makes me think nostalgically of my heritage and all the things I love about Irish culture.

          I could go on with examples like this, but Jeremy, I would appreciate it if you could give me your thoughts about what you think desirability is based on. Do you believe it is primarily or exclusively looks and financial success? If there are other major factors, what do you think they are?

        53. Jeremy

          Clare, it’s not that I’ve disagreed with the thrust of your opinions here. I’ve just sought and offered clarification. I’d be daft and blind if I thought that looks and income were the only triggers for female arousal…or that women even agree what constitutes good looks. Marika has written that she likes humour and gregoriousness. Mrs happy doesn’t much care about pettiness, but she likes ’em big and tough. Gala likes rich and powerful guys. You like’ em smart and attractive and somewhat idealistic… And apparently Irish. Cool. I don’t doubt any of you. I have no REASON to. When I begin to doubt is when I see the things people say clash with objective reality, or with other things they’ve said. Like “I’m turned on by chivalry,” and “you can’t nice your way into attraction.” the reconciliation between the statements is what has been left unsaid and MUST be said. Each woman will have her own calculus of what turns her on, I agree with you. And sociologically, for many of them it will be some combination of status and/or looks. And each woman will have her own concept of what makes her feminine, but for many it will be beauty. Can we agree on this?

          And Jo, I ask questions to stimulate thought and discussion. In many cases, I ask because I truly don’t know what the answer is… but I know what it isn’t. I think that we can come to know others and ourselves through a bit of selective doubt of what comes intuitively. Not to impose upon others through our doubt – that would be horrifying – but to better understand them and have better relationships with them.

        54. SparklingEmerald

          Jeremy said ” Like “I’m turned on by chivalry,” and “you can’t nice your way into attraction.” the reconciliation between the statements is what has been left unsaid and MUST be said.”

          Seriously ? ! This is at least the 2nd time you have brought this up, that somehow women are being disingenuous, incomplete, or whatever when they say the like “chivalry” but fail to say that they have to be attracted to the man to begin with.

          You think that is something that MUST be said, AFAIC, it is something that goes without saying. If someone tells you they enjoy eating nutritious food, I would assume that it also had to taste good. I wouldn’t accuse them of giving an incomplete or disingenous answer just because they don’t enjoy EVERY food in the world that would be considered nutritious.

          Do heterosexual women have to start adding that they would like to fall in love, but NOT with a woman ?

          Evan often tells us that men like sweet and agreeable women. He doesn’t include ” but he has to be attracted for that sweetness and agreeableness to win him over. He doesn’t HAVE to say that, because that is pretty obvious.

          I would not think much of a person who enjoyed courtship behaviour from a man she had zero attraction or interest in. It would be pretty cruel to lead a man exhibiting those behaviors, just because she “enjoyed” the attention.

          Do we need to start mention “Not be violent” and “Not be a cheater” when describing what we want in a relationship, or do those things go without saying ?

        55. Clare


          I do understand that you’re trying to flesh out the spaces between what people will admit to, and I, for one, am not offended by that.

          But I think what you need to understand is that, among women, there is such widespread agreement about what it looks like when we are happy and attracted in a relationship. Perhaps it is the same for men, I’m not sure. There is a great deal of intuitive understanding between us about what attracts us to men and what makes us happy with them. So that, while our individual tastes might be different, a woman can easily recognise when another woman feels contentment with and attraction to a man.

          This could be because we spend a lot of time talking to each other about men and relationships. It could also be because a lot of qualities in a man (such as confidence) are nearly universally attractive. So yes, I suppose as SE said, there is a lot that goes without saying between us – it doesn’t need to be said. Other women just *get* it.

          It’s also sometimes difficult to explain to a man. For instance, I had a guy friend who was not bad looking. He was well-off financially, intelligent, had good conversation, social and treated women like gold. Yet for all of his good qualities, not one of the women in our social circle was attracted to him. We all intuitively understood why – and I longed to explain it to him, but knew that I couldn’t. He’d have argued with me and shut off my suggestions. And it was a great pity, because with some effort in certain areas, he could have completely transformed his luck with women.

          So, yes, there’s a great deal that women simply *know* about what we and other women are attracted to, and a lot of it does go unsaid. In the case of my friend, if he had asked any of us why we thought a particular woman wasn’t interested in him, we’d no doubt have given him some reassuring answer that she obviously wasn’t the right one for him and he should keep looking etc. etc. But that’s simply because he wasn’t open to the truth. (The truth being that he was a pushover where women were concerned and lacked charm, strength and leadership and so women quickly lost respect for him. Lack of respect = deadly for attraction.)

          I wish that both men and women WERE more open to the truth. We’d have a much more honest world, and I suspect a lot more growth in a lot of areas of our lives.

        56. jo

          Sparkling Emerald, I agree that we shouldn’t have to add every single qualifier each time we communicate; that’s tiresome, and we hope the listener / viewer would be able to add context. That’s one of the differences between conversing with adults vs. children.

          However, if we can take a slight diversion on the topic of chivalry and attraction: as John Gray wrote accurately of women, often we don’t become attracted right away, but warm up slowly. One of the ways that our hearts are warmed is chivalrous behaviour from men, even if we didn’t consider them objectively handsome, dashing, etc. in the beginning. Conversely, even if a man is attractive, boorish behaviour from him instantly turns me off. I don’t know what the original chivalry conversation on this blog was about, but that context of women’s relatively slow-starting attraction should be added into it, rather than putting the cart before the horse (chivalry, then attraction, in many cases; rather than the other way around).

        57. Yet Another Guy


          “I’ve heard that estrogen is the main reason that women have less heart disease than men, and the onset of the first heart attack is later for women on average than for men.”

          As someone who follows hormone replacement closely due to being on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), it is absolutely true that estrogen has a protective effects on health. The specific estrogen is called estradiol (E2). Women also have two other estrogens; namely, estriol and estrone. Estrogen also protects the layer of subcutaneous fat that makes a woman’s skin look young. Women tend to age at a more rapid rate than men cosmetically post-menopause due to the loss of subcutaneous fat (and the fact that women have thinner skin than men). Estrogen regulates body fat and where it is deposited. Before menopause, fat tends to be deposited in a woman’s breasts, buttocks, and thighs. After menopause, fat starts to be deposited in a woman’s abdomen. Men tend to deposit fat in their abdomen. That is due to men having low estrogen levels (it is a little more complicated than that). The reason why the human mind finds belly fat unattractive is because it is an unhealthy way to deposit fat.

          “It’s why hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women can help them avoid heart disease.”

          However, it increases a woman’s chance of contracting breast cancer.

          “I wonder if HRT has ever been considered for men to protect against heart disease, but they might have objections for different reasons.”

          Men synthesize estradiol (E2) from testosterone via a process known as aromatization. However, like women have lower testosterone levels than men, men have lower E2 levels than women. E2 level is what regulates the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) in men, which controls production of testosterone. If you jack up a man’s E2 level, you will shutdown testosterone production. Any man who has been on TRT knows how this axis works. As a man’s testosterone level rises, so does the amount that gets converted to E2. The ratio between testosterone and E2 is known as the T:E ratio (we will get to that one later). Bodybuilders and hypergonadal men who use exogenous (produced external to the body) testosterone experience a shutdown of endogenous (produced in the body) testosterone production with a corresponding reduction in testicular size (a.k.a. testicular atrophy).

          Getting back to T:E ratio, T:E ratio regulates a person’s libido among things. It is the reason why women become hornier in their 40s as they approach menopause. The reason being an increase in the T:E ratio. Men have significantly higher T:E ratios than women when they are young, but T:E ratio falls as a man ages due to testosterone decline (yes, libido does in fact wane as men age). In men, T:E ratio is also important because a low T:E ratio results in all kinds of adverse reactions. A lot of guys who go on TRT have to take aromatase inhibitors to limit the conversion of testosterone to E2. A common misnomer when on TRT is known as “testosterone bloat.” It is not testosterone bloat. It is E2 bloat, as estrogen, not testosterone causes the body to retain water. A rise in E2 is the the reason why women bloat during their period. If E2 drops rapidly, the body will hot flash (E2 affects the hypothalamus, which controls body temperature).

        58. jo

          Thanks for the hormone lesson, YAG. 🙂 You sure you’re an IT person, not a medical person? An IT person in a medical field?

      2. 2.2.2

        That’s a fair point, Evan. And something like work preferences is relatively easy to get some actual hard data on.

        I’m more thinking of other, less clear and more open to interpretation type research findings. Like perceptions of happiness in relationships. Men on here love to reference the thing about women initiating divorce more often. There are multitude of reasons why that is – but as humans we tend to interpret these things within the lense of our own bias and experience. (A fundamentalist religious person would interpret that in one way, a recently divorced man still angry at his ex, another, a divorced woman with divorced friends yet another..etc etc).

      3. 2.2.3

        Evan, your response to my comment made it sound as though I don’t want to agree with your conclusion. Rather, I challenge it precisely because it is not scientifically verified. Yes, survey results can show how people answered questions and proportions by gender, age, etc. But they do not answer WHY. And that is the critical area where it can be dangerous to speculate, because in such examples as this, speculation one way can hold women back.

        No one denies that there are biological differences, including in hormones, between sexes that can lead to both health and behavioral differences. But to extrapolate from that to complex decisions such as career choice or lack thereof goes far beyond what science has been able to prove. And that is where pop psych has proven harmful to women time and again throughout history. Let alone the famous ‘hysteria’ example and all the damaging treatments administered to women, it used to be believed that women were not smart enough to learn Latin, advanced mathematics, or medicine – and were deliberately kept out of those areas for that reason, based on about as much ‘logic’ as surveys or general impressions. And we have proven them wrong, time and again, throughout history.

        So I don’t back off from my statement, which is that we need to be cautious when interpreting survey results, if the ‘why’ has not been resolved. Otherwise the social conclusion has the potential to be harmful, let alone not even true. Stating simple statistics without drawing broad conclusions is fine, because that opens up space for discussion.

      4. 2.2.4

        EMK said “And, like Jeremy said, they’re mostly not doing it for their husbands – they’re doing it for themselves and their peers – having a much harder time accepting aging than men do. My super cool wife included. We don’t have to even know WHY this is but to deny that women put an infinitely higher premium on their own looks than men put on theirs, so men are not as incentivized to stay fit because they can still get women with some money/confidence – this is not controversial at all.”

        Actually Jeremy said that the women PRIMARILY are doing it to stat +1 in attractiveness as compared to their husbands, and the “health” reasons were secondary reasons, and therefore incomplete.

        Yes, we all KNOW that the pressure on woman to be attractive is brutal. But after a certain age (past middle age, which I believe you and Jeremy are) you start to care less about what other people think of your looks and start valuing your health even more (although good health usually translates into better looks). And when we say we are working out for our health, we are not “telling ourselves a story”.

        Yes, I still care a lot about my looks at age 64, but if I had to choose between being a plain Jane in great health, or being a delicate, but unhealthy beauty, I would choose my health any day of the week.

        Funny, how so many men on this blog insist that their turn off about women being fat is because it indicates an unhealthy life style, and they want a woman who can “keep up ” with them. (IMO, there is nothing shameful about just plain old admitting that fat is physcially un appealing to most people). But when women say they are health conscious and therefore exercise and eat right, Jeremy is here telling us that we are making up stories and giving “incomplete” answers or “secondary” motives and not primary.

        1. jo

          Ms. Emerald, I’m loving your comments on here – always nodding and agreeing with you.

          Jeremy and other men, we women can agree with you men that yes, there are reasons and meta-reasons for what we do. What we hope you’ll have the humility to recognise is that, when you assume you know what our meta-reasons are, sometimes you’re flat-out wrong. And when we tell you that you’re wrong, please don’t assume we don’t know what we’re really thinking. Rather, what you happened to guess about how we think is just plain wrong.

          Sparkling Emerald and I agree that our primary reason for exercising is health. I can’t speak for her, but I’m not even comparing myself to or doing it for my man when I exercise, not even thinking of him in that context. If I look good as a side effect, that’s nice, but my primary reason is good health. Secondary reasons include a social activity with friends, a mood booster, a high, and better strength.

          Don’t assume that the women you talked to gave you their secondary reasons, while their primary reason revolves around men. It’s like Noone45 once replied to YAG’s presumptuous comment about how single older women are thin just to attract men: don’t keep thinking the world revolves around d*ck.

          Maybe a good general rule of thumb is: when men guess what our primary or secondary reasons are for anything, don’t always assume it has to do with men. That’s not meant to be an ego deflater. In many, many contexts, it’s just the truth.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Well said, Jo.

        3. SparklingEmerald

          What is “meta reasons” again ? I googled it and came up with meta reasoning being reasoning about reasoning. Is that what i means in this context ?

        4. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Jo – Thanks for your response:

          “Sparkling Emerald and I agree that our primary reason for exercising is health. I can’t speak for her, but I’m not even comparing myself to or doing it for my man when I exercise, not even thinking of him in that context. If I look good as a side effect, that’s nice, but my primary reason is good health. Secondary reasons include a social activity with friends, a mood booster, a high, and better strength.”

          I suspect that Jeremy is middle age, not senior, and perhaps when he nears retirement age, he will understand that being in good health FAR outshadows being sexy, desirable, etc.

          I put LOTS of effort into working out, eating right AND paying off my home and building my 401K so that I could retire EARLY and enjoy that retirement. And while I am enjoying my retirement, many of my friends are in decline and even my dear hubby who is 8 years older than me, has had some health set backs. I cannot do many of the activities with friends that I used to, as they and/or their spouses are having health issues. My hubby’s health set backs are not life threatening, but they have curtailed many of the shared activities we once enjoyed together. Some of those activities were going to the gym together. So going to the gym was NEVER about trying to “+1” my hubby, it was a shared activity that we enjoyed together. Finally after a year, most of his health issues have been resolved and we are once again taking a class together at the gym, and we are getting ready to take a road trip and do some scenic hiking. Our hiking trip should be interesting. Initially, when we hiked together, I was the slower hiker and he had to wait up for me. (So glad that he didn’t insist on a woman who could “keep up with him”. ) Now that we are both older, and haven’t mountained hiked in over a year, it should be interesting to see how well we hold up. Same with biking together. We have taken our bikes in to be tuned up, but we haven’t ridden together in a long time. Will I have to wait up for him, will he have to wait up for me, or will be both be ready to head home after 5 miles ? So for me, staying in shape was more about COMPANIONSHIP with my husband, and not competition. And the classes that he didn’t want to join me for, I viewed as a fun way to expend energy in an exercise class, while he was working the weight machines.

          When you get to a “certain age” and your social life with friends starts to become giving your friends a ride to chemo therapy, or bring food to a friend recovering from heart surgery, the idea that being the sexier partner or the better provider and keeping score seems absurd. I see couples holding each other’s hands and being thankful that their partner is ALIVE.

          I am just glad that my hubby has resolved most of his issues and that we can still live and play together, at any level, and no matter who is the “slower” person, the better, faster, hiker, biker etc. is willing to wait up for the other. We are both senior citizens, if I’m considered the prettier one, or if he is considered the more handsome one, is of no consequence to me.

          I think I’ll channel my “inner mom” now,and say that this is concept that will be understand when you are older.

        5. Jeremy

          What has been frustrating for me in this conversation, to be honest, is the fact that we don’t seem to be having the same conversation. SE, it’s not that I don’t UNDERSTAND what you wrote, or that I need to come to learn it. It’s that it’s not what I was talking about. You took the women and the context I was talking about, removed them from the story, inserted yourself, and then disagreed. Kind of a straw-man thing. It’s not that I disagree with Jo that men should listen to what women tell them about themselves, I just recommend skepticism when objective reality contradicts their statements.

          Imagine 2 women. One is a 60-something woman who prioritizes her health generally. She visits the doctor preemptively, eats healthy, flosses daily. She goes to the gym and says it’s to stay healthy. The second is a 30-something woman with a history of eating disorders. Who goes to overly-intense exercise programs and runs through stress fractures against medical recommendations. Her husband got a raise and she immediately went out to get botox. And she tells you that her main reason for exercise is to stay healthy. Sigh. We’re not talking about the same things.

          The man who tells his wife he loves her and then slaps her across the face. Might he feel something he interprets as love for her? Sure. But it’s less important than all the other stuff he’s not saying. The woman who tells her husband that she loves hosting large meals, but constantly gets stressed and pissy during the prep – every time! – and regretful afterward, until, like a post-partum woman considering a 2nd child, she forgets what happened and remembers what should have happened – once again tells you how much she loves hosting…

          No woman’s world revolves around d*ck. But every man and woman who wants something from someone else needs the wherewithal to get it. Needs that which gives him/her the power to do so. Because while Mrs Happy claims that for her young self it was not about power but rather simply about wants, the fact remains that she had the power to obtain her wants from men. Had what they wanted in exchange for what she wanted. If she didn’t, she’d have been like a woman at a car dealership offering 5 chickens and a goat in exchange for a Ferrari. Out of luck. For those people who want something from someone else, their world revolves around power and the means to get it. For those whose wants are more modest, their power aspirations are more modest – modest enough to ignore. THAT is what I am saying. Those are the PEOPLE I’m talking about.

        6. jo

          Jeremy, I understand your frustration. Indeed we might have each been taking our own personal tracks in this conversation, some of which have met (evidently the women’s), others of which have not. I think Clare is right that women have an intuitive understanding of each other that makes us instantly ‘get’ what we each are saying. I still am not certain I entirely get what you are saying in your last comment, only to share that I understand the frustration.

          Maybe at the bottom of it all, it really isn’t a gender thing, but an age thing. For both men and women, what we are thinking and what motivates us become much clearer over time, and we also lose fear and shame of expressing ourselves. So the older we become, the more articulate we are about why we do what we do. The 30-year-old in your example could well be both unaware and ashamed of the reasons that she’s acting as she is. Growing just a few more years could make all the difference.

        7. Jeremy

          I appreciate your comment here, Jo. But here’s exactly where I disagree. Because I really don’t think that what we want solidifies when we age. It just changes. What I wanted at 10 differed from 20, differed from 30, differed from 40. I imagine that my wants have “matured” but they haven’t. They’ve CHANGED. The 65 year old woman certainly prioritizes her health….believes she always did, or at least should have. But when she was 35, did she prioritize having children more? Did she come to alter her priorities….because she already got them, wheras what she wants RIGHT NOW, what she lacks right now, what she worries about right now, is health?

          One of my favorite books is “Stumbling on Happiness” by psychologist Dan Gilbert. He discusses the failure of human memory – that we each think our memories are videos of the past….but they are really sporadic snapshots, and we fill in the video with our PRESENT. Our present emotions, our present feelings about what “should” have happened, how we “should” have felt. We ALL do this. Me too. I just had a truly humbling moment in therapy this weekend that uncovered just such a failure in my own perceptions. Humbling and humiliating….because I too would like to think I have matured.

          Perhaps we grow less ashamed of ourselves as we age….but not necessarily more insightful. At least, not as insightful about our histories or our futures. Our presents? I’d like to think so…but I’m not sure I’m right.

        8. jo

          Jeremy, another key facet of Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness is learning from others’ experiences. That is where I do believe very much in the power of accumulated wisdom with age, simply by observing those around me of all different ages who have gained wisdom and improved their relations with others and themselves over as little as a few years. I never claimed that what we want solidifies with age. I stated that we are better able to understand, articulate, and have no shame in our true thoughts, feelings, and reasons. I’ve seen this to be increasingly true in myself and others as we age. As well, a kind of wisdom – knowing much earlier not to go down a particular path because it will not lead to good outcomes, knowing what to express and what not to express, and putting more of a space between events and responses to them.

          It’s a joy to grow older… for as long as our health continues.

        9. Jeremy

          In this we agree.

      5. 2.2.5


        I think you raise a very important point, and it is what I was trying to get at.
        The way women are attracted and their sexual desire is complex – so much so that no pharmaceutical company has successfully been able to come up with a female version of Viagra to enhance female sexual arousal and performance.

        You’re right that our attraction can grow over time, and it can also dry up, even when it was there to begin with, based on how a man behaves. I think it sometimes surprises even us. I’ve several times had the experience where a very attractive man (whom I was very attracted to to begin with) has made me feel completely turned off through behaving in a way that I find selfish or boorish or immature. I have also (less often, but it has certainly happened a few times) had an experience where I didn’t initially consider the guy very attractive but because he behaved in a way that I find very attractive for a man (funny, charming, genuinely considerate), he became very attractive to me.

        It’s so much more complex than if we find a man attractive, then ipso facto only then will we find his chivalrous behaviour appealing.
        I remember the conversation that we had about chivalry on this blog very well. And I remember I made what was, for me, a VERY important point about chivalry. There is an article somewhere on the difference between “nice” guys and “good” guys. I can think of examples of both in my social circle. I am attracted to the “good” guys; I am not attracted to the “nice” guys. The difference is in their motives.
        The “good” guy actually believes in what he is doing when he is being chivalrous. It’s a part of him – either he was raised this way or he decided to adopt these behaviours on his own, and though he might ramp them up a bit for a woman he is interested in, he’s not solely doing it for her. Women respect this.
        “Nice” guys, on the other hand, morph into what they *think* women want from them. The chivalrous behaviour is largely an act that they put on to impress a particular woman and it often evaporates when he realises she is not interested. Women do not respect this.
        Women, I think, can instinctively feel the difference between nice guys and good guys. Good guys exude confidence because their behaviours are more than skin-deep, and these are the kinds of guys who can attract a woman over time. Nice guys find themselves continually striking out with women because they have not internalised the confidence which comes from true chivalry.

        My two cents.

        1. jo

          Clare, I can relate entirely to what you’ve shared, and it’s the same for me. Both nice and good men might display chivalry, but with the good men, it lasts because it’s intrinsic: part of their personal code of decency and honor. Maybe you’ve also noticed that as you grow older, you surround yourself with good men, and the ‘nice’ men who are not genuinely good fall away from your life.

          Sparkling Emerald, yes, that’s the right idea: meta-reasons are reasons for direct, immediate reasons.

        2. SparklingEmerald

          I think an apt metaphor for “chivalry” is salesmanship.

          If we are LOOKING TO BUY something, then we want a salesman to approach us, and help us find what we are looking to buy. When we are in the comfort of our own home, we DO NOT WANT salesmen knocking on our door or calling us on the phone, trying to sell us something we don’t need and don’t want. Same with walking through the mall. I hate it when I am trying to get from point A to point B at the mall, and someone from a kiosk swoops in and tries to squirt lotion in my hand and sell me of their potions. Sure, I might have gone to the mall to buy something, but I didn’t go there to have something sold to me that I had no intention of buying.

          So why does it surprise anyone, if a woman appreciates chivalry from a man she is getting to know and is interested in a relationship with, but does not appreciate so called chivalry from a man she is not attracted to, nor is interested in ?

  3. 3

    Much like Sparkling Emerald, I’ve always preferred to work part time. I do not like spending any length of time behind a desk, hate rigid schedules and routines, nor being indoors all day. My leaving to rehab my farm and only teach online was a wise choice in that my days work changes according to the seasons and the weather. I leave computer work for a few days of the week. If I live long enough to get my farm whipped into shape, I’d like to teach live part time. That way I get to interact with my students yet am free of academic politics and excessive interminable meetings.
    Men tend to get more of their self identity from their jobs than women and that’s likely why men prefer full time work. When I worked research full time, a bunch of us were laid off. My male colleagues were devastated and many left although the layoff was temporary and we’d had plenty of warning to save up. All of the laid off group were single and in our 20s so we weren’t being providers for others. I saw it as a great opportunity to train full time, get into better shape.

  4. 4

    I think we all need a joke. Here’s one (sort of) dating related:

    I saw this bloke chatting up a cheetah. I thought: “He’s trying to pull a fast one.”


    1. 4.1

      (blind date)
      Her: “I’m a big country fan.”
      Me: (trying to impress her) “Well, China is very large…”

      What did the janitor say when he jumped out of the closet?

    2. 4.2

      “Her: “I’m a big country fan.”
      Me: (trying to impress her) “Well, China is very large…” ”

      😀 😀 Too Funny !

  5. 5

    You say 2/3 of women “want” to be housewives. However, self-reporting is not always accurate. If we (women) grew up socialized to put our own ambitions second, we might not even be in touch enough with ourselves to know what we want. We are socialized to please others and put others first. That would make us feel like putting our kids first is a good thing and fulfilling that role.
    But i highly dispute that 2/3 of women want to be housewives. I think it seems like an easy way out for a world in which women are underpaid for similar labor and a world in which being a woman is still an extra cost/tax. Make up, heels, smiling, blah blah.
    Personally, I am a social justice lawyer and I care deeply about what I do. But I admit I do fantasize about being a stay-at-home mom sometimes – not because its in alignment with what I believe – but because I feel like I could finally rest from the “perfect career woman” act that I have to put on all the time. It’s not that I don’t want the career; it’s that I’m exhausted from playing the female gender role all the time. I know its my choice, but it gives me social capital.
    Or maybe its just that our labor system is so fucked up that yeah, who wouldnt wanna avoid being underpaid in a shitty office with shitty working conditions as is the case for so many people across America? I bet more men, if they felt comfortable to admit it (and didn’t feel emasculated by it), would want to avoid our shitty work life too.
    In the same vein, I’m sure many women are ashamed to admit they dont want to be moms or do the stay at home thing.

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