The importance of compatibility.

1 Sep

Roissy – or Chateau, or Citizen Renegade, or whatever he’s calling himself/themselves these days – believes that compatibility of values and sexual attraction are unrelated.  Moreover, it is not even necessary to conceal a difference of beliefs.  Says he:

You’re doing it wrong if you think dating ideologically dissimilar people is about keeping topics “under wraps”. It’s nothing of the sort. Real sexual attraction and love circumvent that type of defensively dull mechanistic dating jive. It’s irrelevant to men with tight game, because “major lifestyle differences” would hardly ever be summoned, purposely or inadvertently, to move a seduction forward. That is because what builds attraction is not a discussion over national health insurance or the blessings of having kids. Sustained sexual attraction is an ancient instinct that reacts to certain mate value cues, and political conformity is not one of them. If anything, a girl can be *more* attracted to a man who is ideologically different from her, as long as he is passionate about his beliefs without being charmless in explaining them. Girls are often shocked into arousal by the presence of a man willing to speak his mind and refrain from obsequiously parroting her opinions.


Now at some point down the road those arid and tingle-killing ideological, religious or political issues will rise to the fore. It is inevitable when you spend so much time with a girl that it becomes impossible to sequester zones of discussion in an unshared limbo. But ultimately it won’t matter if the girl loves the man. She’ll instead be more drawn to his standing firmly for his principles.

He’s not wrong – if all you’re going for is attraction for a hook-up, fling, or short-term relationship.  Even for a long-term relationship, differences of ideology and principles may not be enough to disrupt attraction.

Most people, however, will balk when it comes to marriage to someone with significantly different values.  Roissy, as someone who professes never to marry, will never face these concerns.  But most people do marry, and differences of values will almost certainly come into play for evaluating someone’s spousal potential.  And this is wise and prudent, because marriage is the mingling of two lives into one, a voluntary relinquishment of freedom and personal choice.  When you enter into an arrangement where (typically) finances are joined, families are joined, children are begotten, and your entire future has the other person tethered to it, differences start to matter very much.  What kind of man marries a woman with a very different attitude about spending money?  About expectations for standard of living?  About the importance of extended family?  About raising children?  About faith and politics?

A dating relationship is like a buffet, where you can choose the things you like and ignore the ones you don’t.  Marriage, on the other hand, is a “you have to clean your plate” sort of deal.  The more differences and incompatibilities there are, the more work it will be to maintain the relationship.  Hollywood likes to glamorize the “rich girl/poor boy” dichotomy, promoting the idea that “love conquers all” (never mind that in real life, male proles typically do not end up with wealthy blue blood heiresses) but in real life where there are bills to pay and aging parents to take care of and kids who need attention and lawns to mow and cars to wash, every difference between you and your spouse is a friction point.  When life’s stresses set in – and they will – loving and living with someone who is in opposition to your values will become incredibly difficult in a way that two more like-minded people will not experience.  (Which is not to say that Sam and Sue Sameness will never experience marital difficulty, only that their harmony of values will smooth over a lot of potential friction points.  Shared values can help sustain the bond between two people when ~feelings~ aren’t at the forefront.)

Compatibility of values is especially important when it comes to having children.  Most people marry in anticipation of having a family, and some marry because their little bundle of joy is already on the way.  This is where the values rubber really starts to meet the practice road.  How are you going to raise your child?  Will you spank or do time-outs?  Public, private, or homeschooling?  Sugary treats or celery sticks?  How many hours of Wii per day?  Of Disney Channel?  Will you take your children to R-rated movies?  Stay at home mom or daycare?  How old must your daughter be to wear makeup?  To date?  Will you take your kids to church?  To which church?  What traditions will you celebrate?  What will you teach your children about life?  About other people?  About him- or herself?

Obviously, most people do not find and marry their opposite-sex twin.  All couples will have matters on which they must surrender or tolerate.  I think it’s foolish, though, to marry primarily for attraction and not for shared values.  For men, especially – a woman is only going to be at her physical peak for a short amount of time compared to the amount of time you will be married to her.  What’s going to help keep you bonded after everything starts to sag and deflate?

To the men who are saying, “Pfft.  I’m so alpha that my 8+ wife abandoned all of her beliefs and adopted my own!”:  then I posit that her beliefs weren’t really very important to her, if she didn’t struggle at all with giving them up.  (Some seed falls on the path and gets eaten by birds, some falls on rocky soil, some falls in the weeds….)


37 Responses to “The importance of compatibility.”

  1. Cane Caldo September 1, 2010 at 1:12 am #

    I saw your comments over there. Then what’s written here: “What if… What about… What will you (I) do when…” Topped off by an attempt to pre-emptively end the argument by denigrating those women who actually follow the man’s lead. You let the hamster drive, didn’t you?

    My hunch is that this topic scares the crap out of you because you’ve always placed your bet on the values, and you’re unsure how a bet on (your) attraction would play out.

  2. Risky Business September 1, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    @Cane: That is rather presumptuous. She is absolutely correct that values are important in a marriage relationship. Women should follow a man’s lead, IF that man shares the values that she would want to follow. She is under no obligation to change who she is entirely. What if you were a girl and intensely attracted to a cult leader (Charles Manson had a bunch of females following him)? The ladies would be foolish to give up their values for the sake of following their attraction and the man’s lead. Maybe I am being presumptuous myself, but perhaps you don’t understand the importance of values.

  3. Joseph B September 1, 2010 at 2:47 am #

    Bitter beta much, Caldo?

    I read Haley’s comments on the Roissy post. I agree wholeheartedly about the dating serious evangelicals bit, and my personal college experience tends to confirm her comment about very conservative men needing game to overcome the stigma of moral repugnance in very liberal chicks.

    Her post here is the best discussion I’ve seen from anyone on this topic. I wonder how’s she’s gained such insight without ever having been married herself?

  4. y81 September 1, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    I would summarize the author’s thesis as: shared values are more important to the long-term success of a marriage than physical attraction, and therefore one should give much more weight to shared values than to physical attraction in choosing a marriage partner. As so stated, this thesis is mostly wrong, especially the second part.

    First, one should not underestimate the power of white-hot physical attraction to dissolve other issues into insignificance. Your wife is infantilizing the child by cutting her food rather than making her use a knife and fork? Whatever. Let’s have sex and forget about it.

    Second, marriage and parenthood change people a lot, in ways that they can’t predict. (That is why you meet so many yuppie girls who are liberal Democrats, and so many suburban matrons who are conservative Republicans.) The young man who blows his entire bonus on a week in Vegas with his buddies is likely to behave very differently when he has tuition bills on his desk. You can’t know how you (or your young man) will feel about various issues in ten years, so it’s foolish to spend much time worrying about such matters.

    It’s especially misguided to insist that one’s potential marriage partners share one’s religious faith. Both sociology and our own personal experiences confirm that most married couples conform to the religious faith of (i) the more devout partner or (ii) the wife. (Usually these two are the same, so the result is overdetermined.) Even if they don’t, there are certainly happy marriages where the couples don’t share the same religious intensity. Now there may be some limit: a marriage between a believer and a militant, jeering atheist might experience some friction. But if the boy in question is merely your typical homme moyen religieux, but he melts your butter and you melt his, I say “marry him.”

    One caveat: I am using “values” to mean beliefs on which reasonable, decent people can differ (like whether spanking is appropriate). Obviously, it would be very ill-advised to marry someone who is habitually dishonest or cruel or who displays other character flaws of that nature.

  5. jack September 1, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    Imagine how different the dating market would be if people put shared values as a precondition for most (or all dating).

    True, you don’t always know, but you can determine fairly quick if someone is in the ballpark.

    It’s tough watching Christian girls continue to date men with bad morals (but are hawt), hoping they change. They seldom do, of course.

  6. Ulysses September 1, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    I’ll reply here instead of at Roissy’s place. No, my wife wasn’t as hard core of a liberal Dem as you’re probably accustomed to. Southern Democrats, even more stealthily liberal ones like Bill Clinton, are a bit different than their coastal cousins. The values aren’t that different than those of conservatives, the divergence is in the application of those values. Also, as the South isn’t as much of a landing spot as bigger coastal cities, there is more shared heritage to overcome small political differences.

    Compatibility does matter, but I think minor political differences can be overcome, especially when you settle down while you’re young and not particularly angry about it. Personally, I met my future wife during the heady days of the Clinton administration and the tech bubble. Life was good. Politics weren’t that important. If we’d met in 2003 things might have been different. However, as y81 said in the third paragraph @6:30, marriage and kids change people drastically and in unexpected ways.

  7. Aunt Haley September 1, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    I – and I would presume most devout evangelical women – would not find a man with a lukewarm approach to faith suitable husband material. It would be a huge risk to marry a nominal Christian and hope that he would become more devout as a result of being married to me. Sometimes it happens…but it often does not.

    There are marriages that work despite the couples’ differences of faith, but I would say that if you’re devout and you marry someone who isn’t, it’s going to cause friction. And once kids enter the picture – whose beliefs are you going to teach? Worse, you’ve already demonstrated that they’re not really that important since you married someone who doesn’t share them.

  8. Aunt Haley September 1, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    Ulysses, you should have specified Southern Dem! That does change the picture. You also make a good point about marrying while you’re young and still ideologically malleable. Most young people aren’t very politically formed in their late teens and early 20s.

  9. Toz September 1, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    I mostly agree with Y81. As a married man with kids, I can tell you most definitely your values change.

    One anecdote to add… My pastor’s told me he’s observed many married couples whose intensity for their faith was disproportionate. In every case where he’s seen the man be the one that’s more devout, the wife eventually became devout. He’s said the reverse happens, but not nearly as often.

    Most values aren’t nearly as big as that one and there’s a tendency to conform or merge. I do agree with Roissy in the sense that most values conflicts are the symptoms of some other problem (guy being too beta, girl wanting freedom, etc).

    The big thing about marriage is that you have to marry someone that will keep the promise you’ll be making. Most other things aren’t nearly as important as everyone makes it seem. That said, I’m realizing that really being a man (or a woman) is something that needs to be learned as a part of marriage. Game is a good part of that.

  10. Aunt Haley September 1, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    I agree that the wife is more likely to take on her husband’s beliefs if he is the devout one, but one can never underestimate the power of a wife to lead her husband astray, either.

  11. Cane Caldo September 1, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    The question wasn’t whether values are important, but whether a LTR can survive a difference in them if the attraction is high enough.

  12. Cane Caldo September 1, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    “I agree wholeheartedly…and my personal college experience tends to confirm her comment… Her post here is the best discussion I’ve seen from anyone on this topic.”

    ADMIRATION n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves. ~ Devil’s Dictionary

  13. Cane Caldo September 1, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    You’re missing the larger lesson here by dismissing people who change values in a relationship; a type of “but-you-don’t-understand-I’m-different” argument. If a strong attraction to a man should happen upon you, who–upon early inspections–lacks some strength of values you’ve listed, but doesn’t oppose them, then you’ll likely suffer an identity crisis. I’d like to play you a song, and it goes a little something like this:

    How could I be attracted to this person
    if they don’t have the proper values?

    What does it say about meeee
    if I want him anyways, anyways, anyways?

    Maybe I’m not as principled as I thought.
    Maybe I don’t need to be so uptight.
    Maybe it’s all been a sham.
    A sham.
    Who am I?
    A sham.
    Who am I?
    A sham.

    To correct some mis-characterizations about me above, I am not an advocate of the superiority of animal mating instincts, but I read such advocacy (Roissy, etc.) to be aware of the dangers…and to understand some of my successes. Values should reign equally beside our emotions in the mate selection process. That’s a very different thing than saying that values equal attraction, or are correlated naturally. At some point, the spirit must rule the animal if we are to be at peace.

    The problem with Y81’s position is her(?) reliance on what society does (is=/=ought) concerning religion. She correctly states that modern and post-modern men tend to follow women’s religious preferences, but ignores the grotesque divorce rate.

    Others have said it better than I.

    Here in [the Book of Job] the question is really asked whether God invariably punishes vice with terrestrial punishment and rewards virtue with terrestrial prosperity. If the Jews had answered that question wrongly they might have lost all their after influence in human history. They might have sunk even down to the level of modern well-educated society. For when once people have begun to believe that prosperity is the reward of virtue, their next calamity is obvious. If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue. Men will leave off the heavy task of making good men successful. He will adopt the easier task of making out successful men good. This, which has happened throughout modern commerce and journalism, is the ultimate Nemesis of the wicked optimism of the comforters of Job. ~G.K. Chesterton, “Introduction to the Book of Job”

  14. Joseph B September 1, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Don’t tell me you read that whole repetitive and occasionally witty book?

    If you’re arguing that Haley and I are similar, I’ll take it as a compliment, although I’m not sure she would.

    It’s amusing how well your comeback undermines your primary argument against compatibility.

  15. Joseph B September 1, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    I think there is a component of communicative disconnect with secular people here. They do not really understand what it means to be sincerely committed to a belief. Not one that is as comprehensive and non-mainstream as Christianity. They would call such positions, regardless of content, “crazy,” or at best “radical.”

    Most of their beliefs are less important to them than la passion or an extra point on the pretty scale.

    I have not followed in the paths of wisdom Haley recommends for Christians. Perhaps to my eventual regret. I have my work cut out for me. But I do gain something by my choice – a blank slate. Churchian conditioning is such anathema to me, or at its virtuous best such a bracing tonic which I could not endure in my prior weakened state, that I am at peace with my decision. In this respect at least, I do not see a better path I could have followed, given that I needed a nurse-like helpmeet pronto.

  16. Toz September 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Eh, if the husband is alpha, that won’t happen. =)

    Seriously, though, marriage really is sanctifying. You both have to become good in order to keep it going. So yes, you might have values conflicts, but they’re going to trend toward the good if you stay together.

  17. Cane Caldo September 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    1) You don’t understand my argument.

    2) That’s understandable since you’ve made it clear you don’t like to do things smacking of effort.

  18. David Collard September 2, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    My wife became more religious, following me. I have been surprised at how often she repeats my opinions on politics, word for word. We do disagree on a few things though.

    As for spanking, we are both in favour. I spank her fairly regularly.

  19. Joseph B September 2, 2010 at 12:21 am #

    I understand, I just don’t care. Fortunately smacking you is effortless.

  20. Risky Business September 2, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    I agree with Joseph there is some disconnect as secular / non-religious people may not understand sincere belief. We’re not talking about a political viewpoint here. We’re talking about devoting heart, mind, and soul to a belief – making it a core part of our identity. Something that does not change. If the Bible tells me not to marry someone who isn’t Christian, and I believe that is a command from God, that is not something I would dismiss for the sake of attraction.

    I don’t think Haley is saying emotions take backseat to values. You do need both, but it seems the difference is that she is stating a lack of shared values is a dealbreaker, while you are stating it is not. A LTR without shared values is more likely to cause its partners to lose attraction to each other as it causes more friction. You know this yourself, if you have been in a relationship. What is that saying? “No matter how hot she is, somebody is tired of dealing with her BS.” I believe that goes both ways.

    Your song makes no sense. I don’t see how being attracted to someone without the same values would cause an identity crisis. As a guy, I’m attracted to non-Christian girls all the time, but that doesn’t cause me to question my principles or who I am.

  21. y81 September 2, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    I realize the author has never been married, but I wish she would give us concrete examples of the “huge risks” and “friction” she fears. In my experience, most nominally Christian spouses are happy to have a more devout spouse take the children to Sunday school every Sunday.

    To be honest, in my experience, many doubtful or unbelieving spouses are happy to come to church. But it helps to have a church where (i) the pastor has something to say, (ii) the music is great and (iii) the girls are pretty. Find a church like that, be salt and light (in your marriage as elsewhere), marry the boy whose smile sets off fireworks, and resolve the issue of spanking with him when it comes up.

  22. Aunt Haley September 2, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    I have seen way too many Christian wives sitting alone in church every Sunday because their husbands refuse to come. I know that this causes friction in marital relationships. How can a woman feel fulfilled when her man wants little or nothing to do with the very thing that defines who she is in this life? Even if he gamely comes to church (to learn how to be a good person, to listen to ~cool tunez~, and to look at other women?!?!?), she will know that his heart is cold to God.

    The Bible says that in marriage the two become one flesh. Biblical proscriptions aside, I am not interested in becoming one flesh with someone whose eternal destiny is not going to be the same as mine and who does not share the same faith and the same hope with me. Here is an example from my real life: When my dad’s mother (a Christian) was in her last days, my mom spent time with her at the nursing home and sang hymns to her at her bedside. My dad’s brother and his wife are not Christians, and they sang showtunes. Now, there is nothing wrong with showtunes, but when I am staring into the face of eternity, showtunes are going to be meaningless.

  23. Cane Caldo September 2, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    Clever retort. Good luck with that.

  24. Cane Caldo September 2, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    I’m not sure where my comments (here or elsewhere on this blog) point to a secular philosophy. If quoting a work called “Introduction to the Book of Job”, written by one of two people in the entire history of the church to be given the title Defender of the Faith–G.K. Chesterton–doesn’t show at least a little aptitude for Christian values, then what will?

    But, largely, you’re right about the substance of the topic: let’s stop using the euphemism of “values” and talk about what she really means: Christian.

    What I’ve seen is people changing their Christian practices (consciously and subconsciously) in reaction to the preferences of people they are in a relationship with. Because of that I AGREE WITH AUNT HALEY’S ADVICE to make values a priority.

    But she dangerously accuses those who change values of never really having them. That’s a mistake–a deadly, insidious one. It’s a trap you set for yourself. “A real Christian wouldn’t do X, Y, and Z.” Sometime later you find yourself doing Y, and what now? The introspective person (of which I think I can fairly accuse her) will be forced to ask the question, “Then, am I a Christian?” Depending on how much she enjoyed Y, that could go very bad.

    Even an unreflective person will start to think, “Y wasn’t so bad; what is my problem with X and Z? Maybe they’re right when I say I take this stuff too seriously. I mean, he is a nice guy…” Next thing you know they’re married, two kids come along, and she’s sitting in church with them, but her husband is on the couch watching football…being nice. This happens to real Christian women with amazing regularity. You don’t get to say those women weren’t really Christian.

    So, to get back to why I said this topic scares Haley: it’s because she thinks:

    1) there are real and unreal Christians
    2) that she can tell them apart
    3) she alternately blames and credits her own real Christianity with her singleness

    For a clever person–and AH is–who finds someone they really get along with, this is a trap. Give up the person (who has done nothing wrong but not be exactly what you thought), or give up the faith that stands in the way of (what feels like) happiness? I can think of at least two commentators on this blog who have fallen prey.

  25. Joseph B September 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Now you’re just parroting Fight Club.

  26. Joseph B September 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    Now we finally get past the bile to the dumb argument. 1 is true duh, 2 she’s never claimed, and 3 she’s never said. But don’t stop thinking you’re the unjustly slighted prophet of the little-known concept of sin’s slippery slope, dear.


  27. Cane Caldo September 2, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    There’s one…

  28. Joy Eggerichs September 2, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    I thought this post was great—just thought you should know that. It was interesting reading some of the follow up comments though! (-:

  29. Joseph B September 3, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    Cane seriously, I’m sure whatever your condition is I’m sure it’s beyond your short term control. No one will hold your foul ups against you, least of all me. Just self evaluate and try to do better in the future. We know you’re not deliberately setting out to be unpleasant and obtuse.

  30. Aunt Haley September 3, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Thanks, Joy. We have some, uh, spirited commenters here.

  31. Thursday September 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    I think there is a component of communicative disconnect with secular people here. They do not really understand what it means to be sincerely committed to a belief. Not one that is as comprehensive and non-mainstream as Christianity. They would call such positions, regardless of content, “crazy,” or at best “radical.”

    Most of their beliefs are less important to them than la passion or an extra point on the pretty scale.

    Absolutely correct.

    BTW the wisdom of the ages is consistent that shared values are more important to the long term success of a marriage than white hot sexual attraction. The research seems to support this too.

    This should not be confused, as it often is, with the position that sexual attraction is unimportant to the success of a marriage. I think we can all agree that the latter is completely wrong.

  32. Samson September 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Cane, I for one think your position here has been insightful – you’ve highlighted something very, very important.

    How could I be attracted to this person
    if they don’t have the proper values?

    What does it say about meeee
    if I want him anyways, anyways, anyways?

    Maybe I’m not as principled as I thought.
    Maybe I don’t need to be so uptight.
    Maybe it’s all been a sham.
    A sham.
    Who am I?
    A sham.
    Who am I?
    A sham.

    Yep, a very real phenomenon, and I want to say that if you’re a Christian and you haven’t experienced something similar… it’s waiting for you.

    I’m happy to have gotten through it older, wiser, and faith intact – not everyone does. To think “No, I’m different, it won’t happen to me” is to fail to appreciate your own weakness and sinfulness. You’re not above temptation, no matter who you are.

  33. Joseph B September 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    Of course, the dumb part was he thought someone like Haley would be incapable of recognizing the distinction between emotional attraction and spiritual identity. Christianity has explicit concepts to deal with such conundrums, and people like Haley are very well versed in them.

  34. Jennifer August 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    Brilliant post.


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