A good personality is not enough.

14 Feb

I was thinking recently about the emphasis on personality/character by Christian (and mainstream, for that matter) advice-ists.  Usually this emphasis is framed as “looks fade, character is forever.”  Well, yes, there is a lot of truth in this statement, and it makes plain people feel better, but the more I look around at the single women around me, the more I feel that the emphasis on personality uber alles does everyone no favors.

You can be the nicest, friendliest, most thoughtful person in the world, but if you don’t have any (or many) practical life skills, you’re digging yourself into a hole when it comes to snagging a mate for life.

By life skills, I mean the actual skill set you need to function in the world as a productive adult.  Marriage, to a large extent, isn’t just about enjoying each other’s company.  A lot of marriage is two people being a functional unit of society.  So…can you budget your money?  Can you restrain your spending and be able to pay for needs before wants?  Can you cook (from scratch)?  Can you put on a dinner party?  Can you clean well enough so that someone doesn’t want to come in after you and re-clean?  Can you decorate/make an abode look homey?  Do you know how to dress and behave appropriately for different occasions?  Can you show genuine interest in other people?  Does your life look like a tornado hit it, or would people enjoy coming to your place to relax and connect?***

Basically:  what are you bringing to the table?  If it’s primarily your personality, that may not be enough to get the type of man you’d really like to have.  If he’s going to make a life with you and not just enjoy coffee and movies with you, he’s most likely going to want to see some indication that you can give him the type of married life that he envisions for himself.

I’m not trying to shake my finger at anyone or pile on any “you must be PERFECT!” pressure with this post; it’s just that of the single women I know, I sometimes see the life skills issue impacting their dating prospects in various ways.

***Not every man is going to have the same standards for what constitutes an acceptable set of life skills (SES/education level/demographics play into this a lot), but they all have a standard set somewhere.



12 Responses to “A good personality is not enough.”

  1. Gwen February 14, 2013 at 3:57 am #

    I’ve always regarded that advice to be about avoiding exactly the kind of woman you describe. “Sure she’s beautiful but she’s a twit. In 10 years she’ll still be a twit but she won’t be so beautiful. Do you really want to spend your life dragging that around? Smarter to go for the girl who’s only pretty, but is functional and sensible. Character pays off in the long run.”

  2. ar10308 February 14, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    I agree with you.
    A man is looking for a woman who can add value to his life. Unselfishness goes a long way. What young women unfortunately aren’t told is that a man who wants a wife will want that wife to use her skills and smarts for the marriage rather than in some corporate job (granted, she may need that corporate job in the beginning to get them out of debt or to save for a house down-payment).

    A girl once did the above for me and I would have asked her to marry me on the spot if she wasn’t my buddy’s GF at the time.

  3. shiitake February 14, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    The “looks fade, character is forever” adage isn’t wrong; hotness can trandscend looks alone. But I don’t think they’re indirectly proportional on the hotness scale. That is, if you’re looks are anything lower than 7 then youre character is going to have to be exponentially better. If your looks are 6 then your character needs to be a 9. Here’s the formula I was thinking of: if (looks < 7) then character = (looks -7)^2 + 7. Pretty sexy, right? Anyway, the double wammy with this advice is that it is usually only applicable for those who have neither looks or character. Or to be more precise – not the right kind of character.

    Personally I think the church has a pretty horrible track record for determining what sort of character makes you attractive.

  4. Karenology February 14, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    I always took it that life skills were included in personality. Looks means one thing while “personality” emcompasses a lot more such as character, values, skills sets, etc.

    “Smarter to go for the girl who’s only pretty, but is functional and sensible. ”

    “only” pretty? Pretty is pretty rare. Most people are just average, ordinary looking.

  5. Henry February 15, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    Hey Haley, I’ve just started online dating. Would it be okay to email you asking for your thoughts about a couple things?

  6. Austin February 15, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    Yeah, ladies, just ask yourself, is a man’s personality all that matters to you? Does it matter if he looks very average? Does it matter if his hairline is starting to receed? What if he has a blue-collar job without my room for upward movement? What if he doesn’t seem to have much drive to have a better life? Yeah, a personality is nice, but it’s kind of a luxury. I’d sacrafice a personality any day for a hot chick who creates a nice home environment, cares for our children, and respects me.

  7. Lamont Cranston February 15, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    There’s a standard project in the embroidery-hobby called a “sampler.” This is a framed piece of decorative work that a young woman would produce that would be displayed in her home. The idea was that she would show off the many sewing stitches she knew in a very visible manner, this raising her Marriage Market Value by illustrating some of the skills she brought to the table.

  8. Aunt Haley February 15, 2013 at 10:12 am #


    Feel free!


    I think skills and personality don’t overlap that much. Everyone knows really sweet people whose homes are a wreck, and icicles who have incredible life skills.

  9. Frank Wunder February 16, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Responding to Austin,

    Your comment kind of defeats the point of Haley’s post: you say that you’d “sacrafice” personality for a hot wife with a killer set of homemaking skills and yet I would ask what would make you such a hot commodity that said hot wife with killer homemaking skills would want you?

    Also, It’s “sacrifice” with the letter “i”, just a hint so when you’re on a date or writing a love letter you won’t lose points for bad spelling.

  10. Chris February 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    +50, Haley.
    But…. but… but… Looks matter. You do not have to look like a supermodel (most of us are intimidated by them) but be within a healthy weight range for your body type, keep your skin clear, have healthy hair, good selt-maintenence habits…. if we live with you, we will be eating your food… and the product of your lifestyle shows on your body by around 30.

    But the rest of the list is pretty much on.

    And yes, it is do-able. I see it in the daughters of my friends from church. These late teens early 20s are bright, to fracking bright, dress nicely, can cook, clean, make money from side projects and businesses, and remain fit.

    Interestingly, nearly all of them have a boyfriend who they are getting engaged to, are getting married, or are married. In the early 20s. In an academic town, when most women do not “settle” until their mid 30s. (Haley, I live in NZ, and my town would make Berkeley look like it was a Republican stronghold).

    They are 7-10 on looks (one was second in a local beauty contest and models , so she is 10 unless you do not belive there are 10s) and 8-10 on practical characther.

  11. jack February 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Of course it is important to refer once again to the okcupid survey that revealed that men tended to rate women on a general bell curve of attractiveness, whereas women rated 80% of the men as “below average”.

    This is, of course, because online dating is full of

    1) Women who can’t find a good man anywhere


    2) A bunch of loser males clogging up their in-box with their woeful non-alphaness,.


  1. Lightning Round – 2013/02/20 « Free Northerner - February 19, 2013

    […] It’s men’s fault. Related: Personality is not enough. Related: 10 reasons you might still be […]

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