What men are really looking for

In October, Steven Levitt posted this amusing article on the Freakonomics blog. Go read it. It's about this personal ad posted by someone claiming to be a "spectacularly beautiful" 25-year old woman, asking for advice on how to marry a man who makes $500,000 a year or more. She's frustrated that she can't seem to get a guy that makes more than $250,000, while these millionaires walk around with wives that are just plain. What is she missing? What is it that these men are looking for?

Before I tell you my response, let me first draw attention to this comment under the same article:
The few guys who marry smart, beautiful women don’t seem to be very happy either. They also keep mistresses. Perhaps the decision to marry is based more on hormonal attraction than to cerebral considerations. [...] Strangely, the guys who marry Asian women seem to be the happiest and don’t have anything on the side. Why? I have no idea.
Let me tell you why the guys who marry Asian women (or Russian, or East European, one might reasonably substitute) are happiest and don't tend to have mistresses, as this commenter observed. Because these women aren't hostile.

All relationships are personal. Regardless of the type of relationship - business or marriage - it is much easier to get along with people who aren't out to benefit on your expense based on every damn weakness you have. It is much easier to get along with people who are happy to share the pie with you, rather than people who always want to maximize their share. People who are out for a happy relationship will be concerned that they get enough to satisfy their needs. They will contribute their share, but so long as their needs are met, they won't dwell on every turn whether they're getting the maximum share they can.

On the other hand, people who always want to maximize their share are hostile. Being in a relationship - any kind of relationship - with such people is like sleeping with the devil: you always have to be careful around them, because any opportunity you give them, you will get stiffed.

On the other hand, Asian women, and Russian women, and Eastern European women, they grew up in different cultures than the empowered American females. They were taught to respect their men, to support them, to serve them. To a significant extent this is bad for them, because when such women marry men who are exploitative, the women get stiffed, and get to carry the burden of a bad relationship that benefits their men but harms them.

But when a woman like that meets a man that treats her well, the result is a great outcome for both. The man gets a wife who he gets along with well and who is not out to take advantage of him at every turn; and the wife gets a man who truly respects the qualities she's bringing into the relationship.

A man who will marry the gold digger from the Freakonomics post will be a stupid, and soon miserable, man. The woman thinks that looks are the only thing she needs to bring into a relationship. Well yes, looks are important. But there's more to it. Being a beautiful but bitchy and self-centered wife is a mix of qualities that makes few husbands happy. Beauty is important. But compared to loyalty, kindness, understanding, it is merely a nice perk.

I'm guessing that most people would prefer to work for a company that offers nice, luxurious offices. But would you still want that job if the boss was horrible and the coworkers sucked? For the same reasons, there's no sensible cause why anyone would want a stunningly beautiful, yet disloyal, self-involved and unpleasant wife. You want your partner to be your angel; you want to be able to trust them to have your best interests in mind. You don't want them to be a selfish prick out to get the "most" out of being with you that they can.

Once you have a partner who really gives you their best; and you give them your best in return; then their physical beauty becomes just a perk; one that makes you that much more grateful for the joy that you can be with them.


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