Mike: This is Mike Hennessy. And on behalf of the team of LoveEvolveAndThrive.com, I’d like to welcome you to today’s interview with Dr. Duana Welch. Duana Welch earned her PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of Florida Gainesville. She is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do as well as the popular relationship blog called Love Science, which addresses advice on how the public can benefit from empirical scientific research about successful relationships. To learn more about Dr. Duana Welch, visit her website at www.LoveScienceMedia.com.
Duana, it’s very common for women to have a list when it comes to what they want in a man whether it’s how a man looks, his values, beliefs, and maybe even his personality traits when in real life, they find out that it’s not all that easy to find a man who fits all those criteria. And then they have to end up doing some compromising.
So, how do you end up compromising without giving away the store?
Dr. Duana Welch: Well, that’s a really great question.
You know, you aren’t going to wind up compromising on any of your must-haves.
That’s why they’re called must-haves and that why I really want you listeners to focus on your core values, the things that you have to have. You know yourself better than I do. I don’t know you at all. But you know yourself. And you know the things you absolutely cannot tolerate, will not tolerate, should not tolerate. You know the things that you must have, can’t live without kind of things. And those things are must-haves for a reason.
So, even if somebody else disagrees with you, if this is where the rubber meets the road for you, you have to adhere to that standard. Now beyond that, everything else is merely a want.
So, first rule of thumb, this person must have all your must-haves.
Don’t do what I’ve seen so many people do. They get in relationships that last three, four, five, even ten years where they knew from the first second or third date that this person lacked a must-have, not just a want but a must-have. And why did they breakup all those years later? Because of the lack of something that they knew was a deal-breaker from the very start. So don’t compromise on those.
But you know what?
You really don’t need some of the externals and demographics that you really want.
You need the character traits. You need the value system.
But you don’t need some of the externals and demographics.
An example, height. Look, I understand if you’re 5’10 and you want to date somebody who is 5’10 or taller. I get that. But in point of fact, there are many happy marriages made between people where the woman is slightly taller than the man or maybe even sometimes a lot taller. That is not necessarily a deal-breaker. That one is really up to you. It doesn’t have very much to do with the man’s ability to provide or protect in the modern era.
A computer programmer who is 5’7 is perfectly capable of providing and protecting in a way that, OK, in the ancient past which is where everyone’s mating psychology comes from, yeah, height mattered a lot. It just doesn’t matter as much as it did. I encourage you to stop overvaluing this dimension. Eight percent of women want a man who is 6-foot tall or taller. No, we’re close to 80% of our men are that tall or taller. You’re cutting yourself out of a lot of wonderful people if you have that requirement.
The second requirement, education.
This is a really sticky wicket. Right now in the United States, over 60% of our Bachelor’s Degrees are being earned by women which means that about 40% or fewer are being earned by men. And yet, women tend to want a mate who has their same education level.
I’m here to tell you that can be a mistake.
I say this as a woman who has a PhD. My husband has a Bachelor’s Degree. We don’t have the same amount or type of education. His education was in statistic s and economics. Mine is in psychology and the social sciences. That said, I’ve chosen my equal even though we don’t have the same amount or type of education.
I encourage you to look for your equal but I encourage you to understand that equality does not necessarily mean having the exact same amount and type of education.
My husband is a lot smarter than I am about mathematics and statistics. He is much better spatial reasoner than I am and I am better in fact, at the social sciences. He enjoys hearing about it but it’s not something he would naturally do. But we manage to keep each other amuse. We’ve been married almost nine years. And had I made that a requirement, I would not be happily married to the man I’m with right now.
Studies show that when women make this requirement really strictly, they do get cut out of a mating market many times.
It’s like the height requirement. It’s an artificial requirement for our day and age. What you want is someone who can provide and protect. A lot of people who can do that may not have any degree at all. They may have a 2-year degree. They may have a 4-year or more degree. But I want to encourage you to think more broadly about the concept of education. There are many self-educated people who are well-educated and who are doing well. And I encourage you to take a look at them.
I’ve gotten letters recently from people who told me that that that part of my book really made a difference for them and that they have since fallen in love with and gotten engaged to men who they wouldn’t have considered before. So that’s a good thing.
So there are studies globally as well as in the United States that show that the vast majority of women want and expect to have a male partner who makes even more money than they do. And you might think, “Well, OK.” You could understand that. If somebody has a very small income and they really need to be supported by a partner. And you might think, “Well, women at the very top echelons of income don’t feel that way.”
But research finds that the richer a woman is, the truer this is.
In other words, this doesn’t abate or go away simply because a woman has a lot of resources on her own. That is a problem.
Look, our psychology comes from a time when women were truly and almost utterly dependent on men for their survival. We no longer inhabit that world for the most part. There are individual women who do still inhabit that world but most of us don’t. We could have a partner who is equivalent to us. We can have a partner who is gainfully employed and well-employed but who doesn’t quite make as much as we do.
Once your needs for survival are met, once this partner can carry his own weight and if you were to get sick or incapacitated or need to leave the workforce for a time such to have a baby, if he could support all of you for a time, that would be ideal. Those are reasonable standards.
The standard that he has to outstrip even a middleclass income even when you’re doing very well is a standard that is more likely to keep you alone.
And finally, the standard of looks.
Actually, most women don’t have a problem with this standard. In fact, there is some indication in research that if a woman is given a choice between a man who hits all her criteria and is very good-looking versus a man who hits all her criteria and is average-looking, most women would choose the average-looking man who hits all her criteria.
There aren’t that many women who overvalue male looks. And the scientific explanation for this is that in ancient past as now, virtually any man could get a woman pregnant, could help her cast her genes forward even if he weren’t particularly good-looking. What really mattered was whether he was going to stick around and provide and protect.
Additionally, we know from modern studies of what’s going on right now in the world that the best-looking men are the most likely to cheat simply because women are more likely to approach them and offer sex. So, most women don’t really have a big issue with overvaluing male appearance.
However, for the women out there who do, I want to ask you this.
Are you yourself unusually beautiful? If you are, you can ask for that. You are very likely to get it.
If you’re not, you’re asking for someone who is likely to ignore you all together or if he does partner with you, it’s likely to be a very short term thing and you’re much likely to get cheated on. I wouldn’t wish any of those outcomes on any of my clients or any of my listeners so I encourage you to loosen up on that standard if you need to.
So to sum up, there is a widespread belief that love is rare. If you find it, that’s all you need. And I’m sorry, but you’re also going to require someone who is really similar to you. You’re going to require someone with a past that’s not going to ruin your future, i.e. when you ask them about their past relationships, how did they end, what were their former partners say about them?
Make sure that that makes it on to your list. That this person’s past is something that you can live with because one of the big laws of psychology is that people tend to repeat actions from their past. So make sure the actions they have engaged in are ones that you could tolerate living with again.
Make sure that you’ve got a basis for friendship beyond physical attraction. Obviously, you want to be attracted. But there needs to be more of a basis than just that.
And finally, the most important thing, we know from 60 years of the best social science that if you can find and keep someone kind and respectful, your love life is going to go well and if you can’t, it would not.
Mike Hennessy: Well, thank you so much, Duana Welch. I think there’s a lot of good advice in a very short period of time. This is Mike Hennessy and on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I would like to welcome you to today’s interview with Dr. Duana Welch.
For free tips and thoughts on relationship advice for women, from hundreds of experts and authors, please visit our website at www.LoveEvolveandThrive.com.