Commenter Rachel asked a question a little over a week ago:
I have a bunch of teenage daughters. I try to teach them to respect their father and men in general, like their youth group leader who recently nearly died in the Air Force yet still laughs with them every Friday night. I know I have been a jerk here but I want my daughters to be better than me. I had a discussion with my nineteen year old about ‘settling’ yesterday. Deti says we shouldn’t settle (i think) -I mean who wants a woman who isn’t totally into them. I think he is right. My 19 yr old currently has 2 men interested. One is autistic, he is in her high school class and she treats him like a human being. Since all the other girls treat him like crap she worries that she is encouraging him. Being hypergamous, she doesn’t even see him as a man. The other is a normal shy guy. He appears to be a solid Christian but we don’t know since she only met him at a Christian camp. I have warned her not to dismiss him but he doesn’t push her buttons. Is he the one and she should settle or is he just the first guy she’s met and she doesn’t know any better. I honestly don’t know.
When responding to another commenter, she added:
…he may not be interested, but she is barely communicating with him because she doesn’t want to lead him on – is that just one of those many little choices that lead to spinsterhood?
I initially held off on answering this because I’m not in a position to give parenting advice on the topic. Since Rachel and her husband have multiple teenage daughters, I might hit them up for advice myself in a few years. But as I’ve covered the related question in several posts I wanted to take a crack at it. However, instead of offering parenting advice I’ll frame my response as general advice to young women looking to marry.
The first thing I’ll say is that I wouldn’t worry about a young woman not being interested in any given man. This isn’t cause for concern, and she doesn’t owe them romantic/sexual interest. What would be concerning is if a woman found herself unable to feel attracted towards the kind of men who are in her “marriage league”. I don’t know how often this occurs, but we do hear frequent complaints from the women who experience this.
The solution if that happens is for the young woman to recognize that she has a problem, and if she still wants to marry she can solve it in one of two ways. She can either become more attractive to the kind of man she hopes to marry, or she can humble herself. This may seem obvious upon reading it, but I mention it because it isn’t how we typically see women responding to the problem. Most commonly what we see is a woman urging men to fix the problem for her, either by becoming more attracted to her or more attractive for her. But just like she doesn’t owe it to any given man to be attracted to him, no man owes it to her to become attracted to her. And if the man in question is able to up his attractiveness, this would mean he could hope to attract a more attractive wife. This would solve his problem, not hers.
All of this is made more difficult for young women than it was in the past. Prior to the sexual revolution older women advised young women to not become overly full of themselves, and to look for a husband when young. Ironically now middle aged feminist women are starting to warn younger women of the dangers of overly valuing themselves and waiting too long, but middle aged Christian women are teaching young women the opposite. At the same time, young women looking to marry today lack the wealth of information young women had in the past. When most women married by their early twenties, women in their teens could look at the women a few years older than them to get a sense of what they might hope to attract for marriage. Now far fewer other women are marrying young, so there is much less information available here. Even worse, the lack of information comes as the amount of noise (social media attention, attention from men running day game, etc) has greatly increased.
On the other hand, while the cultural changes have made it more of a challenge for a young woman looking to marry, the relative lack of competition does offer her an advantage. The way I would frame this for a young woman looking to marry is to realize that the best man she can hope to marry is out there today. There may be fewer attractive Christian men looking to marry young, but they exist. Her goal is to find him and attract his attention before another woman snaps him up.
Again, this may seem obvious upon reading it, but this mind frame is surprisingly uncommon. Young women are being encouraged to wait around and judge the performance of a stream of suitors they hope will appear any day now. But other women’s foolishness is a wise woman’s advantage, so while other women are foolishly declaring themselves the pearl of great price, a prize to be won, etc. a wise young woman can quietly go about finding her man before one of those other bitches does. I should add that because modern Christians tend to confuse chivalry for Christianity, many will falsely teach that a Christian woman’s job is to wait around while wiser women are seeking out the man she hopes to marry. This simply isn’t true. The Bible doesn’t give us a formal set of instructions on finding a spouse, but it certainly doesn’t teach the chivalrous model. Consider the fact that only two books of the Bible are named after women (Esther & Ruth), and both describe how the heroine won over her future husband.
Thoughts on Optimizers
Part of the problem with the term “settle” is that it implies that the goal should be other than optimization. More accurately, the problem is either that the woman needs to fix something that is broken, or that she isn’t optimizing enough. We should encourage young women (and men) to seek out the most attractive spouse they can hope to attract. For a husband this would be a combination of his physical and personality traits along with his ability to provide (or signals of such). Most would hopefully add in the importance of seeking a fellow Christian who is strong in their faith. All of this should be in the optimization matrix, but we should also include the young person’s chastity. In 1 Cor 7 the Apostle Paul instructs us that if we burn with passion we should marry and have sex. He doesn’t give us a timeline here, but clearly he isn’t saying that time is no object. At the very least the goal should be to marry soon.
Remember, good men are hard to find.
If a young woman takes this seriously, one thing that should be clear to her is that the kind of man she wants is both rare and attractive to other women. Once she finds him, she should keep that in mind as the culture (including Christian culture) repeatedly tells her what a loser he is. She should be appreciative of him not only because this is proper for a christian wife, but for her own happiness. This is also an area where her parents can assist by setting an example. I can say this from experience, not as a father, but as a son-in-law. My mother-in-law and father-in-law have both blessed our marriage by being truly grateful that I am their daughter’s husband and their grandchildren’s father. This is sadly counter-cultural, especially in conservative Christian circles.