Me and my wife, 2007.
Yesterday on the Dalrock blog, Elspeth shared this story and asked a question:
Good morning Dalrock. I wanted to drop this right here for your consideration and for perhaps the purposes of inspiring you to perhaps revisit this subject for young men including practical wisdom on how to carry this out.
Our daughter (22) has a good girlfriend that we have known since the two of them met in a 10th grade class together. In other words, we’ve gotten to know her pretty well. She is a Vietnamese, Christian young woman with a gentle nature, very quiet, and highly family oriented. She has abandoned her college ambitions several times in response to her family needing her to direct her energies toward assisting in family businesses, sick relatives, etc. She just wants to meet one Christian, Vietnamese young man to settle down with. She is not fat (far, far from it) and is cute enough. Like our daughter, she has never had a boyfriend.
Her parents are divorced. Whether or not her mother was a good wife, I do not know. I do know that when her father left their family (it was his idea), he left wife, kids, all, left the country, took up with another woman, and never. looked. back. This tells me that whatever was going on, it wasn’t all about a bad wife kicking husband out of the house.
So…she meets this guy via her sister’s husband and the first date is to a local attraction where they got free tickets. In other words, he didn’t spend a lot of money on her. As the date unfolds, she finds herself basically going through an interrogation of sorts. He is asking all kinds of questions about why her parents aren’t together and her thoughts on it and just all kinds of wierd stuff for a first date. The kinds of stuff that this girl would surely be uncomfortable getting into on the first date, and she was understandably reserved at the interrogation.
The date went on and got better, they seemed to hit it off, and she expected that she would hear from him again. She didn’t. She tried to reach out to him, but got a tepid response. The only thing she can figure is that she failed his interview. An interview she was ill-prepared for and frankly, not at peace with getting into on the first date.
As I heard about it I was struck with the notion that it sound eerily as if he had been online collecting information on how to vet for a wife. That’s all well and good, but perhaps some of these guys need a crash course in how to get the answers they seek without a harsh interrogation which will only serve to cause a woman to clam up or lie.
For instance, given this guy’s connection to the BIL, there were a lot of details he could have gotten about her parents’ split over time, and without putting her on the spot on the first date. My husband had asked plenty of people about me and my family history and I was none the wiser for quite some time.
Additionally, any discreet young woman is not going to want to divulge the details of her family’s baggage to a guy until she is fairly certain the thing is going somewhere. Maybe in addition to questions to ask a prospective wife, you might offer some avenues to get answers in a less combative way.
She may have dodged a bullet, or they may both have lost out to his understandable zeal for caution which was unfortunately coupled with a lack of skill and charisma.
It caused me to remember that I put Mychael through a similar vetting process, so I shared the comment with her.
But before I get into that, my bias: The story Elspeth shares here presents itself as the poster case for why “dating” is the stupidest form of mate selection ever developed by mankind.
It is truly amazing to me that any two people of similar values, religious convictions, and good personality compatibility/chemistry ever meet, and have a lasting stable baby producing marriage using this system.
I’ve been writing about it for about 4 years now.
Ok, with that out of my system, lets begin a discussion about Elspeth’s central question which put in my own words is–accepting that men today do really need to protect themselves from what is a very risky proposition, is there a less cumbersome way to vet a potential wife than the third degree line of questioning?
I think the answer depends on so many factors it may not be completely answerable. Even in her own relayed story, Elspeth points out, for example the relationship with the brother in law may have made gathering collateral information easier–had the young man thought of it.
But if we assume for a moment that most of the information is going to be gathered via simply talking to each other, we may be able to glean what it could look like in real life.
When I met Mychael, I was 100% blue-pill “conservative” nice guy. This means, at 35 years old and divorced I assumed:
- The only lessons that needed to be learned from the divorce were on me because women only leave men who deserve it.
- There is no value in trying to get to the bottom of how a particular woman became a “single mom.” This is none of my business because it happened before we met. It was part of “her journey.”
- All women are more emotionally sophisticated and intuitive about relationship related issues than all men.
- I would keep going, but do I really need to?
Anyway, even in that state, I instinctively knew that I needed to get to the bottom of some things and set out to try and do so. But here is the context–and this part matters too because it may or may not have provided an easier route through the process:
I was a graduate student in a program that was highly lopsided in favor of men (for dating purposes, that is). The ratio was about 1:4 men:women. I actually considered asking one or two out, but I had a pretty serious commitment to political and values compatibility. I was the only non-leftist in my program of about 40 incoming students. I had an online profile with 2 services: ConservativeMatch.com and Match.com. I have no idea what that world is like now, since it was 11 years ago, but those were considered to be the “conservative” sites at the time.
Most readers here are also aware of the logistics and basic male/female math of online dating. The distribution works out exactly as the now infamous OKCupid study shows. About 80 percent of the women are interested in only about 20 percent of the men. And the opposite is not true in the other direction. This means that if you are a woman, you will receive 100s of interest emails per week and you must use some kind of sorting criteria to find those 20 percent. If you are a man, you will send out hundreds before you get one response–even if you are in that 20%. (Or about 80 percent will get, basically, none). This is hypergamy on steroids without all the ickyness of having to actually see the guys face who you are rejecting.
I guess I did OK in that lottery because for the entire time I was on there, if I wanted a date by Friday, I had one. Mychael also had profiles on both sites, and I remember seeing both of them, matched up with me on interests including match.com’s proprietary matching system. I remember the distinct thought–“both sites have matched me with the same girl. That’s a good sign.”
But the main point is, we actually spoke on the phone, I would guess 3-5 times before we actually met. Mychael:
We talked a lot on the phone first. I remember feeling very comfortable because I liked the sound of your voice. You were funny, and even in the way you asked the questions you made it feel like an interview, not an interrogation. You told me about your divorce and I knew that this was driving a lot of your caution.
One of the things I do remember about the line of questioning had to do with changing–the other person. My ex-wife once told me, near the end of the proceedings something like this: “I looked at you and thought–that’s a good start.” And this always stung a bit. She saw me as an unfinished project, and there was an expiration date as well–if I did not reach whatever potential she saw in me by X date, I was through. On the other hand, I looked at her and had this thought: “There are some things about you that drive me crazy. But if you NEVER change them, I will stay. I have no desire to make you change.”
Mychael, on this topic:
I sensed that being asked to change was going to be a big one for you. You said you were going to be an army officer. You said that meant an internship in a couple years and you didn’t know where. You said you wanted to retire in the northwest on a big ranch with horses and a log home. You made it clear that you had certain personality idiosyncrasies that were never going to change. I appreciated the honesty about that, and still wanted to meet. I knew I needed to let you know–I will never require you to change or hold it over your head.
These conversations were blended with the usual hobbies/interests, blah blah. They drifted effortlessly from serious to light topics. Then we met. Mychael, again:
I got out of my car and walked toward you standing outside your apartment and I noticed your long legs and how tall you were. I was already in trouble.
We went on 3 dates, mostly around town there in the SF bay area. The third one was a drive out to the beach for a few hours and then I dropped her off at work. She had to be on a plane to visit friends in southern California for a week the next day. What I don’t remember is talking about much serious stuff during the in-person dates. It just didn’t seem like the place.
I don’t remember what we talked about on those first three dates. I just remember feeling so comfortable and loving being around you.
I think what’s important here is the chemistry was kicking in and by that time, it really didn’t matter what we talked about. When you are close proximity, all bets are off. I could have said “I killed a guy in prison for looking at me wrong” and I don’t think she would have noticed. And to be honest, I felt the same way. The cocktails of oxytocin and the star-struckness was already starting.
Then the week apart began. We both knew by the first day of her vacation that this was going somewhere, because her vacation was totally monopolized by evening phone calls with me. She was being rude to her friends to talk to me on the phone. I think they were OK with it, but it is what it is.
On the phone that week, the serious questions started again, but it was fun. I didn’t feel pressured and I was totally happy answering them. I do remember thinking “this guy must have really been hurt by that divorce.” But I already liked you a lot and it was worth it. I also got plenty of chances to talk about what I was looking for, wanted, didn’t want. It wasn’t a one-way street.
Mychael also points out that in the modern age, we were able to get many of the particulars out of the way in those first few emails. No deal breakers–proceed to step two.
It is really hard to know what went wrong in the case of Elspeths daughters friend. How awkward was it? What was it really like? What were the particular questions? The body language, the tone, the inflections, all of it matters.
Or maybe emailing, then talking on the phone, then meeting was what worked for me an Mychael, and there is no way to generalize that beyond us. We both tried to maximize the potential for compatibility by even choosing the same two dating sites. The rough screening measures we both employed have resulted in a success, I think. We have been together for 11 years and even made it through the extremely perilous “red-pilling” that began at about 5 years in.
From a parenting perspective, this really makes it difficult to talk to your late teen-early twenties kids about what right looks like. I know we have some pretty high expectations of our littlest ones, but what Elspeth is asking is truly unique. Because most of us in this situation decided in mid stream that typical “dating” methods are not working, and those kids are coming of age now. Its a little hard to say to a 20 year old “I know we never talked about this, but we want you to participate in a courtship framework that no one has used in 100 years or more.”