“Psychologists and counselors advise choosing a partner who is integrated into society by means of school, employment, a network of friends, and who fairly and consistently demonstrates supportive communication and problem-solving skills” (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010, pg. 143). Simply stated, psychologists and counselors recommend choosing marriage partners reasonably and responsibly. However, when love, infatuation, sexual attraction, and physical beauty come into play, there is no place for reason and consistent decision making. Some individuals choose their partners quickly and at random. Later, they may either confirm the appropriateness of their choices or get a divorce and marry again. Others spend years looking for that ‘special’ one and may never find their ideal mate. Whatever the choices individuals make, they rarely think of the way their relations progress. When asked how they chose their mate or partner, most individuals experience confusion. The goal of this paper is to shed light on the way individuals choose their marriage partners. The paper describes three different couples of different age, ethnicity, and social status, and systematizes the knowledge of mate selection patterns in humans.
Choosing a Spouse: Diversity and Complexity
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Diversity. Choosing a spouse is a complex and controversial process, which sometimes takes years. Marriage decisions are almost always difficult. The diversity of mate selection patterns cannot be disregarded, and this is the main reason why diversity has become one of the main principles governing the choice of couples for this study. Today’s American society is characterized by the growing number of elderly people (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). Like many years ago, individuals’ life chances greatly depend on the economic and social resources available to families (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). These aspects have far-reaching implications for understanding the way individuals choose their spouses. For some of them, marrying the “right” person is the only way towards improved social and economic wellbeing. The three couples interviewed for this study belong to different social classes, ethnicity, race, and age groups. They are young and old, rich and poor. They have passed a long way to marriage stability, and they are proud to have good families.
Angela and Jason. Angela and Jason are the oldest couple interviewed for this study. Angela is 52, and Jason is 80. They are a white American middle-class couple, running their small business together and working cooperatively to develop new business ideas. They recognize that the age difference does play a role in how they develop their family relationships, but they refuse to acknowledge that age played a role when they were considering each other as potential spouses. Angela and Jason got acquainted 29 years ago in a dancing club, and they have been married for 27 years. This is the first and only marriage for Angela and the second attempt for Jason. Before Angela, he had been married for 8 months. Both spouses felt extremely confused, while trying to identify and describe the main factors leading them to their marriage. Angela says she was first attracted to Jason, when she saw him dancing: she definitely liked his appearance and the way he moved. In just a couple of months, Angela knew she wanted to be Jason’s wife for several reasons. Firstly, she understood that Jason was very supportive (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). Secondly, she saw that they had few conflicts and, in case of disagreement, Jason could handle the situation peacefully and constructively (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). In other words, Angela remembers being extremely reasonable, even too reasonable, in her choice of Jason as a potential spouse. Today, Jason confesses that he was charmed by Angela’s youth and beauty, and he also appreciated her support of his business endeavors.
Angela and Jason represent an ideal model of the so-called knowledgeable choice. After the first unhappy marriage, Jason understood that he could not find someone better than Angela. He had some marriage experience and he decided that Angela was a better wife, as long as she supported him in his professional and business decisions. Meanwhile, Angela was considering Jason not only as an outstanding, supportive, and king personality, but also a person who was able to interact peacefully, without conflicts, and looked well-prepared for a long and stable marriage. In her eyes, Jason exemplified a perfect combination of kindness and professional optimism, which created ideal marriage stability prospects (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). Moreover, Angela’s choice was knowledgeable because, at that time, she received letters from her former boyfriend, a young man of her age, who was well-known in the city for his unreasonable generosity, regular financial difficulties, and love for expensive pleasures. The situation with her former boyfriend persuaded Angela that choosing Jason as her spouse was correct and reasonable. She says that she never regretted her choice.
Leila and Andrew. Leila and Andrew are an African-American couple living in one of the poorest city districts. Leila is 42, and Andrew is 49. Again, this is the first marriage for Leila and the second attempt for Andrew. Andrew has two children from his first marriage, and his first wife was a Hispanic model. Andrew’s first marriage lasted two and a half years. Leila tells a difficult story of her marriage and life. She was born to a family of drug addicts, and physical violence and abuse had been a part of her realities since the early age. She never graduated from school and spent most of her time working in the nearest café, cleaning tables and floors. She met Andrew on one of her usual work days in the café, and they soon became friends. They got married after three months of knowing each other.
Leila says that she did not think much about who Andrew was and what it would be like to be his wife. She did not want to know anything about his first wife and children. She realized that she was 30 years old, and she needed a family. Without a professional degree and sufficient financial resources, she would definitely need a spouse’s support. For Andrew, marrying Leila was a one-minute decision; he did not think anything about the consequences. He thought it would be nice to have a wife, and he also knew he would be able to divorce her any time he thought it would be necessary.
The story of Leila and Andrew is that of social support and choice by default. The former implies that Leila and Andrew received enormous social support to confirm the appropriateness of their marriage decision (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). Leila’s and Andrew’s personality traits further contributed to their choices. For Leila, Andrew’s patience and kindness were quite enough to accept his proposal, but the most crucial for her decision was the support she received from her friends and a few relatives, who believed she had a unique chance to get married and finally become happy. In the meantime, and like many other males, Andrew noticed Leila’s physical attractiveness and good housekeeping skills. Again, more important was the support of his male friends, who claimed that Leila would become the best cure for the emotional trauma caused by the divorce with his first wife. Neither of the two spouses considered other alternatives or weighted other choices. They took the marriage opportunity for granted, as something given to them by fate. That was an unconscious decision, which resulted in a 12-year-long marriage that seems to have no end (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). Andrew and Leila have two children and are waiting for the third one.
Jane and Paul. Jane and Paul are the youngest couple in this study. 23-year-old Jane and 24-year-old Paul are postgraduate students studying physics in one of the public universities. They have been married for 6 months. Actually, physics has become one of the key factors uniting the two personalities around common values. Jane and Paul have been together since they were 17, and they do not remember being with anybody else. Jane says that Paul was her first sexual experience and she is absolutely satisfied with their sexual life. Although physics is valuable in their lives, personality traits played the major role in their advancement towards marriage. More specifically, Jane and Paul’s beliefs about each other’s personality traits predetermined their choices. Those beliefs also predetermined the way Jane and Paul interacted before marriage (Lamanna, & Riedmann, 2010). Jane believes that Paul is very generous, patient, and persistent; Paul says that Jane confuses him with some talented artist. Paul feels that Jane is very kind, supportive, generous, and helpful, while Jane hates herself for having little or no time to work with Paul on their common project. Paul and Jane believe in one another, and they are committed to the positive image of each other and their marriage they have created. To a large extent, their choice was set by default, since they did not consider any other alternatives. Jane thinks that, even if they happen to have family conflicts, physics and common interests will always keep them in peace. They are focused on their careers and research, and they will hardly have enough time for conflicts or quarrels (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2010).
The most surprising is the fact that none of the study participants talked about love. All responses were reasonable and justified. No one said that he (she) chose his (her) partner because he (she) fell in love, which means that humans are much more reasonable in their choice of mates and spouses. This fact, however, does not exclude the possibility of choosing spouses by default. In this study, choosing by default has proved to be a preferred mode of mate selection. What seems interesting is that the three couples interviewed for this study represent three different age and social groups. As a result, they also symbolize changes in mate selection patterns over years. The story of Angela and Jason suggests that the older couples were more attentive to the personality traits and marriage stability prospects in their romantic relations. Later, choosing spouses by default became more commonplace. The growing availability of divorce further changed the situation: this is why Andrew said he was not afraid of marrying Leila, and he would be able to divorce her any time. Finally, in the age of career development and financial priorities, choosing partners by default can become more widespread, because individuals simply have no time to consider each other’s personality traits, other marriage alternatives and their implications for future marriage stability. All these assumptions are based on the analysis of the three couples and need further validation. The story of each couple is unique, but all these stories can help to identify and explain the most important mate selection patterns and their implications for marriage stability.
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