Relationships/Where Couples Met

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The #1 place people meet their spouses is "Other" (see Figure 3: Where Couples Met).[1] I.e., one-third of couples met in places where no other couples met. E.g., if you are an African explorer, you are more likely to meet your spouse while exploring Africa, and less likely to find your spouse in a Chicago singles bar.

School and work are the next-most common meeting locations (15-20%). Parties and bars are good for short-term (less than one month) sexual relationships (17-25%) and not bad for marriages (8-10%).

Churches are good for meeting marriage partners (11%), and poor for meeting short-term sex partners (1%). (This contradicts another dating advice book, which says that women in church singles clubs want sex "like bunnies."[2] This may apply only to certain churches. The book did not specify where to find the best sects.)

Personal ads and singles cruises are poor places to meet anyone. Less than 1% of married couples met via a personal ad or on vacation.

To meet a relationship partner at work, work at an occupation with opposite-sex co-workers. Organize social events outside work, e.g., company picnics or a co-ed softball team.

E.g., a male engineer works with other men. He signs up for community college evening classes in child development. The other child development students are women. After taking a few classes, he does a part-time internship at a daycare center. The other daycare workers are women. And he finds that many of the customers are divorced mothers. Plus he gets to build cool things with Lego.

E.g., a female daycare worker works with other women. She signs up at the community college for engineering classes. She enjoys drawing, and finds that she is good at drafting. Then she finds that draftspersons are paid twice what daycare workers earn.

To compare male and female percentages in over 200 occupations, see the Statistical Abstract of the United States, by the U.S. Department of Commerce (available in libraries or download free from Look for the table "Employed Civilians, by Occupation, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin" (Table 588 in the 2002 edition). This table also provides racial statistics, if you want to meet, e.g., African-American men or Hispanic women. FYI, in 2001, engineering was 90% male and 91% white; child care providers were 97% female and 19% Hispanic. To meet potential partners in school, take classes in which you interact with your classmates. Some business schools teach teamwork and leadership skills via group projects. Some progressive universities encourage instructors to include experiential segments (e.g., interactive games) in each class.

If you take an old-fashioned sit-in-a-lecture-then-write-a-paper course, organize a study group outside of class. If you are an older man, be a benevolent king. Do not try to "fit in" with the undergraduates. Show the students how to use the library (instead of the Discovery Channel). Coach them through oral presentations. Help them work as a team.

Who Introduced Couples[edit | edit source]

Friends are the primary introducers (35-40%) of couples of all types (see Figure 4: Who Introduced Couples).[3] The section "Adult Friendship" shows how to increase your circle of friends. Self-introductions are also important (32-47%). The researchers did not specify whether successful relationships more often began when men introduced themselves to women, or vice versa.

Family members are good for helping you meet potential marriage partners (15%), but poor for helping you meet short-term sexual partners (3%). Take your mom to Festa Italiana or Irish Fest or Jewish Community Day. She will find half a dozen mothers with children for you to meet.

Similarity and Dissimilarity[edit | edit source]

Couples are 70-90% similar regarding racial or ethnic group, education, age, and religion (see Figure 5: Similarity of Couples).[4]

But this does not mean that similarity attracts. Rather, race, education, age, and religion facilitate meeting. I.e., you are likely to meet individuals your age who go to your school and attend your church. In the 1930s, most couples lived within ten blocks of each other when they met.[5] Improved transportation has widened our circles for meeting people, but we still tend to meet people who live in our neighborhoods. Because most neighborhoods are not racially integrated, race is a surrogate for living in the same neighborhood (i.e., it would be interesting to study whether racially mixed neighborhoods produce more mixed-race couples).

Married couples are dissimilar in more ways than they are similar, especially for factors that do not facilitate meeting. E.g., couples are, on average, dissimilar for personality types. Couples are also dissimilar for IQ tests, attitudes and opinions (e.g., whether mothers should work outside the home), hobbies and social activities, parents' economic class, physical and mental health, height, weight, hair color, eye color, physical attractiveness, exercise, vocabulary, day or night person, preferred foods, number of brothers and sisters, and birth order (some of these studies were conducted before 1970 and may be out of date, especially considering the post-1970 rise of companionate marriages, described on page 87).[6]

The section "Pheromones" showed that similarity attracts for friendship, and opposites attract for sex.

Where to Meet Single Men and Women[edit | edit source]

Psychologists had seminary students write speeches on the topic of "The Good Samaritan." After finishing their speeches, each student was sent to another building to read the speech to an audience.

Between the buildings was an alley. In the alley was an actor pretending to be a disheveled man in need of assistance.

Half the students were told they were late and must hurry. These students ignored the man's pleas for help.

The other students were told they had plenty of time. These students stopped to help the man.

The psychologists concluded that simple changes in context powerfully alter individual behavior. In this and other experiments, psychologists have gotten individuals to do the opposite of their normal or professed behavior.[7]

Meeting Mr. or Ms. Right will not do you any good if he or she (or you) is not thinking about romance. E.g., if you are in a hurry you will walk right past Mr./Ms. Right, just as the seminary students walked past the man in need of help. Instead, meet partners in places where singles think about romance, when they are thinking about romance.

The Best Place to Meet Men[edit | edit source]

To meet lifeguards, take the American Red Cross lifeguarding course. To meet Outward Bound instructors, take a Wilderness First Responder course. To meet firefighters, take an Emergency Medical Technician course. The classes are stressful, so you get to know and respect each other. Plus the classes are "hands on" each other! And what you learn may save a life. Call your local Red Cross chapter or visit

Cycling club membership is often 85% male. Cycling combines a love of healthy outdoor exercise and adventure with mechanical aptitude.

Another way to meet men is to select a club that sounds fun. All the things men do have organizations. E.g., to meet men who drive BMW motorcycles, go to the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association website. E-mail your local club president, asking to be a passenger on the next ride.

The Best Place to Meet Women[edit | edit source]

Actresses are interesting, fun, unconventional-and beautiful. Meet them in acting classes or community theater.

Acting classes are scheduled playtime. You will learn games to play with your nieces and nephews.

Acting classes improve your entertainment skills. You will develop confidence in expressing emotions. You will memorize poems (pick romantic ones). You will discover that you can sing—and then women will show you what swoon means. Acting classes will make you more attractive to women.

Acting (and creative writing) classes show you each student's inner character. The gorgeous woman that you lusted after from day one will read a poem that makes you gag. The woman you did not notice for the first three weeks will perform a scene that moves your heart.

Two Contradictory Rules for Attracting Women[edit | edit source]

In the chapter "How Women Select Men," you learned that women prefer "alpha" males, i.e., a man who is a leader or good at what he does.

But my experience has been that I do not meet women doing things I am good at, e.g., running marathons or designing electronic circuitboards. I meet more women—and the women are interested in me—when I do something I am bad at, e.g., dance classes. Russian women think I'm adorable when I try to conjugate __ _______ __ _________ _ ________ ______.

Women like men who are not afraid to show their soft and vulnerable side. This brings out their nurturing instinct (see "Demeter," page 205). But stay confident and have fun.

Man Shortage or Woman Shortage?[edit | edit source]

In 1986, Newsweek reported that a single, college-educated 40-year-old woman was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to find a husband. (The author of that article later said that this statement was facetious hyperbole.)

In 2001, the Wall Street Journal reported that men in their late 30s and early 40s will soon outnumber women five to ten years younger by two to one.[8]

Is there a "man shortage," as Newsweek reported? Or is there a "woman shortage," as the Wall Street Journal reported?

Slightly more boys are born than girls, but slightly more boys and young men die. Around 25, men and women are equally numerous.[9]

Because women (on average) live longer than men, old women outnumber old men. Also, men tend to marry women two or three years younger (in North America), and four to five years younger (in much of the rest of the world). These factors cause a shortage of unmarried younger women, and a shortage of unmarried older men. But this effect is small (under 5%) until you are over 50 years old.

Birth rates vary over 40-year cycles (see Figure 6: Birth Rates, 1909-1998).[10] Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal reported opposite effects because their stories were 15 years apart. The U.S. birth rate reached its lowest point in 1933. Prohibition ended that year. The birth rate reached its highest point in 1957. The birth control pill was introduced that year. The birth rate reached its next low point in 1973, and its next peak in 1990.

The "lucky" people are men born when the birth rate climbed (1933-1957, 1973-1990), and women born when the birth rate fell (1957-1973, 1990-1997).

Man Shortage or Commitment Shortage?[edit | edit source]

Men and women react differently to shortages of marriage partners.

During a "woman shortage," women are more likely to marry. During a "man shortage," women are less likely to marry, due to lack of quality partners.

During a "man shortage," men are less likely to marry, and more likely to "play the field" and have more relationships, with less commitment. During a "woman shortage," men are more likely to marry and stay married.[11]

I.e., during a "woman shortage" (e.g., of women born between 1957 and 1973), both men and women are more likely to marry. During a "man shortage" (e.g., of men born between 1933 and 1957), both men and women are less likely to marry. This partially explains the decreasing marriage rate between 1970 and 1990.

Create Your Own Man- or Woman-Advantage[edit | edit source]

Creating your own man- or woman-advantage may be easier than you expect. Young men and women selecting a university—or a major—can consider male/female ratios. Working men and women can change careers (see "Where Couples Met"). Some one-industry small towns have lopsided male/female ratios. E.g., Vail, Colorado, is rumored to have an eight-to-one male/female ratio among the young "ski bums" working at the resorts. Be warned, however, that Vail women say, "the odds are good, but the goods are odd."[12]

An older person can always create a man- or woman-advantage by dating individuals younger than him- or herself. Married people go "off the market," so single younger people always outnumber single older people, no matter your age or sex.

E.g., 25-to-29-year-old men who want to marry same-age women face five-to-four odds (1.22/1 ratio) against the men. But by dating 20-to-24-year-old women, the odds reverse and improve to three-to-four (1/1.3) in favor of the men.[13]

40-to-44-year-old unmarried men find equal numbers of unmarried women their age, and the same equality when dating women five years younger.

At age 45 and above, the advantage goes to men, whether they seek same-age or younger women. Unmarried men over 55 have a two-to-one advantage over women, both same-age and ten years younger.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T., Michaels, Stuart. The Social Organization Of Sexuality: Sexual Practices In The United States (University of Chicago, 1994, ISBN 0-226-46957-3), p. 235.
  2. Louis, R., Copeland, D. How to Succeed With Women (Prentice Hall, 1998, ISBN 0735200300).
  3. Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T., Michaels, Stuart. The Social Organization Of Sexuality: Sexual Practices In The United States (University of Chicago, 1994, ISBN 0-226-46957-3), p. 235.
  4. Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T., Michaels, Stuart. The Social Organization Of Sexuality: Sexual Practices In The United States (University of Chicago, 1994, ISBN 0-226-46957-3, p. 255; Michael, Robert T., Gagnon, John H., Laumann, Edward O., Kolata, Gina. Sex In America: A Definitive Survey (Little Brown, 1994, ISBN 0-316-07524-8), p. 46.
  5. Vandenburg, S.G. "Assortative mating, or who marries whom?" Behavior Genetics, 2, 127-158.
  6. Vandenburg, S.G. "Assortative mating, or who marries whom?" Behavior Genetics, 2, 127-158.
  7. Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference (Little, Brown, 2000, ISBN 0-316-31696-2), 164-166.
  8. Jeffrey, Nancy Ann. "The Woman Shortage," The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2001, W1.
  9. Statistical Abstract of the United States (U S. Department Of Commerce), Table 12, "Resident Population by Age and Sex: 1980 to 1999."
  10. 2002 Statistical Abstract of the United States (U S. Department Of Commerce), Table 68, "Births and Birth Rates, by Race, Sex, and Age: 1980 to 2000." 2000 Statistical Abstract of the United States (U S. Department Of Commerce), Table 77, "Live Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces.";
  11. Lloyd, K.M., South, S.J. "Contextual Influences on Young Men's Transition to First Marriage," Social Forces, 74 (1996), page 1099.
  12. Powder Burn.
  13. Statistical Abstract of the United States (U S. Department Of Commerce), Table 55, "Marital Status of the Population by Sex and Age: 1999."

Agape · Flirting

 v  d  e 
Agape · Relationships · Flirting
About This Book · Q&A · Recommended Books
The Science: The Evolution of the Human Brain · How Women Select Men · How Men Select Women · How Our Ancestors Lived · Monogamy and Polygamy · Hormones · Communication Styles
Life Stages: Childhood – Seeking Unconditional Love · Adolescence – Seeking Romantic Love · Adulthood – Families And Forgiveness · Agape – Altruistic Love
Practical Advice: Where Couples Met · Flirting · How to Write a Personal Ad · Dating · Sex · Becoming a Couple · Conflict In Relationships
Personality Types: Emotional Control Systems · Zeus-Hera · Poseidon-Athena · Apollo-Artemis · Hermes-Hestia · Ares-Hephaestus-Aphrodite · Dionysus-Demeter · Hades-Persephone