By Interview

Why We Choose To Get Married:
Dr Michelle Gannon interviewed by Jane Ganahl

A hundred years ago, single men and women married each other for practical reasons. Women, with no hope of becoming educated or having a career, chose men who would be good providers. Men needed someone to take care of the home, cook and bear children to carry on the family name or even work in the family business. To paraphrase the lyrics of Tina Turner, what did love have to do with it? Not much; passionate love and major attraction were not even high on the list of reasons to consider marriage a few generations ago.


These days, it appears that both men and women have become utterly, completely impractical about why they want to marry someone — and it’s quite a turnaround since the days of yore. In fact, a study conducted by Dr. Christine B. Whelan at the University of Pittsburgh and Christie Boxer at the University of Iowa has shown that, since women are now making their own way in the world, there has been a profound shift in the reasons both genders choose to marry someone. The study’s researchers examined how men and women each ranked the importance of 18 different characteristics when choosing a potential spouse (from “irrelevant” to “crucial”) over a 70-year period, allowing them to see how the answers evolved across three different generations of college-aged singles. And my, how our priorities have changed!

For example: in 1977, women ranked a man’s desire to be a dad at #10 in their lists of “must-haves” for husbands. In the aforementioned recent study, it’s moved up to #4 on the list. Why? Because women today want men that will be equally excited about becoming parents and caregivers for any future children they’d be raising together.

Men’s priorities have also changed when it comes to what they’re looking for in a potential wife. You don’t have to be an avid watcher of Mad Men to know that, back in the ‘60s, men were much less interested in a woman’s intellect. In fact, they ranked education and intelligence at #11 on their lists of attractive qualities in women. These days, more enlightened men (perhaps raised by feminists?) rank a woman’s intelligence (#4 on the list) above her good looks (#8) in assessing the most desirable qualities in a wife. How much women value a potential husband’s level of education and intelligence hasn’t really changed — it’s still #5 on the list. A woman’s desire to have a home and raise children now falls to #9 on the list for men, indicating a desire to marry for much different reasons than simply carrying on the family name through their offspring.

“Finally, men are considering more long-lasting traits in women than just good looks!” says Dr. Michelle Gannon, psychologist and co-founder of Marriage Prep 101. “Men are looking for women who are accomplished and interesting, but who will also be supportive and loving.”

Other interesting facts from this study:

Both men and women highly value emotional maturity and dependability, ranking it #3 on the list of desirable traits.
Both sexes ranked “sociability” in their top 10 lists (#6).

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