Marrying the next best person after you're 30ish theory

I’ve heard a theory that people (men especially) end up with their spouse because they met them when they were ready/looking to settle down, not because the other person was better than their past relationshops. In this theory, the person will have had had a couple to several long term relationships in their 20s. For no real good reason none of these ended up with marriage/long term commitment. Then the person turns 30 (or 32 or 35 or whatever), meets someone, and marries them because they are either now ready for it or a “the marriage/family ship is sailing” type feeling. Not, importantly, because the person/relationship is any better than the previous ones they had in their 20s.

Anyone see themselves or someone they know reflected in that theory? How’d it work out?

I don’t know that you can come up with a cause and effect relationship like that. Some people look for different things as they mature, and what would have been a terrible fit in your 20’s looks pretty good in your 30’s.

The women with whom I’ve been in an LTR with tend to fit into two different personality types. At some points in my life, Group A was more appealing; at other times it was Group B.

A lot of my friends that happen to be girl tend to go into a marrying frenzy somewhere between 25 and 30. Most end up making huge sacrifices just because they think they need to get married. So it is a 2 way street where both sexes do so equally.

I for one never understood why one has to settle…

OP’s model of human relationships is that we want to marry the “best” person, and therefore a mate can only be considered if they are “better” than all previous contestants. I’m not sure this is accurate. Even if it were, I have no idea how one would go about assessing it.

I think it is entirely natural that a person would want to “settle” for someone who is “good enough.” As people mature their priorities change. My experience was quite the opposite: I knew many people who married young (like, 17 or 18 years old) and ended up regretting it because they were young and stupid and didn’t know what they were doing.

The more likely explanation is that before a person is ready to settle down, that person will use any old excuse to break up a relationship that is getting too serious. Whereas once a person is ready to settle down, that person will not use any old excuse. It doesn’t mean they’ve “settled”, it means they’ve moved into a new phase of life.

I really have to roll my eyes when people talk about “settling” or whatever. There are no soul mates. There is no perfect one. Everyone comes with advantages and disadvantages, and the only people who understand a marriage are the ones who are in it.

It seems like simple common sense that you make the best possible choice available in the time frame that you have chosen.

Do I want to get married? If yes…
Do I want to marry the person I’m with?
If yes… buy a ring.
If no… break up and find someone else.

Because having kids has a finite timeline. And because there is a ton of societal pressure on girls at that age to get married. At that age I was asked almost daily when I was going to find a nice boy and settle down, or, if they knew about my SO, when we were going to tie the knot.

The determinant factor isn’t age but how many potential mates you think you will date. Call that number n. The strategy is to reject the first n/e (where “e” is the base of the natural logarithm) and then marry the first one after that that is better than the rejected ones (picking the last one if none are better).

Provably a good strategy.

BTW, 1/e is about 0.37. So reject the first third+ of your partners.

Note that this is the same as the OP’s strategy if you’re already run thru a ~third+ of likely candidates. Which I think is a bit unlikely for most people. Perhaps a lower age, say 27.1 years, would be better.

Of course, you could luck out and have n be 1 and end up happy. Worked for me.

The OP’s assumption seems to hold true for damned near all my friends and acquaintances. They screwed around all through their twenties, and then, at ca. age 30, some kind of switch flipped, and they settled down and had kids with the person who happened to be standing next to them.

I’ve concluded from this that despite all we tell ourselves about free will, not to mention soul mates and romance, people are just really predictable, and true love is bogus. It’s all just some weird game of musical chairs.

There are exceptions. I am one, and I find myself strangely drawn to the other ones. I like people who don’t play games by the rules more than I like those who do.

The person they’re seeing at the time won’t be “just happening” to be standing next to them. If you’re getting close to the point of settling down, you’re not going to be dating someone at all unless you think it’s at least plausible that they might be the one you end up marrying. Someone who doesn’t meet whatever your standards are won’t even get that far.

There is a lot of social pressure to marry and have children, everywhere in human society. I never wanted kids, so I never married. I might have made an exception (and still may) if I had ever met a woman that I deeply bonded with who wanted to marry me and not have children, but I never did, so I never did.

Since adolescence, I’ve been sure that I didn’t want to raise children and I’ve never been shy about sharing that opinion, so I never got much pressure from friends or family. Now in my mid-40s, I feel abnormal (which I absolutely am in this regard) mostly around strangers. It’s okay, I understand it. I’ve rejected two of the most universal conditions of adult human society. It only really bothers me when people make assumptions about me based on the fact that I’ve never been married and don’t have kids. Even then, I can shrug it off. Mostly I don’t a give a fuck about other people’s perceptions of me.

I can however, empathize and in some cases sympathize with those who have chosen to pursue their life objectives of marriage and parenthood with a current partner who may not meet their ideal requirements, based on a schedule. I don’t think it’s a universal truth, but experience builds knowledge and with enough of both, it’s not uncommon to realize that you once gave up something really good in pursuit of something better that fell short of your ideals. Or perhaps that’s just your current perception of past relationships with the benefit of hindsight and burden of nostalgia. Life is infrequently ideal.

I think it’s defeatist to call that settling, unless you truly believed that you were “settling” at the time you got married. Making the best of your current situation to meet your life goals is normal. Regrets based on idealized memories of your past relationships is normal.

This shit is Human Condition 101. Calling it “settling” unless one or both parties went into a marriage without the best of intentions is completely unproductive to anything but misery.

Like most things, practice makes perfect. I think that people who are in relationships in their twenties generally learn from them and become better at both picking someone that is suitable for them and also maintaining a healthy relationship. So neither the person nor the criteria for “best” partner is static.

I happen to think my husband, whom I met when I was 30, is the best partner for me among all the people I have dated. But that’s probably also partly because I am a better partner having learned from my past mistakes.

What is the joke about how at a certain age a woman is tired of looking for her dreamboat and will settle for a rowboat?

Or the one where she will quit looking for the perfect man and will settle for “hmm… yeah… you’ll do”.

No really I think women who are truly confident in themselves dont really need this “soul mate” and perfect husband in their lives. What they want is a just a basic, good man who will help her reach her goals (ex. family, home) and be a good friend. Same with men who dont need the perfect woman and just want a partner and a friend. Heck if anything we are a built in babysitter.

So my wife keeps me. I bring home good money. I fix things. I move heavy things around. I kill spiders. I help raise the kids. I cook well. I show her a good time. I give her lovin when she needs it.

When I was 28-33 (after a previously failed marriage), I drifted through serial liaisons and then, at about 33, thought that was enough, and went through my little black book looking for the best of the lot for permanence. At that point I met a fresh one, and said this is it, and married her. That, long later, failed too.

So, I fit the pattern described in the OP, but I can’t say whether it was a more productive strategy than any other selection method. It’s easy to look back on them fondly and say so-and-so would have been better, but who knows. 45 years later, I am where I am, and I’m contented with whom and where I am, and I wouldn’t have wanted to have followed a different, unknown trajectory to an alternate present circumstance.

I think some of it is seeing many of your friends start to get hitched or pop out kids, and wondering if you’re missing the boat. It just so happens that many people get married/have kids in their late 20s and early 30s, so if you’re the odd one out in your group of friends you might re-evaluate your dating strategy, even if subconsciously.

I think that’s more likely than “OMG, I’ve hit this arbitrary age, I better get hitched”.

Well, sure, you wouldn’t want to marry just n/e one!

Maybe we learn (and the men, too, hopefully) that there is no perfect one out there for us. I was just watching Big Bang Theory the other night and getting irritated with Howard because he was “holding out for Meghan Fox”, and he, while not hideous, is not on the level of Meghan Fox. Maybe men realize the supermodel is probably not going to fall into their laps, and women realize there just isn’t time to be swept off their feet, but a decent, honorable and responsible man is enough.

I am another one who never wanted kids, so my biggest problem was finding a man who didn’t want them either. And was ok with never having them. I think that is easier for a woman to find…most women seem to want kids, even if they delay them more than they used to be.

I’m glad someone already mentioned this strategy. This is mathematically a sound strategy, and it seems to me to be a strategy that, to a certain extent, we intuitively use. Certainly, I think part of waiting to get married and settle down is part of it, but even people that seem set on that are often advised to wait. I think part of that waiting is actually really understanding what it means to be a good match.

So the marriage age of late 20s seems to make sense and it more or less matches with the math. You need to see enough possible mates to get a good judge of what’s out there, but you don’t want to wait so long that you are alone you are too old to have kids or end up alone your whole life (assuming those aren’t desirable for you). It also seems that, with less focus on having kids and with us living longer, both expand the length of time we can date, so it makes more sense that it’s drifting later and later.

At 34 I’ve realised I’ll probably never own a house I want to live in unless I have a partner.

Well, but that only explains why the odd ones out change their strategy to match the majority. It doesn’t explain the background of “even ones in” (if that’s actually an expression) that prompt that change to begin with. For all off those, this:

still seems the best explanation. Even if they don’t articulate that consciously.

I think people come pre-programmed to a much greater extent than we like to admit. We behave in predictable ways. It’s partly brain chemistry, and partly cultural expectations.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, necessarily. I’m just saying this: You look back at your life, and you imagine that it all came about because of your own free choices, that you all made for your own, specific reasons. But then you look at everyone else around you, and their lives conform to the exact same template as yours. That should make you wonder a bit how free your choices really are.

On a more positive note, I guess I agree with this:

I suppose you could think of the entire time from your late teens to about age 30 as a testing phase. Over time, your choice of dates will gradually improve, by way of trial and error, so by the time you get married, there’s at least a good chance that the person standing next to you is someone you’re actually compatible with. At least to some extent.

Which, I think, is about as a romantic and heartwarming an outlook as I’m ever going to adopt when it comes to this stuff. :wink: