It’s important to sort out what you care about; obviously if you don’t (or do so incorrectly) you’ll either end up married to someone with whom you’re incompatible or miss someone with whom you would’ve been very happy. However, it becomes more critical to do so when your options are narrowed. When you live in Utah, or are going to school at BYU-Idaho (as examples) you can decide you only want to date men with black hair and a passion for motorcycles and honestly you’ll probably be OK. There’s enough people that meaningless requirements can actually be helpful as it allows you to reduce an overwhelming population to a more manageable number; reducing your choices enough to let you make a sensible decision.

But when there’s 30 people, being specific in ways that aren’t important severely limits your options. Remember, the 30 isn’t the number of delightful young ladies right at my age with whom I have good chemistry, it’s every single (single) LDS female I’ll meet in Wisconsin over the next three years. Some of them I’m likely to outright dislike. Some of them are great people with whom I have no chemistry at all. Many would have no interest in me no matter my level of infatuation. So if decide I’m only interested in brunettes then I’m likely to be in trouble.

Basically what these numbers do is they tell you (or tell me I suppose) how many things I can find important. With two choices (geography and LDS, and I suppose I’m neglecting to count things like: age appropriateness, gender and relationship status as I consider them assumed qualities) I have now defined the pool at 30 women over three years. That means I need more criteria (I’m pretty sure we’re not marrying 30 people together these days) but I only have room for so many before I place myself out of the running statistically.

Let’s say I do have a hair rule: let’s make red hair very important to me (I happen to have red hair so why not). Personal drive, hygiene, life goals, these things pale in comparison to how important it is they have red hair. Statistically about 5% of Americans have red hair, so now my options drop to a (generous rounding) 2 girls. So if I don’t care about personal chemistry, appearance (outside of hair color) life goals, or anything else we’re down to two. Now let’s say there’s a one in four chance any given girl picked from the original 30 would be interested in pursuing a relationship with me (it’s hard to pick a number that’s accurate, not self-aggrandizing nor self-pitying and I feel like one in four is a nice balance). That gives me a one in two chance of having a relationship (forget marriage at this point) in the next three years.

The point isn’t that insisting on only dating redheads is dumb (I mean it is dumb, but that’s not the point

*now*), rather it’s that how many criteria you can have needs to be considered, and what those criteria is something that should be looked at carefully. This is incredibly hard to apply. It’s nice in theory of course, though rarely used even then: but real life tends to get complicated.

On a first or second date, how many things do you notice about your date that impacts your view of them? Picking up a check may not have made the list of the two criteria you allow yourself to care about yet, ladies, if he asks you out and then expects you to pay will it matter? Of course it does. A typical date, even the “dinner and a movie” date consists of hundreds of tiny interactions through all sorts of mediums, each one influencing what you think of your opposite number. And this isn’t a downside: it’s the whole point of dating!

At 18, 19 out of every 20 people you meet are possible prospects for marriage and should you find yourself matched with one you will get married. But that 20th person will not be getting married; so time passes and those 19 begin to weed themselves out. At 18 it's 95% odds, but then it starts to go down. If you have a 1/5 chance of getting married any given year (assuming you wish to) this is the math:

100, 18yos enter the dating world, 95 of whom will marry if given the chance, 5 of whom will not.

A) 95%

B) 5%

Year 1: 19 of them marry (the remainder of that 1/5 statistically hooked up with someone who wont, and thus can't be counted) That means there are now 76 people from that group, 71 of whom will marry and 5 who wont.

A) 93 %

B) 7%

Year 2: 14 marry

A) 92%

B) 8%

Year 3: 12 marry

A) 90%

B) 10%

So in three years the percent population of singles who wont marry has doubled. By the time you hit 28, a full

*half*of those left in the single's category wont marry. The numbers I've given are of course fictious, as is the idea that people divide into categories of any kind, much less just two. But the idea is sound: those prone to not marry fill a greater and greater percentage of the single population as time passes. I have no particular comment on this phenomenon, just presenting it.

A month or two into my time here I had identified 3 women I was interested in. I’ve since removed one from consideration (the process is interesting enough to me that I hope to give it its own topic, but I’ll just say it involved discusions, time together with friends, and several dates) and will probably soon be removing another. Still, 3 people may sound miserly, but when that’s out of 15 possible it’s actually pretty good I think. It’s part of my numbers gut-check; is the number of people I find interesting, as compared to the pool out of which I’m selecting, suggest that I am too picky and need to modify my standards? In this case I found 20% of the eligible women (when using the inflated numbers, 30% otherwise) worth going to the point of going on dates with serious consideration. In my mind, that’s pretty fair.

A month or two into my time here I had identified 3 women I was interested in. I’ve since removed one from consideration (the process is interesting enough to me that I hope to give it its own topic, but I’ll just say it involved discusions, time together with friends, and several dates) and will probably soon be removing another. Still, 3 people may sound miserly, but when that’s out of 15 possible it’s actually pretty good I think. It’s part of my numbers gut-check; is the number of people I find interesting, as compared to the pool out of which I’m selecting, suggest that I am too picky and need to modify my standards? In this case I found 20% of the eligible women (when using the inflated numbers, 30% otherwise) worth going to the point of going on dates with serious consideration. In my mind, that’s pretty fair.

There is good reason to believe that, in the aggregate, these assumptions are in fact correct. The 1/5 chance of being married each year estimate I made above is about right for the wards I’ve been in. It’s actually significantly higher in my current ward. That being the case, it’s clear that

*in most cases*such a person both exists, and has a high probability of meeting you in your early years (let’s say before you turn 31, since the majority of my experience is in YSAs) even in low-density areas like Wisconsin.

Now with these assumptions being true, then we know that if you take a group of people who meet the demographic requirements (age, gender, ect…) of some size ‘N’, then some number of them ‘X’ will meet the qualifications that allow them to marry … me, or whoever we’re talking about. And we know that X/N (the percent who meet those qualities) is large enough such that, in general, there will be one every, let’s say 5 years or more in your area. For me, that would mean a little more than 4%, or 1 in 25. Keep in mind, that’s not the number of people who would make good dates, or boyfriends/girlfriends, that’s those who would represent fully compatible spouses. And the number seems reasonable to me at least. Chances are it’s well within an order of magnitude correct (again, in the aggregate, I’m sure it varies widely for any specific person).

Now let’s take some requirement like red hair (black hair is too common), and see what that does. Now even if we agree that having red hair wouldn’t make someone more likely to be compatible with anyone else intrinsically, if that someone else is set on red hair then chances are it would, the same way thinking a placebo works tends to make it work. But we’ll pretend that’s not the case and that this requirement in no way increases the likelihood that two people would make a good, married couple. So having red hair will leave the number of compatible people at 4% (that’s rounding down) and then select within that group for only the red heads.

If I’m still here in Wisconsin and make that selection then I have dropped from 1/5 chance of getting married each year to 1/25 chance (sort of, close enough). This means I’ve taken a serious consequence for selecting for a trait that did not indicate fitness of partner. But here we’re not talking about Wisconsin, we’re talking about a high density area like Provo, and the math doesn’t work. This is the break-down of assumptions. In Wisconsin, in a Ward that has 15 easily identifiable potential partners (in that there are 15 total, and easy to identify who those 15 are) it is a reasonable assumption that you can get to know and evaluate for martial fitness all 15. Thus if there is a 1/25 chance that someone is compatible and capable of pressing through initial roadblocks there’s a 46% chance you’ll end up married to one of those 15 (and a 70% chance from 30 after 3 years according to our old math).

But as the number of people within our reach increases, the quality of that assumption decreases. If it goes from 15 to 20: no problem. But now let’s say it goes up to 2,000 (still much less then you’ll find in my age range in Provo). If we keep the old assumption then there are now 80 people on average who would be compatible for marriage, and a 99.9..% (with 33 ‘9’s after the decimal place) that one our hypothetical person gets married to one of those 2,000. And if the assumption is correct then this person can decide: “only redheads for me!” and they still have 4 people on average or a better than 98% chance of getting married.

But we know that this critical assumption has been scaled out of existence. So we need to determine how our hypothetical hair-based-selector selects their social circle. That discussion is rather complex and I’ve already wasted a bunch of time at work writing this so I won’t pursue it. Suffice it to say that as long as such a person is on the look-out for red-heads, their potential chance to be married has not been meaningfully impacted. It only becomes an issue when someone takes no personal action to select friends or acquaintances based on hair color, no effort to meet anyone of that hair color, no effort to ask anyone out who meets their hair requirements, but still refuses at all costs to marry anyone who isn’t red-headed. At that point we have to determine how many people will randomly fall into their life and then go from there. But even then, in a high density area, it still leaves them quite a bit of room to have stupid requirements.

Now if the question is: if someone is compatible in every way to be a spouse (and not just a: “we’re both x years old and tired of looking, let’s just give up and get together” kind of way, but in a “we make each other unreasonably happy and want to spend our lives together building a family” kind of way) is it reasonable to consider the question: “what if there’s someone better”? That’s an interesting discussion I hope to address at some point too.

## No comments:

## Post a Comment