Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dismaying Story #23: Is She Really Going Out With Him?

A big thank you for today's question goes out to Kellie, who maintains a blog called Floating Through the Drama. Kellie writes:

Dear Andrew,

Why do men fall for dumb girls? Correction. Why do smart men fall for dumb girls?

I've recently watched a new relationship bloom. The cast- two people. You guessed it- a smart Man. Funny. Sharp. Good looking. All in all, what I would label as "a catch." His counterpart ... less so. Cute. Great body. But all things added together, just another cute girl.

It's not the first time I have witnessed such a dynamic. Why does it seem that men in power seem to want a woman who is weak? I know I am generalizing right now, but come on! Why don't more men want a partner?

I mean a true partner. One who can connect with them in ways that, gulp, don't involve their penis? A woman who will argue with them, speak her mind, and tell them when they are full of it.

I know they are out there. Trust me, I married one. I guess the question of the day is, what's up with that?

Signed, Kellie

Dear Kellie,

Your question reminds me the Joe Jackson song Is She Really Going Out With Him?, which begins: "Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street..."

The common link here is an apparent mismatch between partners. Besides the case you mentioned, other examples include:
  • Nice girls with bad boys;
  • Pretty girls with homely men (which seems to be what Joe is moaning about in his lyrics);
  • The filthy rich linking up with someone from the wrong side of the tracks;
  • An overbearing woman with a subservient guy;
  • A popular "in crowd" member marrying the social outcast; and
  • The Jack Spratt scenario, matching the athletic with the slothful.
Most people seem to seek out a partner similar to themselves in many respects. When a couple doesn't meet this expectation in some obvious way, we tend to have Kellie's reaction: "What's up with that?"

The world is full of just about every flavor of individual you can imagine. Chances are there are plenty of cases where power hungry men have snared trophy wives for reasons other than their scintillating intellect. I doubt this is the case in most instances, however.

Ask yourself this: how many truly shallow, power hungry people do you know? I'm not talking about someone you assume to be like that because their spouse seems to be subservient. I mean someone whom you know to have those characteristics based on how they state their goals in life, the way they conduct themselves in their job and so on. I bet you might know one or two, but this probably does not describe the majority of your acquaintances.

Now, how many of your friends would you guess carry around some level of insecurity in their souls? Just about everyone on the planet maybe?

The little critic who dwells within each of us might look at the mismatched couple and latch onto a cynical explanation. After all, our usual "like attracting like" expectation has not been met, so we seek other reasons. I expect the vast majority of mismatched couples, however, get together for exactly the same reasons the rest of us do, because they make each other feel good in some way. The attraction may not be obvious to others but that's hardly the point, is it? When you were about to be married, did you go around asking people for permission to love your husband-to-be? No, you had your own reasons and that was good enough for you.

So let's go back to your example of the catch-of-the-day guy with "just another cute girl." In all likelihood these are two people with typical human frailties. Is it possible this apparently confident guy actually has low self-esteem and this young lady puts him at ease? Could she have qualities many of her friends have never discovered, such as a quiet sense of humor or incredible compassion? Upon getting to know her, might he uncover this treasure trove and be attracted to her for those reasons? Based on the observations I made above, I suspect this type of explanation is more common than the trophy wife scenario.

I also see many people react to some common cues when dating. They view someone as fun, interested in the same type of entertainment as themselves, physically attractive, maybe "exciting" in some way, so they hook up and party on. It's only later when we have three kids, two mini-vans, a golden retriever and a mortgage that we learn there are other important characteristics in a life partner - things like ambition and work ethic so you can help raise a family, the ability to handle the stresses of adult life with grace and humor so you're not a nightmare to live with, willingness to change diapers and buy groceries, and so on. The young woman with the belt-like miniskirt and the young man with the Corvette might be fun on a teenage Saturday night, but they might also be a distinct drag on a 35-year-old Tuesday morning. So another possible answer is that your hunky guy may be focusing on only a few of her, shall we say, more noticeable traits. He might not realize until later that he values other qualities in a partner.

I wonder how many of my readers thought through the whole "Will they be good with diapers?" scenario before getting married. I bet many didn't, which would make your mismatched couple rather ... normal, I'd say.

All the best,

Do you see relationships that puzzle you? Take a moment to send me a question or leave a comment using the link below.

If you haven't already done so, don't forget to check out Saturday's Ask the Faithful Readers question. This coming Friday I will pick my favorite response and feature it in a post with a link to the winner's blog. I plan to make this a regular Saturday feature.


  1. Are the people looking in from outside right or are the envious or to critical.
    Why do people assume someone is not right for someone else when they are not the ones in the relationship and in many cases it’s these same people that cause all the trouble by putting the doubt in ones head and questioning even their love for the other person and in some cases causing a breakup.
    Family is an example of this, butting in where they really have no business.
    BUT, sometimes they are right too.
    I never noticed my ex was self-centered until a friend pointed it out to me.
    It was always there but I never noticed it was all about her, until I look closely.
    Today I understand more.
    So I guess maybe an equal balance of listening to someone’s concerns about your relationship and your friends getting to know the person you are with and to see what he or she are like.
    It’s easy to make a quick judgment; it takes a little longer to see what someone else see in a person.
    I was going to give you an example of a couple I know but I just remembered that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I can’t see through his eyes or his heart.

    Have a nice weekend

  2. With respect to the dumb girl concept: the father of a friend used to say "The dumbest girl in the world is smarter than the smartest guy with a h@@d-on..."

    Hope you don't mind the crudity: it explains a lot.

  3. Really enjoyed the question and your answer... :-)

  4. Hey Andrew - I am just gettin started here on your blog and I am really enjoying it! Thanks for stopping by to say Hola Wendolla!

  5. HI....nice blog...and thanks for visiting and commenting on mine..I like that you can send in questions here...I may do that sometime. I will be back....

  6. Sids comment was very funny. I think the whole 'dumb' girl concept thrives on the notions that dumb girls don't challenge the balance of power very much, and that 'dumb' girls really are dumb. They aren't - most are suprisingly clever and if they aren't when they start out with the guy, they soon learn

  7. Sid and nml both seem to be right on. Unfortunately people can be quick to jump to conclusions about others, viewing them as dumb or cocky, for example. In my experience most people have much more depth to their personalities than we might give them credit for. The longer I hang around this planet, the more certain I am that people are FAR more similar to one another than they are different.