We start things off with a true story.
Petroula was an Athenian born and bred. She was listening to Tsanaklidou and Galani, reading literature (pink, mostly) and she was drinking tequila. When she turned thirty years old, she upped sticks and moved to Naxos Island and she was earning her living by offering tourist services. A summer’s night, while she was working as a barwoman, she met Sifis.
Sifis was a breeder and he was living on Naxos and he had Cretan origins. He was wearing a black shirt as Cretans do, and he was taciturn and robust. He was almost two meters tall, he had bones of a Viking and many kick-boxers would envy his abs. His hands resembled shovels and he was almost illiterate.
When he caught glimpse of Petroula at the bar, he left his friend high and dry and he sat in front of her. He ordered raki while his pupils were dilated to the maximum. Petroula’s jaw was dropped to her pubes, not without a reason since Sifis possessed all the traits that a red-blooded male is supposed to (marble chest and fiery gaze).
He besieged her for three nights. It took a while before she relented despite that she was seeing him in her dreams from the get-go. The first time they had sex was under the stars and they saw stars.
A month later, Petroula accepted Sifis’ proposal to live together at his mountain hut.
Her friends were trying to bring her back to her senses: “He’s a shepherd. What will you do with him?”
“Love”, was Petroula’s answer.
From Sifis’ side, his parents were jumping down his throat: “Why are you hankering after this barwoman? There are so many girls in our village, classy ones no less, not…”. But their sentence was always left hanging in mid-air incomplete because there was danger in Sifis’ eyes.
Petroula took her CDs with her and she went to the mountain. The honeymoon was pure bliss. The same went for the second month, and the third…A winter went by as if it was taken out from a Harlequin. Their bodies were getting their fill of love and afterwards Petroula would read him Erotokritos.
But when the spring came, the problems kicked in. Petroula wanted to see people. “What for?” Sifis was asking her who was used to living atop the mountains. They were going to deserted beaches and if Petroula made a movement to take off her bra, Sifis was quick to stop her.
“They will see you! Get dressed!”
“But there’s not a soul around!”
Their love –and bond- lasted for a year. Their break-up was eventful. When everything was said and done, Petroula met someone who wanted to be surrounded by people and Sifis married a girl from his neck of the woods. Both are happy now – even though I have a sneaking suspicion that sometimes they think wistfully of the nights they shared at the hut.
Why did their marriage fail, although erotically they were made for each other? For the same reason that Ariel could not marry the king: she had a tail, he had legs.
Psychologists conducted a survey with hundreds of married couples and they classified their findings through a statistical index that is called correlation coefficient.
Correlation coefficient +1 indicates perfect match of factors (the tallest guy marries the tallest woman, the shortest guy marries the shortest woman).
Correlation coefficient -1 indicates perfect match of opposite factors (the tallest guy marries the shortest woman).
Correlation coefficient 0 indicates random match.
Their findings were the following:
The highest correlation coefficients (+0.9) have to do with religion, origins, race, socioeconomic status, age, political views, etc.
Namely a Christian would rather marry a Christian, a Greek another Greek, a rich someone rich, a teacher some other teacher, a right-wing voter some other right-wing supporter.
Imagine, for instance, a marriage between a far-right guy and an anarchist! When the wedding party would be over (where the riot police would surely have to intervene), for how long do you bet that this marriage would go on?
“My dear, I’m going to attack some immigrants.”
“Take care of yourself. I’m going to the antifascist rally.”
“OK. See you there.”
There are exceptions of course, but couples that share common ideologies are happier as a rule.
The immediate next higher correlation coefficients (around a poor +0.4) have to do with personality and intelligence factors like extroversion, intelligence quotient and the…propensity for cleanliness!
As Jared Diamond mentions: “Slobs tend to marry slobs, though the chances of a slob marrying a compulsively neat person are not as low as the chances of a political reactionary marrying a left-winger.”
As regards the physical appearance, the coefficients are lower than what we would guess, a mere +0.2.
On the face of it, people choose other individuals similar to them: the body type, the colour of the skin and hair, but also some other traits that would never cross your mind when you think about the ideal other half, like the breadth of nose, the length of earlobe, the length of middle finger, the distance between eyes, the circumference of wrist and other, equally unimaginable things.
For one of the above, which we surely notice unconsciously, in particular, the correlation is significantly higher than intelligence: “For instance, an astonishing 0.61 for length of middle finger. At least unconsciously people care more about their spouse’s middle finger length than about his or her hair colour and intelligence!”
But studies conducted to adopted Chinese children that were raised by Americans made clear that body-type choices are not made according to ours, but according to the ones we associated with during our childhood (the adopted Chinese preferred to get married with white people).
As we grow up, we develop a “search image” (a model) and based on that we will choose “freely” our partner which is moulded by the people we see when we are born.
And who are the people that we see most as children? Our parents, brothers, cousins and, later, our friends.
The composer who was singing “you remind me of my mother, that’s why I love you” could be spot-on, after all.
As regards cheating (or adultery) the opposite rules: people choose individuals according to their body type.
When it comes to adultery, women are much choosier than men (excluding the rare cases of revenge, where a woman cheats with the first man available – and promptly regrets it).
On the contrary, men may cheat with a much less attractive woman (and their wives are scratching their head: did he cheat on me with this fugly?”)
When I was on Naxos, I had met a chef who was hankering after a Serbian street artist. Every time he sighted her and I was in his vicinity, he got started telling me how much he longed to lay her on his bed (or the kitchen counter). I had seen his wife and she was handsomer and younger than the Serbian, so I asked him why he wanted to do so, since he had such a beautiful woman.
“Eh”, he said “even if the best of food is on your plate every day…Fillet all the time…you want some junk food every now and then”.
When women are emotionally and sexually satisfied, they won’t be on the lookout for a lover for the sake of new experiences as a rule, as men may do (pigs).
(The behavior of lesbians is a testimony of this, since they are way more fanatically monogamous than heterosexuals and male homosexuals).
But no matter how good a husband and father their man may be, if eros and passion have dwindled (not unusual after ten or twenty years of marriage), then they turn to somebody else to fill these gaps.
A survey among American women was conducted fifteen years ago. They were asked which movie celebrity they would get married to and with which one they would have a one night stand.
Tom Hanks topped all others in the first category because he was intelligent, family man, and (to all appearances) loyal.
On the second category, Brad Pitt made it to the top (that was before he got married to Angelina. Now he is suitable for marriage but they could cheat on him for Peterson or Gosling).
The preference they show to young lovers and loyal husbands can be explained biologically. They choose the husband who will make them feel secure, but they may prefer the genes of a younger and healthier man to reproduce themselves.
Rare, you think? Surveys in maternity hospitals revealed that 20% (up to 40%) of the infants had a different father from the supposed one.
(More about adultery, see earlier article Adultery Makes the World Go Round).
What Jared Diamond doesn’t mention in his book The Third Chimpanzee is that the search image, this imaginary model is formed also by images from the media of which we are inundated with since our childhood.
Let’s wrap up this article with a piece of advice: if you want a happy marriage, find someone who is on the same wavelength; mostly with regard to culture and personality so that you will have something to talk about when your joints ache.