Priorities Revealed

When I was in London I met up with a couple I’ve known for a while, who I’ll call Ed and Jennifer. We got talking about one of their friends who I’d met at their wedding, a Dutch woman by the name of Kirsten. Now this Kirsten was an interesting character: late thirties, highly intelligent, and extremely well credentialed having been to a top university in Holland and later did a Masters at Columbia University in New York. She spoke several languages and when I met her a few years back she was working in London as a senior manager in the marketing department of a blue chip company we all know. What made her more impressive was she’d fallen seriously ill as child and been expected to die, but miraculously survived. The illness left her with physical damage and she needs to undergo daily medical treatment for the rest of her life, something she manages incredibly well.

Now Ed’s wife Jennifer insisted that Kirsten wanted a husband and to start a family, but was finding the London dating scene hard going. On top of the usual dearth of available men, she had to find someone who would accept her physical scars and medical condition. Eventually she entered into a rocky but not unpleasant relationship with an Italian called Raphael. He was in his early forties and came with multiple oddities and quirks of his own – which helped explain why he was single. He didn’t seem sure of what he wanted and their relationship was on, then off, then back on, then off again over the course of about a year. Then they split up for a few months, only to get back together once they realised they missed one another. When I heard from my friends that Kirsten had met a guy who finally accepted her, I was happy for her; she’d beaten the odds and found someone who might not be perfect, but was overall a pretty decent chap. When we last spoke Kirsten and Raphael had been back together about a year, had been holidaying together, had met each other’s parents, and we talking about moving in together. As Kirsten had told Jennifer, and Jennifer told me, settling down and having a family is what she really wanted.

However, when I met Ed and Jennifer last month they told me the outlook between Kirsten and Raphael was gloomy indeed.

“Why?” I asked. “What happened?

“Kirsten’s moving to Chicago, she got offered a promotion,” Ed said.

It transpired that Kirsten had accepted the post in Chicago automatically, having been conditioned for over 15 years to always put her career first. Kirsten and Raphael were trying to work out whether he could move to Chicago, but he had a business and a sister in London he was reluctant to leave. Personally, I thought she was nuts: she’d spent years desperately trying to find a partner, going through umpteen disappointments, and when at long last she finds someone she drops him like a stone to climb the corporate ladder.

“Well, it’s her choice but it’s clear where her priorities are,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Jennifer asked.

“I mean, she doesn’t really want to settle down and have a family, does she? If she did, and that was important to her, she’d stay in London with Raphael.”

“Oh no!” Jennifer replied. “I think she still wants to do that, she says if it doesn’t work out with Raphael she’ll try to find someone in Chicago.”

I’ve seen this a lot with single women over thirty: there is an enormous disconnect between what they say they want with their life and the decisions they actually make. You see this particularly with educated, professional women who continuously put their careers first while saying what they really want is to settle down and start a family. Roissy over at Chateau Heartiste often makes the point that one shouldn’t listen to what women say, rather you should watch what they do. Look at the choices they make, and draw your own conclusions as to what their true motivations are.

I heard while I was in Dubai that Raphael and Kirsten had split up for good. I still can’t get my head around her decision. I noted with interest that Jennifer genuinely believed Kirsten’s priority was to have a family. Ed’s view was much the same as mine.

Share

46 thoughts on “Priorities Revealed

  1. I’m with the blog host.

    If she actually wanted to have a family she’d have been underneath Raphael looking at his ceiling crossing her fingers for a successful seed planting, treating him like a prince, and otherwise darning his socks or whatever is the equivalent modern action.

    Buggering off to another continent, putting Five Thousand miles or so between his seed & her womb is not consistent with wanting to have babies.
    Not when (for whatever reason) she’s a C-grade catch.

  2. “late thirties” and still looking for Mr. Right? She made her choice long ago, and her eggs are well past their “best by” date.

  3. “late thirties” and still looking for Mr. Right?

    To be fair, she was happy enough to compromise on the man, it was her career she wouldn’t compromise on.

  4. “late thirties” and still looking for Mr. Right?

    In my experience by the “late thirties” they’ll settle for Mr. Got a pulse & a job.
    Except they then go & do something that reveals why they’re late thirties & still hunting. Like bugger off to Chicago or something.

  5. The opposite side is those blokes that compromise on their career to the detriment of their family. I had a Canadian bloke that accepted an offer for a role as a country manager for Dubai arrive at my office yesterday from Canada for the first time. I explained that we were performance driven and that we would be watching him closely for the first three months, he then asked for more money than the offer that he had accepted. I told him to go and get some lunch and when he got back that I was withdrawing the offer and sending him back to Canada. He left and sent a big email about resigning from his job due to our offer and that I was now putting him and his family in financial stress so he was kind of like that bird if you know what I mean.

  6. The opposite side is those blokes that compromise on their career to the detriment of their family.

    Yes, seen plenty of them.

    he then asked for more money than the offer that he had accepted.

    Lol

  7. @Bardon

    Sounds to me like he put his family first. Maybe he agreed to be posted so far from home – meaning his wife agreed – but when the moment actually came, she found she couldn’t handle it. Now the man needs a way out. What’s he going to do? He’s not going to say “My wife changed her mind, so I’m going back on my handshake”. Instead, he asks for more money. If they agree, it compensates for the distance – he can quit after six months, or request reassignment. If they reject his request, he has a face-saving way out. He might even have another offer closer to home already lined up, or at least in the works.

  8. …he then asked for more money than the offer that he had accepted.

    Negotiating conditions post acceptance.
    More common than many first believe. Dunno where they get the idea that they can “negotiate” certain conditions but all others remain “locked in” and the employer is barred from counter-negotiating.

    “Offer withdrawn” is the only sane counter-offer.
    Wanna negotiate? Do it before accepting, when it is okay to haggle a bit.

  9. He backflipped big time when I said that it was all over and he offered to go to Kuwait for the original offer price. Tim will like this bit he said he would need two HR Managers for the Dubai gig, this was after me telling him that he will get all the support that he needs from Doha up until he gets us prequalified and a contract and then we can man up.

    Two HR Managers ffs!

  10. The type of guy a girl dates also reveals her true preference. Often she claims to want a loving, kind, reliable man for a serious relationship but then knowingly goes out with a dissolute wanker like me.

  11. @Jonathan

    That is entirely plausible although he is Canadian he is Arabic as is his wife and I guess kids. But yes he could have played it that way but would you go to all that bother to do that?

    The job that he resigned from was in the Mideast as well, which I know to be true.

  12. Have to say I’m on her side, mainly because it sounds like the thing with this Raphael was far from certain, and that if she had stayed with him then in five years they could just as easily have been broken up for good, or still in messy on-again off-again break-up-get-back-together mode, as settled and raising a family.

    Whereas the promotion was a sure thing, and wasn’t going to just disappear with the dawn.

    So on the ‘bird in the hand’ principle, she should absolutely not give up the sure thing for the 10-point pass line bet with the not-that-great-anyway, already-proved-to-be-flakey guy.

    It would be different if she was junking a real chance at a marriage and a family for cold-blooded careerism, but that’s not what this sounds like.

  13. S,

    I think you’ve got it spot on, and her decision was probably best for her. But her priority is not settling down and having a family, is it?

  14. I would say: good for Raphael! I can understand Kirsten difficulties, I really do (a son of mine survived a cancer when he was 12 and became sterile, and of course he had his problems) – but it seems that the marriage thing his her real goal, while the man whom she would marry is just a means to that end.
    Is this attitude something upon which you can build a family? If your mate is just a replaceable variable in your “plan to happiness”, it seems there’s something wrong: would she like to be so considered by Raphael?
    At one point your aspiration “I want to marry” should morph to “I choose this man to build my family”.

  15. @Bardon

    Well, if he’s an Arab that clinches it, at least for me. This face-saving behavior would be a little odd for a Westerner, but is much more typical in the middle east.

  16. But her priority is not settling down and having a family, is it?

    I don’t think you can say that, because ‘settling down and having a family’ is not something that is entirely within her (or anyone’s) control, in that it depends on meeting the right person to do that with (and them wanting to do it with you).

    It’s entirely possible for someone’s priority to be settling down and having a family, but for them to die without having managed it, because they didn’t meet the right person.

    The only way for sure you can say that ‘settling down and having a family’ isn’t their priority is if they have a reasonable chance of doing it with someone, and give that up for their career. But this doesn’t sound like that.

    And who knows — perhaps the right person is waiting in Chicago.

    But quite frankly, from the description, it sounds like she should have got shot of this Raphael character whether or not the promotion came up. And therefore this can’t be used as evidence either way for her priorities.

    (Actually — are you sure the promotion was real? It’s not just that she was so desperate to get rid of Raphael, and make sure he wouldn’t follow her, that she requested a sideways transfer out of the continent?)

  17. The problem is always that woman X in her 30s wants marriage / babies / normality – and that bloke Y is necessary but nonetheless incidental to that plan. And the relationship is thus kind of stillborn.

    If woman X wanted bloke Y above all else and put him first then some of that other stuff might follow.

    Look at Meghan Markle. She’s 36 and getting towards that giving up on babies stage. But…she seems to have found a bloke who truly loves her and vice-versa. At least they have each other and if babies don’t follow it’s not the end of the world.

  18. The problem is always that woman X in her 30s wants marriage / babies / normality – and that bloke Y is necessary but nonetheless incidental to that plan

    Yes, this.

    And it goes for men as well, too, whether what they want is a family, or sex on tap*, (or, in rather extreme cases, nobody realising they are actually gay) rather than the particular woman.

    It’s never a good idea to decide you want something and are happy using another person as a means to acquire it, even with their (initial) consent, rather than seeing the other person as an end in themselves.

    * not sex on a tap

  19. I’ve known plenty of women go to fairly extreme lengths to snag their man, including significant career and/or financial sacrifices.

    Kirsten’s basic problem, like many childless women, is that she doesn’t know what she’s missing. Having a child triggers a flood of hormones which rewire the brain. Plenty of women find themselves happily switching to the “mommy track” of less demanding roles after the birth of their child, despite previously always claiming that their career was of the utmost importance. If she’d already had the baby, she wouldn’t even give Chicago a second thought; instead she’d be applying for laid-back jobs in government or the charity sector.

  20. It’s entirely possible for someone’s priority to be settling down and having a family, but for them to die without having managed it, because they didn’t meet the right person.

    If there is one excuse which I discard out of hand more than any other when somebody’s single status comes up, it’s “they didn’t meet the right person”. Until now – assuming you’re a man – I’ve only ever heard women use it.

  21. I am surprised that no one has mentioned that going to Chicago is not exactly a career enhancing move, whichever way you look at it.

  22. I am surprised that no one has mentioned that going to Chicago is not exactly a career enhancing move

    Depends on the company: quite a few blue chips have their HQs there, apparently.

  23. No doubt, but still, its Chicago. Can you name the firm surely it won’t identify her?

  24. “Depends on the company: quite a few blue chips have their HQs there, apparently”

    It’s one of the biggest corporate centers in the USA. McDonald’s, Boeing, Motorola, several of the world’s largest law firms, etc etc.

    And to JerryC’s point, the crime-ridden parts of the city are fairly easy to avoid.

  25. In the language of twenty years ago, she’s looking for a good wife.

    Reverse the genders (sexes? I can never remember which is appropo) and you’ll see a very common situation, where men of high corporate functioning seek a mate who will complement their own role in a family-forming twosome.

    And what’s wrong with what she seeks? She’s going to be the corporate powerhouse in her marriage, and she seeks a husband who can provide the love and companionship and support and co-parenting that we all seek, but she’s going to need that person to play the supporting role instead of the traditional male leading role.

    Apparently, Raphael didn’t fit the bill, and she recognized this. More power to her. She still needs a wife, but she didn’t settle on the wrong one.

  26. “And to JerryC’s point, the crime-ridden parts of the city are fairly easy to avoid.”

    After at least forty trips from O’Hare to downtown lodgings and back when the trip was done, I disagree. There are no safe spaces in Chicago.

  27. “they didn’t meet the right person”. Until now – assuming you’re a man – I’ve only ever heard women use it.

    It’s a convenient way to say “I don’t want to talk about it”. Better than over-sharing one’s failed romantic history with a near-stranger.

    She’s going to be the corporate powerhouse in her marriage, and she seeks a husband who can provide the love and companionship and support and co-parenting that we all seek, but she’s going to need that person to play the supporting role instead of the traditional male leading role.

    From what I’ve read (online, no cites) that sort of arrangement rarely works well. Hypergamy tends to lead women to want men who *won’t* provide the “wifely” role.

  28. “If there is one excuse which I discard out of hand more than any other when somebody’s single status comes up, it’s “they didn’t meet the right person”.”

    I’d largely say that about me, and I’m a bloke in my early 30s who, being blunt, would like to be married with kids, and isn’t.

    That said – I’m probably not a typical representative of the dating scene (certainly not the London one). My religious belief (Evangelical Christian) means I’m only interested in dating others serious Evangelical Christians (and if you’re wondering, no sex before marriage either). There are upsides to this from a dating perspective (as well as what most people would regard as downsides), not least because it makes dating quite an “intentional” activity – it is very much about “is this someone I could stand being around for the next 30-40 years”, and both parties are very much of the same page with trying to answer that question.
    If do run across the right person, the odds of it ending with a divorce are a tiny fraction of the national average.

    Other than the religious bit, I’ve not got a particularly long or absolute wishlist – I’m not really that bothered about young(easily the nicest girl I’ve ever been out with was 9 1/2 years older than me – I’d have married her, but after a lot of soul searching I don’t think she could cope with the age gap) or pretty (although no total land whales need apply), just someone whose company I can stand, and who can put up with me well enough that in 30 years time we don’t hate each other – and so far I’ve just not run into that person.

  29. bobby b

    “And what’s wrong with what she seeks? She’s going to be the corporate powerhouse in her marriage, and she seeks a husband who can provide the love and companionship and support and co-parenting that we all seek, but she’s going to need that person to play the supporting role instead of the traditional male leading role.”

    Because from what I’ve seen the vast majority of women are desperately unhappy with a man in the supporting role. They would be better off with a puppy.

  30. I have to admit this story is resonating a bit with me because I know someone else who just made the exact same move (London to Chicago – in the advertising biz). However, this is a man, and he already has a wife & kids, and they form a stable family – nothing like the situation described above. Compare and contrast.

  31. Apparently, Raphael didn’t fit the bill, and she recognized this.

    Well, yes. But again, it comes down to priorities.

    Something a lot of women don’t seem to realise is they can only date the men in their dating pool, i.e. the men in front of them, and not some hypothetical man who doesn’t exist. If Raphael – the only serious relationship she’d had in years – didn’t fit the bill then it’s likely nobody will. Which is fine, but settling with someone obviously isn’t her priority if she’s abandoned the best prospect she’s had in years.

    By contrast, I knew a Russian woman who came to France with the priority of finding a husband and having kids. She did it in no time at all, by selecting the *most suitable man* from the *men in front of her*.

  32. Which is fine, but settling with someone obviously isn’t her priority if she’s abandoned the best prospect she’s had in years.

    Only if ‘the best prospect she’s had in years’ actually meets the absolute bare minimum criteria for being a viable prospect, which it sounds like this guy didn’t.

    If there is one excuse which I discard out of hand more than any other when somebody’s single status comes up, it’s “they didn’t meet the right person”. Until now – assuming you’re a man – I’ve only ever heard women use it.

    I guess it depends on whether you think girls are fungible.

  33. Only if ‘the best prospect she’s had in years’ actually meets the absolute bare minimum criteria for being a viable prospect, which it sounds like this guy didn’t.

    And that’s precisely the problem: the available men simply don’t meet the bare minimum criteria women set themselves, hence they stay single. If finding a partner were a priority the criteria would adjust, but it’s not so they don’t.

    I guess it depends on whether you think girls are fungible.

    I don’t think girls are fungible.

  34. And that’s precisely the problem: the available men simply don’t meet the bare minimum criteria women set themselves, hence they stay single. If finding a partner were a priority the criteria would adjust, but it’s not so they don’t.

    It sounds like this guy didn’t meet any objectively reasonable bare minimum criteria.

    You surely can’t really be suggesting that women ought to lower their standards to ‘anything with a penis and a pulse’ before you will consider them serious about getting married?

  35. It sounds like this guy didn’t meet any objectively reasonable bare minimum criteria.

    In which areas do you believe he was failing?

    You surely can’t really be suggesting…

    I’m not.

  36. I would beg to differ on “barely meeting the minimum criteria.” From the post, it sounds as if Raphael is a really decent bloke. He has his own business, so must have two sticks to rub together. Whether he’s a pin up, who knows.

    I would go with Tim on this. She’s not willing to prioritise a marriage and kids in the face of her own career. Decamping off to Chicago is, presumably, the modern version of the “Dear John” letter.

    About this topi, I should say, I have a friend who was “the wife”. The role reversal worked out really well. I think the only reason it doesn’t are the normal stereotype attitudes on who should be the breadwinner and a lack of suitable role models. He is incredibly grounded and never felt challenged by being the one to bring up their kids. But he’s “all man”.

    I actually think being a male home keeper probably won’t work in the majority of cases.

    There was an old American soap called “Thirty something” in the late 80s which addressed this very thing. I recall an episode (the only one I think I saw) where the houseman had a heart-to-heart with his wife about the need to return to work as he couldn’t hack being the one to deal with the kids.

    I have been the breadwinner in my marriage and while I loved my kids, I don’t think I could have been the househusband. I am very strongly conditioned to take on the role of provider. Breaking such social conditioning is really, really hard.

    Back to Raphael. Given he is something of an entrepreneur, I doubt he could hack being the one left with the baby.

  37. I’ve been around long enough to know that when you’re in love, there’s no question. When I was accepted to law school 1,000 miles away, I was in a relationship. We got married and she followed me there. If love runs deep, then you do what you have to do.

    We’ve been married over 26 years now.

  38. S the guy met the minimum criteria, he was the only guy on to accept, put up with or love her.

    Thats it. Its like being unemployed and not accepting any role other than CEO. Unemployment/being single is that market judgement on children rely on wish lists.

  39. In which areas do you believe he was failing?

    Okay, well, surely the most basic, highest-priority criteria for someone to start a family — whether for a woman looking for a husband, or a man looking for a wife — is reliability. You’ve got to be absolutely sure they’re not going to run off any time in the next five, ten, twenty years (and preferably longer) and leave you trying to do the work of a father and a mother.

    From the article:

    ‘He didn’t seem sure of what he wanted and their relationship was on, then off, then back on, then off again over the course of about a year. Then they split up for a few months, only to get back together once they realised they missed one another.’

    And at the time of writing they had apparently only been together, after this, for ‘about a year’.

    This is clearly not someone who you can be absolutely sure is going to stick around for the long haul, especially once children and the many stresses they put on a relationship are in the picture.

    Hence: not meeting the most basic requirement.

  40. And at the time of writing they had apparently only been together, after this, for ‘about a year’.

    They were together for a year in a stable, committed relationship, and then she left him. In S-world, this means he is “clearly not someone who you can be absolutely sure is going to stick around for the long haul”. Uh-huh.

    Hence: not meeting the most basic requirement.

    Well, you seem to know the guy better than I do. What are the chances, eh?

  41. They were together for a year in a stable, committed relationship

    After, apparently, at least that long of non-committal chaos. Leopards, spots.

  42. After, apparently, at least that long of non-committal chaos.

    On *both* sides, which is how a lot of relationships start out between two people who have struggled – for various reasons – to have a relationship before. Clearly you don’t think a year of being in a stable, functioning relationship counts for anything at all.

    Leopards, spots.

    Wow, you really know him well! Give him my regards when you next see him, won’t you? Ask him if his mum’s better, do let me know what he says.

Comments are closed.