Filling the Dating Role

A: “You’re looking for someone to fill the position of head software engineer for your company.”

B: “That’s right.”

A: “What sort of things are you looking for? Good work history? Proficiency in programming languages? Ability to manage?”

B: “What kind of employer do you think I am? I mean I’m not against those things, but really, I’m just a simple worker at a simple company. The most important attributes in an employee are kindness, a sense of humor, loyalty, and intelligence.”

A: “What?”

B: “I mean, would you hire anyone who was mean, or an idiot, or boring?”

A: “I’d prefer not to, but that’s not the point. You’re hiring them to perform a specific duty.”

B: “And that specific duty will be done poorly if they aren’t funny, intelligent, or kind.”

A: “Yes, those things are important – but they’re base things we want for any human we have to interact with regularly, ever – for any job, for a roommate, for a friend. And yes, those traits can offset a little bit qualification – you’d probably prefer a very emotionally mature but slightly less qualified worker over an emotionally immature but overly qualified worker – but it still gives us no information about how well they’ll perform specifically to the role itself! The base traits of funny-intelligence-kindness are like a platform upon which you build the rest of the structure of qualifications, and when I ask about the role, I am asking about that structure, not the platform.”

This is how I feel when I ask people what they look for in a romantic partner and they reply with “funny-intelligent-kind”. (For the purposes of this post, the generic positive personality trait cluster will be known as FIK.)

I think it’s particularly important because we frequently say being FIK is what’s the most attractive, but then we go on to avoid dating most of the super-FIK people. It’s sort of like if, in a job application, the requirements said they were looking for FIK applicants, but then went on to completely ignore the ones highest on the FIK spectrum.

If you point out that they’re not selecting for FIK, usually the response is something like “but I would never be attracted to someone who wasn’t FIK!” This is true, but not illuminating. The question about selection comes from the aspects that fit the specific role, not the basic FIKness required for form the platform base for that role.

FIKness is something we want for all people in our life, not just dating, so saying you want a FIK person to date reveals nothing about your actual dating requirements.

So to learn about aspects unique to the “dating role,” we have to disregard all qualities that are equally desirable for other roles, friendship included. Anything FIK-related, throw out.

For men dating women, the answer is kinda obvious – physical beauty. For women dating men, power.

This last part is worth its own set of discussion, but I’ll save that for another time – this post was mostly just a response to a few discussions I’ve had with people who claimed FIKness for their romantic selection and were resistant to pointing out role-specific requirements.

3 thoughts on “Filling the Dating Role

  1. Perhaps the power/beauty thing has some truth to it, but I agree that it oversimplifies the nature of attraction tremendously. Why, for example, do some women (myself included) seek to alter or even reduce their beauty. It would seem that, in changing my appearance to be less beautiful (at least traditionally, which already raises questions for what beauty is really referring to here), I would be reducing my chances of attracting a powerful partner. How does this deal with queer people/communities or even with the fact that they are rising, especially their tendency to challenge beauty. If being attracted to power is an underlying feature of my being a (mostly) straight woman, than why is it that my other values are taking precedence and I am continuously finding myself less attracted to men, especially traditionally masculine men? In college, it seemed that queerness was almost a feature of rational thinking, that if one looked critically at the structures of behavior and saw that they did not align with ones values, than ones habits of attraction shifted (this is how it worked for me). Also, it seems that ‘power’ here has a specific or personal significance. If a woman is attracted to a man who is financially not powerful but who is a good writer, you may define his power as underlying his intelligence or creativity? I suppose put more concisely, power to do what? What kind of power? Power to exercise influence over others?
    I feel like these concepts of status are very nuanced and contextual and ultimately subserve a value system I already have. So that this idea of the other person having ‘power’ is already subservient to my value system, such that, ultimately, I am the source of power-granting. If being attracted to someone because I deem them powerful, and my deeming them so is an expression of some basic value I hold, then I am in the position of determining the conditions of power. Otherwise, I’d be attracted to wealthy people more often.

  2. I see this phenomenon a lot too. That said, physical beauty and power are both similarly vague. They are only small steps forward from FIK.

    The role you are trying to fill is very unique and depends on the individual. For example, I only want to date other NT Meyers-Briggs types. This is probably the biggest deal-breaker for me, and helps me get over crushes on people who I am attracted to but know I’m incompatible with. I’m female, but power isn’t a huge driver for me, other than wanting a man who is financially stable (and I have gone for men who aren’t financially stable and don’t regret it- other factors can still outweigh this)

  3. As a man, I’ve got to say that physical beauty is only the most superficially attractive quality to me. Yes, it’s a good bonus, and our culture may even heavily bias towards it, but in my maturity I’ve gotten over it as any kind of contributing factor for the women I date.

    Personally, these days I’d rather date a compatible plain girl that inspired me, than a pretty spoiled brat that contributed nothing else to the relationship. No one is really that ugly, and I’m happier overall when I feel like a partner instead of a babysitter. To be frank, I’d even wager that the cultural bias on looks over compatibility is a major factor in the divorce rate, because that shit doesn’t last forever.

    This might sound cynical, but the way I see it is this: Looks, brains, kindness. Choose two.

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