The Exception To The Rule

I’m averaging about one email every four or five days along the lines of “Should I marry my girlfriend?”  It’s semi-spooky that random strangers write me emails asking my advice on such a major decision and only give me a two to three hundred word snapshot of their girlfriend to make a judgment on her wife worthiness.

Sometimes the girlfriend is clearly a train wreck and the relationship is a less enjoyable experience than accidentally hitting a deer. At least no one blames you for a four-legged-bastard leaping out of the dark right in front of your car. I mean seriously why do deer do that? Do deer have fraternity hazing rituals? Truth or Dare with cocaine? Sudden diarrhea? Anyway, those guys I just tell to get the hell outta Dodge before it all goes down.

The others though aren’t so easy. These guys seem to have a fairly good relationship with the girl except for… a vague sense that they should email me and ask my opinion. My hunch is that these guys are self-selecting and have women’s intuition, God is telling them, sixth sense, quiet discomfort that progressing the relationship to the next level is a bad idea.

So here’s the rule…

If you’re a guy, your default setting when it comes to getting married is… to not get married. Not to anyone. That’s the rule.

However the exception to the rule, is the exceptional girl.

If she’s not exceptional, don’t make an exception. That’s what exceptional means.


If you sense a disturbance in The Force about your relationship, and you can’t put your finger on it, I suggest you look at two things. (1) Is it that you simply aren’t that much into her to want a life time contract with her? Or (2) you have already noticed her doing something that is a deal-breaker in some way, but you haven’t addressed it because the rest of the relationship is “so good.”

And she doesn’t have to be the perfect girl, because she doesn’t exist outside of romance novels and lingerie catalogs. Some positive combination of looks, likeability, lust and loyalty is rare enough these days. Or at least she should be smart enough to cover her weaknesses with pie.


  1. ironchefoklahoma says:

    Good to see you’re back on the air. The new site design looks great.

  2. I can’t make pie…does chicken curry counts?

  3. And he’s up! Nice look for the new skin.

    “you have already noticed her doing something that is a deal-breaker in some way, but you haven’t addressed it because the rest of the relationship is “so good.””

    Been there done that. Don’t let issues fester like this (the two-week rule is a good one for this).

  4. Makes sense to only want to marry an exceptional girl-the choice of marital partner is simply too important a decision, with too many long-lasting ramifications, to choose a possible spouse one has any doubts about.

    Of course this really applies to both genders, but with the generally female-biased divorce and family courts, it’s especially important for the guys to make sure they make the right choice…

  5. Eric J Schlegel says:

    Ah, but “getting married” being the Ultimate Goal for girls, and “BEING married” domestic drudgery, there is simply no way to tell what she will turn into after the gold ring is hammered onto your finger. And post-childbirth? FUGETABOUTIT! I short course in Quantum Mechanics might help the average shlub to know that there is simply no way to predict the position and velocity at the same instant. You don’t know what her hormones will be telling her next week; let alone 3 years down the road. Each and every Fucked Father has one thing in common: each one thought he had found “The One.” I consider myself lucky in that even though she changed it was not so bad that I ended up like Welmer Price, blogger of The Spearhead. Point is marriage is about buying a house for someone you don’t like. Be prepared for that. Be prepared for Darth Vader to tell you “I am altering the bargain; Pray I do not alter it further.”

  6. Mike-a-velli says:

    I know sounds cliche, but if want a snap shot of what you’re wife’ll be/look/act like years down the road, then look at her mom. I’m no evolutionary biologist, nor am I a geneticist or any other expert. But, my own personal experience (and that of my brother) is daily proving this to be true. Luckily, my mother-in-law is pretty cool, and naturally a pretty lady. My brother’s mother-in-law is a horder. Early on his wife was very neat, but now with kids and jobs there place always, invariably looks like shit. With my own wife I have noticed that more and more her manner of speaking, the way she uses her hands to express her self, her nervousness as a car passenger, etc (et cetera, ad nauseum) are beginning to mimic her mom’s mannerisms exactly. The point: when picking a wife the most important thing you can do is question yourself to really know what you want. If you don’t mind growing old, fat, and celibate together, then it doesn’t matter who you marry. Hell, you can sit around in sweatpants and watch tv with anyone. If, however, you want to still be banging an attractive, classy lady 15 years from now, then you’d better pick one from the right breeding stock. No matter how much muscle magazines and Dr. Oz tell you otherwise, you just can’t fight genetics. Real talk!

  7. As women control sex, men control the commitment. Most guys don’t understand that, and get caught in the trap of getting squeezed by a “decent enough” girlfriend who either wants the big party or is getting baby rabies or JUST WANTS HER MOTHER TO GET OFF OF HER FUCKING BACK ALREADY, all fairly common occurrences.

    So how do you tell your woman “Gosh, I’m thinking about a commitment with you, but you’re just not exceptional enough to make an exception” and still have her in your life? That’s a toughie, but its a challenge every man should rise to if he wants a good mate selection.

    First, don’t be afraid to raise issues. Women can find a thousand reasons to dump a guy, if their hamster is strong enough. Find a few good reasons why you shouldn’t get married, and raise them with her — but understand that once you go there, you can never go back. You are indeed risking a break-up by doing this. But you are avoiding a far more painful break-up, involving attorneys and more money than you can imagine, if you don’t.

    Secondly, know what the hell you want. Be introspective, and then be observant. Give it some thought — and do NOT act under impulse or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The sudden proposal sounds all romantic and stuff, but the realities are a lot worse than a hangover.

    Thirdly, get some perspective by asking six friends for advice: two you’re related to, two of your best friends, and two casual-enough observers of you both (who don’t possess a vested interest in the outcome). See what they have to say. If everybody is telling you “What? What’s taking you so long? Marry her!” that might be a good indicator. If they see problems, though, that should be a red-flag for you. More than likely there will be more than one thing that you’ll discover you hadn’t considered.

    And then . . . take another six months to think about it. As Athol said, don’t make an exception unless she’s exceptional, and we all know how few and far between they are.

  8. Good advice, Athol, as always. If you have to ask a stranger “should I marry her?” then the answer is “No.” If you should marry her, you won’t need anyone else to tell you that.

  9. Jet Tibet says:

    However the exception to the rule, is the exceptional girl.

    If she’s not exceptional, don’t make an exception. That’s what exceptional means.

    Exceptional in what way?

    If you want a family, then you probably can’t wait for a Stepford wife.

    Especially if you have specific requirements in areas like intelligence or traditional values.

  10. This is particularly a problem with relationships where people have sex prior to marriage, because the sex causes you to bond. So you feel like you’re in love. Yet you can rationally identify reasons why you should not commit. The conflict between head and heart in these situations becomes very much intensified after sex.

    This does not lead to a popular conclusion, but you can’t argue with your own biology.

  11. @Mark

    I wouldn’t say it’s a problem, necessarily, nor do I think premarital sex is the culprit. It’s just the way things have evolved. In fact it is basic economics. Once a man had to prove his worth to a prospective father-in-law, proving he could support his daughter and grandchildren. Now a woman has to prove her worth to a man, is all, proving she is worth the risk and effort of marriage. It’s the shift from the Agricultural Age to the Post-Industrial Age, and that’s just how things are going to be, now. Men will take far more deliberation before marrying, and women will end up competing for the available marriageable men. And the non-marriageable men will run Game on the many women who do want to get married, using their insecurities against them but never committing. Life in the 21st century.

  12. Athol, I totally agree with your advice. I spent 25 years in a difficult relationship. I finally had enough. If I had known then, what I know now. I would have NEVER married the train wreck. She used every trick in the book, to keep the relationship on her terms. Once I did a little research and Athol’s book. I ran the MAP on her. She was bat shit crazy. Now 2 years after the big “D”, life is good!

    All you young guys, be very careful, read all this site has to offer and make sure you read the book!

  13. This is the first time I’ve been here this month. I like how this Web site has changed since my last visit.

    And, Athol, your advice is spot on. This is basically what Dalrock says (also very good advice) on choosing a wife. Despite being an advocate of marriage, he tells men (rightly so) that the default answer to “should I marry Miss So-and-So” should be no. Don’t marry a woman unless you know she’s the real deal and she’s the wife for you.

  14. I would suspect most guys will always be a little hesitant to get married, they may be emailing more cause they look up to you as someone they respect and want/need someone to tell them the girl they are with is “good wife material”.

    The others, yeah they need someone they also look up to and respect to tell them to run for the hills.

    I would take both situations as a compliment.

    Like the new site by the way…

  15. Fifth Season says:


    I thought that Athol here argued in the past that a lack of bonding through sex (whether by a mental problem or having had too many partners so your brain no longer responds to the bonding hormones) was a bad thing. It’s not purely a rational decision, because without emotional commitment/bonding/passion as well the marriage is a sham.

    Sadly, the high divorce rate means that many don’t get this right. A lot of people think that they can change a person after they’re married. This sadly turns out not to be the case too much of the time. And “cover her weaknesses with pie”? I have to wonder what else falls under that “this’ll make up for her flaws” category.

  16. Brian M. says:

    There are no perfect women in romance novels. There are all as insecure and stubborn as women in the real world, maybe more so. It’s the guys in the romance novels that do all of the lifting in the relationship. I’ve started reading them to pick up some tips for myself.

  17. This makes me think of the advice my friend Dan got from his dad.

    “Don’t ask if you could see yourself spending the rest of your life with her. Ask if you could see yourself spending the rest of your life without her.”


    First, he suggests considering sans serif faces for body text. “When printed, the serifs on typefaces are only a tiny percentage of the typeface’s design. But on-screen, in order to display the serifs using the limited number of available pixels, they take up a much bigger proportion of the information than they do on a printed page. Serifs should be small things–but on screen they become big–no longer visual cues but noise–distracting chunks of interference.”

  19. I think it would make a whole lot more sense in this day and age to make pre-nups required (submitted to the courts attached to the marriage certificate), and to make the marriage contract for only a 5 year term. Unless renewed, the contract would be fulfilled, and thus expire, legally reverting to the pre-nuptial.

    I think women would take putting out a lot more seriously if they realized that they might be thrown back into the dating pool by default. And it would save (most) men from ridiculous & eternal alimony payments and lawyer’s fees, if that’s the only reason husbands currently stay in loveless/sexless marriages.

  20. I’ve found that most people who ask variations of “is my relationship ok?” already know the answer. The reason they’re asking is because they want someone else to confirm what they’re already feeling; that the relationship is in trouble. So yah, if they need the help of a total stranger to decide whether or not to marry a girl, the answer is no.

  21. Jaz’s idea of a 5 year re-up clause is spot on. I also would require a pre-nup before the marriage.

    Another bit of advice to men: When your girlfriend and maybe wife-to-be says that kids are not that important to her and doesn’t see what all the fuss is about, she’s lying. What she means is that she is going to temporarily pretend to not want kids. But, In the future she is going to badger you day in day out until you have a kid with her just to shut her up.

  22. Athol, there is no “reply” button to reply directly to another comment w/ WordPress?

  23. Having a child to “shut her up” is the worst reason to have a child. Get yourself snipped if you don’t
    want to be a father.

  24. @ Ian

    Relationship stats show that the more partners before married the more likely you’ll be to be unhappy and divorce. Also, the people who live together before marriage have a higher chance of divorce. Either way, if you try before you buy, you’re more likely to end up back on the shelf.

    @ Fifth

    I think we are actually agreeing. :) Perhaps I wasn’t clear before.

    Sex induces bonding. But the more you have sex without commitment, the more you train your body to not bond. Therefore, the lower your chances are of bonding in the future. Pair bonding is yet another aspect of life that follows the “use it or lose it” principle. It’s interesting that even people who seem in committed long-term relationships, but are unmarried, are more likely to break up, and when married are more likely to divorce.

  25. One problem with the 5 year contract term – what happens with any children born during that time? One of the main reasons men stay in loveless/sexless marriages is because they want to remain a major presence in their children’s lives, and do not want to become “weekend dads”. It is entirely possible for the mother (who usually gets primary custody in most jurisdictions) to make it very difficult for the father to get time in with their his own kids; in many jurisdictions she can take the kids and move several states away with no penalty from family courts. The father’s either got to move as well (and hope he can find a decent job in the new place) or lose contact with his kids.

  26. Just like us, a deer’s brain and instincts developed in the time before cars. They can’t comprehend “car”. Same with squirrels. All they get is there is a strange sound approaching fast and we’d better split before it try’s to eat our prey animal ass. You’ve got roughly a 25% chance (north, south, east, west) they will make the wrong decision for an escape route.

    Chicken curry counts if it’s a properly hot vindaloo.

    Serifs in body copy are a good thing. They make it easier to read and digest large chunks of information because the serifs lead your eye from one letter to the next. Keep them.

  27. @MacNut: Regarding the 5 year contract idea with children involved..

    Any contract can be renewed if both parties want to. Nowadays, yes, many people stay together for the children instead of divorcing, so it’s really no different with my idea. No state currently allows a pre-nup to decide visitation or child support — those must be ruled by the court.

    So your issue about the husband wanting to stay married is addressed already by my theory that the expiration date will cause people to be on their best behaviour. Men will not revert to being un-romantic, lazy pigs, and women will not put the brakes on the sex life and gain 50 pounds. It’s easier to date your spouse than to date strangers.

  28. Dreadpiratkevin says:

    I think that one of the major flaws of game as it relates to marriage, or at least to getting married is it’s focus on SMV. What I mean is a high SMV does not necessarily equate to a high Marriage Value. I’ve been married a long time, and if I were to list my wife’s qualities that make the marriage work in order, being ‘really hot’ is pretty far down the list. The problem is that young men have their own rationalization hamster, and it will spin nearly anything to excuse banging that slender hottie, A good question to ask is ‘when she looks (and acts) like her mother, will I still want to be married to her?’

    “she should be smart enough to cover her weaknesses with pie” Amen to that! As my FIL told me, “kissin wears out, cookin don’t!”

  29. Seems this fellow did not listen to his gut. Cringe worthy outcomes in his future I am sure. Funny how game, even if accidentally applied works on the most unrepentant of carousel riders.

  30. Mike M. says:

    I don’t know about a 5-year contract, but a pre-nup is a good idea. Combined with a balance sheet of all assets and debts.

  31. Also, about the prenup; having one assumes someone has assets they feel they need to protect. Not everyone goes into a marriage, especially a 1st marriage, with a house, car, and their own high-earning business. There are still plenty who marry with their only assets being a college degree (maybe!) and the paycheck from their 1st post-graduation job, with everything else being rented! And of course any assets accumulated during the marriage become marital community property.

  32. MacNut: A prenup can state that there will be no alimony for either spouse. Not all states follow a community property division, either, so a prenup can also state that your retirement money is yours, hers is hers, your car is yours, her car is hers, etc. (Although if people were smart, when they purchase vehicles they would only put the title in their name, not both names. Share the insurance instead. That way your pissed off wife can’t take off in your car in the middle of the night — it’s not stolen if her name is on the title.)

    The beauty of having only a 5 year expiration date is that infidelity ceases to be an issue. About half of the states still consider (proven) cheating a crime, and all it does is clog up the divorce courts and make private detectives and lawyers rich.

  33. You are right, but... says:

    Based on the couple of cases around us (mid-30’s early 40’s range) that have already ended up in divorce, the reason why the guy did not marry an exceptional girl was because he was not exceptional himself. One case has turned into a really ugly, ugly divorce where the woman has indeed gone batshit crazy and I do really feel bad for the guy. So I am not saying that this advice on this post is wrong, I am just saying that we are all human and we all have our faults. I’ve never thought of myself as exceptional and neither is my husband, we just got lucky that somehow we care about each other. So I think that if you care about someone and are willing to be considerate to them, and they show you they care and are being considerate to you now, then you can learn all the game stuff , plus all the compromising stuff, as you go…

    As far as staying single for ever, well, ask a 60+ year old who never married and never had children if they would do it all over again….I think some people would tell you is even better to go through the more amicable type of divorces (the ones without personal vendettas) than to never have given it a try…

  34. About half of the states still consider (proven) cheating a crime, and all it does is clog up the divorce courts and make private detectives and lawyers rich.

    They may consider adultery a crime, but from what I understand it’s rarely enforced.

    While it may be important if a state requires grounds for divorce (that’s where the private detectives come into play), in no-fault states adultery has no practical significance.

    That’s one of the things that really blows my mind about modern marriage laws. Can you think of any other contract where either party can get out of the agreement at any time for any or no reason and even potentially be rewarded for doing so regardless of any wrongdoing on their part?

    That’s why I think “don’t get married” should be the default position. You essentially agree to take on very real risk in exchange for the illusion of security, and the way I see it, that’s a bad trade.


  1. […] Athol: "If you’re a guy, your default setting when it comes to getting married is… to not get […]

  2. […] I believe anybody who isn’t ready for the commitment and sacrifice involved shouldn’t get married, and those who want to stay single should be free and unmolested to do so, telling a woman for whom […]

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