'Good genes trump love in mate selection'


Monday, April 30, 2018

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A year and a half into her relationship with a man she describes as her “vertically challenged knight in ill-fitting armour”, Michelle B said she finally admitted to herself that she could go no further in the relationship, and broke things off with the man, who, in all other areas but appearance and intellect, was the best thing that had ever happened to her.

Her reason: “I'd thought numerous times about the plausibility of us going forward into what all women dream of — marriage and a family — and there was no way that we would mesh there. To be brutally honest, he was genetically inferior, not the sharpest tool in the shed, and I realised that our children would be cursed by the probability of not being the brightest, the best looking, the smartest they could be if I didn't choose my mate well.”

It's been three years since the break-up, and Michelle, 39, is still single, still searching, but still insists that life is about reinterpreting the Darwinian survival of the fittest theory, and ensuring a new generation that is better adapted for success.

“Good genes must trump love in mate selection,” she insisted. “It's the only smart way to approach life!”

For many of us, the childhood dream is usually to marry for love and have everything else fall in place. But this illusion is usually shattered when the realities of life hit and we realise that marriage is much more than stomach butterflies. As a result, some like Michelle wonder if marrying for love makes sense, or whether other variables like looks, intellectual prowess and personality traits should take precedence over the love emotion.

Wayne Powell, marriage and family therapist, explained that for most people, there is an emotional connection that would have played a pivotal role in igniting the relationship. On the other hand, there are people who approach relationships with their agendas known.

“Some people feel that pull or love connection while others will declare inwardly or outwardly that for instance, the prospective partner should be of a particular nationality to ensure the offspring will obtain certain genetic attributes; the skin colour must be of a lighter hue; the other person must be an intellectual with many letters behind his/her name; and the list goes on,” Powell said.

The marriage and family therapist said while there is nothing wrong with having a wish list, most times the desire and the reality may never coincide and the emotional inspiration would take precedence over the physical aspiration.

“There are instances where individuals pass over someone they do care for and for whom they have developed an emotional bond simply because he/she does not possess the beauty queen or the bodybuilder image. Then there are couples we see together and we ask ourselves, “what is it that he/she sees in this person who is unattractive or short or fat or thin or poor or just plain and simple?” The truth is, for them love — the emotional connection — is what they share and experience that makes them disregard the physical and materialistic things that will pass with time,” he said.

While not in a position to give relationship advice, Dr Compton Beecher, chief DNA analyst at Caribbean Genetics (CARIGEN), said opting to choose a life partner based on looks and other qualities such as smartness is one's own choice. But he pointed out that if this choice is made with hopes that your offspring will inherit the same, it's a gamble.

“The majority of DNA is hereditary and while you may achieve what you set out for — getting a mixed child, a tall child, a smart child — it's not a sure-fire thing,” Dr Beecher said.

He explained that one's DNA qualities cannot be predicted and depends on the fertilisation process — what happens when the sperm meets the egg.

“That process is entirely responsible for how the DNA of a new person happens. Most things are hereditary, but it may not be from this generation or any you are aware of. You may see similarities from both partners when the child is born and you may not. Qualities may come from the grandmother, it may come from the mother, you don't know,” he said.

Powell advised that selecting a life partner is a decision that should be taken seriously, and the criteria for selection should have to do more with the character of the individual and the emotional connection, rather than solely on the person's physical attributes and material possessions.

But how widely practised is this? We asked readers, would you marry for love, or are there other considerations in making your choice?

Kadian, 30, web designer:

If I am prepared to be a single parent and I'm not interested in a relationship, then I would [be particular]. If I am seeking to build a life and raise a family with someone then it would have to be based more on love, financial stability and personal traits. Looks do play a part because I want my children to have good features, but it's not as important as the other factors.

Roshae, 27, public relations practitioner:

I don't think my mother and father cared how I would look. My mother only wanted me to have my father's teeth, nose and bow legs, and I came out looking just like him in every way except that I got her knock knees. I don't really care how my kids want to look, though. I choose love, and hope my children look like me.

Nicolas, business owner, 37:

Growing up my grandmother always said “memba di pickni dem” whenever we spoke of the type of women we wanted to date or marry. I am single but I have children and I had that in mind when dating. Now, most of my children's physical features come from me. But while both their mother and I are educated and were high achievers in school, my children don't give two hoots about book work and it reflects in their grades. We are working to find a way to spark an interest. My daughter wants to do cosmetology and couldn't care less about science and business subjects, and my son is into mechanical stuff — fixing vehicles, etc. We just have to encourage them to get the education and do whatever they want. But bwoy, do we have a task trying to get them to love the idea that school is cool like we did.

Cassandra, entrepreneur, 44:

I could not date somebody based on looks. Mark you, I don't want an ugly gorilla-looking 'zutupeg' man to be with. But I can't take up someone just because I want my kids to look nice or be smart. That is shallow. In order for me to be intimate with someone there has to be more going on for them than just the physical. What is their mindset, mentality, mental health? Outlook on life? What is their heart like and their characteristics as a person?

Alecia, receptionist, 28:

I selected my partner because of love. There were certain basic criteria which he met such as intelligence and the right attitude. For me responsibility, respect and intelligence were major factors, but love was the reason we are together.

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