By Frances Childs
We’ve all heard — or perhaps experienced — a version of this story: man meets woman, they fall in love, date for a while, move in together. They frame photos, arrange them on the walls, pick out furniture, make a nest.
A few years on, marriage is on her mind. But she puts no pressure on him — he’ll ask when he’s ready, right? He doesn’t. She doesn’t push it. The relationship stagnates. Man leaves woman. Man swiftly marries subsequent girlfriend, leaving ex mystified and heartbroken.
This is what happened to Laura Hall, a 34-year-old financial adviser from London. Laura had been living with Douglas for four years when he walked out. ‘I just let the relationship drift on, hoping he’d pop the question in his own time. But he never did. I was devastated when he left.’
John Molloy, author of Why Men Marry Some Women And Not Others, says that many women simply do not push hard enough for marriage
And she was even more devastated when she heard he’d proposed to his next girlfriend within a matter of months. But why her and not Laura? Does it mean there are some women who are acceptable as a girlfriend, but not really quite the ticket when it comes to getting hitched?
A recent celebrity example that comes to mind is Pippa Middleton. With her long, luscious hair and legs to die for, Pippa is one of the most eligible women on the planet. The sister-in-law to the future King of England possesses an undeniable sex appeal, not to mention perhaps the most lusted-after derriere in the world.
Yet, according to reports, Pippa’s 18-month romance with Old Etonian Alex Loudon recently ended because his family considered her not quite ‘wife material’ — a phrase guaranteed to make female hackles rise. In this supposedly egalitarian age, is there really such a thing as ‘wife material’?
Well, yes, according to John Molloy, author of Why Men Marry Some Women And Not Others. Molloy claims there are definite types of women that men marry — and, equally definitely, women they do not.
Molloy interviewed more than 3,500 people in his quest to discover exactly why men pop the question to some of us and not others. When he asked men who were about to be married to describe their fiancees, only 20 per cent said ‘gorgeous’ or ‘sexy’. The others focused on their future wives’ personalities.
According to reports, Pippa Middleton's 18-month romance with Old Etonian Alex Loudon ended because his family considered her not quite 'wife material'
One man summed up his future bride as ‘the kind of woman you can take anywhere and be proud of’ — a sentiment echoed by many other men in the course of Molloy’s research. More than 30 per cent of the men Molloy interviewed who were about to get married said their family’s positive opinion of their future bride had helped them decide she was ‘the one’ — and most parents aren’t looking for an incredibly sexy or very attention-seeking spouse for their son.
Frances says Pippa may well be rueing the day she allowed herself to be photographed being hoisted in the air by her ex-boyfriend Charlie Astor
Just look at feisty, flirty, gorgeous Cameron Diaz. Men fall for her in their droves, yet she always ends up single again. If we believe Molloy’s thesis, Cameron’s just too sexy — on some deep, evolutionary level, the men she dates don’t believe she’ll stick around.
But while men apparently don’t want sexy wives, they do want women who take care of themselves. Molloy found women who are slim and well-groomed with nice hair and nails are prized, although those who wear revealing, attention-grabbing clothes are not.
It all sounds a bit schizophrenic: men want to marry women who are sexy and fit, but not too sexy and fit.
Another reason women find themselves without a ring on their finger, Molloy says, is that many simply do not push hard enough for it. He found 73 per cent of the wives-to-be he spoke to had forced the issue themselves rather than waiting for a romantic proposal.
This rings true for Laura Hall. ‘I should have been clear about how much marriage meant to me,’ she says now. ‘I was living with him, doing all the things a wife does, but without a ring on my finger. He could just walk out and in the end that’s exactly what he did.’
While she concedes things had become stale between them, she says it happened precisely because the relationship had lost its momentum — the explicit acknowledgement of commitment that typically leads to engagement, then marriage, then children.
Experts say this is common when couples live together. According to Dr Joel Block, psychologist and author of the book The Real Reasons Men Commit, women need to be wary of serial co-habiters. If a man has had more than one live-in relationship, he is less likely to marry than a man who hasn’t or who is in his first co-habiting relationship.
'Lukewarm': Loudon's parents James and Jane Loudon didn't see Pippa as wife material for their son
If you are with a man who has lived with someone before and you want to get married, you need to say so and stick to your guns early on in the relationship. Make your wishes known. It worked for Gemma Jones, 30, a childminder from Kent. ‘I lived with Mark for a year and then I told him I wanted to get married. He was a bit fazed at first and came out with lines like “it’s only a bit of paper” but I explained that marriage was important to me and to my family, who are Roman Catholics.’
‘Mark agreed to set a date when he understood that I really wanted to get married and that I wouldn’t be happy if the relationship just carried on,’ she explains.
Research also demonstrates that men prize women who don’t cook and clean for them as a matter of course. As one man in the survey ungallantly put it: ‘No one marries a servant.’ It seems that men are attracted to women who are aware of their own self-worth. But nowadays isn’t co-habiting merely a sensible step to take before vowing to spend the rest of your life together?
Psychologists agree that moving in together is fine — as long as both people are clear about where they think it will lead. ‘Simply put, most men place marriage on a higher level of commitment than just living together,’ explains Block. ‘While women might think that living together is a step towards marriage, many men view it as a way of buying time — or worse, a good option until they find their future wife.
Too sexy? Cameron Diaz dated Justin Timberlake for three years, but ended up single again
Molloy also advises a little lowering of standards. Some women never get married, he says, because they are simply too fussy. Of the women he interviewed who were about to get married, 20 per cent admitted disliking their future husbands when they first met them. ‘Of course, you should have standards, but it sometimes pays to give men a second or even third chance,’ Molloy advises.
Web designer Nicki Carter from Reading, who at 41 has never been married, worries that now she never will. She ruefully admits: ‘I was probably too picky. I finished with one boyfriend because I thought he wasn’t focused enough on his career. And I finished with another one because I decided he was too possessive.
‘In fact, he was madly in love with me, handsome, funny, well-educated and kind. He wanted to marry me but I wasn’t interested. I always thought I could do better and now I wonder if I was wrong.’Joel Block argues that there is no such thing as perfect. ‘I think that women who are growing older as they search for Mr Right should reconsider. Would finding Mr “Almost Right” be better than a single life?’ he asks. For some it wouldn’t. ‘Some women just don’t want to get married. They aren’t the marrying type,’ Molloy says.
Whether Pippa is or isn’t remains to be seen. Certainly, she will have no shortage of eligible suitors queuing up to replace Alex Loudon and, at 28, she’s hardly left on the shelf. However, she may well be rueing the day that, dressed in that plunging, cleavage-enhancing scarlet dress, she allowed herself to be photographed being hoisted in the air by her ex-boyfriend Charlie Astor on the dance floor at the Boodles ball.