Born to Marry: See what will really fulfill you

Tired of hearing culture critics from every corner belittle people who “just” want to marry, have children, and derive satisfaction from their families? Me, too. I’m Dr. James McQuivey and I’m the founder of the Born to Marry project. I have conducted one of the most comprehensive research projects to explore why some of just seem born to marry despite modern criticisms of this supposedly old-fashioned urge. Those of us who are born to marry — those who score highest on the Born to Marry test — are some of the happiest people in our modern society not to mention great contributors to their communities. As I will share in this project, some of us were likely born from the DNA up to feel three basic urges, the urge to pair bond, procreate, and protect their bonds.

Are you born to marry? If so, use this research to learn more about yourself, how you got this way, and how you can have the most fulfilling life you were born to want.

In this project, I will show that to ignore the marrying urge that you have is to ignore all the collective wisdom of thousands of generations of evolved humanity that preceded you. To pretend that you do not have the urges, tendencies and propensity to learn and act on specific motivations that you have, would be to ignore one of the most important sources of guidance you could otherwise have to light your personal path in life, including mating as well as cooperation, companionship, and alliance-making.

Further, I will argue that your in-born mating strategy is in need of some deep reexamination. Though it used to be a default strategy in western culture, it is more recently under attack by people who claim it is harmful, even oppressive. This means that today, many people who want to continue to pursue the strategy of pair bonding and procreation — because they feel it will satisfy them the most — are increasingly shamed into postponing or even hiding their real desires in order to conform to emerging, shifting norms.

My goal is to make living for marriage respectable again. To do that I will use science and research to demonstrate that being born to marry is based in our biology, that there are three biological urges embedded deep inside of us — the urge to pair bond, procreate, and protect our pair bonds – gifted to us by our genes, modified by our experience, and shaped by our cultures which we can consciously choose to embrace. I can share that contrary to what some people in the media or in Hollywood want you to believe, living blue is awesome for you and provides massive benefits to the rest of society. Those of us who are born to marry should happily serve as crucial contributors to the success and happiness of everybody, whether they feel what we feel or not.

I’ll know I’ve succeeded when people know what it takes to choose to live for marriage and they conscientiously work on being better at it. They and I will spend less time defending marriage and more time defining marriage, for ourselves, our communities, and future generations. Along the way it is my hope that the rest of society will recognize the good that we’re accomplishing and stop trying to tell us not to be who we are: born to marry.


How Born to Marry Are You?

Born to Marry: The Test

Ever wish you could just ask your body — deep down in your bones — what would make you happiest in life? It turns out, for those of us who are born to marry, we sorta can.

Welcome to the Born to Marry test. Based on a detailed survey of a thousand Americans, the test statistically identifies how much you feel the three core urges of those who are born to marry: the urge to pair bond, procreate, and protect your bond.

In this way you just might have something to learn from a lowly lizard. As described by Dr. James McQuivey, those who are born to marry can learn a lot from a humble lizard — the blue-throated common side-blotched lizard — which serves as a kind of mascot for those of us who are born to marry. Unlike its orange- and yellow-throated peers, the blue side-blotch prefers to bond to a single mate and raise offspring together. It maintains this strategy even as its peer lizards prefer more loosely defined couplings.

You are not a lizard, but you might have been born to be like this particular one, that is if the human urges to pair bond, procreate, and protect your bond were born into you, too. Unfortunately for you, as more of your human peers express a preference for looser relationships that de-emphasize these three things, it becomes harder for you to know what you can do to be as happy as you were born to be.

That’s why we created the Born to Marry test. Click on the link below to take the test — when it’s done you’ll get a score that puts you in one of four groups depending on how much you are like the little blue lizard. Then we’ll put our heads together and learn more about how to live the life you were born to live.

Click to take the Born to Marry test

Post: Can You Prevent Cheating?

Most people — 72% or nearly 3 out of 4 of Americans — believe that society is better off when couples are sexually faithful to each other. Even among people who admit they are not always faithful to their partners, 47% still agree that society is better off when others are.

Despite our preferences, infidelity occurs. Though it’s maddeningly difficult to determine what the actual rate of infidelity is. If we limit ourselves to married couples, the rate of infidelity, whether a one-time or longstanding affair, is somewhere between 15% and 30%. In my Born to Marry study, I only asked whether people had cheated on their current spouse, ignoring prior marriages if there were any — the number who admitted to cheating was 16%, on the lower end of where other studies put the range. Of course, some of the currently faithful may yet become unfaithful so the numbers are a moving target. But the fact to remember from all this is that even though most of us value sexual fidelity, somewhere around a fourth of us will not be faithful over the span of our marriages.

There is good news in this. First, it means that unlike the doom-and-gloom thoughts people have about divorce (“half of all marriages end in divorce,” which is not true and becoming less so each year as divorce rates fall), it means that on a purely random level, most marriages will not experience fidelity.

The real nugget of insight in there is the fact that infidelity is decidedly not random. People make choices — not just to commit adultery but to put themselves in situations where adultery is possible. Marriage counselors have ample advice for how to make choices that will avoid infidelity. Happily, the same advice for drawing you together will likely keep others out.

The truth is that our bodies partake of the same animal nature that causes most animals not to be monogamous for life. Seen this way, it’s somewhat surprising that most marriages do not cave to infidelity. Some might say that admitting our animal nature is a handy excuse for giving in to temptation, but I see it as precisely the opposite. Understanding that our bodies are animal can help us overcome the sometimes-disloyal thoughts we might have. If a thought of another distracts us from our pair bond, instead of believing that we are falling in love with another person, a near-mystical state that might be hard to resist, we can choose to see that those feelings of attraction are mere biological signals.

When we feel tired, do we have to sleep in the exact moment we feel tired? No, we can wait for the right moment and right place. The same applies to our other biological urges.

Managing the body is not just about managing moments of response, moments of decision. The body also has a memory we can choose to populate as we wish and which guides our future thoughts and actions. As anyone who has tried to change a physical habit knows — switching from skiing to snowboarding, for example — your mind and body develop muscle memory and preferences for behaviors you have previously mastered.

Which leads to my point: One such behavior some have mastered is the ability to meet and have a sexual relationship with someone they are not emotionally invested in or socially committed to. Whether a one-night stand or a three-week fling, such short-term liaisons are precisely the kind of thing that some of us would be awful at not because we don’t have the same tempting desires that others do but because we have no practice in doing them. I would not know the first thing to do in a bar to signal to someone that I’m interested in hooking up. I’ve never done it! This is great for my marriage.

Is there evidence that people who have more practice with what researchers call short-term mating strategies are more likely to cheat? Yes, there is. As I wrote for the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) in late 2019, the Born to Marry study reveals that people who have had more sexual partners in their life have developed more skill at having low-emotion, low-commitment sexual encounters. This, in turn, makes them less likely to commit to being faithful to their current sexual partner. As I wrote in The Road to Infidelity Passes Through Multiple Sexual Partners:

…infidelity is also often the fruit of a lifelong approach to mating that involves seeking and practicing short-term mating encounters that encourage sexual variety at all stages and into marriage.

How do you get to infidelity? Practice, practice, practice.

There are more questions to ask. For example, is it possible that the people more likely to practice hook-up culture are already different from people who do not? This would make them more likely to continue to engage in short-term mating behaviors even after marriage. This is not only possible, it’s probable. Which is why the Born to Marry project is so helpful. If someone looks at the variety of relationships available to them and concludes that they will be more satisfied with short-term mating experiences, then they are probably low on the Born to Marry scale (did you take the test yet?). That would be important for them to know. It would also be important for someone considering a relationship with that individual to know as well. It definitely suggests that a potential partner who thinks they have found a previously promiscuous mate who through their love will somehow longer want sexual variety will be fighting an uphill battle. Not unwinnable, but certainly much harder.

You fit somewhere in and among this mix of inborn urges, acquired habits, and socially motivated behaviors. You have choices to make: If you are Born to Marry, your best path forward is clear — aim for long-term, exclusive relationships that lead to faithful marriage. That will make you happiest, most satisfied with life, all of which I can verify with statistics. And if it leads to being a grandparent some day, I can verify by personal experience that your cup of joy will then be overflowing.

Post: Has Hollywood Hacked Your Thoughts About Marriage?

The movie business has struggled throughout 2020 and for the sake of the many creatives and professionals who rely on the business, I hope it comes back strong as soon as the pandemic subsides. However, like many other things that were forever altered by the pandemic, I hope that some things in Hollywood don’t return to the pre-virus normal. Specifically, I hope that Hollywood finds an appreciation for stable families that abandoned decades ago.

As I wrote for the Institute for Family Studies around Oscar season in early 2020, Hollywood has a tendency to ignore stable families. I wrote:

…the movie industry will gather to participate in the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, along with a U.S. audience of approximately 30 million television viewers. There will be many things on display—elegance, talent, and creativity among them. But one thing will be conspicuously absent from most of the art being celebrated: the depiction of happily married families. Only one of the films nominated in the best picture category, Little Women, features a happy, stable marriage. 

From The Hollywood Family Paradox: How Moguls’ Morals Dictate Media Content, by James McQuivey, Ph.D.

The explanation for this is not as simple as it seems, which I explain in the article by sharing research I presented at the 1997 annual conference of the International Communication Association. The fact is, the people who make these movies are motivated as much by impressing other people in Hollywood as they are by earning box office success. And what do those other people want? To live the mogul life, unfettered by commitments to marriage and family. (Read the article for a little-known origin of the term “media mogul,” and how applicable it is to these individuals.) The highest-profile of these moguls are Harvey Weinsteins in sheep’s clothing. If you want to pitch that kind of producer a story, how likely are you to propose a movie or TV show about a hardworking family that overcomes obstacles in pursuit of a humble but meaningful life? You can guess by the percent of projects that depict such families that you wouldn’t even bother. Instead you’d make a Marriage Story or some other show that depicts marriage as a futile, deceit-ridden, even harmful enterprise.

Which is exactly what we get from Hollywood. What this means for you is that whether you realize it or not, you might think things about marriage that aren’t true. Like that most marriages end in divorce (they don’t) or that marriage is always harmful to women (it isn’t) or that children that experience divorce when growing up don’t suffer any lasting consequences (they do). The truth is that marriage itself isn’t perfect and marriages are not perfect. But follow the statistics and you find that marriage does far more good than harm for those who engage in it, the children raised in those marriages, and the broader communities in which those families live. That’s part of why the Born to Marry project exists, to set the record straight with objective data. Stay tuned for more of the research as I roll it out.

Post: Happy People and the Self+Other Centeredness Paradox

Everybody knows, you are either selfish or selfless, right? You can’t be both at the same time, can you? Not without some kind of internal conflict, at least. Wrong!

It turns out that not only can people hold supposedly contradictory views in their minds at the same time but that the same mental and emotional machinery that allows them to do this also makes them the happiest among us.
This also bodes well for their relationship satisfaction: For example, among those in each group who were married, 68 percent of those who gave self- and partner-focused advice reported that they always “feel loved in this marriage,” compared to 54 percent of partner-prioritizing individuals and 40 percent of self-focused people. This last number is lower than the 45 percent of marrieds who would give neither advice. A similar pattern persists for many areas of marriage, including sexual satisfaction and how much fun partners share together.

From: Are Most People Selfish, Selfless, or Both? by James McQuivey, Ph.D.

I launched the Born to Marry Project (B2M) to apply the tools of objective research to what is a potentially emotional as well as political topic. Marriage, because of its prominence in society as well as religion, draws its irrational supporters as well as opponents. The goal of B2M is to set those irrational arguments aside and see what the data tell us about some of our most fundamental human behaviors. If done right, the research will not only tell us about marriage, it will contribute to our overall understanding of the psychology of the urge to bond with others whether in social affiliation or in the more intimate bond of intimacy and marriage. This article, originally published in February of 2020 on Psychology Today via the very insightful Rob Henderson, is more academic than most of the fruits of B2M, but hopefully that doesn’t make it less accessible or useful. Read the article to learn a few important things:

  • We don’t actually have to choose between being self-centered or other-focused. In fact, about 25% of people prioritize both.
  • This undermines the idea of cognitive dissonance which most of us have learned shorthand in school, which claims that people can’t maintain competing beliefs or motivations without needing to abandon one over the other.
  • Instead, having the psychological machinery to care about both things also predicts much higher satisfaction with life and much higher happiness in marriage.
  • Those who believe that people will be socially or emotionally better off by reducing self-centeredness would be smart to instead work to increase other-centeredness which had a greater outcome on people’s personal wellbeing.

In marriage, this dual approach is preferable to the overly simple approach of completely focusing on your partner. Those people who do so are happier than the self-centered people, for sure, but lag in every indicator behind people who experience the world more completely as a synthesis of self+other centeredness. That’s a paradox worth achieving.

My takeaway is simple: If you want to be happier in life and certainly in marriage, cultivate the ability to appreciate every input, every sensation. Sometimes you learn best by centering in your own thoughts and experiences. Other times thinking of yourself first can get in the way of true learning and connection. If you learn to consciously integrate both senses of self+other centeredness simultaneously, the numbers suggest you will be happier and I have a hunch that others around you will be, too.

Who Is James McQuivey, Ph.D.?

True, James is a writer and researcher, a man uniquely qualified to construct and analyze the Born to Marry project. More importantly, he is also a husband and father who, together with his wife of thirty years, has brought six children into this world and has been blessed with one grandchild (so far). You decide which credential matters most!

I’ll be honest, I have quietly endured more than a few scoffs and scorns over my career as colleagues, bosses, and clients have expressed dismay or even — on rare occasions — disgust at the fact that my wife and I chose to welcome six children into our crazy, happy family. Add to that the number of times major news sources like The New York Times or The Atlantic have written hit pieces on marriage with the intention to shake us off our family-focused foundation, and I finally got tired of quietly putting up with it all. I decided it was time to apply the skills I earned in more than two decades of research and analysis to ask and answer this key question: Are some of us just born to be this way? And if so, is it so wrong if we do what comes naturally to us?

After spending my own money to design and conduct the Born to Marry survey project, I got the answer. There are some of us born to marry, who feel deeply the urge to pair bond, procreate, and protect their bonds. We are solid, contributing citizens that the rest of the country should celebrate and not continually try to undermine. The Born to Marry project is the result of that effort.

McQuivey’s background:

  • He earned a Ph.D. from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. There he studied media audience research and crosstrained in anthropology, sociology, neuroscience, and technology. He has taught at Syracuse and Boston University.
  • He has spent more than two decades as a consumer technology market analyst, forecasting interest in and adoption of new technologies ranging from eReaders to Alexa smart speakers.
  • He has published over a hundred industry reports, has been quoted often by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, has appeared on every major TV network, and has been regularly interviewed for comment by national radio programs. He is also author of the book Digital Disruption (2013).
  • The clients he has advised read like a who’s who of the modern economy, ranging from Amazon to Bank of America, Microsoft to Humana. His ability to use valid data to unearth what consumers really want and predict what they’ll do next will be as valuable to Born to Marry readers as it was to his clients.