Still another man, forty-three and recently married, told me by e-mail: "For me, having a built-in family was very attractive, as I had lost a baby during my previous marriage. Her son has filled a space in my life that had been previously empty." This man also wrote that he feels closest to his wife when "we do things that involve our boy."
Devoutness. Peter Kahana, at age twenty-six, had recently given up alcohol after several years of almost daily partying. A day laborer and native Hawaiian, he decided to seek spiritual nourishment and new friends by attending a Christian church. There, he met Barbara during the postworship coffee hour. For many weeks, they saw each other only on Sunday mornings. Then he asked her out.
Twenty-three years into their marriage, Peter, now a records clerk at a small hospital in Oregon, remembers what drew him to Barbara: "I was attracted to her character. She would talk about God. Other women I knew wouldn't do that...She was real, not trying to flaunt anything. She accepted people where they're at. Everybody was valuable to her." Peter adds, "I was a good person, but she made me want to be better."
Peter's attraction to Barbara gradually grew over several months; it was not love at first sight. This is typical. Most husbands reported some level of attraction at first, followed by a long, slow buildup of connection. In 5 percent of cases, according to the VoiceMale Survey, husbands said they had been not at all attracted to their wives on first meeting. Only over time did a spark kindle.
But every now and then, a man knows almost immediately that he's met his match. According to my survey, 8 percent of husbands knew they wanted to marry their wife within a week of meeting her; an additional 5 percent said they knew within a month.
Kevin O'Leary had "a sense of something big" the day he met his wife-to-be. The meeting occurred one evening in 1976, as Kevin and a group of twenty-something young-professional friends gathered in one of their homes for their daily beer and banter. Kevin had moved to Southern California from the East Coast a year earlier to escape the influence of his parents but was continuing his father's legacy of drinking too much. His recent relationships with women, he recalls, had tended toward the short and disastrous.
And then Carolyn walked into the room. Fresh from the Midwest, where she'd grown up and attended college, she was new to the group. Kevin involuntarily sat taller on the couch as Carolyn was introduced around. He noticed her deep blue eyes and trim figure. But it was "the subtle bend in her nose, and a chipped front tooth" that particularly intrigued him. "At the time, I had no idea what was so compelling about her." But he knew he was attracted.
In the moment, Kevin did what many men do when they are drawn to a woman: He searched for "a flicker of interest" in Carolyn's face. To his dismay, he found none.
Weeks later, Kevin learned that Carolyn had begun dating one of his best friends. He accepted this grudgingly -- "I was used to disappointment," he told me -- and gradually became friends with Carolyn too. A couple of years later, he was an usher in her wedding to his friend.