How to pick a wife if you want to have kids



Recently I wrote a post about how to pick a husband if you want to have kids. A lot of people asked that I write the male corollary to that post. So, here it is.

This post is about identity. How to see yourself. How to figure out if you can remake yourself. How to make a life that is true to yourself. And, put more bluntly, how to get the best deal in a wife given who you are.

For men, there are three choices: breadwinner, and stay-at-home dad, and  shared responsibilities. 

Choice 1: Be the Breadwinner

The first thing is that you need a realistic sense of who you can be. The breadwinner and the stay-at-home dad are the extreme ends of the spectrum. Most families end up with some blended scenario where there are two incomes and both parents pitch in with the household duties.

The easiest thing for most men to imagine is that they are the breadwinner. Then they don’t have to do a lot of compromising with their wife. The wife takes care of things at home, and they take care of things at work. It’s a very clear division of labor.

This setup has been proven to create the most stable marriages. It makes sense because there is someone whose full-time job it is to take care of the marriage. So the marriage and the family stays together.

This setup also creates the highest earners. Most men at the top of corporate life have a stay-at-home wife supporting them at home.

The first factor to consider in this scenario is that you have to be a stable earner. The more money you earn, the more women you have to choose from. You cannot attract women who cannot live on your salary. So really, you can be a breadwinner at any salary if you can find a woman willing to stay home on your salary.

Something to consider is that salaries top out at age 40. They only keep rising for people who are climbing the very top of the corporate ladder or people who own their own company. So if you are a regular employee or middle manager, you should figure that you will not keep increasing your salary after age 40. On top of that, nearly all the people who are senior in corporate America have a Myers Briggs score of ENTJ or something very close to that—ESTJ, for example.

There are exceptions, of course. But you’re playing an odds game here. If you are getting married in your mid 30s, you are pretty much at the pay level you will be at for the rest of your life. So pick a woman who can live on that.

If you are in your 20s, you should take the Myers Briggs test and you will find out if you have a personality type that will feel fulfilled longterm by working long hours and competing at a high level while leaving the brunt of family life responsibilities  to your wife.

Choice 2: Marry a Breadwinner

Stay-at-home dads don’t do the homemaker job like moms do. They usually have huge side projects going on that feel like a part-time job to them even if they are not directly earning money. (Remodeling the house in a series of small projects, for example.) So the men are often pretty happy with the arrangement.

Until they are not. There’s a huge social stigma to men staying home with kids.  But also, there’s a sexual stigma. Women want to marry someone who earns more than they do, even women with extremely high salaries.

You’d think that as long as one of the spouses is taking care of the family full-time, then it wouldn’t matter which one was in the breadwinner role. But in fact, if a man’s hours at work increase to garner a higher salary, there is no negative impact on the marriage. But as a woman increases her hours to earn a higher salary, the chances of her getting a divorce go way up. (Here’s the citation for that data – a bunch of academic publications.)

That said, if you want to stay home with kids, your best bet is to find a woman who has already shown that she is comfortable working very long hours with little personal life. Because if she can’t do that before she has kids, she’s not going to want to do it after she has kids.

Also, we can talk about the wide range of women who can be successful, yes, but at the top of the corporate ladder, the women are just like the men: all ENTJs. And less than 1% of all women are ENTJs, so you have your work cut out for you if you want to find one.

For those ENTJ women who want to climb the corporate ladder, your willingness to stay home is gold. For women, having decision-making responsibilities at home decreases their chances of advancing at work. So having a competent, take charge, stay-at-home partner would be essential for this type of spouse’s career success.

(The breadwinner must earn a lot to support a husband and kids. But if you are thinking you could live off a lot less if you could just get a breadwinner who doesn’t want kids, try an INTJ. Women who are INTJs are most likely to not want kids. )

Choice 3: Shared Parenting

In each of the above examples, one spouse gives up the majority of time they could spend with their kids in order to have a huge, exciting—and high paying—job. In this scenario there is no trade off like that. And there is no high-paying job.

Increasing numbers of men want to spend more time with their families. This shift among Generation X dads has been building for years and exploded during the last recession when it became clear that women were out-earning men and the the recession was hitting men disproportionately. The rise in stay-at-home dads looked like it was a result of men being unemployed but it turns out that men really want to spend more time with their kids by choice.

The problem is that we have no proven  road map for how this might work. Because first of all, in households where men think men and women split the housework, women think they do the majority of it and in reality, the women are right. On top of that, in the homes where there is shared care, many women outearn their husbands, and women do not usually like this. They tell their husband that they don’t care. Then they tell pollsters they can’t stand it.

The immediate impact of establishing shared household duties is less sex, according to American Sociological Review. But that’s just one of the potentially explosive issues related to shared care.

Landmine: Instability. Now both spouses are minimally engaged at work, so neither is a stable breadwinner and both are vulnerable at work in their 40s when they are competing with 29-year-0lds for the same job and the 29-year-old is full of potential and can work 24/7 because they have no kids.

Landmine: Change of heart. Partners who are agreeing to do both types of family labor instead of specializing at work are the people most likely to have a change of heart. This is true because it’s a poorly-defined sense of identity, as no one is equally suited to work and stay home with kids – they are fundamentally opposite skills when compared to almost every job.

Landmine: Your wife falls in love with the kids. We all know that when a woman says she will go back to work after maternity leave, it doesn’t happen until it happens. Because so many women are completely different after they have kids. Who knows what your wife will really want to do if she was never all that committed to work to begin with?

Women who are most likely to be tortured that they are not climbing the ladder: ENFJ.

Women who are most likely to change their mind and not want to go back to work after the baby: ISFJ.

Women most likely to be disappointed that there is so little combined earning power in this arrangement: ESFP.

Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP.

(You can learn how to figure out the personality type of the women you meet if you sign up for my Myers Briggs webinar.)

What to do?

This approach to picking a mate may seem crass, but what you’re really trying to do is mitigate family trauma down the line. If you look at a situation realistically, and consider the odds based on objective evidence—research—you can see if it will be likely possible for each person to get what they want, or that they should move on to someone else, rather than have children together.

It’s true that you do need to commit to your financial goals and figure out what you can contribute before you pick a spouse. Otherwise you’re just shooting in the dark and you may as well just go date a girl who reads.

117 replies
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  1. Alison
    Alison says:

    I love the pragmatism in this post.

    The INFP comment just looks like an ENTJ rejecting their almost-shadow type, though (since you only flip to their strategies when your own preferences have let you down and you’re stressed, you embody the dark sides of IxFPs rather than see their strengths).

    INFPs are harmony-seeking to the point of being too conflict avoidant, that’s a great emotional shelter. Maybe a man who came from a rough childhood or who has chosen a highly stressful career should seek them out.

    • shilpi
      shilpi says:

      totally. *NFP’s generally have tons of emotional intelligence and make really great wives. Have many friends with this type (in all different fields: lawyer, non-profit, tech, and a doctor) who have very happy husbands who feel nurtured and understood. Seems like they would be good parents, too.

      • Simone
        Simone says:

        Whoa… I was happily reading this post and felt sucker-punched by this line:

        “Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP.”

        I mean damn Penelope! But than again, what else can you expect from an ENTJ if not bluntness. Which reminds me of the ENTJ, I am currently dating. Everything I’ve read on this pairings tells me we’re not a very good fit.

        The saving grace is the INFP’s ability to empathize and seek equilibrium which allows me to see my partner for who he is and appreciate his gifts. Coincidentally, this is why I appreciate Penelope and everything quirky and crazy that is uniquely her,

        This is probably the most dominating aspect of my personality and explains why I have always attracted ENTJ’s in love and work. I’m usually the only one who likes that assmonkey of a boss who everyone else hates…lord knows they love me… that’s because I value that no one else is like them and that they tell the truth without fear of censure.

        Now, I realize why we’ve always gotten along until they burn me out with their demanding/overwhelming personalities.

        oops, back to my original complaint…

        “Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP.”

        I don’t know if I’m mad because this is true or mad because I don’t know if this is me or not. Great, just what I need more of in my life – ambivalence. Alright, see you on Sunday, P!

        • AP
          AP says:

          As an INTJ, when I read lines like the one referenced, it doesn’t make me angry. It’s relieving to hear that it’s ok not to want kids and have it put in a straightforward way for once.

          • Melissa
            Melissa says:

            I’m also an INTJ.
            Why would that line ever make one of us angry?
            Even in my case, where I do want kids, I can relate just as much to not wanting to have them.

    • Tina
      Tina says:

      I am an ENFJ. My boss is 2IC in a successful organisation (currently filling in for the CEO) and an INFP. He is also the most amazing boss I have ever had. My husband is an INTJ and has also been blessed with an INFP boss who he thinks is fantastic. MBTI is a great tool, but it is being misused if it pigeonholes you.

    • RACHEL
      RACHEL says:

      I don’t think it was meant as a SLAM against INFP women. INFPs are the most perfectionist personality, which isn’t necessarily bad. P also didn’t DISCOURAGE marrying an INFP woman. It’s just a heads-up about this type. If you marry an INFP woman, she may come off as ISFJ suzy-house-wife, but there is more depth and restlessness there than appears. So take note. On the flip side, INFPs can appear as an ENTJ ‘driven’ type, if their doing something they love, but may change their mind later. Come on INFPs so sensitive!

  2. Tara
    Tara says:

    As an ISFJ, this amuses me.Twenty-two years ago, I sure did change my mind and want to stay home with my beautiful baby. Not possible. I wish I had known that ISFJs stick to their commitments and do their best to fulfill their promises, no matter the cost to themselves. That said, that baby and her subsequent brother turned out just fine and my spouse and I managed through it all too!

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Oh, I really love that link, Daniel. I think it’s very hard to understand the personality types by only looking at positive traits – it’s one-dimensional. And anyway, negative commentary is so amusing – which that link of yours really shows.


        • Ann
          Ann says:

          I don’t need/want a man who earns more than me. I like that my man deals with the details at home that I can’t be bothered with so that I can follow my passion at work.
          Perhaps we INFPs don’t fit statistical norms.
          Also, why am I likely to be dissatisfied? Is it the idealism? The restless open-endedness? The looking for meaning??

          • Daniel Baskin
            Daniel Baskin says:

            Yes. It’s the idealism. INTPs get it a little too. Because everyone else seems content to “play the BS game” and compromise on values–which, if no one compromised their values, this world would actually be really cool–work life can seem hopeless unless you can figure out a truly valuable service to offer people that you feel is actually improving people’s lives.

      • Ann
        Ann says:

        Daniel, I want to thank you for your Intentional Vulnerability post on your blog, where there is no place to comment. Apologies to Penelope for using her comments space for this.

  3. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    This is brilliant. Clear thinking that cuts through all the emotional turmoil around money, sex, and and kids. I forward these posts by you to my husband, and they never rile him up the way I do…your pragmatism and phrasing speak to him like a man does.

  4. thatgirl
    thatgirl says:

    So who was it that said that adding “just sayin’!” after telling someone they’re wrong makes delivering contrarian viewpoints more palatable? Oh yeah–no one.

    I’m putting that in the bin next to “I’m sorry you were offended by what I said.”

    It’s getting old, people.

  5. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    There are multiple approaches to figuring out type compatibility over the long run.

    Most I’ve encountered take a half-same, half-different complementary stance. (i.e., opposites may or may not attract, but they don’t last, and identical types lack diversified perspective and enable each other to not curb personality weaknesses).

    Some take a “cognitive functions”-based approach.

    Others take a formulaic, first two letters = same, last two different approach.

    While I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the former approach–I value thinking about MBTI in terms of the cognitive functions–I somewhat disagree with the website I listed’s prescription for mates. Their prescriptions for lovers are better suited as prescriptions for business partners.

    But I’m biased, because my wife is INFJ, which follows the prescription for type matches in the latter link. I can see the value both ways.

    Are certain letter commonalities better or worse to give up than others? If one is an Introvert and the other Extrovert, they may not be able to find a common environment where they both feel re-energized. If one is S and the other N, seeing eye-to-eye and sharing interests may be problematic.

    However, despite the difficulties of one being F and the other T, I find that the advantages of having both perspectives in a relationship outweigh the disadvantages–as long as one is also J and the other P, for reasons I won’t go into too much detail here about (has to do with the introverted vs. extroverted focus of each cognitive function).

  6. TD
    TD says:

    I know that many couples choose two incomes and shared home responsibility because double incomes means if one person loses their job the other one still has the means to pay the bills. Isn’t diversifying streams of income a common method of reducing risk? Yet you often advice that one person be primary earner and the other stay home. I don’t get it. Also, if the stay at home spouse is happiest with some form of part-time work, I would imagine choosing to stay at home completely will strain the marriage.

    I also find it irksome that this post shows the best scenario for marriage and kids is a breadwinner man who focuses on work and a stay-at-home mom who takes care of marriage, kids and home. This set-up works until the kids leave home and the wife realizes the husband is still working all the time. I grew up in this kind of household and frankly liked it. But I cannot ignore the fact that my mother regretted not being able to progress in her career.

    • Voyager
      Voyager says:

      The problem you run into is to keep that job you need to develop a high level of skill in it, which, if you are simultaneously trying to develop a high level of skill in kid rearing is going to be very difficult. The most likely result is you end up bad at both, and both of you end up on the lay off list at the same time.

      Specialization is the route to success.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Every personality type has strengths and weaknesses. You pretty much have to pick the weaknesses you want to deal with. Because everyone’s strengths are fun, right?

        Honestly, if you take the Myers Briggs seminar I’m doing – which starts in three days – then you’ll understand all this and you can answer the questions for yourself.

        But here’s a top-level idea of an INFJ wife:
        The good part – extremely loyal and dedicated to finding the ultimate relationship.
        The bad part – there is no ultimate relationship and so she stays in a bad relationship.
        The good – she is sensitive and understands emotions
        The bad – she doesn’t show her emotions because she doesn’t trust people and she’s terrified of conflict.

        Here’s a link:


    • Gwen
      Gwen says:

      Of course there are people who choose wives with no intention to have children. People don’t need to want to procreate, in order to love one another and devote themselves to their love.

  7. Julie
    Julie says:

    Interesting – I like it. But is the scenario where both spouses work accurately (or comprehensively) represented here? It seems like you are saying that it is downright risky (statistically speaking) to have both spouses work and share housework, parenting etc…. Yet I can think of several families, including my parents, where one person is the breadwinner (full-time, successful, big salary) and the other spouse still works and contributes significantly, but it is part-time work, done more so for personal fulfillment than to satisfy the bottom line… What does the research say about this scenario? Wasn’t there recently more evidence that mothers working part-time are the most satisfied/happy of all, even in comparison to stay-at-home moms. ????
    I am a single mom, therefore I have to work full-time right now, no choice… but I am in a serious relationship with marriage possibly in the future, and my boyfriend makes more than double my current salary and I have thought about staying home with my daughter and our future children … but some days I don’t know if I would want to… I stayed home with my daughter (was still married at the time) for her 1st 15 months and found it very fulfilling, but downright difficult… more difficult than any research position I have ever had… hmmm….

    Like your posts, so stimulating.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s true that most people who are the primary caregivers would prefer to have some sort of part-time work.

      In general, those jobs do not pay very much, or, if they do pay well then you need a nanny to cover for you, which eats away at most of the money you make.

      So the financial gain of a caregiver working part-time is questionable. It’s a gain of sanity. And for that to work, you need the spouse to be the breadwinner.

      As soon as the caregiver is doing work that the family depends on financially, then you slip from the breadwinner/ caregiver scenario into the shared care scenario.

      It’s not so much a question of if the caregiver works part-time. It’s if the caregiver’s income is essential to the family.

      The link up top to the Atlantic article deals with this issue squarely: if the wife stays home full-time or works part-time the husband benefits from higher earning power at work. If the wife works full-time the husband does not benefit from the wife in terms of his earning power at work.


      • Micha Elyi
        Micha Elyi says:

        …if the wife stays home full-time or works part-time the husband benefits from higher earning power at work.
        Penelope Trunk

        The husband’s job benefits. And the wife benefits (from enjoying the higher household income of which she’s calling the shots on how to spend 85% of the time, from luxuries to necessities). The husband gains a higher likelihood of an early heart attack – not a benefit.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You might feel that not having kids is an option for you: relatively common for INTJs. And then you could marry an INTJ. There is a joke about INTJs that an INTP is the perfect partner because then neither of you will realize you’re in a relationship.

      I think the core thing here is if you want someone to balance you. If you want an emotional life, for example, you’ll have to pick someone who is emotional.

      And INTJ can conceivably support a stay-at-home wife, which means you could marry someone who is a feeling type, and that would give you a more full emotional life. Or you could marry a P, and then home life for you would be more fun and spontaneous. And in both those cases, you could still spend all your days in the rational, logical world of work.

      Here’s a link to how to pick a spouse if you are an INTJ:


    • Jenn-ski
      Jenn-ski says:

      Hi Steven,
      I’m an ISFP, and uh, I have taken to stalking other people who admit to being an ISFP too, to pick their brain.

      It is interesting what to do about an ISFP male who is looking to find a mate and procreate. On paper you guys definitely don’t look too good. But one thing I notice about ISFP males is they are very respectful. Respectful like treating other people as they have just as much right as everybody else to exist and be here, whether they are earning a paycheck, or changing diapers, or dedicated to a cult, or whatever! And I believe many women find that attractive.

      In addition to being an attractive attribute, it is also an excellent foundation for a long term relationship, no matter what. No matter if she’s earning more than you, or vice versa. No matter if you are doing way more dishes than she is, or vice versa. No matter if you are always picking up the kids, or vice versa. As long as she is respectful back.

      You are probably also fairly flexible, and don’t need the situation to remain static for 20 years, or however long it takes to raise a kid. So maybe she does earn more for a while, and then you switch. You could switch depending on what stage the kids are in, teenagers might benefit greatly from having their father around full-time in lieu of their mother!

      And I think between those two things, immense capacity for respect and flexibility, an ISFP man could create a very long, harmonious relationship that is fun, and a journey, and the kids turn out great, and after they leave the nest you and your honey are still in love and take wild vacations to tropical islands together!

      • An INFJ
        An INFJ says:

        I’m not sure if that’s just ISFP males…I am with an ISFP woman (I strongly suspect). She is very good with children, very soft and caring, very non-judgmental as you described, loyal, low-maintenance, reliable, and easy to be around – not someone whose company anyone would grow tired of.

  8. Maia
    Maia says:

    I’m an ENFJ and want to have kids – help!
    My ideal scenario would be to have a rich husband and then work myself, and then pay for childcare and cleaning and cooking.

    That could work right?

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Maia — Isn’t that every woman’s ideal scenario? Penelope writes that even ENTJ CEO women want to marry men who make more than they do. Who doesn’t want to outsource the drudgery of housework?

  9. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    I’m an INTJ female and I want kids! (Or does that make me not an INTJ anymore?) My ideal is actually similar to Maia’s – two high earners (my fiance and I are both going to be doctors) and paid support.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is the shared care scenario if you are both full-time. Neither of you gains the career benefits of having a spouse at home. You are just doing shared care and involving a nanny in the relationship.


  10. Alice Abel Kemp
    Alice Abel Kemp says:

    I must have fallen back into the 1950’s. Are you serious, advising women to become stay-at-home moms? Did you read The Feminine Mystique? Your scenario will encourage more unhappy, unfulfilled women. Looked at any socio-economic research? Feminists have fought for decades for women to be able to determine their own futures and not be dependent on men’s earnings. Take a look at the divorce rates, please. Any woman who thinks she’ll be able to count on her husband’s income forever is deluding herself. Yes, we love men and take care of them, but if they decide to go, they’ll go. Women have to be able to support themselves and their children.

    • Bob
      Bob says:

      Hi. For starters the column was geared toward men. Also, she posts all the research to back up her posts. Finally, she is not recommending any one path just highlighting some considerations. Your concern of the high divorce rate and how that can leave a woman overly dependent on her husband is also a valid consideration but i think if you spend the day reading the sheer mountain of P-trunk articles she has a lot of posts that address your concern. Respectfully.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        there is a basically identical blog post for women and why only the very tiny minority with the right MB type will even WANT to have a career. I personally think this is a gross overuse of what MB can do and was ever intended to do – it is a tool to distill some of your personal preferences. This might or might not determine how you live your life and find happiness. What feminism gave us is choice – want to be a SAHMom, sure go for it, want to go work, no problem – it is your decision and it will develop in a way you want things to develop and are willing to work for. I also think feminism came with a responsibility: become self-reliant. Don’t focus on finding someone who earns the money for you, but build a life where you can support yourself, kids, family. The women in my family, in my grandmothers and mothers generation, clearly suffered from lack of access to the workforce and education opportunities because they are women, many of these barriers have been removed nowadays. We should not re-establish them.

    • Kathy Shaidle
      Kathy Shaidle says:

      Er, you know The Feminine Mystique is a 40 year old book that was written by an elite, doctrinaire Communist Party member who only pretended to be a “typical housewife” and played around with the statistics she used in the book, right?

      Just checking.

    • D
      D says:

      Feminists have fought for decades for women to be able to determine their own futures and not be dependent on men’s earnings

      Yes, but that does not mean all women want that. Good on feminism for providing women with more choices, but there really are women who like staying at home with the children. To deny that is to deny biology.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        Staying at home is also a choice. And thanks to feminism or suffragettes – now you are allowed to have your own bank account (as opposed to your husband having to sign checks for you), you can participate in sports in high school as a girl thanks to title IX, and you can accept part time employment without your husband having to sign a permission slip, and yes, women are allowed to vote. Stay at home mums also benefit from the feminist movements after WW II.

  11. Callie
    Callie says:

    I’m curious as to why you think ENFJ’s are the most likely to be tortured if they are not climbing the corporate ladder? I’m an ENFJ and that would exactly describe how I felt when I was home with the kids, but everything I read about ENFJ says they make good teachers and suggest that high powered/corporate careers would be I’ll fitting.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      In the tops ranks of the business world people have a spouse at home dealing with their family so they don’t have to. An ENFJ has too much of a sense of duty to the family to give up all family responsibly to someone else.


  12. XDC
    XDC says:

    I love your post. I hardly hear much about INFJ’s…what’s up with that? Are we not major players in this whole chess game?

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I don’t hear much about it here either.

      I feel sorta lost because I don’t have a specific thing that I must do in order to make my life workout. Sometimes I feel like that last type she mentioned that isn’t happy with any of the choices taken.

      I’ve worked in places that are just not a good fit and tried to make the best of it. Sort of worked. Kinda crushed me.

      I am staying at home with my baby. It’s alright. Besides the money situation (we’re broke) it’s good because at least I am not constantly under pressure and my heart isn’t hurting every day from going to work. But it’s not like I love staying home with a baby. People tell me to do crafts and stuff like that and I just think of viable business ideas so I can blend making money with doing something of value.

      I mean, taking care of the child is valuable but not immediately rewarding. Maybe it’ll be when he’s growing up and I see that all the hard work is paying off in the sense that he’s growing into a well adjusted kind person.

      I joined a facebook group for INFJs and the most popular posters seem to highlight the differences or how “weird” or “crazy” INFJs are to other people. I don’t like that. It’s tiring.

      Maybe we should email back and forth and find out more about what it’s like to be an INFJ.

      As for myself, I never thought it was alright to be myself. All my life I lived trying to please people so they’d approve because it seemed like it was easier to mold to their personality than trying to get them to understand mine. As a child I thought that it was wrong to be like myself. I’m barely becoming accustomed to the idea that it’s okay to search for a career that matches your personality.

      • JML
        JML says:

        I’m an INFJ and I completely agree. I’ve spent my whole life feeling wrong and trying to fit. Reading about INFJs has made me feel less, I don’t know, lonely.

    • TD
      TD says:

      Are love and marriage really always correlated? This post is about marrying with intent to raise children. I happen to believe you can love a bunch of people, but it is unrealistic to think anyone/everyone you appreciate or love or care for is worth marrying. Marriage should be more rational instead of just banking on love, in my opinion.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You can control who you fall in love with by controlling who you date. For example, you probably would not date someone who is dead set on raising kids in Antarctica. We all set up parameters for who we date. I’m just suggesting that you adjust your parameters.


      • karelys
        karelys says:

        I married really young (22) but I did know that it’s completely possible to control who you fall in love with. To me it looks like when people enter a house or a building and someone keeps them at the lobby until they know it’s okay to let them in to the more intimate areas.

        It’s crazy to me how people “fall in love” so easily! it just seems….unhealthy?

      • Rebecca@MidCenturyModernRemodel
        Rebecca@MidCenturyModernRemodel says:

        Penelope this is the wisest advise of all in this post “You can control who you fall in love with by controlling who you date.” Back in the dark ages, there was no internet and no Penelope Trunk. I read a book by the crazy Dr. Laura called “Ten Stupid Things Women do to Mess up Their Lives.” It was like I was hit on the head with a brick. I discussed it with a single friend of mine at length. We both really wanted to get married. We totally re-vamped our dating strategy and held each other accountable. And, we both, although old maids in our early thirties, married really good men, some might call them breadwinners. The children thing is another story. We waited too long. She couldn’t and I had just one. But again, Penelope’s advice was not available to us at that time, so we muddled along and did the best we could with what we had.

  13. TD
    TD says:

    Feminism aside, I am trying to figure out the best path for men and women such that they can be happy with kids and after kids. Is the breadwinner man and stay-at-home wife the best case for staying married and happy after the kids leave home?

    Also for all high-earning spouses out there – do you respect and appreciate your non-working spouse for his/her contributions? High earners I know happen to view contributions as worthwhile only if it leads to earning money, getting degrees and accolades etc. How do you appreciate someone who doesn’t achieve any of these? Do you use different standards for yourself and spouse?

    • Jenn-ski
      Jenn-ski says:

      Hi TD,
      You address exactly some thoughts I was having. I have family where one couple did the traditional stay-at-home mom, man is breadwinner thing: after kids left home -> divorce.

      Another family member did opposite of stay-at hom dad, woman is breadwinner: after kids left home -> divorce.

      All the kids grew up to be happy adults on their own paths…so if that is the goal then I would say both couples were successful.

      If the goal is to have a forever, happy marriage….perhaps it is a whole new set of rules.

      Interesting. Thanks for bringing it up TD!

  14. John
    John says:

    I love the range of comments and responses to the article. I’m a I*TP married to an ESFJ for nearly 15 years. Both Gen-Xers. The first kid came along nearly 11 years ago. My wife became a stay at home mom 3.5 years ago. Even before we had children, we had started splitting the home duties along traditional lines.

    None of this was in our original plans. We were splitting and sharing however things just evolved to where we are now. I think these changes on whole have been better for our family.

    My quick comments by topic:

    Job Loss – Financial risk: Yep. Whenever you have kids a signficant loss of income is going to be painful. Most family rise to the challenge of spending their income. Housing is the single largest expense. The mortage foreclosures of the last 5 years illustrate what happens when a family incomes decreases by 50% or more. If a family wants security from two incomes, they must only live on one of them.

    Career help: One spouse staying at home eliminates a lot of stress & disruptions for everyone. Worries and disruptions about coordinating business travel, daycare/school drop off/pickups, taking carry of sick kids illnesses, transporting kids to activities, school holidays, are eliminated or seriously reduced. Also the stress and exhaustion of getting home duties (like laundry, grocery shopping) completed are reduced. It is stressful & exhausting having to do kid’s laundry at midnight on a work night because is everyone was working OT.

    Improves life with family & friends: I was not expect improvements in the overall relationships. More of my vacation time is spent of family activities rather than spent of school holiday or kid sick days. It is easier to coordinate vacation activity. It is for me and the family to participate in early evening activies. At the time we would have gotten home, they now can be done with their supper and their homework

  15. says:

    I am an INFP and the Myers Briggs profiler is so right on. I have been married twice and many relationships none of which were satisfying for very long. My choice to be single feels best because in a relationship I feel too restricted and trapped when things are not IDEAL!!!

  16. karelys
    karelys says:

    I feel like career is anchored in personal life. I know that many love and cannot imagine life without a perfect fit of a career just like many of us cannot imagine marrying someone that isn’t the best fit we can get.

    But career is personal life too; collegues, after hours, all hours, etc.

    Anyway, I think you should put together a site that helps match people based on their score and understanding of the Meyer Briggs.

    When I met my husband I realized I didn’t care much for us having similar pursuits (we have very different interests) and I don’t chalk our mean arguments to very different personalities. I don’t know what he’s score is but he HAS to have one E and P somewhere. I just know it.

    It’s hard for me to think why I’d charge people money to learn life changing material if I read it here for free. But then I realize that you can probably think of it.

    If I was still looking for a husband I’d want to increase my chances of a good relationship by weeding out those personality types that are a horrible pair up.

    When I read these posts about how you can choose a good partner based on their meyer briggs score I laugh and try to imagine myself single and on the dating scene. Would it be creepy to ask every guy to take a test? I mean, even if they humored me it’d probably be nice if both people go into it knowing “okay, this person can be a good match, now let’s see if we like each other.”

    • Brad
      Brad says:

      “Would it be creepy to ask every guy to take a test?”

      Yes. Creepy and weird, and I wouldn’t take a test to humor anyone. So apparently I’m the MB type that is incompatible with everyone.

      • Flo
        Flo says:

        Once you take the time to familiarise yourself with how each personality type operates in real life then you won’t even need people to take the test.

  17. Erica Peters
    Erica Peters says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for the link to “Date a girl who reads.” I’m raising one of those, and this brought tears to my eyes.

  18. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    omgosh.. I’m grinning here.. What a fun and different post.

    You mentioned women want their hubby’s to make more than they do.

    Yep, and same goes for the husbands, don’t you think?

    I think the guys get intimated.

    I have a friend who is close to a seven figure earner, and once they find out how successful she is, they seem to run for the hills.


  19. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Ha!! I literally laughed out loud here:

    Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP.

    I am an INFP and this is 100% true for me. And while it’s kind of funny, it’s also kind of annoying. I’m constantly asking my husband, “Do you think I’ll EVER be happy??????” His answer: No. I think he’s right. The grass is always greener, right? Stupid personality.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      it’s a safe bet to abandon the pursuit of happiness but instead go for an interesting life. I learned that here and put it to practice and it worked :)

  20. Sheri
    Sheri says:

    Twenty three years ago when I was dating my husband, I had him take the Myers Brigg, just for fun. I am ESTJ . . . I can’t remember what he was, but I sure wish I had all this information then. Maybe twenty three years of hoping “things will be better when he…” could have been avoided. Guess what I am going to be preaching to my 16 year old son??

  21. Tony
    Tony says:

    After reading this I can see my dream of being arm candy for some rich and good looking woman might be a bit more difficult that I realize. That is OK, I am an INTJ and would get bored with that anyway :)

  22. LT
    LT says:

    after reading this, I’m so thankful I’m gay! Marriage isn’t legal, I choose based on other qualifications

  23. Carl
    Carl says:

    As a married guy, I’m not sure it is as simple as you have made it to be here.

    I didn’t choose my wife because she had a lot of money or because she was a doctor. I chose her for a whole bunch of other reasons – she is funny, as smart if not smarter then me (though I would never admit that to her), gorgeous, tall, kind, giving, a great cook, and she was just as into me as I was into her. I would have been fine if she had a much lower paying job or even wanted to stay at home full time. I chose her because she is awesome and she enriched my life in so many ways.

    Also, we had shared goals and dreams, we support each other, and we believe in the same things.

    I wanted someone who was more of my equal rather than someone who would be a stereotypical housewife.

    To address the money question – I don’t make as much as my wife does, but I make a comfortable six figure salary – either one of us could support our family by ourselves.

    I guess the thing that bothers me about the beginning of the post is the “how to get the best deal in a wife” statement at the beginning. While rationally, you can think about it as what sort of girls you can “pull” or date, that is too logical of a way to view it. If you are constantly maximizing, you miss out on being happy.

  24. Astro
    Astro says:

    The ‘salaries top out at age 40’ comment is not true in engineering. In my case, and going by the studies of engineering salaries I’ve seen, they don’t max out until age 55. After that the yearly incremental is typically the rate of inflation. The reduced incremental may be offset by bonuses for valuable senior staff engineers.
    Additionally, engineers with good people skills can transition into management and marketing and extend their working careers, whereas it’s almost impossible to transition the other way, into engineering.
    These comments may not apply so much to ‘software’ engineering, which these days is very youth oriented.

  25. Fiddlesticks
    Fiddlesticks says:

    Yes, if you’re a nice beta male you’ll likely hit the glass ceiling at 35-40, but I’ve seen some of them compensate for that by becoming landlords.

    A beta who (by nature) saves will study the market and make reasoned decisions on gradually acquiring well-priced rental properties that can supplement his income and his status. (He’s also savvy and self-aware enough to stay on the sidelines during times when everyone is going gaga about “property flipping.”)

    Just because upper management is too ignorant to properly value your contributions doesn’t mean they get the final word.

  26. Dave
    Dave says:

    I never realized choosing a wife would be like playing Sudoku. BTW, does this wife I’m calculating for expect sex?

  27. Wrytoast
    Wrytoast says:

    This is a great post, and it closely resembles the thought process I went through when being lucky enough to find my wife a couple of years ago (because remember, finding a spouse involves a large luck factor– you can’t control it like you control most of the other things in your life.)

    The one thing missing from the article, though, seems to be the 800-pound gorilla in discussions like these: none of these scenarios matter if biology isn’t on your side. If you really want to have kids (and most people prefer to have their own biological offspring), you should probably pick a woman who’s in her early 30s or younger.

    This also, however, makes it a lot easier to operate under scenario 1, since the women in scenario 2 (and many of the women in scenario 3) are concentrating more on their careers at this point in their lives than they are on finding YOU, particularly if you live in a major metropolitan area.

  28. J. Fredrickson
    J. Fredrickson says:

    Or of course one could simply snap back into sanity and realize that getting married is a form of Russian Roulette and that having children is not worth giving a woman a gun, telling her to hold it to your head, and asking her to please feel free to pull the trigger whenever it may strike her fancy.

  29. Flo
    Flo says:

    I think a person’s personality type shouldn’t be taken as seriously as this blog post suggests but it should help form a clearer picture as to what to expect from your partner. I would also add that you should always seek clarification on your assumptions through your partner. I’m an INTJ woman in her early twenties and, despite what has been mentioned here, I have a very strong desire to have children and get married but I also know that my marriage and my children will not become my sole focus in life – I also want a challenging career life.

    At the moment I’ve caught the eye of an ESTJ who is at the start of his professional career but I feel as though he’s more besotted with me than I am with him.He fires me up in every other way except for intellectually and for some INTJs this can be a dealbreaker. For me, some of the (very few) guys I’ve been attracted to that fired me up intellectually have either been intimidated by my INTJ ways; lacked in other key areas, for example, being trustworthy; or have been sexually unattractive.

    As crass as it may sound, I feel as though my default rational approach to life has allowed me to fall for this ESTJ because he’s a very safe option. It sucks being primarily rational in situations where most people, especially women, primarily operate in feeling mode but I always seem to benefit in the long run.

  30. Julie
    Julie says:

    Interesting. I think I’m one of the types of women who is not supposed to be very satisfied staying at home with kids (I’m an ENTP now), but my husband (ISTP) is the breadwinner, I stay at home and am quite happy doing so, and we have very traditional, clear-cut roles in our marriage. It’s working very well for us. I never thought I wanted children, though; indeed, I was quite convinced of it, until suddenly I wasn’t. So I’m not sure he chose me for my potential mothering skills.

    The negative version of the personality types was right on, though. We tend to build a lot of homemade weaponry in the backyard, but I have two sons whom I homeschool, and that counts as “science” lessons.

  31. Rich K
    Rich K says:

    OK, now that we have that one out of the way can we do the next corrollary about how to pick a wife/husband when we Don’t want kids?Like all of us over 40 who “Been there,Done that” or “Just Aren’t into Kids”. Thanks.

  32. Rollory
    Rollory says:

    I want the 30 seconds of my life back that it took me to scan this incredibly vapid piece of obviousness.

  33. Sam
    Sam says:

    Penelople, I wish I could just have you run my life. Everything you write makes sense and I just wish I knew it sooner.

  34. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    I’m INFP and find myself being disappointed at my circumstances many times too. But I seldom, if ever, get mad at people or do the silent treatment at them. If there is a problem, I always reflect on what went wrong and what I could do better. I just forgive myself and thank myself for doing the best that I could do at the moment. So being disappointed won’t really affect my relationships with people, I hope.

    I’m not yet good at earning money, so I might have to find a breadwinner husband. I’m good at saving and investing money and hope to be landlady someday. The problem is that I don’t date and I don’t like men that much. I like the idea of raising and home schooling children better than me finding a husband.

  35. K1023
    K1023 says:

    You need to mention that the man needs to pick a woman who wants to have kids and has temperment for it. Not all do. Some want to spend lots of money on themselves and looking good. Be aware, a $300 dry clean only outfit and four inch heals don’t translate well to baby spit up on the shoulder and playing with the kids.

    Run from the pro-choice people. If she is willing to kill a baby inside her, she can do so without your consent. Some even kill one of two twins just because they did not want the other gender. After birth, if the kid has issues, you want her to be 100 percent devoted to doing what it takes to get them help. Only those with respect for life will.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      Wow. You’re not so smart, are you? Most pro-choice people who exercise their freedom of choice do so *exactly* because of the concern for a child growing up in a less-than-ideal situation (too young, too poor, too whatever to raise a child the way they deserve to be raised). In my experience, pro-choicers are actually very good, thoughtful, loving parents because they actually thought about the options and *chose* to be parents, knowing they had an option not to be. Not saying pro-lifers are bad parents. It’s just that their value system made them believe that they didn’t have a choice but to raise the child — a hopeless proposition in some circumstances. Tip: think before putting hands to keyboard.

  36. Posey
    Posey says:


    Are you going to offer another session of your Myers-Briggs training soon ? Looks like I am a little late for the one this month.

  37. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I love you’re straight-forward advice. It’s funny how a lot of women get mad when you just lay out the bare facts. Sort of reinforces the stereotype that women + math don’t mix. Shame on them! I love the MBTI, and I grew up with it. I feel like my parents used it to understand how to raise us. I think your writing resonates w/ me because it’s familiar: my mom is an INTJ. I’m an INTP. I agree that you have to figure out what you want, look at the facts, and decide. You can’t use magical thinking, or you will end up disappointed. Thanks for acknowledging that it is NORMAL for women to stay at home w/ there kids. I’m a SAHM, freelance graphic designer, and newbie blogger, and I’m loving it!

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