Choosy Mates

I cannot emphasize enough how, as a marriage and family therapist, I am impressed with female fiddler crabs.  A study published in the journal Animal Behavior, found that females of the species Uca crenulata – also known as  fiddler crab – may check out 100 or more male fiddler crabs and their burrows before finally deciding on a mate.

Now…make no mistake : she’s not getting it on with 100 males.  She is making certain that the one she picks is one she can count on to protect and provide for her young ‘uns. 

Why are female fiddler crabs so picky?  The survival of their offspring appears to be strongly linked to the size of their mate and his “crib” – to borrow some vernacular.  The size of the male’s….burrow…affects the development time of the larvae.  A burrow of just the right width and depth dimensions allows larvae to hatch at the perfect, safest time, the peak outward nighttime flow of the biweekly tidal cycle.

So here’s how it all looks: the male fiddler crabs stand in front of their burrows and wave their enlarged….claws….at prospective female passers-by, much as a human fellow might wave his arms or hands in a “come over here” motion. The interested females initially eye the males, and if something tweaks ‘em, they partially or fully enter a burrow to size it up.  When a female finds a mate and burrow to her liking, one of them closes the door behind them, they mate, and incubate their eggs, which later hatch and release little baby crab larvae that are quickly flushed from the estuary by high night tides.

Why is this of interest to me…and should be of interest to you?  Because I am amazed at how little effort so many women and men seem to put into making one of the most important decisions of a lifetime: their life-long (if they’re smart) mate.  I have long nagged that judges and clergy should not marry people who have not undergone at least 6 months of pre-marital counseling to make sure that they are:  1) capable of making a loving commitment to another person, 2) are reasonably objective as to the quality of this “match,” 3) have had experience working through problems and differences with this person in non-combative, constructive ways, 4) have quality familial relationships all the way around, and 5) are in agreement on basic but important issues such as children and child-care, financial considerations, religious persuasions, geography, life-style, ideals, values and goals…..and that is just for starters.

Good marriages – life long ones – don’t just happen.  Choose wisely – then – treat kindly.