Romantic partner selection in a religious marriage market.
Partnering is an inherently social process. Not only do social status characteristics provide markers of compatibility in the partner search, but the broader romantic proclivities, opportunities, and capacities that constitute partnering are also socially determined. This study examines romantic partner selection under that aegis—as a situated social phenomenon whose patterns, challenges, and responses reflect the sociocultural environment in which they occur. Using the lens of cultural analysis, I conduct an in-depth study of a relationship market, Victory Fellowship Church, whose community characteristics influence partnering in several ways. VFC is a nondenominational, high-tension religious group located in central Texas whose membership is a majority female and predominantly single. The demographic characteristics, norms of involvement, and religious ethos of the community create a relationship market for its single members. At the same time, this combination of characteristics results in a partnering situation in which many relationship seekers face a basic set of quantitative and qualitative partnering dilemmas. To understand the interpretation and negotiation of these dilemmas, I detail the cultural repertoire and market context of the VFC community in relation to partner supply, preferences, and responses to the partner search. While members' partnering goals are routinely blocked, they remain committed to the community and continue to nurture the hope for a spouse found in it. Ultimately, the practical, psychic, and emotional rewards of membership subsidize the partner search or compensate for the absence romantic opportunities.