Friday, April 9, 2010

What You Want MOST in a Man is What You Need Least: Superman & Clark Kent Rarely Come in One Package!

Sorry ladies, I'm about to ruin your day (life?) again with some typical male (vs. female) analytical theorizing.  In conferring back and forth with a close female confidante with similar life experiences to my own (and an admittedly similar eclectic take on life and sexuality) something occurred to me in looking back to the relationships I've had, both the intensely sexual and the intensely close, emotional ones.  (Spoiler: they don't cross-over.)

Reading a lot of recent discoveries being made in the realm of brain science and the distinct differences between the sexes (the recent CNN broadcast of the Larry King Show episodes with Jeff Probst hosting on the subject of Male Infidelity: Is it Hard Wired were particularly elucidating -- click here for link), as well as my long history of reading about the subject, there's something that keeps striking me.  An 'undercurrent' that keeps coming up in the back of my mind as the debate unfolds.

Now this is just MY theory, folks, but looking back on both my experience, that of my confidante and so many others (Tiger Woods and Jesse James being recent male celebrity examples), it seems as though there is a universal truth emerging.  To get to it we have to dispel one 'universal fallacy' upfront, however.

Just who are all these 'happily married' men cheating with?  Think about that, especially you ladies.  Do the math.  There are slightly more females in the world than men.  Only a small percentage of those females are prostitutes.

In anonymous surveys conducted year after year, married women report that almost as many of them as their male counterparts have cheated on their husbands.  While the infidelity is normally based more upon emotional reasons when it comes to women than men, they are still cheating.  Of course they are, otherwise who would it be that all those husbands are having sex with?  The slight variation of more men than women cheating is either due to 'little white lies,' prostitutes, single women having sex with NUMEROUS married men, or a few married women who sleep around A LOT!  In the end, it's not important, the point is that the majority of married men AND women cheat at some point in their marriages.  It's human  nature.

We were never intended to be monogamous.  Monogamy is a very modern conceit,
something that has evolved in our societal consciousness over the past couple of millennia as our species developed and shared sufficient technology to allow us to begin to live in larger and larger groups, first in permanent villages, then towns, then cities.  In the social state we lived in for the first 150,000 years of homo sapiens' existence, we lived in nomadic tribes, following the seasonal crops and animal migrations, interacting with other small groups of inter-related and unrelated tribes as they came into contact during migrations.  We were then, and are now, a species that is, by nature, serially monogamous, entering into relationships that last several years, produce several children, then we move on to new relationships that produce more children.  It is the 'job' (the mandate) of any species genes to #1) ensure propagation to the next generation, #2) attempt to mix the gene pool as much as possible.

NB:  A community's kids, in our original, most natural societal state that lasted through 7 million years of evolution vs. the past 7,000 since we began living in permanent settlements, are raised in a group under the care of older, less mobile, women AND men.  They are socialized/taught by these care-givers, as well as older kids and each other.  The kids are exposed to their parents in the morning, during down time and evenings around the campfire, with all the kids fully understanding the complex family relationships ("He's my dad, but he's also her dad, but her mom is now 'married' to the dad of that boy over there...").  It's all perfectly normal, everyone's pretty happy, and there are no ridiculous religious mores being violated.

So what does this say about relationships today?  Well it clearly says we all tend to nurture a fantasy, that the majority of us are 'supposed' to 'naturally' feel/do something that is actually not in our nature, and that is to stick to one partner for 50+ years (the average human pre-permanent settlements lived to about 32 yrs old).  Yet there always have been relationships between some men and women throughout human history that did last a lifetime.  The point is not whether some or all of us should abide by the notion of 'one true love' and search desperately until we meet an ideal mate, or keep divorcing any mate who turns out to be less than ideal -- my point is that what we are searching for might not exist, not even between the couples whose relationships last a lifetime.

Most everyone you speak to, if asked what their fantasy ideal mate would be like, will tell you exactly the same thing: a 'best friend' who stimulates you intellectually, supports you emotionally, cares for you unconditionally and with whom the sex is mind-blowing from day one through old age.  Who have you found this fantasy with so far in your lifetime?  Brad Pitt CLAIMS he's found it with Angelina, and maybe he has, but I suspect any woman who has Angelina's emotional issues, eating disorders, child-collecting psychoses, etc., is in no way an ideal mate over the long-term.  Jennifer Aniston appeared to be Brad's 'best friend,' Angelina seems to be the sex partner who is 'exciting' in deeply disturbing ways.

I don't think you can have the all the former things: the mind-meeting, the emotional support and the unconditional care AND the sex, in one package.  I'll get to why in a moment.  We all know that, from personal experience and literally thousands of surveys, studies and interviews, that sex is the first thing to wane/decline in any relationship.  Why?  Because the sex is a bonding tool and was 'designed' (by our selfish DNA) to produce more humans in the early stage of any relationship.  It is a practical function: produce a few babies, then move on to a new mating pair thus ensuring that the gene pool is getting stirred.  By nature, we are 'programmed' to get bored with any given mate after several years.

Sad, but true.  (In fact, research conducted in 2012 has proven that wives have a marked and universal decline in libido over the first years of marriage.  It appears to be hard wired and it makes sense from the gene propagation standpoint -- the most emotional of the mating pair, the female, loses sexual interest and A) 'pushes' her partner away to other females and B) feels renewed sexual interest in a new mate, mixing the gene pool.)

Not only is it virtually guaranteed that the initial "get naked and do it" stage of sexual attraction will diminish over time (leading to a need for 'spicing things up' in order for there to be any 'heat'), but I suspect that the same kind of things that lead each of us, with our own very individual, unique combination of chemical and physical predilections, to find some partners absolutely irresistible sexually, may ensure that they are exactly the WRONG individuals to try to forge long-term relationships with.

Now think about that idea!  That the very same individuals with whom any person experiences mind-blowing sexual stimulation are the same individuals that they should NEVER have a long-term emotional, child-rearing relationship with.  (Kind of puts a pin in your balloon, doesn't it!)

Some of you ladies just experienced a very visceral reaction: "NO WAY!  I WILL NOT 'SETTLE'!  My perfect man is out there, I just have to go through another 6,000 online profile thumbnail pics and I'll recognize him instantly, just like back in all those Disney animated classics I watched obsessively as a little girl!"  Well good luck.  Little old me is hardly going to the one to shatter the dreams of millions of women in the developed world (for the majority of women on the planet, 'one true love' is understood to be only a fantasy -- their reality is an 'arranged marriage').

What I am suggesting is merely that, in looking back at my experiences (and I'm at the higher end of the bell curve in terms of having sufficient experience to speak knowledgeably about it, having gone through most of my 30's single), the women with whom I enjoyed an intensely compatible sexual coupling (the kind that, even after months and months, you STILL are clawing off each other's clothing like it was Day One), were also girls with whom, deep down, I realized did not have 'partner potential'.  I was in a long-term relationship with one of the latter in my early days and she was a very solid, nurturing woman who would have made an ideal life partner from child-rearing right through to retirement.  Unfortunately she bored me intellectually and tended to fluctuate through gains in weight that gradually indicated she was far more comfortable at the heavy end of the swings, rather than the slim shape I found irresistible (it's 'hard-wiring,' ladies, NOT something I can adjust or manipulate -- as the weight rises, my sexual interest drops off, dramatically).  The other was a vixen; petite, long curly Goldilocks, curvy, sexually inexperienced but intensely curious, likely smarter than I am, perpetually distant and unavailable (secretly busy with several men at the same time) and completely devoid of any emotions other than selfishness (if it qualifies as an emotion...).

In both of these cases the sex was not just great, it took me to another dimension.  What I'm talking about is sex that involves some mysterious, barely conscious factors that make you 'lose it' and regularly feel passion so intense that it's primal/animalistic.  You might say I'm describing ALL sexual encounters that you've ever experienced, and if that's the case, then good for you!  I'm not focusing on the moment around climax, however, I'm talking about up to 2 hours of 'other-worldly' bliss during which you are totally engrossed and not quite on firm ground.  (You'd have to have been there...)

Now you may jump on me for making this personal, based only on my own experiences and feelings.  Well that's a fair criticism, but let's get back to Brangelina, just one convenient, well-known example of what I'm talking about.   What Brad Pitt has said about meeting Angelina Jolie, the way he felt around her and the mysterious things that drew him to her, regardless of whether they did not 'canoodle' until after he broke up with Jennifer Aniston or not (or perhaps even MORE to my point if they did not!), is what I'm talking about in regard to 'one true love'.  Mostly what he described relates to purely physical things, the kind of things that the princesses react to in the stories (and all of you 'princesses' out there...): the look of the other person, the way they move, smile, act, interact, speak, touch AND (perhaps most importantly and subconsciously) the way they smell.  (No, Brad never mentioned Angelina's smell -- but then he didn't have to!)

The deal is, however, that I believe we naturally 'match', pheromone-wise, very, very few other people out there.  There are only a small percentage of potential (available) partners with whom we're an ideal pheromone match, and when you combine in all the other 'turn-ons', the visual/behavioural  'hot buttons', the 'potential partner base' drops even further (recent research proves it is the pheromones of individuals with the most different immune response genes we're most attracted to).  Thus the reality behind the fantasy of 'One True Love' is that ideal physical/sexual matches are hard to find!  I believe that when women talk about 'chemistry' and "I'll know from the moment we meet if you're the one or not", that they are talking about this rare phenomenon.

[2013 addendum, another of my personal theories: so with this research that has proven we are most pheromonally attracted, subconsciously, to individuals with very different human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in their bloodstreams -- a compound that is detected through pheromonal secretions -- we are picking up on the fact that these very different-scented individuals are genetically very different from those within our tribe and family and that the kids produced through mating will be very healthy/pathogen-resistant.  We are driven by scent to not only find these individuals very sexually arousing, but I believe that the effect these pheromones have on us is to lower our inhibitions, not unlike alcohol or other drugs.  We are compelled, irresistibly, not only to want to impregnate/be impregnated by these strangers, but to do so in wild and crazy, uninhibited ways.  

I believe that this is a genetic propagation strategy -- we run into an individual who is VERY good for genetic variation, we find them irresistible, pregnancy occurs and the two lovers return to their safe, Clark Kent spouses and families/tribes to raise these genetically diverse kids.  

The 'knock on effect,' however, is that we cannot forget these encounters and we are highly motivated to find that individual again -- and to search out other similar encounters if ever given the opportunity (hence the fact that so many divorced women's online dating profile descriptions state "This time round I will NOT settle for less than love at first site/true love/Superman in bed...").  The experience is mind-blowing in large part because of the dis-inhibiting subconscious effect of the pheromones.  I've been lucky enough to experience this with about 5% of the women I've ever been intimate with.  It is inexplicable and worth seeking out, though most of these few women were not great companion matches for me on the personality and/or intellectual fronts.]

Guys are highly interested in simply having sex with as many available women as possible, ideally women of child-bearing age, but many men, for many reasons, will have sex with virtually ANY female who makes herself available (alcohol helps, but it's secondary to some guys' proclivity!), hence men do not put the same emphasis on this phenomenon in first meeting a woman.  However it is still there in our psyche, the intense passion we've felt with a rare few women (our personal 'Cinderellas' and 'Pocahontases'!).  Having had a few experiences like that and hearing the stories that such match-ups do exist, the fantasy is perpetuated.

Some of you are protesting right now, saying "But there you go, you're proving that it's NOT a fantasy!  It does exist between some rare few partners!"  Ah, but that's not my point.  Of course there are some mind-blowing sexual partners out there for any of us, but the point is are they ideal long-term partners -- or not so much?  I'd suggest the latter.

I've come to believe that the same people who are wild and crazy sex partners are the worst choices we could ever make to get married to.  Why?  Because marriage is NOT about sex, it's about caring, nurturing, supporting, both of kids and each other (and parents/in-laws, pets, houses, etc.).  The amazing sexual partners are about all the things that marriage is not!  Hot, sweaty, forget-what-time-it-is-in-the-real-world encounters that only last a few hours, then come to an end as we have to get back to reality.

Don't get me wrong, I've had some great sex with all my long-term partners, it's just that the really memorable, on-going lust never lasted with them, and really never existed at the intensity and consistency that it did with the rare few [my two examples being one who intellectually bored me, but was 'ideal' emotionally, the other who was exciting as hell intellectually, but had very low affect (emotions) -- in other words, the sex was equally intense in both cases, even though their personalities and 'points of reference' were quite different].

This all harks back to Lori Gottlieb's work, detailed in her book: "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough", which has been so misunderstood based upon its premise (i. e. title) alone.  What I believe, having understood her point and tried the online thing for quite a while, is that internet dating sites exacerbate the problem of the fantasy of 'One True Love' to the point where it is working against what women want and need.  What we all need is an emotionally stable, caring, intellectually compatible partner to grow old with.  What women are hoping for (expecting, entitled to, won't settle for less than...) is the latter in combination with the "Brangelina Myth" of intense sexual/physical compatibility.

The 2-in-1 Superman-Clark Kent is make-believe, ladies.

What I'M saying is that, not only is this inflexible, unrealistic demand/conviction that so many of you feel so resolutely reducing your potential 'fishing pool' to an infinitesimally small number (one of whom you will NEVER recognize from profile pics and a description!), the fact may be that you should NOT marry the guy with whom you feel an immediate, nether-region-tingling attraction and have mind-blowing sex.  He's going to turn out to be problematic on all kinds of levels once you really get to know him.  I'm suggesting that the same things that make him so attractive to you (his 'bad boy' appeal, etc.) is going to turn out to be incompatible with what you need in a life partner.

I believe, looking at recent research into young adult brain development and at how long it takes for humans to mature (the brain connections that 'firm-up' our ability to assess short-term impulses with long-term consequences only finish developing at about 25), that our species is actually pre-programmed (or "not-yet-programmed") during our most fertile/fecund years to NOT make sexual mating choices based upon long-term emotional/personality compatibility, but rather solely on genetic diversity and the genetic benefit to the species of producing as many babies in healthy/strong females as possible.

It has always taken a tribe to raise children (click for link to article) -- NOT our very modern concept of a 'nuclear family'.  Our species is designed by evolution for young females to have passionate sex with 'dangerous strangers' (the tall, square-jawed, powerful 'princes' of the Disney fairy tales) as frequently as possible (and thus become impregnated by males outside of their tribe).  It is only later in life (after 30-35) that women have sufficient life experience and maturity to start to demand more than their early fantasies (projecting what it is you thing you want in a partner onto any handsome, virile man who evidences a willingness to stick around).  Mature women STILL want it all, but maybe they are capable of seeing the folly in demanding it all in a single man.

If only we could (and I'm not really joking here) shift our social consciousness to the point where we all recognize that what we love in our life partners precludes intense sexual desire/tension, we could have 'sex buddies' ("FB's") on the side and live the best of both world's without marital conflict!  (Not only that, but I'm pretty sure that 'getting some on the side' would actually improve our marital sex...)  Getting to that point, however, would mean giving up the Disney-fed, heart-felt addiction so many women have to the notion of 'One True Love', and that's not going to happen soon with a generation now entering the adult world who are all convinced they're both 'special' and entitled to have their whims delivered upon.

Just a thought.

[Another addendum:  If you are lucky to find, out of the small pool of individuals you not only find physically attractive and interesting enough to get close enough to figure out if there is a pheremonal/irresistible/wild desire connection -- about 5% of those you get intimate with, in my experience, or 1 in 20 -- i.e. one of those remarkably memorable uninhibited partnerships in bed, the "PASSION" leg of the 3-legged stool, there IS the possibility of finding one with whom you have a very deep connection on the other two key criteria for solid long-term relationships: INTELLECT and PERSONALITY.  It's my belief that we all have to compromise on one of the three, regardless, complex humans being complex, but if you get REALLY lucky, you just might find that rare individual, that 'True Love' (out of the many that must be out there, but we don't stumble upon while we are single) who is fairly strong on all three criteria (compromising on one).

The problem is that, to do so, to play that numbers game, you have to "get jiggy with" a LOT!  If you have to get intimate with 20 partners to find one who is pheremonally compatible on the PASSION front, then it stands to reason you will have to find 10 to 20 pheremonally compatible matches to winnow out ONE who is ideal on the other two criteria.  Sad, but true.

Superman and Clark Kent actually DO exist in one man, but those men are, statistically, only about 1 in 50 up to 100 of the men that you find appealing enough to consider getting intimate with.  Get busy, girls!  ;-) ]

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