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Relationship Advice

March 19, 2012

It’s odd how little advice columnists seem to care about the personal details of the people who write to them. The never wonder how attractive a woman is, or how tall a man is.

Advice is given as though every recipient has equal—an in fact extremely high—market value. In particular, people treat just about anything as a reason to dump someone—in the abstract. Did he hit you? Cheat on you? Flirt with another woman? Not do his share of the chores? Criticize your weight? Dump him! Does she deny you sex? Insult you? Compare you unfavourably to exes? Criticize your work ethic? Dump her!

In reality, most people have to learn to put up with a lot. For some men, the alternative to a shrew is no woman at all. For some women, the alternative to a man who wants to bring porn into bedroom is no man at all. It is disgraceful for a man to put up with shrewish behaviour, or for a woman to put up with porn. But constant humiliation is the normal human condition.

To a man like myself, I would say: marry a woman who is gorgeous, charming and hospitable, faithful, intelligent and thoughtful, aware of both her failings and your own. Marry a woman you can always be proud to introduce, or show off, in any circles, who will also be a good wife and mother, and who will inspire you to be a better man yourself. I would also say: as a man, it is your role to bring some of those traits out of a woman, because women desire to find a man worthy of their adoration and devotion.

But would I give that advice to just any man? No. Most men can’t hope for the kind of woman I just described. Many wouldn’t even appreciate her. For instance, it’s important for a man to be smarter than his wife (otherwise he’s liable to feel insecure and she’s liable not to respect him). But most men simply aren’t smart enough to hold out for a intelligent and thoughtful wife, and many will barely be able to recognize such a thing. Again, lots of men have opted to pursue easy sex rather than a partner. They have forgotten (if they ever knew) that it is a man’s role to shape a woman to be a good partner, and so have unfit themselves for many of life’s more profound joys.

This is a sad state of affairs. Many people, so far as they wish to experience love, must find a way to be enthusiastic about less. At least many of them won’t know what they’re missing anyway.

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People unwittingly try to address the problem of diverse relationship market values by saying that the important thing is communication and agreeing on boundaries. This might be a good thing to say so far as promoting harmony goes. But it has little intellectual merit. Take an extreme example: people will often say that even ‘polyamory’ is ok as long as the partners can agree upon it. But a man who allows his wife to sleep with other men is a consummate loser. And no woman would even want such a arrangements if she didn’t already feel contempt for her husband. These facts are obvious to anyone not already trying to justify participation in such a thing.

You should indeed demand as much as you can. We respect people who have expectations, and both men and women want to give as much as they can to someone who deserves it.

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From a strategic point of view, unrealistic expectations can be useful. That’s why self-deception exists, evolutionarily speaking: our demands are more compelling if we ourselves believe that we are sincere in making them.

On the other hand, you do have to be somewhat realistic, or you may wind up with nothing. Where over-confidence and realism meet, we find many such fascinating phenomena as gamer girls and chubby chasers. These groups have obviously lowered their standards, but it still makes sense to pretend (even to themselves) that they could do better and just don’t wanna.

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