Gender Equality in A Relationship

I real­ize that this is too big a sub­ject to cram into one arti­cle, so I am going to raise some ques­tions about what it means to be equal in an adult man/woman (or gay) rela­tion­ship. I have many women friends and I do my best to treat them as equals, but some­times by treat­ing them as an “equal” I tend to pre­sume that they will react as men do to what I say. WRONG! A female friend of mine once jok­ingly said that she was leav­ing my party because there was no cake and I jok­ingly, of course with­out think­ing, replied: ”But didn’t you put some weight on lately?”
That was a bad mis­take. She got really upset, and no mat­ter how much I apol­o­gized and said that I loved and cher­ished her as a friend, she kept cry­ing and say­ing that if I loved her I wouldn’t have said such a thing to her. Need­less to say the sit­u­a­tion became very seri­ous.  Had I said that to a man, he most likely would have laughed.
The ques­tion I have for you is this: can a man and a woman be equal, and what are the con­di­tions and rules of behav­ior in treat­ing each other given that men and women are so very dif­fer­ent? One of the rules we hear often is to treat oth­ers the way you want to be treated your­self. In the above exam­ple it cer­tainly did not work. Men would cer­tainly not react the same way to my com­ment. So, a bet­ter rule would be to treat oth­ers the way THEY want to be treated. Great, but how do we know what oth­ers think? What comes to mind first is just ask them, but even ask­ing them may pro­voke unwanted feel­ings and reac­tions.
Men and women ARE dif­fer­ent. In fact, we are so dif­fer­ent that it jus­ti­fies the phrase “oppo­site sex”. Where does equal­ity come in then? These are some of the fun­da­men­tal differences:

Men / Women

Big­ger                                             Smaller

Stronger                                          Weaker

Aggres­sive                                       Defensive

Pro­tec­tors                                        Protected

Fathers (can­not bear chil­dren)           Mothers

Ratio­nal                                           Emotional

Hunters                                            Gath­er­ers

Want sex                                          Want security

Want free­dom                                   Want relationship

Please add your own….

The whole issue about equal­ity was ini­tially raised by women. The Women’s Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment started because women felt sub­ju­gated and wanted to be equal to men. And there is no denial that in many cases  women are not treated the same as men, such as not get­ting equal pay for equal work. But in gen­eral, isn’t it just a nat­ural out­come of our genetic dif­fer­ences?
Do women really want to be the same as men, or do they want to be as pow­er­ful as men? The con­text seems to be deci­sive here. Which area are we talk­ing about: inti­mate rela­tion­ships, social inter­ac­tions or busi­ness envi­ron­ment? This is a ques­tion espe­cially for a woman in a fem­i­nist move­ment to answer because a woman would have to be adopt­ing a chameleon behav­ior in dif­fer­ent con­texts. Is that healthy, or even pos­si­ble? Do women have to pre­tend to be more like men in a busi­ness envi­ron­ments? If they do, does it come eas­ier for some then for oth­ers to adopt these mas­cu­line traits? Can women be just as nat­u­rally and authen­ti­cally fem­i­nine at work? It cer­tainly seems to be an unwel­come behav­ior in this “man-made world.” If a woman is forced to take on some mas­cu­line traits in order to suc­ceed at work, how does that reflect on her rela­tion­ships towards men. I think she can get pretty resent­ful about the whole affair and put the blame on men.
On the other hand, when it comes to the ques­tion of hav­ing good sex, part­ners have to take on their authen­tic mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine role.  Oppo­sites cre­ate energy flow. The big­ger the dif­fer­ence between cou­ples’ respec­tive roles, the stronger the sex­ual attrac­tion. In order to main­tain “equal­ity” in a social arena and the work­place, can they and should they main­tain that dif­fer­ence, or do they  have to drift closer to each other, i.e., men adopt more of women char­ac­ter­is­tics — such as being more sen­si­tive and express­ing their feel­ings — and should women adopt more mas­cu­line traits, such as com­pet­i­tive­ness, being more sin­gle focused and tougher alto­gether? This cer­tainly seems to be hap­pen­ing in the work­place and, sadly, in inti­mate rela­tion­ships as well.
Many “lib­er­ated” women insist on being treated as an equal in a rela­tion­ship. Is that what they really want? Instead of a woman being an equal part­ner in the sense that she is self-aware, respon­si­ble, and wants to know her man as a per­son, fem­i­nism seem to have pro­duced a dou­bly defen­sive woman who is on guard about her rights, but insis­tent that men be roman­tic and “make her feel like a woman” by act­ing like a real man. A lib­er­ated woman insists on changes in her atti­tude and ide­ol­ogy but not in her deeper fem­i­nine process; she has tra­di­tional long­ings and needs, is attracted to men who are win­ners and avoids weaker, less ambi­tious men, and she wants a man to play the lead role unless she decides oth­er­wise. For the man there is often a con­fus­ing sense that what­ever he does he will be made wrong and blamed. If he treats her as an equal, it does not feel roman­tic to her. If he treats her in tra­di­tional ways, he is often con­sid­ered to be a chau­vin­ist and sex­ist. He is expected to be a man and yet to not act as a man at the same time. When a man can­not achieve this dichotomy, a lib­er­ated woman becomes angry and blames him for not being able to ful­fill this impos­si­ble dream.
From my per­sonal point of view, in a rela­tion­ship, if a woman’s issue is power in a rela­tion­ship then she has noth­ing to com­plain about, or be lib­er­ated from. Her power is just as promi­nent as the man’s. The only rea­son that this is not so obvi­ous is that the “lib­er­ated” woman is look­ing for power in the wrong place, a man’s place. As I said above, it all depends on the con­text, and in the con­text of a rela­tion­ship a woman’s power is enor­mous, start­ing with the abil­ity to bear chil­dren and her ulti­mate choice of men to share par­ent­hood with, to a say­ing that behind a great man there always stands a great or pow­er­ful woman.
To my mind, equal­ity in a rela­tion­ship con­sists of uncon­di­tional respect, accep­tance and love for who the per­son is as a human and a spir­i­tual being. If a woman is objec­ti­fied (as men often do, espe­cially regard­ing sex) respect for a woman is often absent. On the other hand, there is con­di­tional respect for what the per­son does, which really applies to all peo­ple regard­less of gen­der or their posi­tion in soci­ety.
Let us know what do you think.
Radomir

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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Denial

We cre­ate our rela­tion­ships from the very start. The prob­lem is that we are mostly clue­less how to go about it. Our actions often stem from our feel­ings and beliefs, and what we’ve seen from our par­ents. No one ever attended 101 Rela­tion­ship class at school. That’s why I decided to help peo­ple with their rela­tion­ships, because I can.

I sell hun­dreds of Rela­tion­ship Savers every week. The let­ters I very often receive start with: “My part­ner broke up with me three months ago….” Some­times it’s a year or more. I have been won­der­ing for a while now,  why peo­ple wait until it is almost too late to ask for help about their rela­tion­ship. Most rela­tion­ships, i.e., more than 50%, are not happy ones. Peo­ple either break up, or stay in an unhappy rela­tion­ship due to fear, con­ve­nience, eco­nom­ics, chil­dren, you name it. Why do peo­ple not ask for help as soon as they notice a change for the worse?

I guess only you can answer that ques­tion for your­self, but the prob­lem seems to have some gen­er­al­i­ties which almost every­one can find some­thing to iden­tify with. The most preva­lent rea­sons are: hope and fear.

Hope is always asso­ci­ated with the future. We hope that things will change, that or our per­cep­tion of the sit­u­a­tion is wrong, that it is only a tem­po­rary thing that will pass as soon as cir­cum­stances change. Hope that some­thing will hap­pen to change the sit­u­a­tion or that we will find a way to change it our­selves. Hope that God will help us. Hope that our part­ner will real­ize his/her wrong­do­ing and stop, and so on. Feel free to add your own hope. Well, hope is a sur­vival mech­a­nism to ward off fear. Hope is a very effec­tive tool for trick­ing our ratio­nal mind into going to sleep for a while longer. When one loses hope one tends to be depressed. The two are almost syn­ony­mous. Hope gen­er­ates pro­cras­ti­na­tion, stag­na­tion, and cur­tails action. Hold­ing onto hope sup­ports a sta­tus quo, no mat­ter how bad it is. The more you hope the more stuck you will get, often until it’s too late for action. This becomes a great excuse for not tak­ing action. I was hop­ing he/she would change, you may say.  Hope is the per­fect way to fall into a vic­tim mode, which admit­tedly can be a very cozy place to be. Victim-hood knows no per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity. It is always some­one else’s fault and some­one else, i.e., your part­ner, who should change. Change is scary, so you do not want to ini­ti­ate it.

Fear is our best friend and worst enemy. Fear helps us sur­vive. If we had no fear of heights, snakes, hot or cold we’d all be dead a long time ago. Our brain is struc­tured in such way that on a sub­con­scious level we can­not dis­tin­guish between dif­fer­ent causes of fear. Fear is a feel­ing that we can­not con­trol. In gen­eral, we can­not con­trol our feel­ings. What we can do is become aware of our feel­ings and trans­fer atten­tion from the amigdala (feel­ing cen­ter of the brain) to the neo­cor­tex (the con­scious, think­ing and rea­son­ing part of the brain). In other words, make a con­scious deci­sion whether our fear is a fear from an oncom­ing bus, or a sim­ple con­ver­sa­tion. One will kill us, the other will not.  Now, how long have you been par­a­lyzed with fear? Fear that you will be alone, fear that if he leaves you will become home­less and die, fear that you will not be loved or that you will be rejected if you take this or that action. Fear that your child/ren will suf­fer. Fear of mak­ing a mis­take, feel­ing guilty, hurt­ing his/her feel­ings, fear of loss, etc. Again, find your own fear that is stop­ping you from tak­ing action.

All this is sim­ple but I real­ize that it is not so easy to do. The first step is to admit that you do not quite know what to do when your rela­tion­ship hits a bump. This is called get­ting in touch with real­ity. Not know­ing is not bad or good. It just is. On what basis do we pre­sume that we “should” know how to cre­ate a good rela­tion­ship. We pre­sume and we think that if we could only find the right per­son — our soul mate — we will live hap­pily ever after. It only hap­pens in Dis­ney stu­dios, not in real life.

Deny­ing that prob­lem exists or that it is seri­ous, pro­cras­ti­nat­ing, post­pon­ing and going for help to peo­ple who have not taken that Rela­tion­ship 101 class is mostly a waste of pre­cious time and the chance to save your rela­tion­ship or make a healthy start of a new one. That was the rea­son for my Writ­ing The Rela­tion­ship Saver and The Game­less Rela­tion­ship backed up with this blog.

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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Effective Communication vs. Arguments (1)

Before we start talk­ing about argu­ments and effec­tive  com­mu­ni­ca­tion, let’s define what we mean by these terms.

com­mu­ni­ca­tion |kəˌmy­oōnəˈkā sh ən|
noun
• the suc­cess­ful con­vey­ing or shar­ing of ideas and feelings

ORIGIN: late Mid­dle Eng­lish : from Old French comu­ni­ca­cion, from Latin communicatio(n-), from the verb com­mu­ni­care ‘to share’ (see communicate ).

Also, here is the def­i­n­i­tion of argu­ment for our pur­poses as well, so that we know what we are talk­ing about:

argu­ment |ˈär­gyəmənt|
noun
• an exchange of diverg­ing or oppo­site views, typ­i­cally a heated or angry one.
• a rea­son or set of rea­sons given with the aim of per­suad­ing oth­ers that an action or idea is right or wrong.

ORIGIN: Mid­dle Eng­lish (in the sense [process of rea­son­ing] ): via Old French from Latin argu­men­tum, from arguere ‘make clear, prove, accuse.’

Now that it is clear what the dif­fer­ence is between the two let’s see how we can start com­mu­ni­cat­ing effec­tively instead of argu­ing. If you hap­pen to pre­fer argu­ing, than you can just skip this arti­cle. I will not be offended in the least.

Let’s say at the begin­ning that heated argu­ments and anger are caused by fear and loss of power. When we iden­tify with our opin­ions and posi­tions, we per­ceive any dis­agree­ment as a threat to our per­son. As if some­how our iden­tity will be dimin­ished if we admit that we may be wrong and thus lose an argu­ment. Being right becomes tan­ta­mount to per­sonal sur­vival. Need­less to say, this is com­pletely auto­matic reac­tion aimed at sur­vival of our ego. The first step in con­trol­ling anger is as always to become aware of it and then rec­og­nize that our fear is ground­less. We do not die from los­ing an argu­ment. This is the first step in trans­form­ing an argu­ment into com­mu­ni­ca­tion; chill out and lose the fear.

If you do not want to get into argu­ment in the first place, it is impor­tant to get a lit­tle pre­pared before hand as well as being aware of your behav­ior dur­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Before any encounter starts make sure that you have a mutual pur­pose, or agreed upon rea­son for the con­ver­sa­tion. In other words that both of you want to talk about some­thing although you may wish for dif­fer­ent out­come. This process of agree­ment starts with your com­mit­ment to have the issue resolved and dis­solved into a win/win sit­u­a­tion. With­out this ini­tial and unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment on your part there is no hope for mean­ing­ful res­o­lu­tion, and argu­ments will most cer­tainly persevere.

So, in prepa­ra­tion for con­ver­sa­tion first learn what your partner’s story is. Do not pre­sume that you know. Your knowl­edge prob­a­bly comes from hearsay or from your inter­pre­ta­tions of his behav­ior. Either of these sources may be inac­cu­rate. Find out what infor­ma­tion you missed, or didn’t have access to. What past expe­ri­ences influ­enced him? What is his rea­son­ing why he did what he did? What were his inten­tions (not your inter­pre­ta­tions and thoughts about his inten­tions). What are his feel­ings? How this sit­u­a­tion affects him? What is at stake? While “find­ing out” his story make sure you are not spy­ing on him or doing any­thing out of integrity. As they say in court, ille­gally acquired evi­dence is not admis­si­ble. In your case, it kills the fur­ther con­ver­sa­tion about your issue and turns into the issue of trust.

Next thing is to express your views and feel­ings.  Your goal is to express your views and feel­ings about the sit­u­a­tion or an event clearly, hon­estly and respect­fully. A word of cau­tion: Express­ing your feel­ings does not mean that you “dump” your feel­ings onto your part­ner. You should talk about your feel­ings not demon­strat­ing them in your behav­ior. You can say that you are angry. But do not attack her to show her how much. With­out express­ing your feel­ings try to com­mu­ni­cate your views, inten­tions, feel­ings and con­tri­bu­tion to the prob­lem or the issue at hand. In other words you can share your story. If your part­ner is will­ing to lis­ten at all, the chances are that after such an hon­est and brave encounter you may start to actu­ally coop­er­ate and have a pro­duc­tive and mature con­ver­sa­tion where you will be able to brain­storm cre­ative ways to sat­isfy both of your needs and ensure a work­able way to resolve your conflict.

As it is impor­tant to have a mutual pur­pose for a con­ver­sa­tion it is as impor­tant to have mutual respect. You must con­sciously pre­pare for this in advance, cre­ate a mind­set. Any show of dis­re­spect for her will pro­duce a defen­sive reac­tion and con­ver­sa­tion will imme­di­ately become unsafe. The moment that dis­re­spect is shown the con­ver­sa­tion is no longer about the orig­i­nal pur­pose  – it is about defend­ing her dig­nity and at that point any com­mu­ni­ca­tion will come to a screech­ing halt. If you are shown dis­re­spect do not get “hooked”. Stay true to your val­ues and do not just auto­mat­i­cally, emo­tion­ally react. Keep show­ing respect and request that you be shown one if con­ver­sa­tion is to con­tinue. Keep eye on the ball i.e. on the orig­i­nal purpose.

Final step in prepa­ra­tion is to ensure that you have con­ducive envi­ron­ment for a con­ver­sa­tion, proper set­ting. (It is dif­fi­cult to have a good con­ver­sa­tion when you are not phys­i­cally com­fort­able, cold, in a noisy envi­ron­ment with no pri­vacy.) Do both of you have time, are you ready to have a frank dis­cus­sion, are both of you in a mood for tack­ling the prob­lems at hand, etc.?

Stay tuned.  Next time we will talk about some things to keep in mind dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion that will get your dif­fer­ences effec­tively resolved.

Fred Kofman’s phe­nom­e­nal book “Con­scious Busi­ness” inspired me to write this arti­cle. Thank you.

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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Truth, Opinions and Points of View

I am sure you’ve had a lot of expe­ri­ences where your opin­ion about some­thing was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to other people’s point of view. It can be quite frus­trat­ing to have some­one argue against what you know to be true. When­ever some­one dis­agrees with your point of view you are quite cer­tain that that per­son either does not under­stand, is stu­pid, not as well informed as you are, did not have the expe­ri­ence you’ve had or that he knows that you are right, but does not want to admit it. All these jus­ti­fi­ca­tions – and feel free to add your own – are the proof that your point of view is cor­rect and that other peo­ple are at least wrong if not down­right delu­sional. So how is it pos­si­ble that other peo­ple do not see some­thing that is so obvi­ous to you? How can they be so short­sighted or illog­i­cal, lack com­pas­sion or love, be so incon­sid­er­ate and cruel or what­ever the par­tic­u­lar case may be? Some­times you find your­self won­der­ing whether the whole world has gone mad or if it is just you.

In order to be able to explain this phe­nom­e­non we must first dis­tin­guish what we are talk­ing about, i.e. , point of view and opin­ion. Def­i­n­i­tions from the dic­tio­nary may be of assis­tance here:

opin­ion |əˈpinyən|

noun

a view or judg­ment formed about some­thing, not nec­es­sar­ily based on fact or knowl­edge : I’m writ­ing to voice my opin­ion on an issue of great impor­tance | that, in my opin­ion, is dead right.

the beliefs or views of a large num­ber or major­ity of peo­ple about a par­tic­u­lar thing : the chang­ing cli­mate of opinion.

( opin­ion of) an esti­ma­tion of the qual­ity or worth of some­one or some­thing : I had a higher opin­ion of myself than I deserved.

a for­mal state­ment of advice by an expert on a pro­fes­sional mat­ter : seek­ing a sec­ond opin­ion from a specialist.

Law a for­mal state­ment of rea­sons for a judg­ment given.

Law a lawyer’s advice on the mer­its of a case.

PHRASES

be of the opin­ion that believe or main­tain that : econ­o­mists are of the opin­ion that the econ­omy could contract.

a mat­ter of opin­ion some­thing not capa­ble of being proven either way.

ORIGIN Mid­dle Eng­lish : via Old French from Latin opinio(n-), from the stem of opinari ‘think, believe.’

THE RIGHT WORD

When you give your opin­ion on some­thing, you offer a con­clu­sion or a judg­ment that, although it may be open to ques­tion, seems true or prob­a­ble to you at the time (: she was known for her strong opin­ions on women in the work­place).

A view is an opin­ion that is affected by your per­sonal feel­ings or biases (: his views on life were essen­tially opti­mistic), while a sen­ti­ment is a more or less set­tled opin­ion that may still be col­ored by emo­tion (: her sen­ti­ments on aging were shared by many other women approach­ing fifty).

A belief dif­fers from an opin­ion or a view in that it is not nec­es­sar­ily the cre­ation of the per­son who holds it; the empha­sis here is on the men­tal accep­tance of an idea, a propo­si­tion, or a doc­trine and on the assur­ance of its truth (: reli­gious beliefs; his belief in the power of the body to heal itself).

A con­vic­tion is a firmly held and unshak­able belief whose truth is not doubted (: she could not be swayed in her con­vic­tions), while a per­sua­sion (in this sense) is a strong belief that is unshak­able because you want to believe that it’s true rather than because there is evi­dence prov­ing it so (: she was of the per­sua­sion that he was inno­cent).

As you might have noticed, nowhere in these def­i­n­i­tions can you find that your opin­ion equals the truth. I heard so many peo­ple say, “It’s my truth”, and they leave it at that, as if their truth some­how becomes true and just as valid as The Truth itself. Of course they find many rea­sons and other opin­ions that attempt to jus­tify their opin­ion, but the bot­tom line is that all these rea­sons and excuses are just plau­si­ble sto­ries that often prove noth­ing. In fact it still boils down to no more that mere over­rated opin­ion. So how do you dis­tin­guish between truth and opin­ion? Let’s start by rec­og­niz­ing that we rarely come face to face with the truth. Objec­tive truth is a very elu­sive con­cept, and it is a con­cept because “the truth” does not exist in the mate­r­ial world. It is always and only an INTERPRETATION and MEANING that we give to any par­tic­u­lar event. Events have no mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions imbed­ded in them, they are not an inte­gral part of ANY event. Inter­pre­ta­tions and mean­ings are fully and wholly gen­er­ated by human minds and do not exist in nature per se. (Of course this is only my opin­ion.) Nev­er­the­less, like any­thing else, our opin­ions serve a very use­ful role in our lives and like any tool they can be used or abused. Now, how do you know if your opin­ions serve you or not? This is eas­ier said than done, but every bit worth prac­tic­ing. Self-awareness is the first step. Being con­scious and able to per­ceive your behav­ior when you are adamantly assert­ing that your opin­ion is the cor­rect one may make you aware of the futil­ity of your approach to the sit­u­a­tion and open your eyes to other pos­si­bil­i­ties and more effi­cient and effec­tive ways to deal with the sit­u­a­tion. Under­stand­ing that the inter­pre­ta­tions and beliefs we hold so dear come from our past expe­ri­ences and have become part of our per­son­al­i­ties and which we can­not lightly dis­miss, may help us rec­og­nize that other people’s opinions/truths as well as our own are just dif­fer­ent points of view. A point of view is just that: a point from which we view the world. Prob­lems arise when we neglect to rec­og­nize that from the point we see the world or an issue, has one major short­com­ing: we do not see the very point from which we make our obser­va­tion because we are stand­ing on it. Rec­og­niz­ing that there can be more than one point from which the world can be observed and thus be seen in a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive will allow us to be more flex­i­ble in our rela­tion­ships with others.

In con­clu­sion, remem­ber that many truths through­out his­tory were debunked and nowa­days make no sense even to a child but in the past were held as irrefutable truths. Think of the earth as being the flat cen­ter of the uni­verse. How about all the gods of ancient Greece and Rome? Newton’s physics is not the final word on our uni­verse any more either. At a more mun­dane level, you may find that what­ever you thought to be true about your par­ents, your part­ner or your chil­dren may not be so, for the time being anyway.

From all this you may be tempted to come to the con­clu­sion that there are many truths and that they all may be equal. That cer­tainly is not so. Some truths are more equal than oth­ers or some opin­ions are bet­ter than oth­ers. Cer­tain truths may be more true to some than to oth­ers depend­ing on the con­text because con­text in which opin­ions and “truths” arise is deci­sive. We’ll talk about con­text some other time. Stay tuned.

Radomir

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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Monogamy isn’t easy, naturally.

Right-wing pro-marriage advo­cates are cor­rect: Monogamy is def­i­nitely under siege. But not from unclos­eted polyamor­ists, ado­les­cent “hook-up” advo­cates, rad­i­cal fem­i­nists, God­less com­mu­nists or some vast homo­sex­ual con­spir­acy. The cul­prit is our own biology.

Researchers in ani­mal behav­ior have long known that monogamy is uncom­mon in the nat­ural world, but only with the advent of DNA “fin­ger­print­ing” have we come to appre­ci­ate how truly rare it is. Genetic test­ing has recently shown that even among many bird species — long touted as the epit­ome of monog­a­mous fidelity — it is not uncom­mon for 6% to 60% of the young to be fathered by some­one other than the mother’s social part­ner. As a result, we now know sci­en­tif­i­cally what most peo­ple have long known pri­vately: that social monogamy does not nec­es­sar­ily imply sex­ual monogamy.

In the movie “Heart­burn,” the lead char­ac­ter com­plains about her husband’s phi­lan­der­ing and gets this response: “You want monogamy? Marry a swan!” But now, sci­en­tists have found that even swans aren’t monog­a­mous. (Nor are those widely admired emperor pen­guins, whose sup­posed march to monogamy was mis­con­strued from another pop­u­lar movie; their domes­tic­ity lasts only for the cur­rent breed­ing sea­son — next year, they’ll find new mates.)

For some, find­ings of this sort may mit­i­gate a bit of the out­rage vis­ited on the cur­rent and future crop of adul­ter­ers du jour, recently includ­ing but assuredly not lim­ited to Eliot Spitzer, Mark San­ford, John Ensign and John Edwards. For oth­ers, it sim­ply shows that men are clue­less, irre­spon­si­ble oafs. The sci­en­tific realty, how­ever, is more nuanced, and more inter­est­ing, espe­cially for those look­ing to their own mat­ri­mo­nial future.

First, there can be no seri­ous debate about whether monogamy is nat­ural for human beings. It isn’t. A Mar­t­ian zool­o­gist vis­it­ing planet Earth would have no doubt: Homo sapi­ens car­ries all the evo­lu­tion­ary stig­mata of a mildly polyg­a­mous mam­mal in which both sexes have a pen­chant for occa­sional “extra-pair copulations.”

But nat­ural isn’t nec­es­sar­ily good. Think about earth­quakes, tsunamis, gan­grene or pneu­mo­nia. Nor is unnat­ural bad, or beyond human poten­tial. Con­sider writ­ing a poem, learn­ing a sec­ond lan­guage or mas­ter­ing a musi­cal instru­ment. Few peo­ple would argue that learn­ing to play the vio­lin is nat­ural; after all, it takes years of ded­i­ca­tion and hard work. A case can be made, in fact, that peo­ple are being max­i­mally human when they do things that con­tra­dict their biol­ogy. “Doing what comes nat­u­rally” is easy. It’s what non­hu­man ani­mals do. Per­haps only human beings can will them­selves to do things that go against their “nature.”

And finally, even though any­one aspir­ing to gen­uine monogamy will, on bal­ance, have to swim upstream against the cur­rent of his or her evo­lu­tion­ar­ily bequeathed incli­na­tions, there are also con­sid­er­able bio­log­i­cal forces sup­port­ing such efforts. Some ani­mals man­age to be monog­a­mous. Cal­i­for­nia mice (Per­omyscus cal­i­for­ni­cus), for exam­ple, pair up and remain paired, for­sak­ing all oth­ers, largely because of the pay­off derived from hav­ing two par­ents to care for off­spring. Beavers estab­lish last­ing pair-bonds that enable them to coop­er­ate in build­ing a valu­able, com­plex home site. The Mala­gasy giant jump­ing rat has evi­dently made the jump to monogamy because of the predator-fighting ben­e­fits thereby pro­vided. And among pygmy mar­mosets, monogamy gives males uncon­scious con­fi­dence of their pater­nity, which in turn sup­ports their incli­na­tion to be unusu­ally paternal.

And human beings? Our species ben­e­fits greatly from bi-parental care. We can profit from shared, rec­i­p­ro­cated effort, espe­cially when we’re con­fi­dent both part­ners will be around for the long term. In addi­tion, human beings are endowed with an array of hard-wired traits that can be used to strengthen monogamy, among them a pen­chant (per­haps even a need) to attach and con­nect so-called mir­ror neu­rons that under­lie empa­thy; hor­monal sys­tems, such as those involv­ing oxy­tocin and vaso­pressin, that relate sex­ual sat­is­fac­tion to pair-bonding; and neural plas­tic­ity that pro­motes the strength­en­ing of brain cir­cuits asso­ci­ated with repeated reward mech­a­nisms — includ­ing, in all like­li­hood, those acti­vated via inter­ac­tions with the same individual.

Add to this the fact that peo­ple have big brains, and hence, an abil­ity to res­cue monogamy from monot­ony, as well as the capac­ity to imag­ine the future and a vis­ceral dis­like of dis­hon­esty, and the effect of biol­ogy on monogamy becomes com­plex indeed. Not to men­tion the adap­tive sig­nif­i­cance of that thing called love.

To be sure, monogamy isn’t easy; nor is it for every­one. But any­one who claims that he or she sim­ply isn’t cut out for monogamy misses the point: No one is. At the same time, no one’s biol­ogy pre­cludes monogamy either.

As Jean-Paul Sartre famously advised (albeit in a dif­fer­ent con­text): “You are free; choose.”

David P. Barash, an evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist, is a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton. His most recent book — coau­thored with Judith Eve Lip­ton — is “Strange Bed­fel­lows: The Sur­pris­ing Con­nec­tion Between Sex, Evo­lu­tion and Monogamy.”

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Why We Have Problems In Our Relationships?

Okay, let’s start at the begin­ning. This is old news, but we rarely get at the most basic causes of why it is so dif­fi­cult for a rela­tion­ship to work out smoothly. The most gen­eral con­clu­sion is that men and women are very dif­fer­ent. That’s why we have the “oppo­site” sex. And truly oppo­site it is. Not only are we obvi­ously dif­fer­ent bio­log­i­cally, but we have dif­fer­ent inter­ests, goals, and rea­sons for doing things in our lives. Our sur­vival strate­gies are also dif­fer­ent. Our “but­tons” get pushed for dif­fer­ent reasons.

To under­stand why this is so, we must first look at the inter­ests of our maker. And I do not mean God. I mean our genes, the very intel­li­gence that God has cre­ated you might say, that has designed us to be the way we are. Now, genes have one and only one inter­est on their “mind” and that is to repli­cate them­selves. For that pur­pose they use us humans as a tool for their repli­ca­tion. We are now talk­ing about human genetic pro­gram­ming. This pro­gram has been in oper­a­tion for hun­dreds of thou­sands of years. At this point you may ask: and what has that to do with my husband/wife leav­ing me? It may have every­thing to do with it, just bear with me for a moment.

What I am about to say may not apply fully to every woman or man, but it is way more preva­lent than you may think. Remem­ber, most of it is not done con­sciously; it is com­pletely auto­matic. We are for the most part clue­less about why we do the things we do, espe­cially the things that do not serve us or con­tribute to our hap­pi­ness and well-being. By the way, genes do not give a damn if we are happy or not as long as we repro­duce. The proof is in the pud­ding. There are more than 6,000,000,000 of us today mostly poor, hun­gry, suf­fer­ing and unhappy; dou­ble since 40 years ago.

The answer may lie in our genetic pro­gram­ming. Men can­not bear chil­dren and they need women if they want their genes to con­tinue to pros­per. They will use any strat­egy to seduce a woman and have sex with her. The more women they have sex with the bet­ter. Com­pe­ti­tion is fierce for young and healthy fer­tile women. Pow­er­ful men, men who dom­i­nate other men, and men who can rec­og­nize oppor­tu­nity quickly have more chance to repro­duce their genes. These traits are much more pro­nounced in men then in women even in areas that have appar­ently noth­ing to do with sex.

Women, on the other hand, have much more to risk if they are going to engage in sex. They do not jump at the first oppor­tu­nity they are patient. Also, they have a finite num­ber of eggs and can have only one child per year as opposed to men who pro­duces mil­lions of sperms a day and can make sev­eral chil­dren in a day (the­o­ret­i­cally). In order to see that they repro­duce as healthy genes as pos­si­ble and be secure dur­ing preg­nancy and beyond they have to care­fully choose with whom they have sex with. So women look for a man who can give them secu­rity, who will dis­play com­mit­ment to them and the fam­ily and a man who is will­ing to con­stantly invest in them mate­ri­ally, emo­tion­ally and time-wise.

As you can see the inter­ests of a man and a woman are on the oppo­site sides of the spec­trum, thus we have the oppo­site sex.

Life in the past in smaller com­mu­ni­ties was heav­ily reg­u­lated and cou­ples did not sep­a­rate as often as they do today. There are too many con­flict­ing mes­sages in today’s soci­ety which make it very dif­fi­cult to make sound con­scious choices, espe­cially when we are not aware of our instinc­tual dri­ves and how they influ­ence us.

This is by no means the com­plete pic­ture, but I am sure that you will be able to see how our thoughts, feel­ings and behav­iors are quite auto­mat­i­cally dri­ven by the dif­fer­ent ways that men and women see their best inter­est in prop­a­gat­ing their genetic mate­r­ial. Dif­fer­ent cul­tures have been try­ing to reg­u­late these auto­matic behav­iors in dif­fer­ent ways, but this is a topic for the next post. This is obvi­ously not a very new topic, although it may be for some of you. Stay tuned, have happy hol­i­days and try to under­stand and show more com­pas­sion for your part­ners. For­give them, they do not know why they are doing what deep inside they don’t want to do.

Learn com­pas­sion and understand.

Best

Radomir

The Rela­tion­ship Saver

The Game­less Relationship


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