Given a choice between two men ...

Why is it that when given a choice between two men, a woman will very often choose to be with the one who treats her worst? Why does a woman choose to live with a man who is thoroughly and obviously inappropriate for the life that the woman aspires to?

Not one of my female friends has ever alluded to a repressed desire to participate in a relationship with a man who would be rude, neglectful, unfaithful, dishonest, idle and destructive yet, on one occasion that I counted, fully nine of them were giving no small amount of their time and energy to the devoted care of males who offered so little prospect of ever being a dream come true that some of these women could have had more fun dating a child's plastic doll. Never once has any one of these nine intelligent, attractive, articulate and educated women confided that she feels her calling in life is to serve the unworthy and to dispense care and respect to those incapable of earning either. Perhaps I exaggerate a little—some of the men held well paid jobs, or had good dress sense, or were muscular, and some of them had that quality so favoured in the relationship wanted adverts, the “great sense of humour”; even if the burden of the joke often fell upon their loyal and attentive female partner. Nonetheless the discrepancy between what the women aspired to and what they settled for was sometimes of such a magnitude that even a card-carrying atheist might reasonably have demanded a miracle in order to have it resolved.

These were not, at least officially, stupid or ignorant women: all nine of them had been well educated and had the certificates to prove it. Nor were they hideously unattractive in their anatomical construction; it is true that not all of them would have popularly been described as stunning, pretty or cute, but they were all attractive in the popular meaning of the word and none of them would have been described as ugly or even as plain. So, there they were, nine fit, sexy, stylish, educated, intelligent and ambitious women all lending their loving energy to males who were their inferior in almost every way except physical size and strength.

Some people have attempted to explain such conundrums by arguing that some women choose a male inferior to themselves because they have some notion of improving him. Others have argued that the women are persuaded by the male's big talk and dominant physique to believe that he is a better person than he actually is. Others might argue that despite all of their positive attributes some women are simply insecure and choose to be with an inferior man because they do not believe themselves good enough for a better male and wish to reduce their perceived risk of rejection. True? False? I don't know and I readily concede that these are all valid possibilities or contributory factors. However here is another explanation that I personally find useful:

There is a popular form of community “wisdom” that is applied particularly to romantic or sexual relationships but also to other areas of life, and which encourages people to treat their emotions as their guide, or as signposts, and to believe that any action is validated by the emotions that gave rise to it. The eloquent maxims of this “wisdom” include such literary gems as “go with the flow”, “just do it”, “be true to yourself”, “let your heart be your guide” and a raft of similarly acoustically pretty but intellectually vacuous expressions. Underlying these expressions or attitudes seems to be the notion that emotional feelings are undeniable, uncontrollable, unaccountable and that not to take action in accordance with such emotions or to resist those emotions is somehow dishonest. This in turn seems to imply an assumption that the emotions come first and that actions ought then to follow, rather like a railway locomotive pulls the carriages: “wherever my heart leads, there I shall go”. Now whilst there may be some truth that certain emotions (infatuation perhaps, or parent-child affection?) do indeed burst out of nowhere I am inclined to wonder if these are the exception rather than the rule. To me the evidence seems to indicate that it is more usual for our emotions to follow our actions. If we continue with the railway train example then the popular wisdom would put the emotions as the locomotive and the carriages would represent the actions but I, by contrast, would like to argue that in life in general the actions represent the locomotive and the carriages represent the emotions. So what does this imply:

If, as I am proposing, a person's emotions will follow their actions then the feelings that P has for Q will depend principally on how P behaves towards Q. Consequently if P treats Q with loving respect and acts towards Q as if Q were a treasured companion then, in time, P will come to want Q to be a treasured companion and will feel real love for Q. Conversely if P neglects Q, or is consistently rude to Q then, in time, P will feel disdain or contempt for Q and will not want to be with Q. The important thing to note about this is that P's emotions regarding Q depend principally on what P does for Q, and not on what Q does for P.

If this model is applied to the relationships of the nine women mentioned at the beginning of the article then it is possible to propose an explanation of why they behaved the way they did.

For the sake of discussion let us take our hypothetical observation into a nightclub or party where woman W has just met male person M. At this moment their relationship is totally superficial, M smiles at W and W sizes-up M, she knows nothing about him but decides for whatever reason that he is worthy of a little attention. They chat and mingle, dance a little and exchange a few smiles and pheromones. Some sexual biology kicks-in and, at what is still a very superficial level, the attraction grows. Assuming that nothing too unpleasant happens to spoil the illusion of closeness they continue seeing one another and, throughout the process, they are both investing time and effort into the relationship. According to our hypothesis their emotional attraction towards one another must grow because they are treating one another as important. At some point or another they start a sexual relationship which in most communities (including sexually “liberated” ones) represents a bigger investment of risk on the part of the woman than it does of the man since she is more likely to receive disapprobation from her society for sexual activity than he is but also, and more significantly, the opportunity for pregnancy presents much greater social, health and economic risks to the woman than it does to the man. At this point therefore, even if the relationship continues to be equal in terms of time and effort applied, the woman, because of her much higher risk exposure, has in one sense given more to the relationship. To put it another way, her high-risk behaviour is consistent with a much more high value relationship than the one she actually has while his relatively low risk behaviour remains consistent with a lower value relationship.

There is now an imbalance between W and M in terms of the risk that they have exposed themselves to and therefore in terms of the value they hope to get from the relationship to justify the risk. However, the hypothesis is that emotions follow actions and since W has now performed a high value action with M it follows that her feelings for M must increase to match it. M on the other hand has incurred a lower risk (essentially he has made less effort) and so his feelings for W can, and will, remain at a level appropriate for a casual, even platonic, relationship.

If at this point M and W continue to share one another's lives constructively, then there is no real problem because as M continues to treat W as if she is important to him then his emotional attraction to her will continue to increase. However what happens if, for whatever reason, M reduces his effort towards W? Now W will be the one to be chasing, so to speak, because she has the higher risk exposure and therefore the greater need to maintain the relationship. But, remember the hypothesis, the more she tries to bring the relationship back together, the more effort she makes and as she makes more effort to draw M back towards her the hypothesis suggests that her emotional attraction for M will increase. Thus his indifference towards her causes her to want him more and to increase her reluctance to let go. If we now take this a stage further and have M become abusive (in whatever sense, possibly nothing more than consistent neglect and bad manners) then W has to invest even greater skill and effort in her attempts to diffuse the problems or correct them and since her emotions are still following her actions they too will continue to increase. The more talented W is, the more effort she can apply and the stronger the emotional bond will become.

I don't claim that this hypothesis, that emotions follow actions, is a total explanation nor that it is fully valid for all apparently similar situations but I do think that it offers one possible means of explaining why attractive and intelligent women should remain in relationships with males who fall far short of the women's aspirations.

Although the preceding example has concentrated on a good woman and an inadequate male, the hypothesis works the other way around as well. Men who invest a lot of energy in trying to woo a woman, or who treat a woman as if she is special and important to them, will have emotions that far exceed what might be appropriate for the reality of their association. Such men generally go on to make complete fools of themselves and the more foolish (and hence more risky) their activities, the greater the emotional pull that they feel. It is a sad and destructive cycle for either gender.

However if the hypothesis is accepted as valid then it also offers good news!

First any love struck man who is wondering how he will ever live without the idol of his spurned affections and any woman crying at home wondering what she did to deserve such cruel neglect and wanting to start afresh with a real man, can now start formulating a solution. Likewise anybody who is in a committed relationship that is going badly and wants to improve it can also have a fresh hope.

If emotions follow actions then W can reduce her attraction to M by simply no longer treating him as if he were special. She can even increase the speed of the process by treating him as if he were contemptible. This works because those emotions go wherever the actions lead them, just as the carriages always follow the locomotive. If W stops telephoning M, doesn't make any effort to be available for him, doesn't wait in for him, doesn't do his shopping or wash his clothes and if, furthermore W actually takes definite steps to treat M as if he were something nasty to be avoided, then pretty quickly her emotional attraction for him will subside. The process proposed by the hypothesis is entirely reversible.

The same is true for the man whose flowers, artful poems and cuddly teddy bears are spurned by the object of his forlorn desire: If he ceases to perform the actions involved in making such a fool of himself, his attraction for the woman will also diminish.

Perhaps even better still, the principle should also work just as well for those who are in committed relationships that they want to recharge, maintain and improve. If your marriage has gone stale then the first step towards an improvement would be to start treating your spouse as if he (or she) is the most attractive and desirable person in the world. You might not, at this moment, think they are attractive or desirable, you might find the idea ridiculous or even be totally weary with their presence, but your emotional railway carriages will follow the track that your locomotive actions lead them along. Treat your husband or wife as if they are special and in due course your emotional attraction for them will also deepen and broaden. Within a failing or unsatisfying relationship it would also therefore be valid to ask whether either partner had been acting carelessly towards the other—if P has, for example, been very preoccupied with work and as a result has been taking Q's contribution for granted, been failing to give attention to Q, or has been careless in speech or behaviour towards Q then, according to the hypothesis, P's feelings for Q will become less and less feelings of loving tenderness and increasingly feelings of contempt and irritation. Knowing the process allows effective corrective action to be initiated and the warmth of the relationship to be restored.

Applying the hypothesis might also help those who wish to remain faithful to their partners to minimise their risks of being tempted into infidelity. For example, if two colleagues are labouring together on a project and supporting and encouraging one another in their shared work then an emotional attraction will also grow because their actions towards one another are very positive and supportive and they are treating one another as if they had a high value relationship. This will be true even if their original motivation for co-operating was entirely for the benefits of their careers or finances. As the emotional bonds strengthen, as they will, then the temptation to step beyond a merely vocational association and into something more erotic also increase. With this in mind, any person who wants to remain faithful to their partners could consider whether their activities with other people, including those they are not presently attracted to, might cause an unhelpful attraction to develop and how it might be avoided.

Ultimately we are all responsible for our own choices but in all cases the hypothesis suggests that nobody needs to be helplessly at the whim of their emotions and that everybody can do something to tame and control emotions that are unhelpful and that encourage them to make bad choices, and to strengthen emotions that are helpful and encourage good choices.

So, to conclude, the proposed hypothesis can be stated in the following ways: A person's feelings will follow their actions. P's attraction towards Q depends on what P does for Q, not on what Q does for P. Treat somebody as if you love them and you will come to feel love for them; treat somebody as if you dislike them, and you will come to dislike them.

I am not suggesting that this hypothesis should be applied simplistically or that other factors should be overlooked, but, nonetheless, this hypothesis does allow a coherent and rational explanation to be provided for why competent, attractive, ambitious women should so often be found devoting themselves to men who are unworthy of the love they receive and incapable of fulfilling the woman's dreams and why men should foolishly continue to pursue women who have already thoroughly spurned them. It also suggests that each of us can actively seek to generate the emotions that will help us to make the choices that, rationally, we want to make.


Taken In Hand Tour start | next


Makes Some Sense

This theory makes some sense in terms of how to extricate oneself from a situation where one is giving more than the other or where one is involved with a person who is not worth expending emotional effort on. However it doesn't explain why one would begin pouring that energy into the wrong person at the first instance. If that were discovered these problems could be headed off at the pass.

Also once involved it is very hard to look at the relationship and objectively say, he's a jerk, or she's not really interested in me.

With maturity comes a lessening attraction to the "bad boys" who never call.


In The Beginning

Pat, the post states that similar actions—having sex—can lead to a woman being more invested than the guy. These days there's a lot of pressure on women to put out too early. This hypothesis implies a course of action that may not be popular with the guys but will keep the girl's investment more in line with the guy's—she doesn't get sexual with a guy until he's more invested himself and makes a commitment. For those that don't want to wait, this post offers information that can help them make an informed decision regarding their level of risk.

Having Sex

The part of the hypothesis about having sex creating a greater commitment on the part of the woman because there are "more risks" to her is outmoded and untrue.

Or have we forgotten AIDS? There are men and women both who are choosing to stay celibate until marriage because of that risk. That sure evens up the score.

Plus, it's awfully 19th century to imagine that women face a greater social stigma today in a westernized nation when they have sex. Let's not be absurd. I faced no such stigma when I got rid of my troublesome virginity 33 years ago, and there is no such stigma today.


Neither outmoded, nor untrue, and certainly not absurd.

Hello “Pat” and thank you for taking the time to respond.
First, I suspect you realised, but it is perhaps worth emphasising, that the sexual equation is not really important to the hypothesis. If the hypothesis works at all then it works for celibate people just as well as it works for those who are sexually active.

Second, AIDS only balances the sexual equation if it does in fact lead to celibacy but in that case it is, in reality, the celibacy that balances the equation since the celibate woman and the celibate man have an equal chance of becoming pregnant and an equal risk of approbation and thus, in the sexual part of the equation have invested an exactly equal amount. However, if celibacy is not adopted then far, from balancing the risk, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases shift the risk much more thoroughly towards to the woman because many sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted much more easily from a man to a woman than vice versa.  This happens(a) because the vagina presents a much larger area of delicate tissue than does the glans of a penis, (b) because many organisms can remain viable, and hence infective, for far longer in the vagina than on the outside of a penis, and (c) in the case of diseases transmitted within blood or semen, the infective fluids are likely to remain within the vagina for some time.

Third, even if it were true that sexually transmitted diseases presented an equal risk to both genders the scales would still be massively unbalanced by the economic and social costs of being a mother without a mate.

Fourth, out of all the women I have personally known in the 20th and 21st centuries, from different age groups, nations and cultures (including “Westernised”) I have never met one who considered promiscuity or casual sex to be anything other than shameful and degrading conduct for a woman.  That doesn't mean they wished to be celibate but only that they considered relationships with at least a modest chance of long-term survival to be the proper situation for sexual activity.  Nor does their aversion to promiscuity mean that they all successfully maintained their own standards; but only that they were not so cowardly as to pretend that their failings were anything other than failings and nor did they indulge themselves with the peculiar notion that the standard had somehow ceased to apply. Additionally, it wasn't that long ago that I heard one woman describe another woman as “trash“ merely for conducting herself in an overtly sexual fashion in a London night club, and that must surely count as a “Westernised” environment.  Naturally these women do not represent the whole of humanity and therefore I accept that it is possible that there are women who revel in promiscuity without even a hint of disapproval from their peers.

So, “outmoded and untrue” for exactly who?  For one person who found virginity troublesome 33 years ago?  If you say so, then I shall be content to accept it.  However if you wish to claim that all the women in “Westernised” countries perceive no stigma in casual sex, or in giving themselves sexually to a man who then turns out to have no commitment to them, then I shall certainly think your claim quite absurd.

My own experience is that the promiscuous, casual sex lifestyle is touted by a vocal and media savvy minority who appear, to me, to have only a rudimentary understanding of simple moral concepts.  However the people that I have known personally have, without exception, understood that whilst casual sex and promiscuity might be effective subjects for the forming of a pleasant idle fantasy, they are not behaviours that are appropriate for civilised and contented living.

Promiscuity might enjoy a great deal of promotion but it does not, in my experience, enjoy a great deal of support.

Best wishes,

Outmoded and untrue?

Well, not everywhere obviously, but certainly when I was young, and I am almost the same age as Pat, girls of my age were getting rid of their virginity fairly young, and not all of us spent all our time looking for meaningful relationships, some of us indulged in a fair amount of rather random sexual behaviour.

As for the risk of becoming pregnant, well I and most of the girls I knew were on the pill, which virtually eliminated the risk of pregnancy, and of course the decline in the stigma attached to unmarried motherhood, plus legalised abortion, meant that even if you did become pregnant the consequences need not be as devestating as in the past.

Unmarried motherhood is tough, but women who have to raise children on their own mostly manage all right in my experience. My seven-year-old son's best friend is the youngest of three children, all of them have different fathers, none of the fathers is around, but their mother manages, she ekes out her child benefit etc by doing cleaning and childminding. It's not an ideal life, but it's not a disaster either.

I've never considered sexual promiscuity to be either shameful or degrading: when you're young and sexual adventures seem exciting. It's perfectly natural to want to experiment, and if you are beseiged by offers of sex from attractive men, you have to be much more strong-minded than I was to refuse them. 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may' you know? A meaningful relationship is more satisfying in the long run, but while you're waiting for the meaningful relationship to come along you've got to while the time away somehow.

RE: Outmoded

Well, I lost my virginity at 15 and just because I didn`t want to be a virgin any more but that didn`t mean that at that age I wanted a long term relationship. I`m not ashamed that from the age of 15 until the age of 21 I had a few one night stands and some very short termed relationships. As a matter of fact the only relationship that lasted longer then 3 months was with my husband. And I`m not ashamed of that either because we`ve been together for 23 years. And I`m quite proud of that. Because I had enough sexual experience before I got married and never wondered how it would be with another man, I`ve beeen loyal from the day I met my husband and I`m quite proud of that.
My daughters are 17 and 21, I would certainly never tell them that they should wait until they have a long term relationship or until they get married to have sex. I do tell them that they should wait a few months before they get sexually involved with a guy. But whether they do it or not is their decision.
I think everybody is aware of sexual diseases and unwanted pregnancies. But you sure can`t find a guy praying in church for it.


I guess you haven't read any of Dee Marie's posts where she shoots down the notion of chastity. There's one woman who is certainly proud of her sexual prowess.

When I was young we used to say, "what's the definition of promiscuous (or a nymphomaniac)? Someone who's having more fun in bed than you!"

There have always been a few tongues that wag, mostly in the heads of frustrated people who are not happy enough with their own lives. And who cares? Do you think the woman who was described as "trash" by some bystander cared, or that it took away from her good time?

One thing you should know about me is that unless what I am doing offends someone I deeply care about, the rest of the world can mumble about me under their breath as much as they please, and I do not give a hoot!

The big bugaboo, when I was growing up, was that men wanted to marry virgins so you better hang onto that insignificant bit of tissue. Come to find out, a few hypocrites wanted virgins (being that these were also guys who went to bed with everything that moved), but most men of my time had no interest in virgins. They wanted to marry a woman who had experience and knew what she was about in bed. They also were pleased that she'd already sown her wild oats and wasn't going to wake up 20 years later and wonder what she'd missed.

You made a remarkable leap there, from saying that a woman who has sex faces disapproval, to talking about promiscuity. Exploration and some short term relationships before marriage isn't the kind of behavior that anyone brands as promiscuity these days. It is understood to be part of the dating process. My friends and I, and most women I know, explored before marriage and no social disapproval of any kind fell on their shoulders.

So yes, the presumption that women who have sex face disapproval is outmoded.


Having Sex & Western Culture

I feel that you were privileged to have been a part of a subculture in a westernized nation that didn't judge you or socially stigmitize you for losing your virginity.

Not all of us in the subculture of a westernized nation have been so lucky. I for one knew that the society of my youth would not have been so concillatory toward my behavior... and that was 22 years ago.

Some subcultures are slower to progress to a state of openmindedness about behaviour whether it be related to gender or age or social status. To arbitrarily say that there is no stigma is to disenfranchise those subcultures to which you are unfamiliar, including the one of my youth.


Sex and stigmas

Belonging to the same generation as Pat, I grew up in the UK at a time when sexual morality seemed to be a thing of the past. All the girls I knew were sexually active, most of them at an earlier age than I was, and nobody ever stigmatised them for it. The pill had put an end to girls needing to worry about getting pregnant, and everyone was doing it, or so it seemed. I suppose I would just have assumed that life in Western cutures was like that for everyone.

When I was young, images of people having sex were mostly comical, and men never seemed to think about anything expcet chasing after girls. One of my earliest film memories is of the Beatles in 'A Hard Day's Night' perpetually chasing girls. The line that stuck in my head was Norman Rossington saying to John Lennon as he fondled two well-enodwed chorus girls "Put them girls down Lennon, or I'll tell your mother of you!" I learnt that men were obsessed with girls long before I knew why. And then there were the 'Carry On' films, with Sid James and Terry Scott perpetually chasing after Barbara Windsor and trying to get her bra off, and 'Up Pompeii' with Frankie Howard, a show that consisted of a continous string of double entendres.

I never thought of sex as something to be taken that seriously. Love, yes, one could fall in love and feel passion, or suffer anguish, or cause passion or anguish in others. But the actual sexual act was something that one could do with all sorts of people without being in love with them, or even liking them very much (I sometimes had sex with a man who kept pestering me just because I couldn't be bothered to keep saying 'no', it was easier just to do it and then get rid of them).

I suppose I would just have assumed that, sex having lost its mystique, nobody any more would care about whether a girl was a virgin or not, not in our liberated Western world anyway. Obviously life isn't as simple as that.


An observation by Thomas Ellis (author of "The Rantings of a Single Male") which seems appropriate to this :
I've noticed for a long time that women often pursue activities they have no real interest in, driven by an obsession to prove something. There's always some obstacle they want to confront, the actual goal being secondary.

Useful and Insightful

I love this article. What a useful construct of how relationship dynamics work: I think the essential hypothesis, that P's feelings for Q depend on how P treats Q and not the other way around, is valid and insightful.

I think too that for many women, part of the energy we invest in "unworthy" men is a mothering kind of energy, trying to give enough to these men to help them finally grow up (as if it were possible for this to work.) A writer I like called it "misplaced nurturing".

Can it help to bring more balance?

I wonder if this model which asserts that the roots of feeling are in the giver not the taker can help us to find a greater balance. If W is in a relationship with M where she does more and therefore feels more, will it help if she does less? If her goal is to be cared for as much as she cares for M, will it help if she does less? I have noticed that we women often do for men what we wish they would do for us. Even in friendships I have seen and participated in this unequal pattern.

Will M take up the slack and do more and thus begin to feel more for W, if she does less. Or will W just feel less and will the entire relationship sort of wither away?

What do you think?

Can it Help to Bring More Balance?

It seems to me this theory is an extension of the old "playing hard to get" idea. Pulling back on what you do for a man to get him to try harder is exactly that: playing hard to get. Is it going to get him to try harder? Maybe.

Will it make you lose interest in him? It might. You also might get so fed up with having to play a game to get his attention that you quit out on him.

I think it's this way: look him over. Is he worth keeping or isn't he? Nevermind all you have invested. If there's a future and he is a good guy, then playing a slight bit of hard to get might work in your favor. If he's just a turkey anyhow, then don't give him any attention at all!

In all relationships there is the lover and the loved. It is never equal. The lover works harder but just as the theory indicated, gets more out of the relationship. The loved one gets to bask in the glory of being loved. If the love ratio is pretty even between them a little imbalance won't matter. If it is terribly skewed in one direction or the other then happiness is not in the cards.


One additional thing

What a thought provoking post.

Many psychological theories claim that individuals behave to seek the most reward.

But according to cognitive dissonance theory, close to the opposite can be the case. As stated above, people may more easily change their opinion to accomodate their behavior, rather than their behavior to accomodate their opinion.

So if a woman is behaving in a way that honors a man, even if he is a jerk, she may come to change her opinion about the man (and decide perhaps that he is OK)—before she is willing to change her behavior, and seek a man who is more thoughtful. (Attitude is accomodating behavior, rather than vice-versa)

So even if there are many men who would be more kind, she can remain stuck to the more abusive man, because she may be more willing to rationalize her behavior, than change it.


One Additional Thing

The behaviour described in Michael's post above, could also be explained by the psychological defence mechanism of rationalization. A woman may change her opinion to rationalize her behaviour but in doing so she defends against realizing the anxiety prompted by the man's ill treatment of her and the loss of esteem such a realization would bring.

Re: Can it help to bring more balance?

Hello Anonymous. Thank you, and all others, for responding.

You wrote:

If W is in a relationship with M where she does more and therefore feels more, will it help if she does less? If her goal is to be cared for as much as she cares for M, will it help if she does less? I have noticed that we women often do for men what we wish they would do for us. Even in friendships I have seen and participated in this unequal pattern. Will M take up the slack and do more and thus begin to feel more for W, if she does less. Or will W just feel less and will the entire relationship sort of wither away?

I don't think my proposed hypothesis extends to offer any universal answer to the situation you describe. First, I was not suggesting that an inequality is bad of itself; in that regard I tend to agree with “Pat” who wrote:

In all relationships there is the lover and the loved. It is never equal. The lover works harder but ... gets more out of the relationship. The loved one gets to bask in the glory of being loved.

However I would add that what the lover gets might not be the happiness they desired but a deeper richness of living that includes more sadness than they might have preferred. Also if the one who is loved is particularly insensitive and self-centred then it is quite possible that they won't really understand and value what is being given to them and hence won't even benefit from basking in the glory while it lasts.

Second, if W does less then the hypothesis only suggests that she will reduce the strength of her own emotional engagement towards M, but it doesn't suggest that her reduced action will elicit a positive or constructive, or indeed any, response from M. If W wants M to engage more deeply and participate more actively in the relationship then perhaps she needs apply her time, energy and talent to performing a different kind of activity such as communicating more effectively what it is that she needs and wants from the relationship and from M. Without such communication or some other stimulus then I think it likely that her reduced activity will indeed lead the relationship to “sort of whither away”. Alternatively, if W were to exert herself less with the intent of coercing M to do more then that behaviour would, I think, probably lead only to manipulative game playing and certainly wouldn't be constructive.

If W communicates her needs and desires and M is unresponsive to them then either W is either going to resign herself to an unsatisfying relationship with somebody who she now knows is unconcerned, or merely selfish, or stupid or all of these things, or she can take the hypothesis and apply it in order to minimise the trauma and distress as she backs herself out of the relationship; she can choose her actions in order to exert some influence over her emotions, thus easing the process of letting go and moving on.

Finally I would mention that I would expect all of the foregoing to also apply in a situation where the roles were inverted and the man were making the greater effort and the woman were the one taking the free ride, so to speak. The scenario of a woman exerting herself for an unappreciative man might be more obvious than that of a man exerting himself for an unappreciative woman, but I am not sure that either scenario is more common.

Best wishes,


Cognitive Dissonance

Your theory that emotion follows action has a well known name...."Cognitive Dissonance Theory"

The idea is that we have a tendency to try to find consistency in what we think. When there is an inconsistency between attitudes (e.g. "I like him" and "I don't like him"), something must change to eliminate this "dissonance". The "cognition" that is thought to "win" is the one that has been previously acted upon.

So if you are treating someone as if he is very valuable or important, you will come to believe that he is, even if you were not sure at first. In other words, it is thought to be easier to change opinion, than change behavior.

So, attitude (or opinion) accomodates behavior.


Self-esteem is ruled by emotions

Great article! I have noticed that when people describe how they value themselves, emotions (of themselves and others) tend to be the focus with actions (choices) being a distance second. Given the fact that emotions are highly malliable and adaptable, it annoys me when actions are simply seen as mere happenstance. To value actions, especially negative ones, would be counter-productive to the popular self-centered mindset since people would have to actually evaluate what they plan to do, are doing and did--prudence be damned.

That's an interesting theory,

That's an interesting theory, but it ignores the other half of the conundrum. Women don't simply embrace men who treat them badly, they reject men who treat them well, who actually do represent the qualities women claim to want from men.

I think there's a simpler, more straight forward explanation based on evolution that explains both issues.

Since women can bare only a limited number of children, it is to their genetic advantage to pick the best males they can get. Now if a man is truly attentive and caring to this woman, that signals that he needs her. His appreciation for her means that he thinks he's made an advantageous match. But if the match is advantageous to him, this must mean she can do better. So she rejects him.

If the man treats the woman badly, this must mean he thinks he can do better, which means she's the one who's made an advantageous match. So she embraces him.

It's a very frustrating situation for nice guys. And it's part of the reason there are so few of them.

One Explanation

That's an interesting explanation, that if a man treats a woman well she interprets it that she can do better whereas if he treats her badly she interprets it as he could do better than her, therefore he's a catch.

Another explanation I have heard is that women have been raised to know their options are limited and they shouldn't take big risks. Yes, even in this 21st century, we're not given the license to do some of the wild and crazy things men do. Sooooo...women look to the "bad boys," the daring risk takers (who incidentally, often treat women badly) so that they can live vicariously through them.

I bet none of those nine women we heard mention of in the first post on this thread rides a motorcycle, goes skydiving, hitchhiked her way through South America, or any of the other adventures that a lot of the exciting "bad boys" go on.

As women mature they stop being attracted to the jerks and start to realize that the nice guys are worth having in their lives. Hopefully this happens before the biological clock has ticked itself out.


serving the unworthy

I've been in relationships where the guy expected me to serve him but where do you draw the line between the worthy and the unworthy, and when is serving too much serving?

Too Much Serving

I think "serving the unworthy" and "too much serving" are pretty
much subjective assessments, and as such only you can determine where the line is drawn in such a relationship. If you have to ask either
question regarding your relationship, perhaps you should consider the
possibility that you are with the wrong man. If you two are right for
each other—if the relationship is good for you, then I seriously
doubt that such questions would even cross your mind.


Too much serving

To some extent I agree with you... Often when you are looking in from the outside it is hard to be able to say for sure where the line is. That being said, I have often seen some of my female friends, people I care deeply about, going out with people who are just wrong for them OVER people who would treat them properly. And when I say people who are just wrong for them, I have seen them go out with people who were disrespectful of them, who didn't reciprocate the care that they gave, and even in one case one who was abusive towards her(A couple of us had a talk with him, and he bowed out).

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of these guys are loud(not just loud, but lacking in decorum), rowdy, show a marked lack of consideration(as if they don't care what anyone thinks or have no concern over consequences), and/or appear dangerous. They are visible. They make themselves visible. And that seems to be attractive, apparently.

An unusual perspective and reaction observations

To comment on the original post rather than the other comments, what you described is a known psychological fact. It's the same thing as when you're in a violent bar and you identify the most dangerous seeming guy then ask him for a light. By giving you the light, it makes him less likely to attack since for giving you something he has to decide you're OK (enough for a light). I have a suspicion they may also teach this on some sales training courses.

Please nobody think the writer suggested this was the ONLY factor (because they did not) or lessen your opinion of this idea because you disagree with her ideas about casual sex and gender risk (which I decline to comment on).