Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Female's Internal Conflict

It is built into our very nature as human beings to have to endure the conflict imposed by the combination of our biology and rationality, our bodies and our minds. For reasons that are beyond our abilities to completely understand, our minds work in such a way that we are driven by pride, while our bodies operate according to their inclinations to reproduce and (presumably) perpetuate the species. These two drives often push us towards opposite goals, resulting in a conflict that is reflected - perhaps at its strongest - in the dating world.

As a woman, your pride wants a man who values you above all other women, one who would do anything for you out of an overwhelming compulsion of feeling. You (like every person) need to know you are valuable and important, which is largely evidenced by feeling wanted.

Your biology, on the other hand, aches for a man who is strong and powerful, unfettered by his feelings, who can protect you and impregnate you with healthy children - children who in turn will survive and reproduce successfully.

But the fact is that men also have biologies that drive them, almost uncontrollably. They desire the most beautiful and healthiest women - those most capable of bearing their children. This means that the men who best fulfill the needs of your pride are those who are farthest below your league, and therefore want you most. But at the same time, almost by definition, the men who best fulfill the needs of your biology are those who are farthest above your league, and therefore want you least.

The reality is that - eventually, after all efforts at self-improvement - you have to choose a man who represents a balance between those two extremes. If you want a man who values you immeasurably, he isn't going to be the heroic hunk you desire sexually. If you want a man who can provide you with perfect babies, he isn't going to want you above all other women - because he probably can have all other women (at least all those at "your level").

Two factors mitigate the apparently unfortunate nature of this situation:
  1. Men are faced with a similar conflict, and they too have to compromise, meaning that the object of your biological desires has fewer women to choose from if he wants a girl that also loves him as a person. Perhaps more important than the needs of his pride is the fact that he cannot have a woman that doesn't want him. Your best possible partner will be one who recognizes this, values your love for him, and is willing to curb his desire for other women because of it. Still, the fewer options he has to forego, the easier (and more likely) this commitment will be for him to make and maintain.
  2. All men and women have different tastes when it comes to the opposite sex, so a single woman sits very differently on various men's scales. This is why I've placed "your level" in quotation marks above; is relative to each man's personal taste.
Admonitions not to "settle" are actually admonitions against settling too much - against choosing a man that doesn't fulfill one of these two needs sufficiently. In reality, we all settle in the sense that we settle for a man or woman that fulfills both of these needs, but fulfills them both only partially. No single person can fulfill both completely because the two sets of character traits that do so are (with the above caveats) mutually exclusive.

35 comments:

  1. So by this, we women are more or less involuntarily destined to "settle" (to various degrees). Sucks to be us. Even though men supposedly have the same conflict as we do, I think we have it wayyyyyyy worse. I think men more than likely satisfy their pride related desires than women given that men are "attractive" to women more so through character and material worth whilst women through their beauty/level of attractiveness. If deficient, character/material worth is still much easier and possible to achieve than beauty (regardless to the fact that beauty is subjective) Besides, statistically speaking, the ratio of POTENTIAL women to POTENTIAL men is by FAR greater; more options for men. So, men have nothing to worry about really.....

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    1. I completely disagree.

      Men have to "settle" just as much as women.

      True, as men, we are naturally less concerned with how much our woman wants us (which is why I said that men face a "similar conflict" rather than "the same conflict"). But even if I didn't care at ALL whether or not my wife or girfriend wanted me, the simple fact is that she isn't going to marry or date me if she doesn't. As long as women have to willingly accept a man as their boyfriends or husbands (which hasn't always been the case), a man will have to settle just as much as a woman.

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    2. Andrew, the real conflict for men is how much work we have to do to get a woman at all. To marry an average man, women need simply be average. A normal woman can also date an above average man, as you indicate, because she gets to play out of her league.

      A normal man, on the other hand, has to put in serious effort to win the affections of a normal woman. To have a good chance, we should be taller, older, and wealthier than our prospective mates. The burden of the courtship process falls on us. Our margin for error is small in dating, much smaller than women's.

      So for us, it's more pain, but also more potential gain. The men at the top of the status hierarchy have it all, well almost. They have the affections of their wives and numerous other women. But then again, ask Gen. Petraeus how his time at the top of the status hierarchy was.

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    3. I don't agree that a normal woman can get an an above average man. True, she only needs to be average to have sex with an above-average man; but in order to keep him she needs to be just as "above average" as he is.

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    4. Anon op comment, you are quite sexist... Put women on a pedestal much? Wah u have it so bad! I agree w the other posters. It IS equal (tho different). It presents us with a beautiful situation, in which the sexes can empathize and compliment one another. With trust... Character trumps lust.

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    5. Sexist btw in regard to belief that women's character trumps man's. Puh-lease.

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    6. Anonymous woman you have it WAY wrong, just about any woman in the world can go out and get attention from men, might be the wrong kind of attention, but you can still satisfy any cardinal urge you have any time with a new guy just by putting yourself out there, don't believe me post a CL ad for sex with no picture of yourself and no description and you will still get a flood of real men willing to meet you. Your below average women have far more power to have their sexual needs satisfied by men then below average men have a chance of even getting a womans phone number in a given night.

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    7. "If deficient, character/material worth is still much easier and possible to achieve than beauty..."
      Oh, so now the effort it takes to apply makeup and clothing and do your hair is somehow harder than the years it takes to amass wealth or develop character? Really?

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    8. Why is "everyone" arguing over who has it harder? Both sexes have problems or challenges to conquer, yes the other sides seem easy, but really they are just as stressful, Mind numbingly so.

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  2. You have such a sad, competitive, hierarchical way of viewing the world.

    You can't order people into better or worse, and what draws someone into a devoted relationship is not them merely being the best they can do.

    Also, what you describe is hardly what I look for in a relationship.

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  3. @Turtle I agree. Although I understand what Andrew is saying and it holds truth from an evolutionary psych perspective .. I think love is also wrapped up in mystery and beauty - something that is never acknowledged on this blog. It is depressing to always break down love and relationships into a competition like this whereby we are just going for the best physical or strong/rich specimen we can find .. attraction is much more nuanced and beautiful. At least it is in my world. This isn't to criticise your opinion Andrew, because I do understand this world view .. it's totally viable and its one that is very prevalent across all the PUA blogs.

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  4. Errr I don't find Andrew's way of viewing things "sad, competitive, hierarchical" etc etc....He offers us the technical and male point of view of dating and relationships, that's all. I think we women just find it hard to swallow reality pills. Besides I don't think this blog was ever meant to be about love. love is simple and natural, when it happens, it happens, when it doesnt, it just doesnt. nothing much to say about it. Dating (which leads to love) on the other hand is more complex, technical and psychological. So really, this isnt even Andrew's point of view per say, it's just reality being brought to light for the female species. THANKS ANDREW!

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  5. I agree with this, but IRL, when two people fall in love, it's because they both feel like they've found someone above their league. Scientists say that infatuation happens when you receive attention (only a little) from someone you consider too good for you.

    I think about this when I see those couples where the guy is unattractive/old but rich and the woman is young and beautiful. People are quick to say that "she's a golddigger". They may very well be infatuated - he can't believe a woman so young and attractive would go for him, she can't believe a successful and rich guy who could have his pick with women would choose her.

    There are loads of couples out there whom are in love and believe they both got someone 'out of their league' - I think it's the case for most successful couples.
    Also, since opposites attract, we value the strengths in other which we don't have ourselves. So it usually works out without anyone feeling they've "settled".

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  6. I find the comment made by anonymous may 22 6:01am quite under informed and naive. how can all people fall in love strictly cause they feel like the person is above their league? If anything, id say people are most attracted to eachother when they feel like they've found their match! In the case of an unattractive old rich man and a young beautiful woman dating, its more than likely that she is attracted to his money/power/fame. lets be honest here! age and health also has alot to do with attraction, so in such cases were women date elderly men, its more than likely for gain. Lol im actually cracking up at the naivety of that comment.

    Anyway this post is just a generalisation, doesnt mean it applies to absolutely every couple..some couples down-date, up-date, and match-date.

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    1. It doesn't mean that people 'decide' when to fall in love. It's subconscious, but it usually happens when you (subconsciously) find someone a bit too good for you, or believed they could have had anyone, yet they give you some attention. Almost every happy couple consider themselves lucky to have the other person. It's not about up or down date, it's about the belief that you've done well. Almost every infatuated person has that, even if they are deluded about their own, his/her league.
      Women are attracted to older men because they often have more desirable male traits (confidence, ambition, experience), also because men stay fertile and therefore attractive for longer.
      I used the rich/young example because it's one where people always judge, but people may very well be infatuated even if onlookers prefer to think otherwise.

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    2. The fact that no one person fulfills another's desires completely doesn't mean that they can't still feel lucky to be with the person that fulfills both of them more than they hoped or expected.

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  7. thefemaleperspectiveMay 23, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    In the quest for finding the 'ideal' mate both parties will have to compromise and settle in one category or another, whether it be to forgo looks over personality or vice versa. Whether men face a similar conflict as women is subjective. It's up to the individual which one they place higher on the totem pole of their relationship priorities. Most often, any non-shallow woman will choose to sacrifice looks and settle for a mate who is within two levels below her league for one of two reasons 1) her biological clock is ticking 2) every year she ages her beauty fades exponentially. She literally has no time to be picky about looks, and must refocus on finding a suitable provider i.e. personality wins over looks.

    Men on the other hand will have to sacrifice all the other women he could be sleeping around with and be stuck with one-gina so he better make sure that the woman he settles down with is good looking and healthy. Women sacrifice aesthetic beauty while men sacrifice unlimited vagina carouseling. Sounds really shallow on a man's part when you think about it. Overall men are not willing to give up beauty when women are. But it makes sense biologically. Men are programmed for sex, women are programmed to bear children. So in essence the conflict of men and women are not one in the same.

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  8. What is the female equivalent to the "George Clooney"? Or to Don Draper / the male lead in "Californication"? When a man has huge success with women, it's a combination of looks, confidence, money, charisma, a certain "coolness" and something that cannot be defined.
    Is it simply a woman that is beautiful, kind, nurturing and sensual? Because I think if you met a woman like that and things didn't work out, you would still say "plenty of fish in the sea...". If you've ever had a crush on a woman or been in love, what was it that set her apart?
    I get the impression that women can do all these things to be amazing, but the only way she'll get a man 'hooked' is to date a man below her league. There is a whole range of qualities which makes a man unattainable, but I fail to see the same thing for women. The qualities we try to obtain are still common and beauty is temporary. Is there a certain 'coolness' to women with money and fame as well? I feel like men will always think there are other (great) women out there, whereas women will feel like they're dating the last good one.

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    1. I think the answer isn't a simple yes or no, unfortuantely. While there are qualities other than looks that will make you attractive to men, they are less important that non-looks qualities are for men when it comes to attracting women. BUT, they defintiely exist. Cheerfulness, intelligence, a nurturing disposition, having a sense of humor, light-heartedness, etc. are the qualities that most men like in women. But the non-looks qualities that make a woman attractive to a man are much more varied than the looks qualities. In other words, all men might like longer hair on a girl, but not all men will like a girl that is bubbly. Some will want one who is more peaceful and introspective. Personality compatibility is not something that can be as easily generalized as looks.

      My recommendation is that every person (man or woman) "be themselves" but be their best selves by practicing traditional virtues: honesty, kindness, dilligence, courage, etc.

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  9. OK, but I have seen it happen too often that women enter iinto relationships with men they do NOT love and to whom they are NOT attracted because they were settling in the looks/attraction department in order to find a man who treats them right. A woman I know just suggested I settle for some nice guy who really likes kids and looks forward to fatherhood, have a kid or two with him then in 5 or 10 years when the kids are at "cruising altitude" to divorce him and share custody with him. This same woman told me a yeaar or two ago that it took her 6 months of regular dating - SIX MONTHS - for her to even begin to feel attracted to her now husband. My experience has been that if you're really attracted to someone you know it in WAY less than 6 months. Maybe 6 weeks at most if you saw him once a week. I suspect this is her strategy. Another woman dated and even slept with men she had zero attraction to in order to be treated well (even worshipped), though as a means of trying to get over someone. Lastly, another friend of mine just broke off a relationship of 2 years because he wasn't ready to get married. She also says maybe she wasn't that into him, as she wasn't all that sexual in the relationship YET was VERY sexual (even described as "whorish" by a mutual male friend) beforehand. So she was pressuring a guy for marriage when her sexuual attraction to him was weak in the first place. I know I have dated men I had a weak attraction to because it was what I felt like I could get.

    I used to feel bad for the men in these situations but over the past year or two I have gottten the general impression that men don't really care if their girlfriend or wife has a weakk attraction to them as long as they get the woman they really want. Then when the woman has gotten what she wanted (a ring, babies) and she retreats sexually with stsreotypical relationship dynamics arising where the man has to beg/cajole a reluctant wife for sex who gives in out of a sense of duty, he becomes unsatisfied. Maybe if men took more of a look at women who were truly nuts about them they would have happpier more satisfying relationships. Then again, maybe men are happier and more satisfied by fulfiilling their fantasies of being with the most beautiful women that will have them and isn't cold or batshit crazy than in the woman being really really into him. Some men with the means to do so are willing to grease the wheels of fantasy with money.

    So, am I reading you right here?

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    1. Your comment is interesting to me, mostly because of the examples you cite. I suspected women did this, but I've never had it confirmed. I also think your take on what men want is pretty accurate.

      That being said, I am not sure that you are right that men should date less attractive women that are more sexually attracted to them. If men did this, then men would cheat far more often than they already do. A woman can still be sexually aroused by a powerful man who isn't good looking; so I think it is feasible for a man to date a woman who is more beautiful than himself - provided he is man enough to arouse her. I think sexual chemistry wanes in relationships where (a) the woman gives up on her appearance - gets fat, etc. or (b) the man fails to "man-up" and take charge of the world around him.

      If you've seen the movie "Crazy Stupid Love," this is essentially the lesson that the protagonist - I forget his name now - learns at the end of the movie.

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    2. Andrew,

      I completely agree. I have often been aroused by older powerful men. It's actually a wonderful thing! The relationship dynamics are such that the man almost always fulfills the traditional male role. That, in turn, makes me feel more feminine and desirable. I think that women desire men who strongly desire them. It has a lot less to do with looks for us than for men. Perhaps it's a bit needy or narcissistic of me, but I am most turned on by a man who gets extremely turned on by me. Maybe you should write about this phenomenon. I don't think you will meet too many men out there who can be turned on simply by the fact that ANY women on the street gets turned on by them. Then again, perhaps I'm a victim of our overly-sexualized culture that perpetuates the message that women are to be sex objects to men and that the more a women can turn men on, the more she's worth. You can correct me if I'm completely off-base. These comments just made me reflect on my own feelings of attraction to men.

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  10. I am not and never have been, sexually aroused by powerful men that weren't good looking. It is my estimation that women who claim to be sexually aroused by powerful but unattractive men are responding to social conditioning or want some of that power for themselves (again, social consitioning, gender scripts).

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  11. Has it ever occurred to you that women might want to date people they are REALLY, honestly, attracted to sexually, and that money does not really make a man sexy but it might make many women willing to PRETEND he's sexy to have access to what he has?

    Then again, men probably don't really care, as long as she shows up and cooperates with his sexual desires.

    I am not aroused by powerful but unattractive/much older men. I might have blown Bill Clinton but only in exchange for a LOT of money (at least 5 digits - the high 5 digits) but I might have done Eliot Spitzer for WAY less money (say 4 digits) even while he was still just the Attorney General because, well, he's simply hotter than Bill.

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  12. "A woman can still be sexually aroused by a powerful man who isn't good looking; so I think it is feasible for a man to date a woman who is more beautiful than himself - provided he is man enough to arouse her."

    This is so completely true Andrew! spot on! Man enough to arouse her is the key here.

    He doesn't even have to be powerful or rich! The best sex i've had in my LIFE was with a man who all my friends thought was so beneath me in looks,they could not understand how he snagged me. He was a terrific lover who had so much sexual confidence and awareness of how to turn a woman on, i completely gave myself over to him even though we were a terrible match for long term happiness. i found him wildly attractive although he wasn't in the least bit handsome.It was his confidence and how he made me feel as a woman. Harvey Keitel in movie "The Piano" comes to mind :)

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  13. I disagree with the statement "If you want a man who values you immeasurably, he isn't going to be the heroic hunk you desire sexually." This is because my boyfriend has what I need, in terms of pushing the sexy buttons in me that only masculinity can, and what I need love-wise, in that he truly, deeply loves me and show me. I swear it's true. Though, looking across the population, there is a trade-off in the way you say. But "mutually exclusive"? That's ridiculous. More like "having a tendency to be negatively associated". I will grant that my boyfriend's short, though, and have thought that his attributes in a taller man would make him far more desirable in the dating market, so maybe your description of "dating down" has helped me (lucky that I don't really care about height). I like to think he'd still want and love me if he were tall, though. In surveys, men increasingly value love (versus decades past) in marriage and better educated men value sexual fidelity more (though education is still correlated with infidelity, to my knowledge). These suggest that more "catch"-like men value love, and would so be able to really value one individual woman, more than, well, you do.

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  14. This is a bit on the sideline. You mentioned somewhere that you were raised in a Catholic family. Did you and/or your sister have to "stand up" against parents/family at some point?
    Do you think a different upbringing can be a problem in a relationship? My parents were quite strict growing up, my mother is a neurotic worrier, and at 22 I am just beginning to realize that not everything they told me is true. They are the types to think a graduate degree with excellent grades is the most important thing for me, as well as not spending too much money on stuff like clothes and makeup.
    The guy I'm dating is so much more easy-going and although are families are of similar social economic backgrounds and from the same area, his are much more forgiving and have built him up his own life, which has made him naturally confident. I am the opposite. I live in a different country than my parents, but are still very bound by their attitudes.
    You have said that women must know that their mothers won't encourage them to dress sexy. But it's not as easy as just going the opposite way. I can dress the way I want, but my parents have a set idea of how life is supposed to be. It's not just a personal issue, because I feel like my lack of confidence and some of the "nervousness" I have from my mother is a disadvantage in relationships.
    I know that a post called "Learn how to stand up to your parents" is a bit outside the blog's theme, but if you could write something related to it, it'd be very helpful.

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    1. My upbringing was a bit similar so I feel the same,
      my parents were quite strict and I was brought up to be a bit too polite I think, to the point I have a bit of a guilty anxious disposition (even in my twenties if someone steps on my foot I apologise to them ha ha)
      That education and grades are all that matters has always been drummed into me, and my mother was quite controlling about my appearance (luckily I rebelled about that fairly early on but the guilt is still there)
      I don't know that how to stand up to your parents is what I'd need personally as outwardly I do what I want, but if there's any ways to shake off that early conditioning that holds us back I'd love to hear them.

      I'm curious as well, I understand why our mothers do this, but why do our fathers tell us education is all that matters too?

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    2. I know exactly how you feel. Going against the grain isn't easy, especially when you love your parents and family. I also know what you mean about your "nervousness" affecting your relationships. These kinds of influences run deep. The only advice I have for you is that you shouldn't deviate from your parent's expectations until you truly believe at your core that their expectations are wrong. Only then will you (a) have the guts to take that step - whether it is dressing in sexy clothes or refusing to get an advanced degree, and (b) have the conviction to stick with it over time. Because the difficulty isn't only the initial deviation; you will feel the conflict for a long time to come (though it will get a little easier with time).

      Your fathers also tell you that education matters because they are influenced just as much by popular thought as women are. It actually goes even further than that: I know guys who tell me all the time that they want to marry an educated girl. But the simple fact is that when they are faced with choosing between a girl with good energy and beauty, versus one less attractive, boring but with a degree, they respond far more strongly to the attractive and fun girl. So it extends even into self-delusion. Our ideas about how we "should" be tend to influence us far more than we think or want.

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    3. E-mail me any further questions if you have them. This is well beyond the scope of the blog so I won't write a post, but I'd like to help if I can. I sympathize with your situation.

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    4. Do you think that a girl can manage to become completely different to her mother in terms of personality? When you said that girls tend to end up like their mothers, I assume you were talking about appearance?
      My mother has quite a depressive streak, she is against anything that signalizes sexuality and is pushing me to do a master's degree. I am different, but her depression has influenced me, mostly from her many worried calls and negatively charged emails. I am afraid I've "inherited" that depressed mindset and that it ruins my chances with men, as I will be seen as a "downer". From girls you've dated, is it your experience that they are very similar to their mothers or have you seen some "break free"?

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    5. It is possible to be different. Some women will be different by default, because their genetic makeup is different or because of the influence of their father - or just because their mother raised them differently than her parents raised her.

      In general I think your personality has many more influences forming it than your genetics and your mother; so it isn't entirely constrained by any means.

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    6. This is so interesting to read. I am a muslim, and thought to share. All my life I've gone against my culture, religion and values, looking for men probably to fill the gap my father left when my parents divorced. I have trust issues passed on from my mum, as none of the men in my family nor the ones I have met seem to be "man" enough to take charge of anything, let alone be ready to handle all my baggage. Point is, with each relationship, I was preparing myself to fight my family for my "freedom", but I knew I wasn't ready. It's interesting that you say "you shouldn't deviate from your parent's expectations until you truly believe at your core that their expectations are wrong." as the past few months I've realized the exact same thing. I was never convinced that I wanted something else. I didn't know what it was I was looking for. I was just yearning for protection. Growing up in a place where men are men, and women must be women, well that's fine, but they don't tell you what happens in the case you grow up without any men! They don't realize that especially in this age, women, even muslim women end up in situations where they have to enter a man's world and take on their responsibility. So I lose my femininity in the process, and have a conflicting idea of what makes a good man. Someone with an open mind and gives me a SENSE of freedom, yet someone firm and who can take charge and provide for a family as now I have a fear of being a single mother. I have never had a hard time finding men. I felt I have gone below, at and above my league so to speak, and I was young and naive and only now see my basis of those relationships. I feel I am very easy to be with, not in a whorish way, but I am pretty devoted that it harms me. I may have gone off topic, but basically I have left my last relationship of 4 years because the guy would not have been able to face my culture, nor be the type of man I grew up missing. You are right about an internal conflict in more than one way. There are multiple ways to describe the pride in us that we seek to feed, and again multiple ways to describe the elements that we seek in a man we want to have children with.

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  15. The fact is that even though biology and psychology play a role in relationships, so does the extent of the understanding, the belief. There is always a way to downplay things into logical settings. Is the skilled chef cooking a delicious four course meal or a variety of fats, starches, sugars, and proteins that serve only as nourishment and a fulfillment of that nourishment. What all aspects of psychology and biology leave out is our ability to make life our own, to create realities based on what we view perfection to be. A relationship biologically would be multiple people of varying degrees to offer the most protection, and or the most viable children. In psychology the more people who need you the more important you feel. We have created this idea of love, this idea of two people who share everything and face the world together. The illogical application is beautiful in the fact that those who truly work to achieve this state are fighting against the laws of nature to create the perfection they see together. You people over simplify based on the current beliefs of science. You have accounted for why people settle, or why people cheat, or stay, or whatever people do to satisfy their basic need, but you forget the illogical mystery of the poet, or the dream of what love should be. The dream isn't physical desire or need to breed children, but a manifestation in love of people and finding the person that you would most like to be with.

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  16. What I understood from this blog is that men value beauty in women as an important element or else they will lose interest very quickly. This is the main reason as to why most women are insecure and doubtful in their relationships because they don't feel 'beuatiful enough' to be dated or even considered in comparison to other younger and healthier women. BUT this is just my opinion.

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