Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why Men Are Capable of Commitment

I've pointed out some things about the male attitude towards relationships that - considered by themselves - might make women despair of the possibility of a real or lasting relationship (two posts that come to mind are Men and Sexual Variety and  Men Don't Have Commitment Problems). But they only represent part of the story... 

I remember a conversation that I had with an ex-girlfriend a few years ago about our fears in relationships. I told her that mine was to wake up one day, ten or twenty years into a marriage, and no longer want to be with my wife. Of course I'd only thought about the situation from the perspective of sexual attraction, and so had unsurprisingly developed the fear that I would grow bored or tired of her after she lost her beauty.

"Yeah, I see what you mean..." she agreed - but she continued, "I guess I've always just figured that the more time you spend with someone, the more you'll have invested in them. You'll have more shared experiences, more history - more memories. You'll know each other's habits, likes, dislikes, routines and quirks so much better than any new person's, that the temptation to leave won't really be that strong. You'd have to throw away everything and start again."

She was right. And I realized right then that my perspective on that hypothetical situation - and on relationships in general - was missing a huge piece of the puzzle. I was ignoring completely the phenomenon of attachment she described. I'd considered only lust and romantic love, the two early phases of relationships, and I'd lacked the experience or foresight to recognize that the situation I feared wasn't realistic.

More importantly, I realized that choosing someone to marry wasn't so much a matter of taking a gamble on the best girl possible as it was a choice of a girl to start to build a life with. In other words, the strength of the resulting relationship wasn't merely a function of the quality of the girl I would choose; much more important would be the life we'd live together - even if it wasn't perfect. By simply choosing to bind our lives together, we would be choosing to invest ourselves in each other; and before long, that investment would outweigh the greater sexual attraction of some hotter girl, or the excitement of sexual novelty.

Now, this isn't a particularly male phenomenon, but it is important for women to know that it isn't a particularly female phenomenon either. It happens to men too. So in the same way that I don't need to fear waking up twenty years from now and finding myself looking for a new wife, neither do you need to worry about your man doing it - assuming, of course, that you are both people of good-will, who are willing to work to maintain a good relationship. Even if he isn't aware of the phenomenon, it will affect him - just as it would have affected me even if I'd never had that conversation with my ex girlfriend.

The mistake I made in thinking about my future relationship is one that plagues young Americans' attitudes towards marriage. It is the reason that couples feel the need to live together before getting married, and stress out so much about choosing a partner. If these fears were rooted in reality, no relationship would succeed. There is always a hotter, richer or more-compatible partner out there; finding them isn't a prerequisite for a happy marriage, and you aren't going to renounce your vows just because you encounter them after marrying someone else. Your partner will always have the advantage of the time you've spent together and the relationship you've built.

It is also worth pointing out that this phenomenon is the main reason why you shouldn't linger in relationships that are stagnant or half-hearted. In doing so, you are investing yourself emotionally, and - despite the shortcomings of the relationship - that investment will make a break-up much more difficult.

In any case, I am writing this post because I was reminded of the whole concept a few hours ago, while listening to the lyrics of a new Dierks Bentley song, I Hold On, which is written to his wife. It's a great song, and one that I think is particularly poignant coming from a man:


If you can't watch the video, here are the words:
It's just an old beat up truck, some say that I should trade up
Now that I got some jangle in my pocket
But what they don’t understand is it's the miles that make a man
I wouldn’t trade that thing in for a rocket
What they don’t know is my dad and me, we drove her out to Tennessee
And she’s still here now he’s gone 
So I hold on... 
It's just an old beat up box, its rusty strings across the top
It probably don’t look like much to you
But these dents and scratches in the wood, yeah that’s what makes it sound so good
To me it's better than brand new
You see this here flat top guitar, has had my back in a million bars
Singing every country song 
So I hold on... 
To the things, I believe in
My faith, your love, our freedom
To the things I can count on
To keep me going strong
Yeah I hold on... I hold on... 
Like the stripes to the flag, like a boy to his dad
I cant change who I am, right or wrong
So I hold on... 
Yeah baby lookin' at you right now, there ain't never been no doubt
Without you I'd be nothing
So if you ever worry about... me walkin' out
Yeah let me tell you something...
I hold on...

Related Posts
1. The Downside of Cohabitation Before Marriage
2. We Have a Shared Responsibility
3. Why Rejection Is a Good Thing
4. The Male Sex Drive Always Recharges

46 comments:

  1. Beauty and youth in a woman indicate her fertilities. Marrying someone old and ugly may lead to having defected kids or even abortions. But after kids are gotten, fertitilites no longer matter as much. By then lookings would indicate health rather than fertilities.

    I think beauty is the most important when a woman is still in her 20's or 30's at the latest for the sake of having healthy babies. After that, a woman does not need to be as pretty for such reasons. By then, how the woman can keep the family and life together is more important than her beauty. And the upbringing of a kids require lifelong works, and beauty no longer matters after the kids pass the phase of say 1 year old.

    On a cold and analytical perspective, that is how I see it.

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    1. How is that related to this post?

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    2. Beauty doesn't define fertility, do you know how complex fertility issues are? It's pseudo evolutionary "theory", that tries to rationalize shallowness.

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    3. Andrew-nice post, but you're missing an important element: love. Attachment and knowing someone's likes and dislikes doesn't mean love. Nor is attachment a reason to stay in a relationship. When someone loves you, they love you. True love lasts, and when someone loves you they don't walk away from you, for example, for stupid shit. When things like that happen, it's an indicator and result of other inherent problems with the relationship, a failing relationship that people should run from rather than linger and rationalize themselves into staying in.

      Sometimes when a relationship ends the feeling of longing you have for someone you broke up with is a normal thing, especially when you're still alone. It certainly doesn't mean that you somehow lost out on a great relationship and it sure as hell is not a reason to regret the relationship being over. When you do dwell on the past, you are probably missing out on great relationships staring you in the face. The comment from your ex is not correct i spite of your very insightful spin on it.

      I also think that you haven't been in a relationship with the right woman yet, and recommend you not think about your ex as you often seem to, and build relationships with people in your life who care about you and not hold on to past failures.

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  2. Great post Andrew! I have read many of your posts and I agree with most of your opinions. Some of our disagreements probably stem from the difference in our backgrounds – although I have spent a few years in the US, I belong to a different part of the world. Regarding this post, I wonder how unrealistic your fear of waking up one day and not wanting to be with your wife is. I wish I shared your optimism about such fear not being rooted in reality. Of course many marriages last a lifetime, but a significant percentage of them – even in more conservative societies like mine – don't. You'll say if the partners have realistic expectations from their marriage and work towards making it work, it will probably work. And I will agree with you to some extent, but I still have doubts whether my wife would always have an advantage over hotter, richer or more compatible women. I think it depends at least partly on a man's moral fiber, and mine may not be developed as much as yours! Anyways, great post…good food for thought…

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  3. Hello Andrew,

    Most of your posts have been helpful to me because of their analytical precision. However while writing the last two posts you seem to have gotten in touch with your emotional side. It is touching to see this. I'm grateful for these posts!

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  4. Wonderful post. I have learned so much from all of your posts but your most recent three have been especially helpful. I would be interested in reading one about marriage!

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  5. Andrew,
    Very interesting post as always. I'm a 31 year old woman who just ended with a relationship where I wasted my most eligible years. I was with someone who was not investing into the relationship as much as i was. We were together since I was 26. I guess I stayed with him that long because I got too attached and dumb at the same time. I recently discovered your blog and I wish I had found it long time ago. Fortunately I'm not that old and I'm positive that with all the advice from your posts and enough effort on my part, I will manage to attract the right guy and scare away the ones who are not. So, Thanks so much Andrew!

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  6. I am curious however, if a woman can maintain her man's sexual attraction to her to the extent she did during her younger years. If a woman does not let herself go emotionally or physically (become fat, cynical etc.) and maintains her beauty and sexiness, will her husband still think she's "as beautiful as the day he met her". Or is it youth over beauty?

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    1. "as beautiful as the day he met her"? - No. But it it's surprising to me how sexy older women can be, and how little their attractiveness can diminish with age if they take care of themselves.

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    2. There is a well-known phenomenon of "wife goggles". Essentially, a husband tends to see his wife as when he met or married her, not as she actually is in the present.

      It's somewhat adorable to watch in action when a fellow will posit that his wife is an 8, boldly post a picture of the happy couple, and it's plain as day to anyone else she's a 6.

      I have no evidence to back this up, but I have a hypothesis that similar things happen during pregnancy. I rarely hear men complaining about attributes like stretch marks on their wives that they would find unattractive on a nullipara. The only complaint I really hear at all is weight gain, but weight gain is unrelated to youth.

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    3. Interesting point. I have a friend whose wife put on a lot of weight and he actually claimed he liked it more.

      I can definitely see how "wife goggles" could happen.

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    4. @ Andrew..
      Nope..he doesn't care about what other people think about his partner anymore. He is secure enough with himself to admit he is attracted to fat chicks. He probably always was, but was too influenced and concerned by society/his peers to admit it to himself. Younger people are highly influenced by society and peer pressure. As we get older and more secure with ourselves, we embrace a more "who gives a fuck what they think" attitude.

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    5. Actually, in my experience, young people have a long superficial list of things they want in a partner but as you get older, you have a small number of things that are deal-breakers for you, and everything else then falls into "who cares". For me, it's drive, reliable, devoted to his children, athlete or former athlete (not for the biceps but for the mindset), positive outlook and has my back (along with the physical attraction that's partly based on these qualities). Pretty much everything else is negotiable ... including things that some women get picky about, like hair/bald, type of job, education, politics, the arts. I definitely have boyfriend goggles in my current relationship because I know how rare the combination of values that I prize is.

      Andrew, sounds like your friend is a solid guy. He's figured out his few core deal-breakers and realizes that for him weight is insignificant in the larger scheme of who his wife is to him.

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  7. Andrew, I got everyone's input but your own! I would really like to hear what you have to say...my well being depends on it!!! :) my post is up a few

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    1. Tell him "look i know that this is supposed to be a casual, no strings attached thing, but you are old enough to know that those kinds of relationships don't exist; someone develops feelings. In this case it's me, and I'm realizing now that if i don't distance myself from you now, this could end up being much harder than it needs to be (it probably is already going to be harder than it could have been). If you ever decide that you think we might be able to give a real relationship a chance, of course i want to know, but otherwise i would appreciate it if you give me the space to move on by not contacting me. I hope you find great girl someday and i wish you the best."

      The point is that you can't be bitter about the situation, since you got into it knowing that commitment wasn't on the table; the most important thing to do now is to let him know how you feel, why you are cutting him off, ask that he not contact you, and then resist your urges to contact him (or reply to anything less than "i want you to be my girlfriend" from him), and start moving on as quickly as possible.

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    2. Definitely going to be hard. But you have given me the motivation to actually go through with it. Thanks so much.

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    3. Pretty in Piink,

      I'll add to what Andrew said. Someone above gave some good advice, in tune with what Andrew has said before. Take this time to reinvent yourself, have fun with new makeup, new hairstyle (highlights?), new look in clothing (maybe a sleek tailored look, high heels, skirts), work out regularly ... you'll be amazed at the confidence your looking your awesomest will bring you, and I promise you, with sugar on top, that very very soon, you will have a new man, probably new men, surrounding you, giving you many new choices of a high caliber. A new awesome man in your life, better than the one before, will do wonders for your ability to put a man that is not good for you behind you - pretty much instantaneously. Your new man will be better than the previous one, guaranteed, because you will be attracting men of a higher caliber who want you and to keep you will want to make you happy .... and after your recent experience you have a sharper sense of what YOU want and need, and so you will be a gatekeeper and only let the best men in.

      Forget the puppy. Go for the confidence.
      Please check back in with us in 3 months. I will bet you will have a new wonderful sweetie to tell us about. I am so rooting for you!!

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    4. Juliet,

      I know this was not written to me directly, but I really appreciated your input!! Thank you so much for your response! :)

      -Mary

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    5. Thanks Mary!
      I want to add that what I wrote is not ... uh ... theory, it's based on concrete empirical personal experience. Everything I wrote truly happened to me.

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    6. Thanks a lot, Juliet. So motivating!

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  8. Great post Andrew. It made me think of a passage from The Little Prince:

    "Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

    "What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

    "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."

    "It is the time I have wasted for my rose--" said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

    "Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . ."

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  9. To me your ex-girlfriend's comment just goes to show how much more mature women can be & that men are shallow.

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    1. I would really hate to be the man married to you. Men are shallow? Look in the mirror honey for a vision the depth of a rain puddle.

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    2. I don't think men are more shallow than women or vice versa. Been thinking about Thomas's response to me (see below), and about studies that show men would rather be respected than loved (and are ok with not having love as long as they are respected), I've been wondering lately if men physically experience the feeling of 'love' differently than women. As a woman, the feeling of 'love' is a particular physical experience, I don't mean sex, I mean the feeling 'love'. I'm starting to suspect that either men don't feel this same physical experience because of their wiring, or feel it to a much tinier degree because of their inherent wiring, or feel something entirely different that they still call 'love'. The 'feeling' of 'love' that women have, is maybe why they crave relationships because it's such an awesome feeling, and the fact that men don't 'feel' this, or 'feel' this differently, may explain why they don't crave relationships but rather make them as a matter of logical choice. Have really been trying to puzzle this out. The difference is especially striking because the 'feeling' you get from orgasm lasts only a little while, but the 'feeling' from love is so long-lasting it's hard to imagine not wanting to pursue the latter unless your body chemistry really doesn't 'feel' this feeling. The jury's out on whether this is accurate, but I think it could explain a lot about how men/women think differently and approach relationships differently.

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  10. Hah let me stroke your ego too! Great article!! I've been reading your posts for awhile, it helped me get through some mindsets on boys and hooking up since I am currently in college.

    I'm curious though, what is your take on the hookup culture and its effect on both men and women? when I was a Freshman I came into college as an gently handled virgin, but it's been a year and... Not quite the virgin anymore. Haha. I used to feel so attached to the first few guys I did anything sexual with, but a week ago I had a one night stand with a friend and (even though I do think about the encounter) I don't feel the need to talk to him or get his attention in any way, I'm indifferent. Why do you think this is? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Write onnn

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    1. Hook up culture makes things more difficult for people who want genuine relationships IMO.
      i mean...if people are drawn by variety, novelty, and easily available options, with little or no consequences, i personally think it is a hard mindset to get out of once it has set in.
      Just viewing from my own experience, there needs to be a level of contentedness for a worthy relationship to work, as well as the usual challenges for it to grow.

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    2. Brett, attachment becomes more and more difficult for a person as their number of sex partners grows, especially for women. Sex outside of boundaries like commitment, exclusivity, living together, marriage, etc. will especially reduce one's ability to bond and attach. It will be especially difficult to bond to a man in the future who does not equal or exceed, in your eyes, one of your prior partners.

      You're a freshman, so see Andrew's article on advice for women in their teens and in their 20s.

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  11. Hi there! Been reading your posts and asked for advice a couple of times. Didn't get much feedback but I understand you're busy. Love your blog anyway, your points are very smart, spot on, and directly appeal to women. I'm French therefore apologies in advance if my English isn't all perfect. I got a very specific inquiry and don't really know where to post that. I'm 28, been on a couple of dates with a guy who is 30. The dates went well, he initiated, then repeated the invite, we gradually escalated until we slept together on date 4. Trying to stay fact-based and acknowledging the fact that he acted as a gentleman not because he was in love but because he first wanted to get into the sack, I'd still say I think he likes me. However, things suddenly got more complex just because of a misunderstanding. I'm going to be very straightforward. We were in bed, been cuddling for a while, and then he starts to play a bit more serious. The idea crossed my mind that he was actually trying to get there and he was not going to use a condom. I told him "what are you doing ?" referring to the fact that he didn't pull out a condom. I didn't reiterate the gesture. We went on cuddling and eventually got to pleasure each other, but without actual intercourse. Retrospectively, I think he took my saying as if him going there was a no-no. Which, I have to admit, would be really weird given the situation - me already naked beside him. I told the story to two of my guy friends. Their reaction spoke for itself: he must indeed have been thinking that I simply didn't want him there, and therefore didn't even dare making another move with a condom. My question is simple: I kinda like the guy, what happened is a total misunderstanding, no how do I get myself out of the situation, that is – if he calls back ? And how long should I wait for him to call or text ? I thought perhaps this situation needs a little time for his ego to recover from the strange feeling he must be going through. Any advice ? Thanks to anyone willing to take the time to answer :)

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    1. Two things I really want him to avoid thinking (just because they're absolutely wrong):
      - that I'm weird
      - that I don't like sex (understood as an absolute dealbreaker)

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    2. Congratulations: you (quite accidentally) boosted your value in this man's eyes significantly.

      It is obvious from your tone of writing that you are quite taken with him, and were willing to have sex, yet I do not see that you have secured any level of commitment from him--not even exclusivity. It would be wise for you to re-read the advice on this blog for women in their 30s.

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    3. Thanks for your answer treaclesmuggler!
      How is that possible for one to boost her value when she's already naked besides him doing foreplay ? I don't see that happening. Boosting my value would have been stopping him before he started to take off my clothes (at least this is the way I see it).
      Also, can you be more specific as to referring to which part of the Game for women in their 30s post you think I should re-read. Because, I'm not saying that my approach was 100% right, but I really don't see the part where I didn't follow Andrew's advice (or perhaps he can tell me if he sees it). This happened on date #4. He was always in the lead, he was affectionate in public and even took me to a friends’ event where he clearly put me in the girlfriend’s position. Our dates did not always involve alcohol and he actually did propose to see me during the day. Anyway, the thing is he vanished, and I’m not bitter, I’m moving on. I actually don’t care too much about him, I just really want to understand the workings at play, for future reference. And I also wonder, is there a remote possibility that he didn’t get that I liked him – explaining myself, I acted quite distant, took a long time to answer his texts, and refused to seem him twice stating that I had made other plans. My gut feeling tells me that even when the girl does not show too much enthusiasm, a guy still goes after her for a while if he’s really into her. But it’s true that I sometimes act overly distant by fear of doing the opposite – resulting in a lack of natural behavior I guess.

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    4. Google "Last Minute Resistance" (LMR). The ideal last minute resistance is to reject a man for sex when he is seconds away from penetrating you.

      It sounds as if he only valued you for sex. You should not be having sex on the 4th date. Wait until you secure commitment (like exclusivity) first.

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  12. men are afraid of divorce, not commitment.

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  13. Really interesting article I just came across, a few eye-opening points. e.g. men who have frequent one night stands, or the like, become conditioned to find the woman they just had sex with more physically unattractive than before sex. Vs. in a relationship where 'feelings' are already established, sex brings you closer to your partner. Seems like the best way for a man to find a good mate is to stop the carousel because it's actually harming him. And an eye-opener for women to avoid such men, because these men actually may be now incapable of making a commitment because this behavior rewires them, despite what they themselves say. So what Andrew describes in this post may only be psychologically possible for a subset of men.


    http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/07/01/how-delaying-intimacy-can-benefit-your-relationship/

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    1. Interesting comment - as it applies to my friends and I.

      "men who have frequent one night stands become conditioned to find the woman they just had sex with more physically unattractive than before sex"

      Interesting theory, but I reckon in practice men who have regular one night stands get used to sleeping with 'what they consider' average women and comparing them to previous women. Kind of like progressively needing harder drugs to get the same hit.

      "Seems like the best way for a man to find a good mate is to stop the carousel because it's actually harming him".

      This could be true. But for many men their goal isn't to find a good mate rather just to get sex, and then possibly a mate if it happens. A reduction in his ability to commit is only 'harming him' if he's actually looking to commit from the outset. Few men will consciously override their instinctive desire to look for sex to look for a good mate.

      "An eye-opener for women to avoid such men, because these men actually may be now incapable of making a commitment"

      Good point, but here's the catch: the men who are actually capable of enjoying the 'carousel' and who manage to indulge in frequent one night stands are by definition the men that women want. So these guys will always win - they will simply commit when they get tired playing on the carousel, even if they are damaged goods by that point. As you say women would be wise to open their eyes to the guys not sleeping around - unfortunately women aren't attracted to these guys.

      "this behavior rewires them"

      I agree that this probably happens. But surely if someone rewires themselves one way, they can rewire themselves back?...if they reeeally want to.

      Having discussed this issue with my friends, all of whom spent their 20s sleeping about, we agree that it will take something huge for us to be able to commit successfully. Some sort of life event, like having a child maybe, or having a chance with someone way out of our league.

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  14. Who loves you more?

    The guy who spends (more) money on you, or the guy who spends (more) time on you? Considering there are not much differences in terms of resources.

    Are small gestures like buying breakfast for you more telling of his love, or gestures like buying a branded bag for you?

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  15. and Andrew has left the building. He most have found something better to do than his blog.Good luck and best wishes.

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    1. I have not, actually ;)

      The reason I haven't been commenting much is because there are far too many comments these days for me to keep up with. The same is true for e-mails, but I have been answering a few of those occasionally.

      I have been posting less for three reasons:

      1. I have a much busier schedule than I had 6 months ago

      2. The things I think about (and therefore post about) are more difficult topics that require more time to get on paper. Compare my latest few posts to the ones about heels or not having sex on a first date.

      3. I am working on a book. In fact, just last night I wrote a great post titled "Why Your Ex (Who Dumped You) Is Still Contacting You," but I plan to use it as a chapter in the book.

      Anyway, I am still here, and still working, but in the background. Now that I think about it, I should probably make a post to this effect...

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    2. I just found this blog today, and one of the first things that crossed my mind was "This guy should be writing for money".
      I lost my job last year and thought I'd try putting some serious time and effort into my art. To my pleasant surprise, it can indeed pay the bills.
      Better to scrape by, if that's what it means, doing what you love and working for yourself.
      Best of luck, man

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  16. Girl age 16: “You’re such a nice guy.”

    Translation: ” I don’t want to hurt your feelings, or come off as a bitch to my friends, but I’m really much more attracted to Bad Boys – outlaw bikers, the football team’s quarterback, basically any guy who appears dangerous and exciting. You’re Nice, nice and mundane”

    Girl age 22: “You’re such a nice guy.”

    Translation: “Thanks for listening on the phone to me cry, fall into verbal hysterics and drone on for hours about my Jerk BF (oh, and my little dog too). You’re really sweet, and deserve a girl (which isn’t me) who can appreciate how nice (i.e. mundane) you are.”

    Girl age 28: “You’re such a nice guy.”

    Translation: “I know you’ve always been (an) my emotional tampon, and thanks for sticking with it – any sane guy would’ve found a far better prospect by now. And while I’m beginning to see that guys like you are stable, dependable and tend to make a lot more money than the Jerks I’ve dated, I think I’m gonna hold out for a hotter guy than you while my looks still hold up”

    Woman age 32: “Why can’t I just find a nice guy?”

    Woman age 35+: “You’re such a nice guy.”

    Translation: “Oh, you’re a Nice Guy,..here, let me suck that for you. See? Being a Nice Guy does get you laid!,..thanks for being there for me when I needed you; my fatherless kids appreciate your generosity too. How chivalrous of you to forgive my past indiscretion and take us in, I wish there were more guys like you. I really pity the women who can’t appreciate your kind of dedication – you are so different from “other guys”".

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  17. I'm a first time reader. The irony is I couldn't get this song out of my head earlier so I finally listened to it a few minutes ago, and then was struggling with a question of intelligence in a potential relationship and stumbled onto your site and eventually this post. Thank you so much for writing this blog. I have a feeling I'll be revisiting :)

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  18. I would say that it really depends on age. Teens and young adults interpret the word "commitment" or "co-habitation" as "Oh damn, that means I won't be able to fuck any other hot chicks!" Once the excitement of multiple fucking wears off, older men tend to say "Oh, who told you we have commitment problems"?

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