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January 2011



Recent Posts


Why Wait?

Highest Quality Marriages — Those Who Married At Ages 22 – 25

Not too long ago I had a conversation with a group of recent college graduates (both men and women).  To a person, they all agreed that they would not be getting married anytime soon, and several of them were willing to put a number on it — “definitely not until after 30.”

I walked away wondering — Why wait?

Men have long been known for their stiff-arming approach to marriage.  But did you know that single women are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.?  The median age at first marriage for women has gone from 21 in 1970 to 27 presently.  Furthermore, the marriage rate for women under 35 has declined nearly 50% since 1970 — from 75.5 marriages per 1000 unmarried women to 39.5.

A couple months ago I had a conversation with a young man named Eric. He is a former student who is now 27.  When Eric was in college, he dated a woman (Andrea) whom he described as “the love of my life.”  As Eric put it: “Andrea and I got along great.  We had chemistry.  We could talk for hours.  Or we could just hang out, perfectly comfortable simply being together, saying almost nothing.  We never seemed to be at a loss for things that we enjoyed doing together.  And it stayed this way for over 3 years.”

What could be better?  Eric had found the love of his life.  They had chemistry.  They were able to communicate.  They enjoyed each other’s company.  The relationship had shown staying power (thriving for over 3 years).

But a problem emerged shortly after graduation.  Andrea wanted more.  She was interested in “a future” together.  And the more she wanted to talk about their future, the more Eric pulled away.  Within a year, they had split up.

Eric lamented to me: “I have dated a lot of women since then, some more seriously, most less so.  But I haven’t found anyone quite like Andrea.  I think I blew it.  I think I missed out on a wonderful woman.  I let her get away.”

I wish I could say that Eric’s situation is unique — that very few people begin to think after breaking up that they’ve blown it, that they’ve passed on a person who would have made a great life companion.  But unfortunately, I can’t — I’ve heard it dozens of times — men and women who realize (almost always too late) that they let a really good partner get away.

I suspect that nearly all of us are familiar with the studies reporting that age at marriage and marital success are inversely related — in other words, the earlier you marry, the less likely you are to experience marital success.

In light of such studies, it is only logical to wait.  And we are led to believe that the longer you wait, the better.

But did you know that this is only true up to about age 22?  If you marry prior to 21 or 22 years old, then the probability of marital success goes down drastically.  BUT after age 22, this is no longer true.

In fact, recent evidence has suggested that the highest quality marriages are found among those who married at ages 22 – 25.

Furthermore, recent evidence has revealed that couples who wait until after 30 to marry run the risk of ending up with poorer quality marriages.  As many of us probably realize (at least those of us who are over 30), as people get older, they tend to get “set in their ways” — and this is one characteristic that is notoriously detrimental to the type of mutual give-and-take that is so essential to close, loving, caring, and giving relationships.

Obviously, this does not mean that all marriages that occur after the age of 30 are doomed to mediocrity, but it does suggest that such marriages may require a modicum of extra time, energy, effort, attention, AND give-and-take if they are going to be successful.

But I am still left with my query: Why wait?

If a person has the desire and the intention of marrying AND this person has found someone who would make a wonderful traveling companion along the journey called life, then why not seize the opportunity and make it official?  Why not marry this person?

Why wait?

Source:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-bytes/201004/why-wait

Science Secret for Happy Marriages: Be More Attractive Than Your Spouse

by Daniel R. Hawes

Correlations are what makes the blogosphere go round, so maybe I should start off this post by cutting straight to the chase: The prettier a wife in comparison to her husband the happier the marriage.

The source for (the underlying statistical truth behind) this correlation is a recent article in the Journal of Family Psychology, which analyzes self- and other-reported ratings on Marital Satisfaction, Marital Interaction Behavior and Physical Attractiveness for 82 newlywed couples (i.e. couples married for less than 3 months).

Taking the sample into account, one might consider revising the above statement to read: The prettier the wife in comparison to her husband the higher the marital satisfaction score for a fairly homogeneous group of couples at the very early stages of their marriage.

That being said, it might also be worthwhile noting that the study only looked at physical attractiveness in respect to the marriage partners faces, and possibly I should be a little more careful about stating correlation as causal dependency, so maybe I’d better say that the degree to which the female partners face is prettier than the male partners face is correlated with marital happiness scores for a fairly homogenous group of couples at the beginning of their marriage.

Another look at the data and a reminder that “people who do well at mathematics usually play an instrument, doesn’t imply that people who play an instrument usually do well in mathematics”, forces me to admit that in reality it is not so much that marriages are happier when the female has a prettier face than her husband, but that males in this data set are unhappier when they are married to women less attractive than themselves. Hence, I should say: In the sample of examined marriages, the degree to which men have more attractive faces than their wives correlates with reduced marital satisfaction scores.

However, it is not so much the degree to which men and women are unequally attractive, that is driving the correlation in this dataset, but simply the fact that the man has a more attractive face than the woman. It’s the direction (not the magnitude) of the difference that counts!
So I might conclude that there are husbands out there, who look better than their better (but not better-looking) halves, and these guys are also miserable…or at least they score lower on a six-item marital happiness scale, which makes me wonder: What does a 4 for one person on a marital happiness score really mean in comparison to a 5 on that same scale for a different person?

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201005/science-secret-happy-marriages-be-more-attractive-your-spouse

Why NOT To Marry Your Second-Choice Man

You don’t love the man you’re with but fear you won’t do any better?
by Regina Barreca, Ph.D.

You don’t love the man you’re with but don’t think you’ll do any better?

Leave him. Do yourself and the poor guy a favor.

If you stay with a man because you’re afraid to be alone, you’ll end up ruining two lives. The woman who makes such a choice is hedging her bets, and basing her choice on fear, not love.

Women who marry men they don’t love come to resent their mates, and heap upon them their own feelings of inadequacy, self-punishment and rage.

Resentment will, in some cases, turn not only into contempt, but into hatred.

“On Women Who Hate Their Husbands,” a paper originally read at the New Orleans Psychoanalytic Society, dealt with the phenomena of women who married in order to “play it safe.”

Discussing patients who married “second-choice husbands,” Dr. David Freedman argues that in each case the woman’s “choice of mate had been based on the specific defect of her own ego system implied by inability to see herself as a person of sufficient potential significance and ability to hold a man she really admired.” In effect, the women in question believed that they were not worthy of fully desirable husbands, and so chose mildly undesirable men instead.

“She had chosen someone who combined the contradictory, but for her safe, qualities of substantial but not outstanding ability in his own professional sphere, and a passive, dependent, and placatory orientation to the significant female in his life.” But this proved to make such women dreadfully unhappy because “Rather than satisfying, the relationship proved inevitably to be fraught with anxiety and frustration.”

I knew one woman who, having resigned herself to marring a “second-choice husband,” then made a career out of belittling any sign of happiness between two other people. “Those love-birds are headed for a fall,” she cluck over any new couple, palpably longing for disaster. She couldn’t stand the idea that anyone might actually have a relationship based on passion, fun, or even simply the promise of an equal match between the partners.

When her own daughter wanted to marry an interesting, handsome and devoted man, this woman was torn. She wanted her daughter to be happy, of course. But, on some level, she was also tormented by seeing her own compromised and diluted life pale in comparison to the promise held by daughter’s union.

If this was playing it safe, I thought to myself, I can’t abide the payoff.

To marry a man simply because he seems a “safe bet” is cheating: it cheats the woman out of actually working through towards a real understanding of herself and what she needs, and it cheats a man out of being the real love-object for a woman who believes he is the best man she could find.

Source:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/snow-white-doesnt-live-here-anymore/201004/why-not-marry-your-second-choice-man

Narcissism’s First Cousin

The Name of Narcissism’s First Cousin…..

by John R. Buri, Ph.D.

Without a doubt, dating (or worse yet, marrying) a narcissist is bad news.  Both you and the relationship are going to experience the devastating consequences of such a decision.

But narcissism has a first cousin.  This relative of narcissism also takes its toll on loving relationships (as well as on those people who are in them).  The effects of this relative are not as forceful and blunt as those of narcissism, but in the long run, they can be just as devastating.

The name of narcissism’s first cousin — selfishness.

Lots of relationship experts have made it clear.  The most successful long-term love partnerships happen when both people have a desire to put their partner’s needs, desires, and interests above their own.

But what happens if one partner has this desire, but the other partner is mired in a mind-set of self-interest?

Case in point.  Marie and Paul had been married for a little over 8 years when I first met them.  At the heart of their failing marriage was the fact that Marie could not count on Paul for consistent help around the house.  Paul would occasionally take out the garbage or mow the lawn, but his participation in their life together seldom went beyond this.  And when Marie did sometimes ask Paul for help with other things around the house, he would typically do them, but never without attitude of indignation.

To make things worse, Paul repeatedly came home late from work without letting Marie know that he would be late, or he would go out with friends without talking with Marie.

At the heart of successful long-term love relationships is WE-ness [see Commitment Is Essential To Love, But What Is Commitment?].

Needless to say, Paul’s sense of ME-ness was much stronger than his sense of WE-ness.

Paul had grown up an only child, and his parents divorced when he was nine.  He spent much of his teen years by himself with little need to let anyone know his whereabouts.  He came and went pretty much as he pleased.  Furthermore, being very busy with school activities, Paul was rarely expected to do anything around the house to help support his mother.

When we think of selfishness, we often think of laziness, but Paul was anything but lazy.  Throughout his growing up years, he had been very self-disciplined and responsible.  But his hard work and responsibility had nearly always been exercised in the pursuit of his own self-interests.  He had never been asked to think something like: “If I decide to do this, how will that decision affect US?”  As a result, WE-ness was simply not anywhere on Paul’s cognitive radar screen.

Marie tried cajoling, pleading, prodding, and nagging.  As you might suspect, none of these did anything to develop a sense of WE-ness within Paul’s cranial cavity.  In fact, they only served to make things worse.

Bottom line.

If you want a smooth-sailing long-term love voyage, make sure both partners have an expressed desire to put their partner’s needs, desires, and interests above their own.

If one person has this desire, but their partner does not, then you can plan on setting sail with an anchor overboard.  The drag on the relationship will produce anything but smooth sailing.

And if neither partner has the desire to put their partner’s needs, desire, and interests above their own, then prepare yourself for a shipwreck.

Source:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-bytes/201003/narcissisms-first-cousin

Women, Criticism, And Relationship Success

Why All The Criticism?

Many of us have people in our lives with whom we feel the bond described by the word kenzoku. They may be family members, a mother, a brother, a daughter, a cousin. Or a friend from grammar school with whom we haven’t talked in decades. Time and distance do nothing to diminish the bond we have with these kinds of friends.

The question then arises: why do we have the kind of chemistry encapsulated by the word kenzoku with only a few people we know and not scores of others? The closer we look for the answer the more elusive it becomes. It may not in fact be possible to know, but the characteristics that define a kenzoku relationship most certainly are.



  1. 1.  Common interests. This probably ties us closer to our friends than many would like to admit. When our interests diverge and we can find nothing to enjoy jointly, time spent together tends to rapidly diminish. Not that we can’t still care deeply about friends with whom we no longer share common interests, but it’s probably uncommon for such friends to interact on a regular basis.
  2. 2.  History. Nothing ties people together, even people with little in common, than having gone through the same difficult experience. As the sole glue to keep friendships whole in the long run, however, it often dries, cracks, and ultimately fails.
  3. 3.  Common values. Though not necessarily enough to create a friendship, if values are too divergent, it’s difficult for a friendship to thrive.
  4. 4.  Equality. If one friend needs the support of the other on a consistent basis such that the person depended upon receives no benefit other than the opportunity to support and encourage, while the relationship may be significant and valuable, it can’t be said to define a true friendship.


  1. 1.  A commitment to your happiness. A true friend is consistently willing to put your happiness before your friendship. It’s said that “good advice grates on the ear,” but a true friend won’t refrain from telling you something you don’t want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest. A true friend will not lack the mercy to correct you when you’re wrong. A true friend will confront you with your drinking problem as quickly as inform you about a malignant-looking skin lesion on your back that you can’t see yourself.
  2. 2.  Not asking you to place the friendship before your principles. A true friend won’t ask you to compromise your principles in the name of your friendship or anything else. Ever.
  3. 3.  A good influence. A true friend inspires you to live up to your best potential, not to indulge your basest drives.

Of course, we may have friends who fit all these criteria and still don’t quite feel kenzoku. There still seems to be an extra factor, an attraction similar to that which draws people together romantically, that cements friends together irrevocably, often immediately, for no reason either person can identify. But when you find these people, these kenzoku, they’re like priceless gems. They’re like finding home.


This one is easy, at least on paper: become a true friend yourself. One of my favorite quotations comes from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be the friend you want to have. We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors our own. You don’t have to make yourself into what you think others would find attractive. No matter what your areas of interest, others share them somewhere. Simply make yourself a big target. Join social clubs organized around activities you enjoy. Leverage the Internet to find people of like mind. Take action.

As I thought about it, there are four people in my life I consider kenzoku. How many do you?

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to explore Dr. Lickerman’s home page, Happiness in this World.

Source:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201002/what-makes-true-friend

Adolescent Dating: What makes a good relationship.

How teenagers can tell if a dating relationship is good?
by Carl Pickhardt Ph.D.

Significant dating most commonly begins in late adolescence, ages 15 – 18, during the high school years. By “significant” I mean when young people want to experience a continuing relationship that involves more interest and caring than the casual socializing or friendship they have known before. They want to pair up, at least for a while, to experience what a more serious involvement is like.

At this juncture, it can be helpful if parents can provide some guidelines for evaluating the “goodness” of a relationship. To what degree is it constructed and conducted so that it works well and not badly for the young people involved? What should they expect in a relationship, and what should they not want? Remember, in most cases, this relationship education is not addressed in the academic classes that they take in school. It is taught by life experience. I believe parents have a role in helping their son or daughter know how to evaluate this experience.

Parents can begin by describing three components of a serious relationship: Attraction, Enjoyment, and Respect. Attraction is how the relationship gets started. Typically it is based on appearance and personality that motivates wanting to spend some time together. Enjoyment is what keeps the relationship going. Typically it is based on companionship and commonality that allow them to share experience together. Respect is how the relationship is conducted in a sensitive manner. Typically it is based on keeping treatment of each other within limits that feel comfortable and safe for them both.

Parents can declare: no matter how much attraction and enjoyment there is, if how young people treat each other lacks respect for one or both of them, then what they have is not a good relationship. For sure, parents need to tell their son or daughter that any kind of violence (action with intent to harm), be it verbal, emotional, physical or sexual, is not okay. The only good relationship is a safe relationship. Period.

As I describe in my book about adolescence, “The Connected Father,” parents can suggest four basic treatment questions to which their son or daughter needs to ask and answer “yes” to affirm that the significant dating relationship is good, or at least good enough.

First: “Do I like how I treat myself in the relationship?” For example, “Do I give my needs and wants as much importance as the other person’s in the relationship?”

Second: “Do I like how I treat the other person in the relationship?” For example, “Do I accept the right of the other person to view things differently from me?”

Third: “Do I like how the other person treats me in the relationship?” For example, “Does the other person accept my disagreement without criticizing me or pushing to change my mind?”

Fourth: “Do I like how the other person treats himself or herself in the relationship?” For example, “Does the other person manage frustration or disappointment calmly without becoming angry or upset?”

If the young person cannot answer “yes” to all four questions, then there is some work to do on the relationship. For many young people, the path to learning how to have a good relationship runs through the hard experience of having one or more bad relationships. In the words of one high school junior: “I never want to go though another relationship like that!”

If a serious relationship becomes emotionally intensified by first love, then there are more specific questions parents can suggest for the young person to consider because love relationships are the most intimately complex and challenging of all. These are questions relevant not just for late adolescents, but for couples of any age.

— The Expression question: “Do you both feel free to speak up about what matters?”
— The Attention question: “Do you both feel listened to when expressing a concern?”
— The Respect question: “Do you both observe comfort and safety limits that each other sets?”
— The Conflict question: “Do you both manage disagreement so neither of you feels threatened or gets emotionally or physically injured?”
— The Commitment question: “Do you both keep promises and agreements that have been made?”
— The Honesty question: “Do you both trust each other to tell the truth?”
— The Independence question: “Do you both support each other having separate time apart?”
— The Anger question: “Do you both express and respond to an offense or violation so you can talk it out and work it out, not act it out?”
— The Equity question: “Do you both evenly share so neither one does most of the giving or getting?”
— The Communication question: “Do you both keep each other adequately informed?”

It takes a lot of work to create a love relationship in which both parties can answer “yes” to all these questions. As parents, it is NOT your job to manage their relationships. It is your job, however, to provide your son or daughter with the important questions to ask.

What you want is for your teenager to learn from significant dating or in-love experience what it means and what it takes to have a good relationship so that he or she is more likely, if so choosing, to make a well working committed partnership later on.

There’s no point talking about a good serious dating relationship without talking about the potential for sexual involvement. Self-report surveys like the 2005 report by the National Center for Health Statistics indicate around 50% of students having had sexual intercourse by the end of high school.

What this suggests is that a lot of students do have sex, and about the same number don’t. So if a young person elects not to have sex, they have a lot of good company. Generally, parents want to play for delay – not saying “not ever” but “not yet.” For safety, having sex is like using alcohol or other drugs: the later you wait to start, the more mature (and wiser) your decision-making is likely to be.

From what I have seen, the three most common causes for serious dating relationships becoming sexually active are for the sake of “love”, altered judgment from alcohol or other drug use, and for a rite of adult passage – hooking up to act grown up.

Of course, if your son or daughter is “in-love” the possibility of becoming sexually active increases. The relationship becomes more affectionate, affection becomes more sexually arousing, sexual arousal intensifies emotion, emotion overrules judgment, and the immediacy of pleasure is more compelling than being careful about outcomes.

Advice parents need to give their son or daughter is to manage this relationship with maturity by “consulting later before deciding now.” The sexual restraint questions to ask are these. “If I have sex with this person, what emotional and physical consequences might I face, and are they worth the risks that I am taking?”
True love means loving the other person enough to keep them free of sexual harm.

If, against their parents wishes, young people in love are determined to become sexually active, then they need to have the good sense to safely plan their sexual activity by using sexual protection. For sure, parents need to explain how having sex doesn’t mean you have love, how having love doesn’t mean you have to have sex, and how having had sex with someone once does not oblige you to have it again.

Sexual advice for young people who are seriously dating is to keep the relationship sober because most first sexual experiences are drug or alcohol affected. Just as parents tell the teenager not to drink or drug and drive, they need to extend that warning to dating. “Don’t drink or drug and date (either you or the other person) because substance use alters judgment, lowers inhibitions, increases impulse, and causes people to commit and allow behavior that they would not if they were substance-free.” Many emotionally and physically coerced sexual encounters at this age are abetted by substance use.

As for sex as a rite of passage into adulthood, hooking up to proving one is now manly or womanly; well, it doesn’t. It only proves that you are putting yourself or the other person at risk of a whole lot of dangerous outcomes.

Understand that your son or daughter is not obliged to have a serious dating or in-love relationship in high school. From what I have seen, probably not more than half of late adolescents have a serious dating relationship in high school, and less than that experience falling “in-love.”

What I have also seen, however, is that although many parents are reluctant to talk with their teenager about the management of sexual behavior, even fewer ever talk to their son or daughter about what constitutes a “good” relationship.

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/200905/adolescent-dating-what-makes-good-relationship

Teen Girls Talk More to Parents About Their Dating Habits Than Do Boys

ScienceDaily (May 6, 2010) — When it comes to talking to parents about most dating issues, teen girls tend to disclose more than boys, and both sexes generally prefer to talk to their mothers.

However, a new study found that girls and boys are equally close-mouthed about issues involving sex and what they do with their dates while unsupervised. And in this case, teens were no more eager to talk to their mothers than they were their fathers.

Results showed that the amount of information parents hear from their teenagers about dating depend on a variety of matters, including age, gender, and what aspect of dating the topic involves.

“Many parents become frustrated because they feel that the lack of communication with their teenage children is evidence of increasing distance or diminishing influence,” explained Christopher Daddis, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Marion.

“What we found is that adolescents are willing to talk to their parents about some issues, but those issues may change as they grow older and they feel more autonomous.”

The research appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Adolescence. The study involved a survey of 222 adolescents in the 9th or 12th grade at a central Ohio high school. About half of them were boys and half were girls.

Students were asked to rate how willing they were to disclose specific information to their parents about 22 different issues relating to their romantic lives . Based on the results, Daddis separated dating issues into three categories.

The first category involved the identity of their boyfriend or girlfriend, and information about the boyfriend or girlfriend’s family, their personal character and the type of student they are. The second category involved more personal issues such as what the teen did with their partner without parental supervision and if they had sex. The third category involved the types of things they did to show their affection, such as holding hands, kissing and going steady.

Daddis found that adolescents were more willing to talk to their parents about their date’s identity and how they showed affection. Specifically, girls disclosed information more often than boys, and with both sexes the mother was their primary confidant. Also, results showed that younger and older adolescents were equally willing to talk to their parents about those two topics.

All adolescents disclosed little about what they did when unsupervised and whether they had sex. There was no distinction between sexes when it concerned issues involving sex and supervision, so neither girls or boys expressed eagerness to talk to their parents about it.

However, on most issues, younger adolescents showed a significantly higher level of communication than older adolescents. The study found that teens who reported a higher level of trust with their parents also disclosed more. Daddis was surprised that the connection between trust and disclosure was especially strong for girls, and particularly for issues related to sex and supervision.

“It is important for the parents to provide an environment where the child can feel comfortable and trusting. The presence of a trusting relationship between parent and teen creates an climate for healthy development of autonomy,” said Daddis.

In addition, the researchers found that teens were more likely to discuss issues that they thought could involve harm to others and that may have severe consequences.

“We found that adolescents were more willing to talk to their parents about an issue if they felt that it would render harm to themselves or have some consequences that may affect others.”

Daddis said parents should realize that it is natural for teens to seek more independence and to draw boundaries around what they reveal.

“Developing a trusting relationship is one of the most important things parents can do to maintain consistent communication,” he said.

The study was co-authored by Danielle Randolph, who is an undergraduate at Ohio State.

Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100506121757.htm

Social Networking Sites Reveal Teens’ Sexual Intent

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 3, 2010

Wonder if your child is sexually active or getting close? New research suggests a review of their social networking site activity may provide considerable insight.

In a new study, researchers discovered that display of sexual references on teens’ Facebook profiles is associated with their intention to have sex.

“Parents and physicians are often seeking clues for when it’s time to have ‘the talk’ about sex with a teenager,” said Megan A. Moreno from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Our study suggests that if sexual content is noted on a teen’s social networking site profile, it’s definitely time for that talk.”

Dr. Moreno’s team previously found that 54 percent of MySpace profiles contained high-risk behavior information, with 24 percent referencing sexual behavior.

The researchers hypothesized that these displays may represent involvement in risk behaviors, consideration of risk behaviors or just adolescent grandstanding.

In the current study, researchers investigated what sexual displays on social networking sites represent in the offline world.

They identified publicly available Facebook profiles of college freshmen, 85 of whom completed a survey measuring sexual experiences, risky sexual behavior, and for those not yet sexually active, sexual intention.

Researchers found a strong association between display of sexual references on Facebook and self-reported intention to initiate sexual intercourse.

The authors concluded that social networking sites present innovative opportunities for clinicians, educators and parents to identify adolescents who may benefit from targeted education regarding safe sex practices prior to sexual initiation.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics


Related News Articles

Neanderthink: Good Girls, Bad Girls

The vagaries of paternity have led men to sharply categorize women—even in a hookup culture—but women can get savvy about this male propensity.

By Nando Pelusi

They met at Starbucks, made flirty small talk, and exchanged numbers. On their first date a few days later, she invited him back to her place—appropriately enough, for coffee. He’d barely removed his jacket when she slammed the door and pounced. “Is this just about sex?” he thought, because he was putatively looking for a good time, but was in reality seeking a relationship. He was no longer the hunter, but the hunted.

After that tryst his interest dropped quickly and steeply. But why? An opportunity to have unencumbered sex is what men want—right? Well, yes and no.

It’s no moral failing to feel lust, and women throughout history have made strategic decisions to become physical quickly, and to couple with multiple males, especially when the men in question commanded either resources or good genes. That said, the blunt truth is that hooking up might be a mistake when a woman’s goal is finding a long-term relationship; men tend not to marry women they label promiscuous. But in fact there are many reasons a woman might opt to hook up, and not all are about immediate sexual gratification.

Under most circumstances, men are the wooers, and if their wooing is too easy they are prone to unwittingly discount a woman’s value. A man may not even realize he will ultimately penalize a woman for giving him the very thing he pressures her for. The fact that his judgment is unconscious makes it no less damning.

Some men are exceptions in that they’re able to overcome the biases with which nature has encumbered them. Some men truly aren’t judgmental. But the average guy will tend to dichotomize women quickly and unconsciously: She’s a whore if she sleeps with him too soon (or with too many people he knows).

A man’s judgments often reflect his assessment of himself as much as of the woman. A man with low self-esteem may be particularly biased against a woman who sleeps with him quickly, because he thinks other (better) men will have even easier access to her. The Groucho Marxist doctrine taps into this thinking: Any woman who would have me must be pretty desperate.

Male hypervigilance about a woman’s sexual choices arises from a basic genetic self-interest. It serves to monitor paternity, since a woman who sleeps around is not a reliable vehicle for any single man’s genes, according to evolutionary logic.

Why, then, do women persist in “sleeping around” or “putting out”? Like most fundamental human behaviors, there are trade-offs that would have made female promiscuity a viable strategy in many cases throughout human history.

A harsh and unpromising environment (say, few available resources and fewer good men) might warrant tenuous liaisons with several men rather than a single connection to an unreliable man. Anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy has argued that such environments—uncertain provisions for a woman and her progeny—encouraged women to have a mixed strategy: multiple males for now, while preserving the opportunity to “switch up” if and when a more stable mate appeared.

Such behavior may in part account for the fact that ovulation is largely concealed in human females, which allows women to misrepresent or “finesse” paternity so as to accrue resources from more than one male. Concealed ovulation also encourages men to remain emotionally and physically close to their partners, in part to assure paternity even if the circumstances of conception are opaque.

After finding a potential long-term mate, a woman might decide that a virginal reputation could raise her viability. As Oscar Levant noted about Doris Day, “I knew her before she was a virgin.” Granted, ancestral females had limited opportunities to reinvent themselves. Hence the need to be coy, even while engaging in promiscuous behavior.

In the contemporary world, promiscuity takes the form not just of surreptitious couplings with multiple partners; rather, it consists of sexual liaisons with no commitments desired or discussed. “Virtually everyone wants a traditional romantic relationship at some point. However, that’s not necessarily a comfortable decision if reproducing and settling down aren’t an immediate need,” says Justin Garcia of the Laboratory of Evolutionary Anthropology and Health at Binghamton University in New York.

Even in a hookup, Garcia has found, people are still frequently looking for a relationship—in fact, about half the time. And men and women do so equally. Garcia observes that courting—say, dinner and a movie—may be dying in the high-tech instant-gratification world we live in. Instead, “hookups have become a new technique employed to garner a more traditional romantic partner.”

In the modern cosmopolitan setting, the period between menarche and reproduction has grown to upward of 20 years, and the average American woman now has her first child at age 25. Such a span of reproductive freedom gives rise to novel mating strategies, including hookups, booty calls, and one-night stands.

The problem is that even as men may look to hookups as potential long-term relationships, their psychological makeup pushes them to unconsciously discount their partner as a prospect. So hookups become especially tricky for women to navigate, despite the fact that they’re increasingly socially acceptable.

Metropolitan surroundings provide vast opportunities to hook up. But our emotional reactions to these options have not evolved much.

Being judgmental about promiscuity is an emotional pitfall evolution has handed men. Sidestepping it might be easier when men know what they’re up against. Men certainly don’t have to derive morals from biology, but they are well served by consciously knowing their biases, so they can decide more rationally.

Read in Full:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200810/neanderthink-good-girls-bad-girls

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