mate-seeking

50th Review of “Bad Boyfriends”

Bad Boyfriends Audiobook Cover

Bad Boyfriends Audiobook

Since Amazon began to randomly delete reviews last year, I post the new ones to preserve them. A new review of Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner:

5.0 out of 5 stars- Perfect for anyone starting to learn about relationship dynamics and personality types
By: matt, on May 29, 2018
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

I recently got out of a relationship in which I was constantly made to feel at fault for superficially minor things that somehow were turned into more major, far-reaching issues. Having been “gas-lighted” into thinking that everything was somehow my fault, I decided to try and seek guidance and/or insight into relationships and purchased this title, along with several others. Bad Boyfriends is the first relationship self-help book I have read, and although just half-way through, it has provided me with great clarity and understanding of my previous relationship and allowed me to come to terms with how it ended. The book is clearly and directly written, and can be read in about a day or two. I must admit that the topic of attachment theory is described on a more superficial level, but is perfect for someone just starting to learn about its consequences and role in daily life. Jeb provides further suggested reading on more specific topics throughout the book, many of which I have already added to my Amazon shopping list. If you are like me and are curious about relationships and how they function based on personality types and/or are not familiar with attachment theory, this is a great title with which to start your learning. However, if you have already read several relationship books and are fairly knowledgeable on the subject, then this book may not be as useful to you; although you may find use in it for its references to other psychological works on the subject material. In all, a great addition to my library.

Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner

Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"

Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”

One of my many hats is investor/economist, so this story from NPR by Sean Braswell about applying economic thinking to mate-seeking got my attention:

… [T]here’s another type of virtual eyewear that many of us spend even more time donning — one that has the opposite effect of beer goggles. Call them “expectancy spectacles” if you’d like, because wearing them causes us to raise our standards and expectations, often unrealistically, of everything from potential mates to job prospects.

The primary culprit behind this altered vision is not booze, but a potent concoction of Hollywood movies, social conditioning and wishful thinking. And fortunately, there are a few scientists on the case.

One is Ty Tashiro, a psychologist specializing in romantic relationships who writes for Discovery Fit and Health. His recent book, The Science of Happily Ever After, explores what “advances in relationship science” can teach us about the partners we choose. Almost 9 in 10 Americans believe they have a soul mate, says Tashiro, but only 3 in 10 find enduring partnerships that do not end in divorce, separation or chronic unhappiness. Clearly something is going wrong — and it starts with our expectations.

That’s because in real life the pool of potential partners looks rather different from the cast of The Bachelorette — something Tashiro hopes to address by putting some cold figures to the mating game, employing an approach similar to the one used by scientists who calculate the chances of life on other planets.

For example, say a bachelorette enters a room of 100 male bachelors who represent the broader U.S population. If she prefers a partner who’s tall (at least 6 feet), then her pool of possible prospects immediately shrinks to 20. If she would like him to be fairly attractive and earn a comfortable income (over $87,000 annually), then she’s down to a single prospect out of 100.

If you choose to specify further traits, such as kindness, intelligence or a particular religious or political affiliation, well, let’s just say we’re going to need a much bigger room. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of whether he actually likes you back.

Such long odds are the product of misplaced priorities, says Tashiro, but it’s not strictly our fault. Our mate preferences have been shaped by natural selection’s obsession with physical attractiveness and resources as well as the messages our friends, families and favorite shows transmit about sweethearts and soul mates. And it is at the start of relationships, when we need to make smart, long-term decisions, that we are least likely to do so because we’re in the throes of lust, passion and romance.

Or, as Tashiro puts it, returning to our alcohol analogy: “It would seem wise to hand off the keys to someone with more lucidity until your better sensibilities return.”

Which is why Tashiro advocates a new approach to dating, one that is not so much about lowering standards as giving yourself better ones. Call it “Moneyballing” relationships (Tashiro does); it’s all about finding undervalued traits and assets in the dating market. And, just like with baseball, it starts with trying to ignore the superficial indices of value — attractiveness, wealth — in favor of hidden attributes with a stronger correlation to long-term relationship success.

Citing research that finds no reliable link between income level or physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction, Tashiro steers his readers toward traits such as agreeableness. With married couples, he points out, “liking declines at a rate of 3 percent a year, whereas lust declines at a rate of 8 percent per year,” so the smarter, long-term investment is finding someone you genuinely like. Plus, he adds, studies also suggest that agreeable partners are in fact “better in bed” and less likely to cheat over the long haul.

Being confused about what you are looking for in a mate is epidemic — part of the cost of freedom to choose yourself (instead of having parents arranging your marriage for you) is valuing the wrong things and being unrealistic about what your partner should be like. Programmed by the Fairy Tale model (“(s)he should be just perfect and make me happy!”) most young people don’t have the sense to look beyond the superficial unless they are lucky enough to accidentally come into close contact with a person who they can love unconditionally. Much more likely is to dismiss many good long-term partner candidates for failing to be exactly as expected — not tall enough, not rich enough, not goodlooking enough… “I deserve better!”

The “Moneyball” reference is to the problem of assembling the best baseball team for the least money. The obvious stars are pursued by many teams and their salaries bid up; because of the overvaluation of the very best players, one manager discovered he could assemble a great team at a lower cost by focusing on the less obvious players, who might be very good at one or two things which went unrecognized.

In the mate-seeking problem, the analogous strategy is to not be distracted by good looks or superficial factors like current wealth, height, or sexiness. The people who have all those things are in great demand, know it, and are less likely to pick you for partnership. Meanwhile, the shy, short guy with the entrepreneurial spirit and drive will someday be wealthy, the plain and unfashionably dressed girl with smarts may blossom into a glamourous woman as she makes it out in the world and has the time and money to work on appearance.

When you are thinking long-term, think like an investor — go after the future great partner, not the ones who satisfy all your shallow “must haves.” Love and commitment make high achievers out of good partners, and young people who are loyal and reliable can build each other up and create that successful life the Fairy Tale talks about; but it doesn’t just happen, you have to work for it and believe in your partner. Look for someone you can trust and believe in.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on this topic:

Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Evolve or Die: Survival Value of the Feminine Imperative
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications

More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)

Ev Psych: Parental Preferences in Partners

Another "Bad Boy" - Shutterstock

Another “Bad Boy” – Shutterstock

“Evolution and Bad Boyfriends,” a New York Times piece on the struggle between parents and (most commonly) daughters over partner choice and how it may have evolved:

Whenever a pattern of human behavior is widespread, there is reason to suspect that it might have something to do with our evolutionary history. (Think of the fear of snakes, or the incest taboo.) You think your daughter’s boyfriend isn’t good enough? It may be evolution’s fault.

Now I generally argue against easy “ev psych” answers for questions of human behavior. But when you look at the commonalities across cultures around the world, you do find evidence of an ev-psych background that sets the stage for the much more complex cultural norms that have evolved. And many traditional cultures do have parents playing a significant or even primary role in mate selection for their offspring; arranged marriages and dowries were commonly used to assure a good match for a daughter, who would leave her parents’ household to join her new husband’s.

When thinking about mate choice, the natural starting point is the theory of sexual selection. This theory, which focuses not on the struggle for existence but on the competition to attract sexual partners, has been hugely successful in explaining the diverse courtship behaviors and mating patterns in the animal kingdom, from the peacock’s flamboyant tail to the chirping calls of male crickets.

Modern mathematical versions of this theory show how female mating preferences and male characteristics will evolve together. But when you try to apply the theory to humans, you hit a snag. In humans, there is an extra preference involved — that of the parents.

At first sight, it might seem surprising that parents and their children should evolve to have any conflict at all. After all, they share many of the same genes, and both have an evolutionary interest in having those genes persist through the generations. Shouldn’t the preferences of parents and their children be perfectly aligned?

Well, no — not completely. Parents each pass on half of their genes to each of their children, so from a genetic point of view, all children are equally valuable to them. It is in parents’ evolutionary interests to distribute their resources — money, support, etc. — in such a way that leads to as many surviving grandchildren as possible, regardless of which of their children provide them.

Children, by contrast, have a stronger genetic interest in their own reproduction than in that of their siblings, so each child should try to secure more than his or her fair share of parental resources. It is this conflict over parental resources that can lead to a conflict over mate choice.

In our study, we built a computer model to simulate the evolutionary process. We generated a large virtual population of males and females, the males all differing genetically in their ability to invest resources in raising children. The females had a genetically determined preference for this male quality, which meant that females with a strong preference were more likely to end up with a male who invested more.

The males and females that paired up in our model then mated and produced offspring, who inherited (with a small chance of mutation) the investing qualities and mating preferences of their parents. We ran our model over thousands of generations, observing which genetic traits thrived and which didn’t.

This is a “genetic algorithm,” the kind of computer simulation I used to write to discover behavioral tendencies among populations of stock traders. Like all simulations, it can only be suggestive because good results depend on duplicating the important features of both the simulated people and their environment; but it can reveal the underlying reason why certain traits and behaviors are preserved and strengthened over time.

…We added some new ingredients. First, we allowed a female’s parents to interfere with her choice of a male. Second, we allowed parents to distribute their resources among their children.

We found that over time, parents in our model evolved to invest more resources in daughters who chose mates with few resources. This unequal investment was in the parents’ best interests, because a daughter with an unsupportive partner would profit more from extra help than her more fortunate sisters (the principle of diminishing returns on investment). By helping their needier daughters, parents maximized their total number of surviving grandchildren.

But this unequal investment created an incentive for daughters to “exploit” their parents’ generosity by choosing a partner who was less supportive. A daughter who was less picky than her sisters would accept a less helpful partner, but since her parents picked up the slack she ended up with a similar amount of support, while sparing herself the costs of holding out for the perfect man.

As a result, the choosiness of females gradually declined over evolutionary time. To counterbalance this, the parental preference for caring sons-in-law increased. Hence the conflict.

It is only in the modern era that it became safe in the West for daughters to strike out on their own and put off marriage while gaining independence; parental control over mate selection is now much weaker than in traditional societies. And yet the evolved preferences for “bad boys” and the expectation that parents would come to a daughter’s assistance if resources were short as a result of the bad husband’s unreliability continued. And now we have added a state apparatus to channel resources to unwed mothers and enforce child support orders on deadbeat dads, further decreasing the downside risk of unwise partner choice.


More reading on this topic:

Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Evolve or Die: Survival Value of the Feminine Imperative
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications

“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down'”

portrait_kitten

The cultural conversation continues with this Wall Street Journal story, subtitled “Today’s ambitious women need husbands who are collaborators, not traditional breadwinners.”

As usual the story may not be available through the WSJ paywall for long, so I’ll excerpt:

Today, a successful single woman who falls for a man making less money than she does or not sharing her career ambition may face not-so-subtle disapproval from friends and family. One patient of mine reported being told, “I’m surprised you haven’t found someone who is more your equal.” Another felt insulted when a trusted friend asked, “Are you sure you wouldn’t be happier with a man who is making more money than you?”

These women were in love with solid, supportive guys who shared their values—men who weren’t driven by money. They dreaded the concerned whispers from friends or family who persisted in believing that they were “marrying down.”

As a couples therapist, the notion of marrying down strikes me as impossibly antiquated. It’s right out of the “Downton Abbey” era, when suitable marriages were entirely a matter of matching people according to social class and fortune—hence the panic when Lord Grantham’s youngest daughter marries the family’s Irish chauffeur.

More education doesn’t necessarily lead to greater earning power, but in most U.S. cities, single, childless women under 30 now make more money than their male peers, according to analysis by Reach Advisors, a research firm. Across all social classes, women contribute 47% of household income, reports the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. And most strikingly, Pew has found that in 24% of marriages, women earn more than their husbands, up from 6.2% in 1960.

These men are secure enough to follow as well as lead. They value partnership, parenting and pulling their own weight. They work but aren’t workaholics. The problem is family members and friends who sometimes devalue such men because they don’t adhere to traditional standards of masculinity—standards that should no longer apply.

What high-achieving women need are men strong enough to support their achievements, contribute to the household in services and/or money, and be loving partners. A strong woman will reap the benefit of this kind of respectful, responsible beta man; he will be more flexible, more nurturing and more willing to share the responsibilities of family life.

Today’s romances suggest that growing numbers of smart women and men are marrying neither up nor down—they’re just marrying the right person.

I think the mention of these men as “beta males” is ridiculous. The stereotyped alpha male is assertive, a leader, and dominant in the pack. While there are some insecure alpha males who want submissive women who are dependent on them to win the bread, today the kind of woman who will be interesting and stimulating to him, as his intellectual equal and assistive partner, is going to be quite accomplished herself. A truly secure alpha male craves a companion who can fully understand his accomplishments and assist in making him more successful.

That being said, the right fit emotionally is far more important than the relative success of the partners. An accomplished male plumber climbing the ladder of his profession may be the perfect match for a female litigator or investment banker who makes far more money. And an alpha male may well choose to downplay his career for a few years to raise the children and keep his wife’s career on track. What other people think just shows what they don’t understand.

More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)