Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week let’s talk about what to hope for and expect in finding a mate.
A little over a year ago my husband and I decided that we just weren’t geeky enough, and so we added birdwatching to our list of hobbies. Last week we went searching for some peregrine falcons that had roosted in a water tower, and as we were watching the pair of them circling overhead, I starting pondering how birds choose a mate.
In most of the animal kingdom, the guy has to impress the girl if he wants any action. So he goes to absurd lengths, showing off his colours, or his ability to fly in circles, or his song, or whatever else may flip her switch, and the girl goes all gaga and they build a nest together. A guy who can’t fly in circles, or whose blue just isn’t blue enough, is passed over because these girls are picky. They want a guy who has the qualities it takes to be the dad to her babies.
Animals do this by instinct, of course. Humans, on the other hand, can fight against instinct. We women can decide that a man doesn’t really need to impress us at all. If he shows any interest, even if he’s a lout, we’ll fall at his feet. We’re not insisting on good traits anymore.
A number of cultural factors brought about this shift. Both men and women stopped valuing marriage as much. People delayed commitment and spent longer in school, often not adopting regular adult responsibilities until well into their thirties. The sexual revolution meant that we stressed sex over love. And feminism taught women that they should go out there and have fun and don’t let yourself be shackled. So our mating rituals became far less about impressing anyone and far more about using people.
However, while some people are perfectly happy hooking up for the rest of their lives, most people aren’t. Most of us, both male and female, still want someone we can love who will love us back, whom we can walk through life with.
Unfortunately we’re going about it all wrong. If you want to be married with kids, for instance, hooking up with someone and moving in with them is unlikely to help you meet your goal. One friend of mine lived with a guy from the time she was 24 until she was 41 and finally realized he wouldn’t marry her. It’s not just women getting their hearts broken, either; I know plenty of men who have loved women who had no intention of settling down, too.
Other girls I know have thrown away their university years getting their hearts broken by men who used them when it was convenient for them, and spent most of their free time with video games or porn. Yet these smart, pretty girls thought “all men were like that”, so they’d have to settle. Of course, the more these girls settled, the more men tend to act like that! The women figured, though, that eventually these guys would fall in love with them and magically change, putting aside the Xbox and the creepy websites.
That’s a really bad plan. If you want a commitment, then maybe you need a new mating ritual. Treat yourself with the respect you want from someone else. Do they have goals? Are they kind and considerate? And how do they treat their mother? (You may laugh, but it reveals a lot!)
If we want better relationships in the end, let’s start better in the beginning. Stop the hooking up cycle: it’s not part of a mating ritual; it’s just a casual dating ritual. Instead, look at the character someone is displaying. And then keep your distance until you find a winner. If more people did that, fewer people would have to build a nest alone.
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And check out my article on what makes a man marriage material. Then don’t settle for less!