20 Jul Why we end up with the wrong partner – Part I
The reason we end up with the wrong partner could just be down to our evolution. To explain what I mean, we need to take a trip back to our cave days.
At some point in our human history, we decided that this solo roaming around thing wasn’t really doing it for us. So we got into groups with the hope of improving our chances of survival and man became a social animal. We started living in groups of thirty or so where the children belonged to the group and anyone can have sex with anyone.
With this change in our status from singular to social animal, two types of relationships started. The first developed when we realised that pairing up with another increased the likelihood of achieving a common goal. This could for example apply to hunting, fetching water, gathering food, or protecting the group.
At some point we would have also had to discover that now and then, our chosen colleague might display some irritating traits. We would have had to teach ourselves to tolerate such annoying traits for the greater good. Let’s call this relationship a DO relationship where we continue to tolerate each other as long as we are DOING what we’re supposed to be doing to achieve our goal. We focus on the good points and learn to tolerate the bad, and as long as the benefits keep coming, the relationship continues. So how do we find a DO companion? We do so by showing our best qualities, how strong, or how fast, or smart, or nurturing we are. We do this because we want to show our usefulness so that our irritations are tolerated. We demonstrate the competent and hide the silly. We exhibit alertness and most probably secrete some adrenalin to keep us focused. Herein lies the key.
The other type of relationship that developed came about for an entirely different purpose and, metaphorically speaking, it probably developed around the camp-fire. At the end of a hard day, we would gather round the warmth of those flames, rest and reflect. Someone perhaps noticed something that tickled his or her fancy, a shooting star an insect, whatever, then pointed at it and for no apparent reason started to smile, snort and giggle to express pleasure.
The person sitting to the left of this humorous snorter may have looked at the snorter with confusion or irritation prompting him or her to get up and move away. The person to the right, on the other hand, looked at the snorter, then looked at the shooting star, then looked at the snorter again and started to similarly snort and smile and giggle. These two then spent the rest of the evening snorting and giggling. This relationship has no functional goal at all. Hitting it off like that is not dependent on one’s ability to hunt or fight or gather or cook. This relationship did nothing – apart from increase the level of serotonin secreted in the brain; a pleasurable, relaxing feeling that counters the adrenalin secreted earlier that day during the hunt.
Let’s call this relationship a ‘BE’ relationship where we continue to like the other person because they are BEING themselves, being silly, or truthful, or expressing some pleasurable inner emotion and this in turn brings us pleasure. We may bump into this person the next day during our chores and notice that they are better or worse than us with their chore execution; their chore could be different to ours altogether. We may decide that we prefer to continue doing our chores with our chosen DO companion and away from our co-giggler. But this does not change our desire to meet up by the fire at the end of the day for some more snorting and giggling.
The recruiting process for such a BE companion is therefore different to that of a DO companion. The ‘how to find a BE companion’ guide advises us to show our silly side, our mischief, to reveal the thoughts and demonstrate the actions that bring us pleasure, that make us relax, that make us snort and giggle. There is no goal, our minds are free to wonder which is not the case with a DO companion where our minds need to be focussed on a mutual goal. If such freedom of mental exploration and snorting exchanges lead to moments of joint pleasure with another, then we may have found a BE companion. We continue to reveal and see if this strengthens our bond. Once we feel we’ve revealed everything and we’re still secreting serotonin, we may have found a true long lasting BE companion.
Our functional assets play no part in the recruitment of a BE companion and therefore even if they are mentioned, they are done so purely for the purpose of information sharing. Today, we would hear someone say “Jane knows everything about me, I trust her with my life, we always have such a laugh together. I really can tell her anything”. In a Darwinian sense, this must have evolved from that camp-fire experience. Jane is a fellow snorting giggler.
Most of our human relationships fall somewhere on the line between DO and BE. Some have more DO and some have more BE. Work colleagues can be friends, but if we leave that job and we find that the friendship begins to diminish, then this relationship was more a DO than a BE. If the friendship continues and goes from strength to strength, then the relationship was more of a BE than a DO.
Now if we look at coupling, as seen through the eyes of Sergey Gavrilets (look him up, great guy), it must have started when the Beta males got tired of not getting any. One such opportunistic Beta male must have noticed a disgruntled female vying for the Alpha male’s attention and seized his moment. Our brave and smart Beta male went to this female and said “Are you happy playing second fiddle? Always fighting for scraps? Never knowing if your child will be protected? I have a proposition for you. I will come back to you and protect you everyday. I will hunt and make sure I bring you back some food. When you get pregnant, I promise to protect you as well as provide protection for your child until it can fend for itself. In return, I want some regular sex, regular meals and a cave to come back to at the end of the day. What say you?”
Eventually, she said “So are you like a really great hunter and a strong guy and stuff? Well, if you are, this actually makes sense. I’m sick of grovelling round the Alpha males. Why not, let’s give it a go.” And coupling was started; it began as a partnership where there is a mutually beneficial functional goal. Therefore coupling very much belonged in the DO domain.
From that moment of the Beta males’ social revolution until about a hundred and fifty years ago, coupling belonged in the world of DO. Men and women got together for a common functional goal and the goal itself had nothing to do with fulfilling the snorting and giggling serotonin inducing needs of the individuals. A man could tell a woman, “You’re great, I’m thrilled you’re my woman, now I’m going out to point at stars and giggle in a silly relaxing way with someone else”. The woman could do the same and they both understood that their union is not about snorting and giggling.
Today, things have changed. A partner can no longer tell their partner “You’re a wonderful partner, you carry out your part our functional needs so well, but on weekends, I prefer to go out with my three friends that I find silly and funny because, god knows, I need to laugh and relax after a long hard week and let’s face it, you’re not really my go-to person for fun, laughter, mental relaxation or pleasure”. No one will accept this proposition, nor should they. We want to be each other’s camp-fire gigglers.