History Of Male Female Relationships
Modern relationships are in a state never experienced before. To understand why, we need to take a quick view of the history of male-female relationships, going as far back as we can. We’ll have to make some educated guesses, but the result will be enlightening. It may also be a bit depressing, but it may shed some light on common modern relationship problems.
Humans and chimps split from a common ancestor about six million years ago. Chimps are the closest to humans on Earth. We share 98% of our DNA. While there are plenty of interesting differences and similarities (with respect to sexual and social strategy) between chimps and humans, we’ll try to focus only on anatomically correct humans.
Modern Humans From About 50,000 Years Ago
A good “guess” at when humans became humans is about 50,000 years ago. Of course, this is only a guess, but it’s a nice round number and we’ll go with it. We’ll find that it works fine for our purposes. The main point is that humans were humans for a long time before the invention of agriculture. That means we can separate out two broad periods in human history and try to make educated guesses about what the dating game was like in each one.
Hunter Gatherer Lifestyle
These people lived in groups of a few hundred. This meant that everybody knew everybody. Men hunted, and women gathered. This meant that the men hung out with the men most of the time, and the women hung out with the women most of the time.
Boy Meets Girl – Caveman Style
Any young would-be lovers had plenty of time apart before they sealed the deal. And when they sealed the deal, that was it. It was very likely that young men and women had plenty of advice and support from their social reference group both before and after they sealed the deal.
Tons Of Social Pressure – Before and After
Both getting into a relationship, and maintaining a relationship was likely supported and helped by the entire tribe. Even if a young couple was having problems, these problems were solved by the men, while the men were separate from the ladies, and by the ladies, when the ladies were separate from the men.
Mental Experiment Time
Let’s imagine two tribes. We’ll imagine that one tribe had plenty of single moms. We’ll imagine the second tribe had zero single moms. The tribe with plenty of single moms would be a huge drag on productivity. Every single mom would represent two mouths to feed, and these two mouths wouldn’t have a designated hunter who was going out hunting every day.
But if we imagine a tribe with zero single moms, that would mean that every single mouth that needed feeding either was connected to a hunter, or had a designated hunter that was out busily trying to kill something. It’s easy to see how this second tribe would be much more productive. We can conclude that it was in everybody’s interest to keep these young couples together, no matter what. Any problem in any marriage in the hunter-gatherer days would spell trouble for everybody.
Hunter Gather Incentives
This means that during the hunter gather days (from 50,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago), there was plenty of incentives from everybody to keep couples together. It was also likely that young men and women couldn’t really date around until they found somebody they liked. Any girl or guy who publicly expressed an interest in somebody, only to get rejected, would be more or less untouchable, or at least less desirable in the eyes of all the other potential mates.
So we can imagine that not only were young couples very careful about who they chose to get together with, but once they were together, pretty much everybody did everything to keep them together.
It’s not likely that hunter-gatherers experienced pure monogamy. Anthropologists tell us that humans are monogamous, but will take polygamy any chance we can get. How might this have played out in ancient hunter-gatherer days?
Unwed Female Concerns
Any young woman who is thinking about getting together with a young caveman must be absolutely certain he is going to be able to provide for her. That means he must demonstrate hunting skills in the present, as well as have a reasonable expectation of having hunting skills in the future. This would take time. She’d have to observe his behavior over a long period.
Since humans didn’t create language until recently, and these humans were really modified versions of proto-humans, the feelings of attraction must have been triggered by male behaviors, and not any flowery words. It’s likely that the attraction in a woman for a man must have developed over time, as he consistently demonstrated his hunting (resource acquiring) ability.
Scarcity and Competition
But at the same time, the very best young hunters were likely being looked at by plenty of young females. It’s also very likely that a young woman had a couple of choices. Choose a young man all to herself, or choose an established, older man. Throughout human history, plenty of societies had versions of polygamy.
It’s very likely that two choices were available: Either an older, experienced hunter with a couple of wives, or a young, hopefully up and coming hunter all to herself. Both would be socially acceptable. The main factor, from a woman’s standpoint, was making sure that her children would be taken care of.
Understand this wasn’t a conscious, logical choice, this “getting her future children taken care of” came across as a feeling of attraction. Women that felt natural attraction for men who would eventually take care of her kids (young men or older established men) tended to have more kids that lived, and passed on those genes that felt that same attraction from the same type of men.
Summary Of Hunter Gatherer Relationships
Women either chose established men, or young up and coming men. The most important point was that once the choice was made, it was kept. There was plenty of social pressure to maintain any relationships once children (or sexual relationships that preceded children) came into the picture.
There is also evidence that women would sometimes cheat on their husbands. Both chimps, and modern hunter-gatherer tribes have been observed trading meat for sex. In humans, this is done secretly. It’s believed that when top hunters come home with big kills, one of the benefits is the recognition from their tribal members, as well as secretly trading meat for sex with otherwise taken women.
Tribal Benefits of Secret Promiscuity
This makes sense, from a tribal standpoint. Suppose a woman has chosen an up and coming hunter, but he didn’t turn out so hot. Then an alpha comes home one day with a big kill. Even studies of modern women show that they are attracted to two different types of man. Beta types when they are not ovulation, and alpha types when they are.
Imagine a woman who is married to a guy she thought was going to be an alpha, but he turned out to be a medium beta. Then one day she’s ovulating, and her “attraction-to-alpha-behavior” switch is turned on. So she secretly has sex with the alpha who brings home the biggest kill on that day. Maybe her husband is OK about it and pretends not to know, maybe not.
But think of what this does on a tribal level. It ensures that even ladies married to betas will have kids with alpha genes. Every time a beta’s wife is ovulating, she’ll get down with the hottest hunter of the day. This means the tribe is continually being re-populated with as many alphas as possible. It’s certainly not a good thing for beta hubby, but on the whole, it’s an ingenious system. It provided upward evolutionary pressure on hunting skills, which benefited the whole tribe.
Invention Of Agriculture
In the hunter gatherer days, to be the biggest alpha of all time, all you needed was to become alpha of the tribe, which wasn’t that difficult. Even guys near the top were alpha enough to get some on the side from the wives of beta men. All this changed when farming was invented.
For one, there was a lot more people. And a lot more ways to make money. Hunters don’t really need much stuff. Weapons, tools, etc. But once farming was invented, people stayed put. They had bigger and much more permanent houses. They had a lot of diverse needs, (farming equipment, labor, etc.). This meant that there was a lot more ways to make a living.
There’s an idea that we humans only have enough “space” in our brain for a couple hundred people. Since we lived for so long in a tribal environment, and agricultural changes happened so recently in terms of evolution, our brains haven’t had time to catch up.
So in the early days of farming, with they had cities of a few thousand, people still could only really be familiar with those same couple hundred folks. But one of those folks were the local alpha, or the actual king. And these kings claimed the same “rights” as these ancient alpha hunters.
Jus Primae Noctic
This means “lords right” which gives the king or feudal lord (local alpha) the right to have his way with young virgin peasants on her wedding night. It seems that this ancient instinctive idea carried over into medieval European history. But the math was slightly different. If you had a tribe of 300 folks, then the alphas who were banging betas wives on the sly were part of the whole crew. On an evolutionary level, it kept the tribe repopulated by the best hunting genes.
But as societies got larger and larger, this became less of a gene benefit and more of a way for a king to simply have his way with as many women as he wanted. But this also meant that nobody else could. The net result was that unless a lady was being taken by the king, she was more or less off limits.
One of the most interesting cases of marriage fidelity was a cold war that took place between medieval nobles and the Catholic Church between the fall of the Roman Empire and The Enlightenment. First sons of nobles inherited their land and the title. Second sons inherited nothing. Second sons often joined the priesthood.
First Beta Union
These second sons vowed a life of chastity. And eventually these sexless second sons would write the rules of sexual behavior. On the nobles’ side, strategic marriages were used to consolidate power. A very useful way of consolidating power was “Consanguinity” or marriage between close blood relatives. To counter this, the Church (driven by the beta union), over the centuries, made these marriages sinful. By making it harder to consolidate power, (and land) the Catholic Church slowly became the predominant landowner of Europe.
This is the era when unions became blessed by God, and any kind of adultery (both pre and post marriage) was punished by eternity in hell. This meant that all normal folks (not nobles) had to choose carefully, as once they chose a mate for life, that was it. Unions between man and woman were even more tightly controlled than in hunter gatherer days.
Plenty Of Incentives
Up until very recently, all couples were kept together under plenty of very strong external and internal incentives. Social proof, Authority (An Omnipotent God), financial constraints, family pressures, all of these conspired to make the idea of divorce and infidelity very costly. Up until very recently, for anybody to voluntarily leave a relationship, the reasons would have to be very serious, as the costs were very dear.
Modern relationships lack many of the same incentives. There is little social proof keeping any couple together, unless they are both part of the same small religious community. There is very little authority figure keeping couples together. In fact many of the external incentives are the opposite today of what they used to be.
Can Humans Operate Independently?
In a previous post (here), we explored some troubling psychological experiments. The Milgram Experiment, The Stanford Prison Experiment and the Asch Experiment all demonstrated that humans are not really as independent as we think. We are easily influenced by outside forces, namely authority and social proof. With authority and social proof conspiring to keep couples together, most couples choose carefully and stay together.
Today no such external forces exist. In fact, they may be quite the opposite. Friends recommend we break up when there is the slightest problem. Ghosting is a commonly recommended way to solve even the slightest of relationship problems. Our modern role models all have been in several relationships, indicating that it’s normal for us to do the same.
Social media exposes us to plenty of both opportunity cost and negative social proof. Opportunity costs when we see just how many other people are out there that we could be dating. There is plenty of social proof pulling us away from a committed relationship. None of this existed until very recently.
Bleak Dating Picture
This paints a fairly bleak picture for the modern dating world. With no external incentives and no financial constraints keeping couples together, all we can rely on is our internal incentives. (And to get a look at how weak these are, one only needs to check obesity rates). This is the first time in human history where sexual relationships existed devoid of any external incentives at all that previously served to bind couples together.
What To Do
Back in the day, it was sufficient to show up, operate largely on autopilot, and you would get by. If you were average or above, you be able to make a living, meet somebody and have a family. Consider that those days are long gone. Today, it’s more important than ever to pay close attention to what you are getting into.
Since there were plenty of external incentives in the past, there wasn’t much to worry about. But without external incentives, our desires can easily change from day to day. If you are with somebody new, it feels fantastic in the beginning. But if you assume it will always be that way, or if you assume your new partner will always treat you the same way and behave the same way, that would be a very dangerous assumption to make.
Consistent Management Required
Relationships of the past were set-and-forget due to the external constraints. But if we operate on a set-and-forget mentality today, we’ll be disappointed. We can draw some useful parallels between our hunger instinct, and our collection of “relationship instincts.”
Hunger Instinct Metaphor
We evolved in a time when food was precious. So always being hungry was useful. But today, if we want to stay healthy, we can be blindly obedient to our hunger instinct. We have to consistently manage it. Before, we had plenty of external incentives and constraints to keep us from overeating. Today, those don’t exist.
If we blindly obey our collection of relationship instincts, we’ll get into just as much trouble as blindly obeying our hunger instincts. Consider then that maintaining a healthy relationship requires just as much continuous commitment as maintaining a healthy diet.
Look For Somebody Willing To Work
If you’re content to get as much action as possible, then you are alive during the best time ever. Rarely has so much sex been available to so many people. But this makes relationships extremely hard to maintain. Since relationships require two equally committed people, consider that one of the primary criteria for creating and maintaining a healthy relationship is finding somebody who is equally willing to put in the consistent effort.
Be Worthy Of Commitment
Unlike the past, when you could sleepwalk your way through life driven by external incentives, today you must be valuable. You must be a self-motivated individual who is worthy of putting in the effort. Plenty of people on both sides of the gender have a strong sense of entitlement. That they just need to show up and wait for what they deserve.
Make Yourself Valuable
The more you work on yourself, the more likely you’ll find a relationship partner who is equally self-committed. Equally available today are opportunities for those who are willing to create opportunities for themselves.
No longer are you forced to work your entire life based on your family or social status. The world of today offers plenty of upward mobility, both financially and socially. But only to those who are willing to seize it. Not just once, but consistently. Daily.
Make Your Own Life
Up until recently, humans were born and lived according to their destiny. Today that is no longer the case. This does, however, present a double edge sword. If you expect to show up and get your needs met, you’ll be disappointed. But if you are willing to take fully responsible for your life, your choices, and your actions, nothing is out of reach.
Mind Persuasion has plenty of books and courses all designed to help you get more out of life with much less effort.