How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘mate selection’

Rule Four: Pick the Right Man for the Right Reasons

It is more important to be aware of the ground of your own behavior than to understand the motives of another.
—Dag Hammarskjöld

When you approach a new love affair, stop for a long moment to think carefully about what you’re doing. Examine your own motives. Interview yourself the way you imagine a psychiatrist or a reporter might. Ask yourself: Why do I want to have an affair? Why now, this month, rather than last month or next month? Why this particular man?

affairs of the heart

affairs of the heart (Photo credit: derpunk)

These kinds of questions never have just one answer. Our motives for acting as we do are always complex and are often interrelated. It’s important, nevertheless, to at least try to puzzle them out. Are you trying to avoid something you don’t like in your life? Are you seeking an affair as a means of running away? Are you simply drawn to an appealing prospect? Would a love affair offer some comfort and consolation when other things have gone wrong? Would it fill an empty place left by a vanished man—or child or job or parent?

If the Freudian psychoanalysts are correct, the motives we think we have for how we act may be superficial and trivial, and the important motives in our lives may be subterranean forces of which we’re unaware. The link from motive to action is an endless puzzle. Nevertheless, it’s important to try and understand the motives a potential lover may have for seeking you out and the motives you may have for being drawn to him or for rejecting him.

Sometimes, an otherwise promising love affair becomes a long shot because either one or the other of you is approaching it for the wrong reasons.

Will discuss some of the wrong reasons for having an affair in upcoming posts.

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Safe Conduct: Guidelines for an Affair of the Heart

It’s a wise man who profits by his experience, but it’s a good deal wiser one who lets the rattlesnake bite the other fellow.
—Josh Billings

In times of war, when it is necessary to venture into hostile territory, one is sometimes issued a “safe conduct pass” which is supposed to assure that the bearer can pass through the danger zone unmolested. Women who venture into the uncertainty of new relationships based on new social norms don’t have any more guarantees of fulfillment than their grandmothers did. There are, however, some guidelines that can serve as a kind of safe conduct pass which, if followed, will help you to actualize as fully as possible your nascent affair with the new lover you have selected.

Love Affair (1939 film)

Love Affair (1939 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Logan Smith, the American epigrammatist, points out, “There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.” There is no foolproof formula for a perfect love affair. There are, however, guidelines which, like other kinds of safe conduct documents, may offer more protection. In the tradition of commandments, I’ve listed a Decalogue of rules which you would be wise to consider carefully when pursuing an affair of the heart. I will address each of them separately in future posts.

DECALOGUE: GUIDELINES FOR AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART

RULE ONE: ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE AFFAIR.
RULE TWO: ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR BIRTH CONTROL.
RULE THREE: BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR INTENTIONS.
RULE FOUR: PICK THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE RIGHT REASONS.
RULE FIVE: ACCEPT THE INEVITABILITY OF CHAUVINISM.
RULE SIX: DO YOUR PART TO MAKE THE AFFAIR SUCCESSFUL.
RULE SEVEN: RESPECT PRIVILEGED INFORMATION.
RULE EIGHT: MINIMIZE JEALOUSY.
RULE NINE: BEWARE THE MONSTER THAT IS HABIT.
RULE TEN: TAKE TIME TO SAVOR LOVE.

The Penultimate Test: Take Him Home

A woman’s home is her hassle!
—Jayson VanVerten

When you have found a prospective lover who seems in many ways to be the real thing, or at least close to the real thing, take him home. Well, not necessarily home to meet your mother unless you are only seventeen, but home to where you live or work.

If you are in a relationship contrive some situation in which he’ll meet your husband or your current lover dangerous as that may initially seem. See him when you’re with your children. Put him in the same group with other significant people in your life, be they coworkers or a brother or whomever. This strategy is, of course, irrelevant if all that’s involved is a one-night stand or a one-afternoon tumble.  This strategy is only important for a lover that you hope to keep for a period of time.

Lover

Lover (Photo credit: Squirmelia)

First of all, you’ll see how well he behaves under moderate pressure before there is any real pressure. Can he talk baseball scores with your husband without glowering? Does he show deference to your husband and his domain? Does he treat your children as miniature people or as little irritants that get in his way? Can he be cool and poised in a situation in
which, you hope, only you and he understand the real nature of the dynamics that are going on?

If a man bungles initial meetings before any events of real significance have occurred, you cannot trust him to be cool and to remain discreet when at some future date there may be more violent emotions and more significant events to cover up. What’s really involved here isn’t only a test of sophistication but also a test of potential possessiveness and jealousy. Some unworldly boys of twenty can manage the situation with good grace and good humor; while some apparently worldly men in midlife are transparent and awkward.

The good lover must have a certain amount of guile, a certain talent for ambiguity. It’s paradoxical, but what you want is a contradictory qualification: the ability to dissemble to the world at large and the ability to project to you that with you, he speaks and shows only the truth and all the truth.

In 1984, George Orwell called it double think, a dubious trait you must both possess. You must be willing to believe: “Yes, we lie to the outside world, by omission if no other way. But no, we don’t lie to each other.” Like good theater, a good affair requires a certain suspension of disbelief.

Taking a prospective lover home also helps him to concretize the day-today reality with which you have to contend. Not just a husband, but Harry the husband. Not just three kids, but Mollie and Mattie and Maryanne. When you have to get home for a Girl Scout meeting, he knows who it is for and what it will be like. When you have to get home to make cunning
little stuffed mushrooms to stuff into your husband’s cunning little stuffed business associates, he can visualize the kitchen where you work and the room where they are served. The obligations are made real, and the more they are made real, the more he’s able to take them as seriously as you must.

You also need to take your lover home to demystify him for the people you work and live with. A mysterious gentleman caller is quite romantic and attractive if you’re a single girl who delights in collecting beaux just as your grandmother did. But if you are of a certain age and especially if you are married, collecting beaux isn’t exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, however delightful that pastime may be.

When someone finally asks, “Who was that man?” you need to be able to say casually, “Who? Oh, him. You remember him. That’s Tony. You met him at the Smith’s party. He’s in landscaping. He’s trying to talk us into a new pool.” Or whatever.

The best alibis are those you create before you need them, not afterward.

Telephone Tyranny and Social Media

Instead of belles-lettres, we have Ma Bell.
—Donal Henahan

One familiar little dating game ritual played out in the dating market is the ritual of the phone number. If the man who meets a girl decides he likes her, he asks for her phone number so he can call her sometime; if the girl who meets a man likes him, she gives it to him. Once this little ritual is complete, he has a right to expect that if he calls her, she will remember who he is and will more or less welcome his call.

English: man on phone

Photo credit: Wikipedia

There’s nothing wrong with this little ritual in itself—except that you will notice that the action involved is all one-way. He asks or doesn’t; he phones or doesn’t. You may respond in various ways to his actions; but first, you must wait until he asks, and if he does, then you must anxiously wait for your phone to ring.

The game of “don’t-call-me, I’ll-call-you” is recognized in the business world as a standard status maneuver. Hopeful actors who must audition for parts hear it all the time as do job applicants. It’s equally a status game when played with men and women although a man may not immediately recognize it as such. If he offers you his phone number, he has put the ball in your court, and that is an encouraging sign. If he doesn’t, then when he asks for your number, make it an exchange and watch how he responds to that idea.

A promising variation of the telephone game is played by the man who spontaneously offers you his phone number and says, “Please call me if you want to.” By giving the number, especially by giving it without being asked, he shows that he expects the interaction will be a two-way interaction. This variation is especially promising if he gives you his number in such a way as to be sure that any attempt at communication with him would be effective.

A busy lawyer friend of mine, a very genuine man who unfortunately has a most unprepossessing appearance, was in ardent pursuit of a beautiful model. He not only asked for her phone number (she gave him the number for her modeling agency) but gave her his home phone number, his cell phone number, his office number, and a code word to use with his secretary so that, instead of automatically saying he was busy and would return the call, the secretary would actually put the woman through to his desk. The object of the lawyer’s affection wasn’t too sure about this man, busy or otherwise, but was convinced of his sincerity. Eventually, she did call him; and while they didn’t live happily ever after, they did become good friends.

In today’s dating world and ever evolving social media, the same game can be played just as easily via email or text messaging. Since email and text messaging don’t involve direct interaction with the other person, it’s less personal, making it easier to communicate either your interest or lack of interest without the risk of having to have a potentially uncomfortable phone conversation. Whatever the social media being used, it’s important to pay attention to whether a man voluntarily offers you his contact information when he’s asking for yours. If he doesn’t, and you’re interested, then ask for his. His response will be very telling. If he freely offers his contact information, then you need not passively wait for his call or spend your day constantly checking your text messages. You are free to contact him should you so desire.  On the other hand, if he is reluctant to give you his contact information or makes excuses for why he can’t, then walk away and don’t look back.

Passive Resistance: Go Away Closer

Men do not understand, as a rule, that women like to get used to them by degrees.
—John Oliver Holmes

In traditional courtship, a man not only made the first move but also set the pace of the courtship. The onus of acting rested with him.

If a man was enthusiastic about a woman, he might give her the rush and try to instigate a whirlwind courtship; if he was less enthusiastic or simply shy, he might move hesitantly. With each gesture that he offered in order to accelerate the development of the relationship, the woman in question had a choice of responses: she could accede to his wishes, or she could demur. This dance could continue for some time, depending mostly upon the man’s feelings and his willingness to press his case or not.

Courtship

Courtship (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eventually, the courtship dance would lead either to a proposal, to be accepted or rejected, or to the woman’s decision that since the man wasn’t going to propose, she should let herself be courted elsewhere by someone with more serious intentions.

In the new courtship that has been the focus of my recent posts, the initiative is more reciprocal, and the timetable can reflect his escalations or hers. The decision in question isn’t whether or not to marry but only whether or not to have an affair. It’s a less serious decision, and a more reversible one, but it’s still an important decision. Making an important decision requires information and thought. To consider what you are getting into, and whether you really want to get into it at all, takes time—time to interview, to test, to reflect. And all too often, the average man is not at all interested in taking time.

The solution to this problem is simple: stall. Stall, stall, stall. If you go with him to his hotel room to have a drink and talk things over, you lose a lot of credibility no matter how straightforward your intentions. You can say, “Lie down, I want to talk to you,” but at your own peril. How do you make a man stand still or sit still or even lie still to be interviewed when he has something else entirely on his mind? Long ago, the Spaniards invented a way. The young and virginal were courted at some length but always in the presence of a “duenna,” an older woman who trailed along out of earshot but not out of sight and certainly not out of mind.

Get yourself a duenna. Make a deal with a girlfriend, take along a child old enough to watch and talk, lie down and talk in sunlight on a public beach. The combination of being accessible, but not completely accessible, is ideal. The pseudo-intimacy which results is a constraint, but it allows for a certain freedom and permissiveness. Having the outer limits defined helps both of you to relax. That is after-all what double dating is all about for teenagers, but it works well for grown-ups as well.

If your message is one of passive resistance and what you want is for him not to go away but only proceed more slowly, then it’s both necessary and fair that you don’t confuse the issue with a double message. Some women say no when what they really mean is “coax me.” Then when the man takes no for an answer, they are vaguely disappointed. You must, in this kind of situation, make your responses both consistent and unambiguous. You can always change your mind at a later date.

Beware of the Hard Sell

With women worth being won, the softest love ever best succeeds.
—Aaron Hill

One of the joys of life is that sexual arousal and anticipation are “green energy”.  They are both constantly renewable resources. The person who has turned you on once will very likely turn you on tomorrow and the next day. Unless his regiment really rides at dawn, or his ship really sails with the tide, a love affair is seldom really an emergency that must happen immediately. No matter what Elvis says, sex is never “now or never”: it can wait. If a man is so hot to get laid right now, one way or another, he presumably can arrange it as the “rosy-breasted pushover” isn’t yet an endangered species.

It's Now or Never (song)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The man who presents you with an ultimatum on your last chance to go to bed with him is, in effect, saying that he isn’t going to waste any more time on you unless you put out. That is unless you pay him back for his invested time and effort by putting out right now. Think about it—unless you are a working girl—do you need that kind of attitude?

And if you say no again, and he stalks away muttering, “Stupid cockteasing slut,” what have you lost? Better to know that kind of bottom line while on your feet than to hear it when you’re flat on you back. The man who does not want to spend time on you beforehand isn’t going to want to spend time on the afterglow either.

The hard sell may not be a bad strategy for doing business, but it is bad business for a friendly love affair. The now-or-never approach is dangerous and counterproductive, whether it’s for sex or for vacuum cleaners being
sold door-to-door. If the relationship is worthwhile, it will continue to be so while you think it over.

Unless, of course, his regiment really does ride at dawn.

Sharing The Initiative

Courtship consists of a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood.
—Lawrence Sterne

The person who makes the first move toward a relationship takes a certain amount of risk. He must declare himself in some way or another so that the stranger knows he’s interested in becoming better acquainted with her. If this is done very casually, then little of his self-image is at stake; if it’s done more seriously and more deliberately, then the person taking the risk is more vulnerable.

In traditional dating-based courtship, it fell to the man to take all of this emotional risk. The first move was always his. I doubt that this has changed very much even today. The very first move is still likely to be a male move, and both people may be more comfortable with that.

However, courtship is no longer only a one-way process, or it need not be. It is nice to be courted and to passively let a new friendship happen; it is also nice to court and to be more assertive about it. The very best scenario is when the two roles are interchangeable from one point in time to the next as they are when friendships are formed between same-sex friends.

Victor Hugo observed that the first symptom of love in a young man is timidity, but the first symptom of love in a young woman is boldness. The two sexes have a tendency to approach, and each assume the qualities of the other. This move toward androgyny and toward mutuality is certainly conducive to better relationships and to fewer misunderstandings. Yet how to go about it is often less than obvious.

The Flirtation

The Flirtation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the initiation of relationships, as in other aspects of sexuality, there remain vestiges of the double standard. The first approach which is made shouldn’t be too forceful for either sex. But being obvious and blatant is more or less acceptable for almost all men—or at least all men who have a reasonable claim to being your social equal. While being blatant may be “acceptable,” it is becoming increasingly less enticing to women, and a more subtle approach is preferred. Being obvious and blatant is equally bad form for a woman—even an emancipated one. More importantly, it is unlikely to achieve your desired ends.

The woman who sets out to court a man has a double task: how to take the initiative, and how to take the initiative without seeming to take the initiative. She must be explicit without being obvious. She must be evocative without being provocative.

It’s no wonder women do not yet know how to act in this role, and men don’t know how to respond.

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