How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sexual attraction’

Resisting Chauvinism In Everyday Life

The plain English of the politest address of a gentleman to a lady is, I am now, dear madam, the humblest of your servants. Be so good as to allow me to be your Lord and Master.
—Samuel Richardson

On the one hand, chauvinistic males are everywhere. On the other hand, you’re advised not to try to change a man with whom you are having an affair. How then are you to live with chauvinism? The answer is simple: change yourself, not him.

The secret to male domination, at one level or another, is that it’s domination by consent. If he says, “Be so good as to allow me to be your lord and master,” you don’t have to allow it. Women agree to being placed in a secondary role; they submit to being governed. If you don’t comply, he cannot make you obey.

To this generalization, there are two important exceptions. First, obviously, he can make you do anything he wants if you have to deal with physical domination and abuse. You can do nothing in that situation except to leave as soon as possible. Second, and less obviously, he can make you do many things if you are economically dependent upon him. If, however, you have your own resources inside or outside marriage, then most of the domination that is involved is a combination of traditional authority and psychological intimidation.

I'll take my chauvinism with a hint of barbari...

I’ll take my chauvinism with a hint of barbarism please! (Photo credit: jeremyclarke)

While each new relationship brings out in a personality something slightly different than any other relationship, the problems you encounter with one man often tend to reoccur in subsequent ones. A young woman friend of mine used to wail to me as she found herself in the midst of all-too-familiar hassles, “Why does my life keep repeating itself?” My less than sympathetic response to her, “Because, my dear friend, you keep making the same mistakes!” A new love affair gives you a chance to start over. A new love affair gives you a chance to stop making the same mistakes . . . as long as you remain self-aware of your own previous detrimental patterns.

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Don’t Play Pygmalion

Men will never disappoint us if we observe two rules: 1) to find out what they are; 2) to expect them to be just that.
—George Iles

Some people view their intimate associates as promising material from which they can make interesting people. Like the legendary Pygmalion, they want to create others in their own image. This is called teaching or helping or guiding or improving or a number of other euphemisms, but it still boils down to trying to change the other person. People, however, resist being changed . . . especially adult males.

The quest for change has two pitfalls, both equally serious. It is possible, but rare, that you do succeed in changing a person. When that happens, you may have created someone other than the kind of person who attracted you in the first place. Barbra Streisand asks rhetorically, “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married?”

Duets (Barbra Streisand album)

Duets (Barbra Streisand album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second pitfall, and one infinitely more common, is that you will keep expecting and hoping that he will change; but of course, he never does. There’s a continual sense of rage, which comes down to the demand, “Why can’t you be different than you are?” If you want a man who is different, go and find yourself a different man. Don’t waste his time and yours to everyone’s distress and disillusionment, trying to make a better model citizen of the one whom you have. This is one case in which the most appropriate solution is “love him or leave him.”

When you pick a lover, you pick someone who is as close as possible to your ideal man, and remember your ideal lover may be very different from your ideal boyfriend or husband. Once you have done that, learn to accept him for what he is and insist that he accept you in return. Lovers should be involved in trying to discover each other rather than trying to reinvent each other in a new image.

Beware of the Great Ghost Lover

There is sanctuary in reading, sanctuary in formal society, in the company of old friends, and in the giving of officious help to strangers, but there is no sanctuary in one bed from the memory of another.
—Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

There’s nothing quite so wondrous, quite so awesome, quite so interesting as the first time you fall in love. It may not be with the first man whom you take as a lover . . . indeed, such emotional monogamy is more likely the exception than the rule. The intensity is partly due to ignoring or refusing to accept the possibility that such a feeling can end—not only on his part but also on yours.

If, in addition, the thrill of first love is combined with the thrill of first making love and if that initiation is a satisfactory experience, then it sets up the conditions for a powerful kind of imprinting. Newly hatched goslings will imprint on any moving object they happen to see—a moving wooden cube, the heel of their keeper, a ball of wool—and they will follow that object with all the persistence and devotion that nature intended them to bestow on the mother goose that hatched them. In the same way, a woman whose first love experience coincides with her first sexual experience, or at least her
first erotic and wonderful sexual experience, may for the rest of her days be imprinted upon a certain kind of man.

The man who was your first love may provide an idealized model for masculinity in general. If the first eyes that you loved loved you back, and said so, were let’s say, slate gray, then twenty years later, slate-gray eyes across a crowded room will still seem more riveting than they actually are. If the first kisses of great passion were enclosed in a full beard, then twenty years later, a full beard is still a special male plumage of particular appeal. Whether he was tall or short, handsome or gnome-like, muscular or slender, there’s a body type, a body image, which continues to hold for your extraordinary potential appeal.

English: Man with beard sleeping.

English: Man with beard sleeping. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If, by chance, you meet someone who seems almost the same as your first great ghost lover from the past, he’ll almost win your heart just by standing there and breathing in and out. Beware. Looking the same doesn’t at all mean that he’s the same. You pick him not for what he is but for the man he reminds you of, which isn’t very flattering to him when he figures it out. You will then project on to him the other traits of the great ghost lover and will be duly disappointed when, quite naturally, he doesn’t live up to these uncanny expectations.

If you find your first great love reincarnated, recognize the source of your attraction. Talk to him if you can’t resist the temptation to do so or if you should want to spoil your illusion with a little reality shock. Take his picture. But don’t take him to your bed in an attempt to go back in time. Even if he looks the same, he won’t be the same and you’ll both be disappointed—you, by his failure to mimic a vanished man he has never met, and he, by your failure to appreciate the fine and unique person that he, in fact, is.

And while you are thinking about your great ghost lover, remember the words of warning from the often-quoted author Bill Vaughan: “It’s never safe to be nostalgic about something until you’re absolutely certain there’s no chance of it coming back.”

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.

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.

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.

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