“Real Life” Romance Isn’t Always Romantic
Besides talking about romance in fiction, at Sweet Savage Flame, we’re touching on romance in real life. In this latest entry to our “Real Life Romance” discussion, we’re addressing the issue of what men and women search for in life partners. As members of two sexes, are we hard-wired to seek out mates for different reasons? What does the role of society and government play in relationships? Is love impossible in real life and merely a game of giving and taking?
(Note: This article speaks in generalities. It in no way presents a complete picture of the complicated relationship issues between men and women.)
What Do Men & Women Want in Partners?
If you’re brave enough to delve into the depths of the manosphere, you’ll hear a lot of talk about hypergamy, usually as an invective against females. Female hypergamy is the idea that women choose mates from a more established background, be it social, financial, and/or educational. This is both to improve their rank in society and ensure their children will be provided for.
Those in “red-pilled” circles claim that human males are innately polygamous, and only societal pressures keep them faithful. They also claim hypergamy doesn’t apply to men. Reality is far more complex.
Some men (and women) choose not to settle down, preferring a rotating field of multiple sexual partners. Often there are no expectations of a committed relationship. Other men (and women) seek out companionships because they enjoy the company of an intimate partner. They can be serial monogamists or even choose to mate for life.
Men are hypergamous, but not in the way women are. While women look for partners with greater wealth, power, fame, stability, etc., in many cases, men seek females who are more attractive than they are, and to a certain extent, younger.
However, these are not hard and fast rules because the environment plays a significant role, along with an inconvenient emotion we humans are afflicted with. Love.
In a civilization with a large middle class and comfortable-living standards that almost all adults can achieve, other factors come into play when choosing a life partner. Will the male stick around to help care for the children? Does he equitably distribute the fruits of his labor with his family? Is he even-tempered, faithful, affectionate? Are the two partners sexually attracted to one another? And have they formed a pair-bond, i.e., love?
Of course, this is not a perfect scenario, as infidelity and divorce exist. Yet American divorce rates are not the highly inflated 50% many claim. First marriages have a 65% chance of lasting until death, so around one-third end in divorce. Second marriages–where a partner was previously divorced–go the other way, with 65% terminating in the courtroom.
Upper & middle-class Americans have a divorce rate of about 30%. On the other side, divorce rates skyrocket for the working and lower classes, at 41% & 46%, respectively. Fewer upper & middle-class pairings result in children born outside of marriage (only 13% compared to 36% working class, 64% poor).
In a culture where few men have the financial means to provide for a family or lack the desire to be active fathers in their children’s lives, the government–or whoever controls the system–must provide for these needy children and women.
Poor women have about double the fertility rates of upper and middle-class women. One can argue about access to sex education and birth control, but other issues are at play besides those. When poor families are denied welfare benefits because they consist of a two-parent household, it’s not surprising to see marriage rates decline.
Of course, romantic entanglements will still occur, human nature being what it is. In numerous cases, women choose men not necessarily for income status or stability but for perceived social status. Good looks, an “Alpha” demeanor” (i.e., confidence, strength, independence), and how many other women he attracts all hold great allure. Men on the lower echelons are faced with few dating options within their community.
In a civilization where only a few men have access to wealth and status, women must compete harder for a “high-quality mate.” This leads to polygamy, be it sanctified by law or religion or simply a casual pairing-up. Women have a lower social status in polygamous societies than in monogamous ones. They must share a husband and father with other females and their progeny. Increased divorce percentages, concubinage, lower marital rates, a high number of single-parent homes are symptoms of an environment that does not value monogamy–be it serial or life-long.
How Reality Relates to Romance
Promoters of Game Theory treat dating as an antagonistic interaction where one person tries to get the better of another person. This need not be so. Dating, or courting, if you prefer, is not a calculated exchange of sex for money or youth for stability. Two people can share mutual enjoyment in each other’s company for whatever reasons. They may cherish one another so strongly they wish to spend their lives together. Not out of primal necessity or utility, just a desire to share joy.
While we humans are animals and evolutionary mating habits still hold residual sway, technological, medical, and social advancements have changed the playing field. In a culture that has a thriving middle class where basic requirements are easily met, a woman need not have a partner who out-earns her. Declining birth rates are not always a sign of a society in peril but may signify value for long-term investments in relationships and child care.
Selecting the best partner for yourself is more than just choosing big muscles, a fat wallet, or a tiny waist and late birth year.
Carnal pursuits will always drive some people, yet others may have little interest in them, preferring a solitary existence. In between these groups are those folks searching for a special someone.
Few enter into commitments with a pessimistic outlook. There’s hope that perhaps this person is the “one.”
Whether readers of romance novels expect pure fantasy or some grit in their books, we all seek love stories that end optimistically.
That spark of hope is what brings comfort, no matter what our realities are.