Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Do Women Trade Beauty For Commitment?

Is there a marketplace for romance?

University of Notre Dame Professor of Sociology Elizabeth McClintock has  published a new study on the effect of physical attractiveness in the courtship of young adults in the scientific journal Biodemography and Social Biology. Professor McClintock used a market model to explain  the romantic formation of heterosexual relationships as  "a competitive, two sided matching process in which individuals implicitly trade their assets for those of a mate, trying to find the most desireable partner and most rewarding relationship that they can get, given their own assets." 

Interestingly Professor McClintock found that more beautiful women had greater assets in the "partner market"  which they spent controlling the degree of commitment and forming more permanent exclusive relationships than one night stands. In other words beautiful women had an asset that men desired. These men were willing to give up control of the relationship and forgo sexual gratification in deference to their potential partner if necessary to secure the romantic union.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

It appears from the study that beautiful women have a greater number of men interested in them so they can set the terms of the relationship and, in this era of Friends With Benefits and being Joined At The Hip, take things slower than less attractive women. This would be a good development for attractive women because they are taking longer to get to know their potential partner before becoming physically committed in relationships. Unfortunately this  waiting may be short-circuited by men who use physical attraction, charm and approval seeking to convince these women that they have met their Prince Charming or loveable Bad Boy.

Many American men voluntarily give control of the relationship to attractive women in return for acceptance and sexual relations. They bury their needs, feelings and goals to accomodate their potential mate's. These men surrender unconditionally due to their desire for sex and their acute fear of being alone. They would rather be in a poor relationship than no relationship. But there is a terrible long term cost to their short term stairway to heaven. This century-long process of submersion of the male in the marriage is the cause of the unprecedented failure of heterosexual relations in 2013 America.

It wasn't always like this. Men who ceded control of the relationship used to be referred to as "hen-pecked" and they were a source of humor and derision a century ago. Back then, society , for all its faults, had it right on courtship. It was often a long process lasting months or even years with its stated goal of linking two people of compatible personalities and shared interests in a union that would last a lifetime. Caution in marriage was key as the married couple had to live and work together as a team in close, primitive quarters with constant hardships and almost immediate parenthood. If you didn't get along with your partner, there was no escaping them.

Today many American men are selecting female partners with little regard to compatibility. When these men deny their true self and give control of the relationship to the woman to win her hand, there is a tremendous cost to them personally. A deep-seated resentment smolders within their hearts at this sacrifice of self for companionship. As a result, a steady corrosion of the couple's hot burning romance occurs over time.

After the thrill of the physical part of the relationship fades after 1-2 years, the woman may discover that her Prince Charming or loveable Bad Boy is one of two kinds of frogs. The man she had bonded with begins to display his true self as either a misogynist monster who openly despises her  (OJ Simpson or Charlie Sheen), or as a compliant wimp ( Senator John Edwards or David Letterman) who observes the letter of the marriage law but secretly yearns to be free of a woman of clashing temperaments and nothing in common save children and a shared history. She may elect to settle for a low level of happiness  and stay in the marriage, but either way the woman is  robbed of a mutually satisfying and personally fulfilling relationship of two equal partners.

From President Clinton on down to the man on the street, many 21st Century American men have learned that there is no need for lifetime compatibility in the modern companionate marriage model based on the subjective value of personal fulfillment. By faking compatibility, these "mirage men" pursue marriage as a short-term goal. Once the romance in the marriage fizzles, the partners can cheat on each other in the marriage, numb their pain in over 100 different addictions, bury themselves in their work or family duties,  or end the marriage and move on to new partners. The result has been a significant weakening of the family unit, the foundation of our country.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

more...

Subscribe to Repairing Relationships

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?