Darling, Do You Admire Me as Much as I Desire You?
Men just look at pictures, women actually read the ads
Posted April 24, 2010
"The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man." Madame de Stael
"The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring." Carl Sandburg.
Professor Yehshieo Leibovitz, the great scientist and scholar, who was married to his wife for over 60 years, was once asked for the secret of a long term love. He replied: "The woman should desire the man and the man should admire the woman's characteristics." I was surprised at his reply as I felt sure that the opposite is true.
My surprise is based on the following two considerations:
(A) I have claimed that the complex experience of romantic love involves two basic evaluative patterns referring to (a) attractiveness-that is, an attraction to external appearance, and (b) praiseworthiness-that is, positively appraising personal characteristics. Falling and staying in love requires the presence of both patterns.
(B) Many studies have found that attractiveness is more important in determining men's love for women than women's love for men.
In order to unfold my dilemma, let me discuss the second claim further.
Various cross-cultural studies indicate that, among the 37 cultures studied, there was no culture in which women cared more about the looks of their partners than men did.
In the same vein, it has been claimed that whereas vision is the most important sense underlying sexual desire in men, hearing is the most important for women. Vision is more closely related to physical attractiveness, while hearing involves a more comprehensive evaluation in which the intellectual aspect is prominent.
In the television series Seinfeld, Jerry is surprised that Elaine is interested in going on a blind date with a man to whom she has only spoken on the phone, while Elaine is surprised that Jerry wants to go on a "deaf date" with a woman whose picture he has seen, but to whom he has never spoken. For Jerry, like so many other men, the look is more important and hence he would not want to go on blind date; for Elaine, admiring the partner's characteristics is more important and hence she refuses to go on a "deaf date."
In light of the different relative weight of physical attractiveness (which can be quickly assessed through vision) and praiseworthiness (which can be discerned more easily through hearing), it is not readily apparent which date has more chance of success. It seems that in the short-term, a deaf date is more likely to succeed, as good looks are of more importance to a temporary partner, whereas in the long-term, a blind date may have a greater chance of success, as speaking with a person is more likely to reveal diverse characteristics. If we remember that the emotional system is more easily activated by visual than by verbal stimuli, whereas the intellect is more susceptible to verbal stimuli, we may conclude that women are more intellectual in this regard. It seems that men, who are generally less emotional than women, are more influenced by emotional aspects when falling in love.
The above gender difference concerning blind and deaf dates emerges in many other instances. Thus, personal ads placed by women who are seeking to attract men are most likely to advertise their beauty; a man seeking to attract a woman is more likely to mention his sincerity, friendship, and financial security. As one dating service director said: "Men just look at the pictures; women actually read the thing." Hence, no wonder that the best-looking girls in high school are more than ten times as likely to get married as the least-good looking, while the more intelligent girls have no such advantage. On the contrary, one comprehensive study found that the women who had never married were significantly more intelligent than the women who had married.
Another study found that although both men and women preferred good-looking partners, women considered that other qualities, such as status and money, could compensate for looks. This was not true when men evaluated women: Unattractive women were not preferred, no matter what their status. Some studies even indicate that many men prefer a spouse who makes less money than they do and whose occupational status is lower than theirs. But this relates to men's concern about their self-image, rather than to what they find attractive.
It is now time to return to the wise old man's surprising claim that the secret of a long-term loving relationship is that the woman desires her man and the man admires his woman's characteristics.
Taking into account the above considerations, we can conclude that women generally give less weight to the aspect of physical attractiveness and hence the issue of (sexual) desire is of less significance for them. If despite the lesser weight, a woman greatly desires her man it indicates that she is highly attracted to him and that is likely to be connected to her admiration of him as well. The same reasoning applies to men. If, despite the lesser weight men give to such characteristics, a man admires the characteristics of his woman, it indicates that he rates her characteristics highly and that is likely to be connected to his great desire for her.
Let me further explain my claim by referring to two factors: (a) the interconnections between the two basic evaluative patterns, and (b) the value of those patterns in the long term.
The interconnections between the two basic evaluative patterns in love are expressed in the fact that people are more attracted to those who they perceive to have greater quality. Thus, people who can provide us with social status, such as the rich, the famous, and the powerful, will generate more intense sexual desire and sexual satisfaction. There is also much evidence suggesting that attractiveness significantly influences ratings of intelligence, sociality, and morality. We may speak here about the attractiveness halo-what is beautiful is good. It has been well-established that beautiful people receive preferential treatment.
The interconnection between the two basic evaluative patterns in romantic love may greatly boost a person's self-image if his or her partner highly evaluates what is generally regarded as less important to him or her. And such enhancement of one's self-image is highly important for one's happiness and hence for one's satisfaction in the current situation.
In light of the fact that one's characteristics are more important in the long run than one's looks, it is not surprising that age may be a factor in the above gender differences. Thus, in a sample of adults between the ages of 22 and 57, it was found that as women get older they are more likely to report physical arousal and less likely to report love as their motivation for sexual intercourse, whereas the reverse pattern was true for men.
It may be the case that the initial attitudes of men and women concerning the role of each evaluative pattern (namely, attractiveness and praiseworthiness) in intimate relationships are, in later life, found to be a kind of idealization and hence there is a later trend toward a more balanced attitude regarding these patterns. The most significant kind of balancing is that in which in later life, each gender highly evaluates the aspect that they had earlier typically under-evaluated in the other gender.
To sum up, the presence of the two basic evaluative patterns in romantic love, attraction and praiseworthiness of characteristics, is important not merely for the generation of such love, but for its long duration. But long-term love requires not merely the presence of such patterns, but also a proper balance between them. The best way to achieve this is to increase the weight of each gender's less significant pattern-and the best way for that to happen is for women to desire their men and for men to admire the characteristics of their women.
After all then, it seems that the wise old man was correct: An important secret for maintaining a long-term loving relationship is that women desire their men while men admire their women.
The above considerations can be encapsulated in the following statement that a woman might express to her man: "Darling, my desirable, attractive, sexy man, can you please admire more my virtuous characteristics (even though I know how great I am in bed)? It would enhance my self-image considerably."