A Case for Monogomy
Research also argues that there is something somewhat protective about “letting ourselves go” a bit when we couple up, because it reduces outside competition. Historically, this tended not to happen before marriage because until then anything could happen. In more recent decades, it has been happening more even before marriage, attributed to fewer people getting married and increased in common-law relationships.
Sometimes people stay really fit and healthy
There is of course no single answer though, because it has also been found that people will remain fit and especially healthy to impress their mate’s peers in hopes that this will make their partner value them more. This does actually happen when the partner is not threatened by their mate’s success, but completely backfires if they are.
Neither letting ourselves go, nor staying ever-ready to switch mates seem like viable long term solutions. As we age, competition will necessarily get tougher, no matter how many status symbols men have or beauty creams, spanx and plastic surgeries women may have. From this lens, any intimate union, whether marriage or common-law, will inevitably become a loosing enterprise. Each partner will constantly feel they are on the verge of loosing the other.
So it seems that as we age we are pooched…UNLESS there is a built in mechanism where when we INVEST in something or someone we value it more. Thankfully there is. Studies have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated that when we need to earn, work or invest in membership of a group we value it more. The CATCH is that we won’t invest unless we feel emotionally and physically safe.
Emotionally safe means that we feel comfortable sharing our opinions, feelings, asking to have our needs met, having disagreements
Physically safe means that we are free from violence, threats (incl. that you will leave when you are upset, or be kicked out, or divorce etc). It means that even when upset, drunk, in private or public, you don’t expose yourself or others to dangerous or potentially intimidating activities (like driving fast when angry, throwing things, getting in people’s faces and yelling, making threatening gestures etc). It also means that we have our basic needs for shelter and protection met. We are confident our tribe will have our backs & protect us.
Imagine you go to the circus and see some incredibly talented 7 year old acrobats. They are really talented! When you turn to look at your kids, most of us don’t look at them and think, geez, maybe I should trade them in, or “what a disappointment”. Instead we can appreciate the acrobats talents and still be incomparably enamoured with our own kids at the same time, because it is not a competition. No matter what anyone else can offer, it could not compare to the value of our own kids. When we both INVEST in our relationship and work to establish and maintain emotional and physical safety, competition disappears and with it the fear disappears.
Without fear, we become free to make mistakes, to focus on
So, cole’s notes, invest in your relationships, whether they are romantic partnerships or close friendships, work to make them emotionally and physically safe and reap the rewards!
Note: This post was informed by research presented in “Last Ape Standing”