Bond Scare My roommate and I are best friends, and we’ve lived together for four years. Recently, she got into a pretty serious relationship, and it seems her priorities have totally shifted. Is a best friend always second place to a boyfriend? Or are they both of equal value? — Hurt A female best friend can do a lot to make you happy – even give you a baby – though she’ll have to wait till the NICU nurse gets busy and kidnap one for you. It can feel like a betrayal to be downgraded in your bestie’s life when a serious boyfriend comes around. However, evolution’s ultimately to blame. “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed” by evolution to preserve our genes by passing them to generations after us,” explains biologist Richard Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene.” Simply put, we’re each a big flesh bus driven by our genes, subconsciously steered to do their bidding. Psychiatrist and evolutionary medicine founder Randolph Nesse sums up the grim reality: “Evolution “does not give a fig about our happiness.” It likewise doesn’t care whether we have friends, save for how they might help us survive and pass on our genes. This sounds cold, but understanding the evolutionary reality can help you stay in your friend’s life and keep her in yours – perhaps without taking her shift in priorities personally. I use that understanding...Read More
Category: Advice Goddess
Thin Line Between Love and Bait My relationship with a man I’d been dating was getting serious. His previous relationship ended when his girlfriend dumped him. Last month, he ran into her and told her he was seeing me. She began crying and begged him to take her back. He was torn about what to do. I told him his feelings for her weren’t romantic but stemmed from a sense of obligation, and that he should be angry at her for trying to make him feel bad about moving on with someone else. He still went back to her, and now they’re engaged. I’m furious. Why would he choose to be with someone who dumped him? He could’ve moved forward with someone who really cares, with whom he could have a relationship based on love, not guilt (over making this other woman cry). How can I prevent this from happening to me again? — Outraged We sometimes explain things to ourselves in ways that don’t so much lay out the facts as provide an airbag for our feelings. Take a question I often hear from readers: “Why did he/she stop returning my calls?” Helpfully, many suggest the most likely explanation right in their email; something like, “I just know they were kidnapped by the Russian mob.” Right. And they’re probably still tied up in an abandoned warehouse, being tortured...Read More
When Hair Gel Met Sally I’m a 28-year-old woman. My boyfriend of three months is a great person, and I started to think he might be The One. However, he got a new haircut – one that had him using excessive gel. Looking at him, I felt a wave of revulsion and needed to get away…permanently. I don’t understand the sudden change in my feelings. — Disgusted You, like many women, want a man who appears to have the grooming routine of a golden lab: running across the lawn when the sprinklers are on and then shaking off. Many women find it disturbing when a man spends more time in the bathroom or uses more “product” than they do. Evolutionary psychology research suggests we women evolved to seek a man who will protect us – as opposed to one who’ll fight us to the death for the last of our poshbrand conditioner. Sure, hair gel could be the “gateway” goop to your dude dolling up with Fenty eyeshadow, contour foundation and sparkly self-tanner by the weekend. But chances are he just went heavy on the stuff because he’s a first-timer at using it. And chances are your sudden extreme reaction is not about him but about you – and probably your panicking at the prospect of commitment. Commitment involves finding not the perfect right person but a right enough person at...Read More
They Blow Up So Fast I’m a man in my 30s, and I’m looking to settle down and start a family. I was falling in love with the woman I’ve been seeing for six months, who seems lovely, intelligent and kind. Recently, I arrived at her place early and overheard her arguing with her mother on the phone. She was yelling, swearing, and being very nasty. I’m close to my parents and can’t conceive of speaking to them this way. She never mentions her parents, beyond saying she isn’t close with her mother. She’s only been sweet and doting to me, and she seems well-liked by her friends and co-workers. Could she have hidden anger issues? — Shocked “Till death do us part” tends to come earlier than expected if your wife’s idea of marital compromise is either you say, “Yes, Dear” or she garrotes you with the wire on a cat toy. It’s understandable you’re worried there’s a rage-filled, profanity-spewing lady monster just under the sweet girlfriend veneer. However, because someone expresses anger in an ugly way at another person doesn’t necessarily mean: 1) They are out of control; or 2) They will express themselves this way with everyone. (To be fair, it can mean one or both of these things.) Anger often gets a bum rap, demonized as a “toxic,” “negative” emotion. Aristotle knew better, suggesting only fools...Read More
Platonic Bomb A guy I know grates on me because he only has female friends. He apparently tried to get involved with each of them at some point but got rejected. Why doesn’t he find male friends instead of preying on women (under the guise of friendship) who probably trust him not to hit on them? — Disgusted This guy probably lives in eternal hope about each female friend, dreaming of the day he can be of service when she drops something on his floor – like her panties. Though you don’t mention him trying to roofie his dreams into reality, his behavior probably “grates” on you because you take a less sexually opportunistic approach to your friendships with men. We humans “are disposed … to imagine that other minds are much like our own,” explains anthropologist Donald Symons, and they often are. However, we’re prone to assume they should be like our own, so when someone thinks differently, we tend to see them as wrong (and maybe kind of awful) and not just different. Men and women (and male and female minds) are more alike than different. However, our differing physiologies – like which sex gets pregnant and needs to guard against having to raise a kid solo – led to the evolution of psychological differences, like women’s greater choosiness in whom they’ll have sex with. Though both men and...Read More
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