We all know how good the first kind feels, we can’t live without that. But what about the second kind? Conflict. Why are we relentlessly drawn to conflict, and why do we get off on it? It can be emotional or strategic. Conflict gets our juices flowing. It engages our competitive instincts, and captures our imagination. It’s a form of entertainment. We become invested in the process of winning what we want. We can become so invested, in fact, that we make ourselves sick with the wanting. It’s a craving, a longing so powerful that when we acquire the desired object, the high is amazing. The excitement is addictive.
Now, contrast that with the feelings you experience when your best guy friend and you decide to hook up. You know he’s had a thing for you for ages, and he is the nicest guy. He would make a great boyfriend, not to mention husband and father someday. It can feel decidedly anticlimactic. More of a blip than a bang.
If you’re a guy, perhaps there’s a girl you think is hot, and you have fantasized about getting her for yourself. You know lots of other guys want her, and she knows it too. If you could break her, tame her, that would be awesome. One night, you spit your best game at her. And she’s all about it. The next day, you’re getting text after text. It turns out she’s a Stage 5 clinger. Done and done.
We want the challenge. We need it, and the drama that goes with it, to value the prize. The difficulty arises when we get lazy about it. We allow ourselves to be drawn toward those individuals who are famous for providing that challenge. We know they’ll throw the biggest obstacles in our way, so if we can succeed, the win will be huge. We will be top dog. Of course, those people have had lots of practice. They are skilled at keeping you off balance. They have perfected their game.
Between the needy Stage 5 Clinger and the Psycho Bitch is the woman you could really have something with.
Between the adoring Let’s Just Be Friends Guy, and the Biggest Douchebag Ever is the man you can fall for in a good way.
Here’s my advice for all the men and women between those two dysfunctional extremes:
We are programmed to seek the best mate possible, and we will only commit if we feel sure that we are unlikely to do better elsewhere. The fear that we are leaving something on the table is real, and we require social proof, or validation, that this person has high mating value. Self-confidence is one important indicator of mating value, because it signals that a person expects to be successful based on prior experience.
Provide the right kind of security.
Women feel comfortable and secure when men are emotionally strong. We do not want to dominate a weak man, and we will test a man to assure ourselves that he has a backbone. By the same token, a woman with healthy self-esteem does not want to be pushed around.
Men feel comfortable when women give them room to be strong and male, but they don’t want a doormat either. They want to be able to respect a woman, and can only do so if she calls him out when necessary.
Convey a sense of independence.
Men and women alike are attracted to individuals who lead interesting and independent lives. We assign higher value to people who are not constantly available to us, at our beck and call. Stop broadcasting your interest. On the other hand, don’t pretend you are busy when someone wants to see you. BE busy in your life, but make time when you can for someone you are interested in.
Display real maturity.
A certain amount of strategy is useful in the initial attraction stage of a relationship. However, even among people who mean well, strategy can easily devolve into mind games and a continuous struggle for the upper hand. A mature individual will correct for this early on. You do this by resisting the urge to rise to the bait when it’s excessive, and by communicating this to the other person. If someone tries to make you jealous, don’t fall into that trap. Ask them why they felt the need to do that. If someone is running hot and cold, you take their “cold” lack of interest at face value. When they try to turn up the heat, you call them out on mixed messages, and indicate that you don’t have time for it.
Set boundaries on your own behavior as well. Getting up the balls to talk out something difficult is infinitely easier than untangling the misunderstandings that come from manipulating another person.
There is a pursuer and a distancer in every relationship, bar none. However, the best relationships are close to 50/50. When it’s 48/52, there’s just enough friction to keep things interesting. Roles can and do switch back and forth, so it’s not very important which side of the equation you sit on, if your relationship is in equilibrium.
Women will always be drawn to bad boys. What we really want, though, is a good man with a bit of bad boy attitude thrown in. Know your own worth, demonstrate that you know it, and you’ll find that women will like you just fine. We really don’t want to spend our lives in the Bad Boy Vortex.
Men will never be choosy about who they have sex with, but they are only likely to commit to a woman they respect. It’s your job to be worthy of respect by earning it. Hold out for what you want and deserve in a relationship, but be prepared to give as much as you demand. And it doesn’t hurt to be sexy as hell in bed, so channel your Psycho Bitch impulses there.