Gents: Never Tell a Woman You Love Her! (Unless…)

Posted: November 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

When I was only 19 years old, my uncle he was happy to give me advice on how to handle relationships with women. I’ll never forget one piece of wisdom he imparted: “Never tell a woman you love her.” Why would anyone say such a cold and heartless thing to a young and impressionable fellow? (Who was almost embarrassed to admit that he had already told his girlfriend “I love you” hundreds of times)? Many years have gone but I did not, to the best of my recollection, ever pass on the sage advice from my late Uncle. But now his advice helps me to understand his psychology.

Sometimes back I asked some of my friends to imagine they had just started a new romance with someone they found “attractive and interesting.” If you were a subject, you’d hear a scenario describing lots of things couples do together, including eating meals and meeting friends with your new partner. Half the time you’d hear that you and your partner had already been sexually intimate, the other half the time you’d imagine a partner with whom you had not had sex. One month into the relationship, you’d imagine your new partner saying: “I love you.” Next you’d be asked how happy it would make you to hear this confession of love (on a scale ranging from 0 (“not at all”) to 7 (“very much”)).

You’d also be asked about your “socio sexual orientation,” filling out a questionnaire to determine whether you are someone who is unrestricted (who thinks sex without love or commitment is a fun idea) or restricted (someone who only really enjoys sexual intimacy in the context of a committed relationship).  

Unrestricted men have a strange double standard about hearing a woman say the words “I love you.” If a woman professes love for an unrestricted man before they have had sex, it makes him happy. Why?  Perhaps because it is taken a signal that he is better positioned to experience carnal lovemaking in the near future. If on the other hand, a woman tells an unrestricted man “I love you” after they have already had sex, it makes him less happy. Why? Perhaps because unrestricted guys are hoping to take the sexual benefit without having to pay a commitment cost. 

For more restricted/monogamous men, it works differently. They are, like women in general, happier to hear a partner say “I love you” after sex than before. Men are generally more inclined to value sex outside a committed relationship than are women. 

I asked people their perceptions of whether men or women are generally more likely to say “I love you” first. The common perception was that women are much more likely to make such a verbal commitment. But the common perception is wrong. Men are quite a bit more likely to actually say “I love you” first. 

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, biologists note that females typically are required to invest more resources in their offspring (minimally carrying a fetus and nursing in the case of humans and other mammals). Hence, any mating decision is costly, and females tend to make such decisions with great care. Male mammals, who have potentially less to lose, are less selective in entering into sexual contacts. When a man says: “I love you” it indicates a likely willingness to invest more than just the time it takes to implant sperm, and implies he will stay around to raise the children. But because such verbal commitments can be broken, women are more suspicious of the accompanying intentions, and will often choose to wait and see whether there are other signs of continuing commitment before risking a pregnancy. 

As uncle said: “Saying: ‘I love you’ is a negotiation process; essentially, you’re making an offer. And from an evolutionary-economics perspective, the decision to make that offer is different for men than it is for women. In the romantic marketplace, women want to minimize the risk of selling too low, whereas men want to minimize the risk of not bidding high enough. For men, the biggest mistake would be to not communicate commitment and lose the relationship. For women, the biggest mistake would be to impulsively trust her partner’s declaration of ‘I love you’ and gamble on a sexual relationship without the man’s investment.”

Back to uncle who advised me never to say “I love you” to a woman. Living in Dar es Salaam these years, with a giant population of single available women, and a new spirit of sexual freedom, this leading man on a tall horse is able to play an unrestricted strategy more easily than most men. Indeed, handsome men are more likely to adopt an unrestricted strategy, and other friends of mine suggests that such strategies are more successful for such men when there is a high ratio of available women. 

For most regular-looking guys living in places where the desirable women have men quite willing to commit to them, withholding love and commitment might be a formula for celibacy. So better advice to all you regular guys, when you start falling head over heels for a woman, is to go ahead and say “I love you” (but only if you mean it, of course).

Noor I remain

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