Girls are complicated.
After spending years in school obsessing over the opposite gender, we can honestly confess: we don’t really understand women and their actions. (To be fair, girls probably find guys to be just as confusing.)
Why are girls crazy about commitment?… And why are they attracted to the bad boys (who offer zero commitment)?… Why do some girls cheat on their partners?… WHAT DO WOMEN REALLY WANT?…
We love our wives/ girlfriends but unless we try to understand our similarities and differences, we will suffer from loneliness, disappointment and heartbreak.
Sadly, there are no easy answers. To understand girls, we need to dig a little deeper and understand how we all evolved.
We will also go over some tips, based on the latest science, for a happy lifelong relationship.
Long Long Ago
According to the book The Evolution of Desire, evolution is difficult for us to understand. This is because of how we experience time.
Most things in our lives happen very quickly: in seconds, minutes, hours, days, sometimes months, and occasionally years. Evolution, on the other hand, happens over thousands of generations in teeny-tiny increments.
You cannot observe evolution in your own lifetime. To understand it, you need to use your imagination and see our ancestors—their lives, struggles and opportunities.
In our fast-changing world, it might seem silly to think about our past. But, I want you to consider 2 simple facts.
FACT 1: We Are NOT Adapted to Modern Society
We have lived in cities for one thousand years (that’s just a blink of an eye). But for more than a million years we have lived as hunter-gatherers.
During all this time, our minds and bodies have evolved slowly through the process of evolution. In fact, evolution is a very slow process and it can’t keep up with the rapid changes in our environment.
This means that we are stuck with the brains of hunter-gatherers, which are not adapted to the conditions of modern society.
FACT 2: Our Psychology is Designed for REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS
We are all descendants of humans who were interested and successful in having children.
Because guess what: early humans who were uninterested or unsuccessful in having children, didn’t leave any descendants!
So, our psychology has been shaped by millions of years of evolution to be successful at having children. Even if we don’t consciously want to have children, we have tastes and preferences that maximise reproductive success.
We now have the proper tools to understand our love lives and partners a whole lot better. Let’s go over the 7 Confusing Aspects of Female Psychology:
- Why do Guys Charm and Girls Choose?
- What do Girls Want?
- What do Guys Want?
- Why do Girls and Guys (Sometimes) Cheat?
- Why are Girls Jealous?
- Why are Guys Jealous?
- How to Get Your Happily Ever After?
1. Why do Guys Charm and Girls Choose?
Something super obvious: Girls are very picky when it comes to whom they are attracted to.
Guys are much less choosy about who we find desirable. (For example, men often express the willingness to have sex with an attractive stranger, whereas most women refuse anonymous encounters.)
Put another way, guys charm and girls choose. As any evolutionary biologist could tell you, this is because of how reproduction happens: biologically, reproduction is expensive for women and cheaper for men.
When a woman has sex with a man, she risks getting pregnant. She would carry the fetus in her belly for nine months, breastfeed the baby for as long as three to four years, and take care of the child for more than a decade until it reaches maturity.
In our evolutionary past, women who were highly selective about whom they had sex with, ensured they had children at the right time and with the right partner. Choosy women were reproductively more successful than women who were not selective.
As a result, girls today have inherited choosiness from our ancestors—Girls are interested in finding a quality partner (not in their quantity of partners).
The opposite story holds true for men. A man loses only a couple of minutes of his time by having sex. In our evolutionary past, men who were able to have children with multiple women had more reproductive success than men who had only one partner.
As a result, guys today have inherited a desire for variety from our ancestors—Guys are interested in increasing their quantity of partners.
To be sure, the dynamics of reproduction today have changed due to birth control technology, paternity tests and child support laws. But evolution is a slow process (requiring millions of years). Our psychology hasn’t changed much even though our environment has changed drastically.
2. What do Girls Want?
We all know girls are picky. But what criteria do they use to pick their partners?
Girls choose their partners based on two sets of qualities, Lover Qualities and Provider Qualities.
Lover Qualities: These qualities are indicators of good genes which are essential for having healthy children. Indicators of good genes include athleticism, height, strength, symmetrical features, high energy level, mental sharpness and social skills.
Women seek men with Lover Qualities so that they can pass these qualities on to their children.
Provider Qualities: These qualities are indicators of parental capability. Indicators of parental ability include a willingness to commit, ambition, having wealth and social status.
Women seek men with Provider Qualities so that their children can get a good start in life and reach their full genetic potential.
(In today’s age, women can secure resources that compare or even exceed those of the average man. But again, evolution is a slow process and our psychology hasn’t adapted to these modern changes.)
For a successful long-term relationship, a guy needs to be a good lover and provider. For affairs and hookups, on the other hand, girls care much more about Lover Qualities.
The Response of Guys
Throughout history, women have preferred men with Lover and Provider Qualities. This has put evolutionary pressure on men to respond to what women want.
As a result of women’s preferences, men tend to compete with one another for social status. Men are also obsessed with acquiring and displaying resources. (Think flashy cars and watches.)
Some men specialize as lovers—they have many partners and invest little in each. Others do the opposite and specialize as providers—they channel all their resources, time and attention on one woman and her children.
3. What do Guys Want?
Guys are not as picky as girls and they care more about the quantity of their partners. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have any preferences!
Men choose women based on their reproductive capacity, i.e., their ability to have children. A woman’s ability to have children, in turn, depends on 2 things: youth and health.
For ancestral men, the easiest way to judge the fertility of women would have been through visual signs—full lips, smooth skin, clear eyes, lustrous hair, good muscle tone, facial symmetry, and the absence of disease.
In terms of body shape, there are wide variations in men’s preferences across cultures and periods. (Some cultures prefer a slim build while others a plump build.)
However, in most cultures, men prefer women with relatively large breasts and wide hips. These preferences can easily be explained—in ancestral times, death of babies due to a shortage of mothers’ milk and narrow birth canals must have been common.
The Response of Girls
Throughout our evolutionary history, men have had to adapt to women’s preferences; and women, in turn, had to adapt to men’s preferences.
Women have responded to men’s preferences by highlighting their youth and health. They have done so through an interest in clothing and fashion, makeup and anti-ageing products. In extreme cases, they opt for cosmetic surgery as well.
4. Why do Girls and Guys (Sometimes) Cheat?
Somethings about relationships are not nice.
But we still need to understand them. Our goal here is neither to criticize nor to praise human behaviour.
There is nothing nice about being cheated on by the person you loved and trusted. It isn’t something people like to talk about. Yet, the harsh truth is that it does happen in some relationships.
Before we discuss why people cheat, let’s go over some facts of life.
We don’t always get what we want. The partner we seek may already be committed or may not be interested in us. In such a case we employ an old and effective strategy called compromise. We choose the best partner available to us.
People change. And a lot can happen in a lifetime. The partner whom you were once so attracted to, could lose value in your eyes. In tragic cases, they may even become physically or psychologically abusive.
(The complicated scenarios which lead people to infidelity have been explained in the book Sperm Wars.)
With these facts in mind, we can see that girls and guys cheat for different reasons.
Why do Girls (Sometimes) Cheat?
Once again let’s look into our evolutionary past…
Suppose there lived a woman whose partner had great Provider Qualities. He showed every sign of being a doting father who would shower the resources, attention and emotional support needed to raise healthy children.
But, in a cruel twist of fate, the same partner completely lacked Lover Qualities (indicators of good genes).
Our imaginary woman could greatly increase her reproductive success by having a secret affair with another man, chosen specifically for his Lover Qualities. If she could keep her affair a secret, she would get the best of both worlds: her children would benefit from the best genes and the best parenting available.
(This theory is supported by scientific research. Women are more likely to have a casual encounter during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. To check out this research and learn a whole lot more, have a look at The Evolution of Desire.)
In a modern context, a girl may decide to be unfaithful to her partner if he lacks Lover Qualities. She would likely pick a guy who displays excellent indicators of good genes.
Why do Guys (Sometimes) Cheat?
Ancestral men sometimes cheated on their partners to simply increase the number of their children. A man could increase his reproductive success by having children with multiple women.
Whereas women cheated to have better children, men cheated to have more children. An ancestral man, however, would have been able to cheat only if there was another woman willing to engage in a casual affair with him.
In a modern context, a guy may be unfaithful to his partner provided another girl is interested in a casual encounter and the risk of him being caught was low.
5. Why are Girls Jealous?
Humans have always lived in groups, and the risk of a partner cheating on you was always present.
To protect ourselves from the consequences of unfaithful partners, we evolved a psychological strategy, called jealousy.
Any ancestral woman who had an unfaithful partner faced major risks. The cheating partner may redirect his resources, attention and emotional support away from the woman and her kids, and toward another woman and her kids.
Women who got furious at signs of unfaithfulness and acted strongly to prevent it had greater reproductive success than non-jealous women.
In short, ancestral women were jealous to ensure the commitment of their partners’ support. Modern women have inherited this jealousy from their ancestors.
6. Why are Guys Jealous?
Men are jealous because of the problem of uncertain paternity—a woman is 100% sure that her children are hers, but a man is not.
An ancestral man who had an unfaithful partner faced the ultimate reproductive risk. He may devote a lifetime of investment and effort into raising another man’s child!
Hence, jealous and possessive men had greater reproductive success by avoiding the consequences of a cheating partner. Modern men have inherited this jealousy from our ancestors.
There is one last difference in jealousy between girls and guys. Girls get jealous over emotional cheating (“Do you love her?”) and guys get jealous over sexual cheating (“Did you have sex with him?”).
7. How to Get Your Happily Ever After?
Now you know our evolutionary story. And some of it is pretty dark—from selfish infidelity to disturbing jealousy. But there is a happy ending to it after all…
We are not slaves to the roles that evolution has given us. But understanding the complex dynamics of relationships can help you be successful in a long-term relationship. For example, by knowing what causes jealousy, you can create a jealousy-free relationship.
Although, I have focused on our differences, girls and guys are actually similar in many many ways. We have both lived and flourished for millions of years, together, in our beautiful home called Planet Earth. We are similar but not the same—and understanding these differences is a positive step.
The crowning achievement of humankind is that a man and a woman can bring all their resources into a lifelong partnership defined by the emotion of love.
Now that you understand girls, you can take the necessary steps for a lifelong happy relationship. For these guidelines, we turn once again to The Evolution of Desire:
- Have children. They align the interests of a man and woman, and foster enduring bonds.
- Remain faithful. Cheating on your partner opens up conflicting interests within a relationship.
- Be loving and kind. People around the world depend on kindness not from strangers, but from their partners.
- Understand and fulfil each other’s desires. Tremendous benefits flow to partners who cooperate.
Over to You…
When I first read evolutionary psychology, it blew my mind. So many confusing things about love finally made sense!
Hardworking and brilliant scientists have discovered the story of our past through decades of research. Without knowing this story, girls will always be a confusing mystery.
If you enjoyed this post and want to find out more about the science of relationships, then check out The Evolution of Desire, The Red Queen, and Sperm Wars. (In fact, my article is a simplified blend of the ideas in these insightful books.)
And of course, I have made generalizations to help us understand the complex nature of reality. We can find many individual variations in the behaviour of people. But, evolution still explains a lot of what we see around us.
Finally, I wish you and your partner all the happiness and love in the world.
What steps do you take to make your partner feel special and loved?