how to love without changing your partner

How to Love a Man Without Trying to Change Him

A wise person observed that “women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So, each is inevitably disappointed.” I’ve been helping men and women have successful relationships for more than fifty years now. As a man, as well as a therapist specializing in working with men, I know that even good men can be difficult to live with. However, trying to change them, often backfires and makes any problems even worse. I’ve recently written about the 5 Stages of Love and Why Too Many Stop at Stage 3.

Before you can love a man, you have to know the truth about males and to do that you need to understand some things about evolutionary science. I was flying home from Seattle two days ago and the man sitting next to me caught sight of the book I was reading—Sex, Power, and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense of Our Political Divide by Dr. Hector Garcia.The guy scanned the title and said, “I can’t agree with that.” I assumed he may have been turned off by Sex, Power, or Partisanship, but I was wrong. “Evolution,” he said firmly. “There’s no evidence for it. It’s just academics trying to undermine our religious traditions.”

I handed him the book and he seemed almost reluctant to touch it, particularly when he saw all the places I had put underlines and stars. I thought it was a great book and it deepened my understanding of what evolutionary science can teach us about sex, love, and relationships in addition to sex, power, and partisanship. But if you don’t believe in evolution, please stop reading now.

For those continuing with me, here are some important things that evolutionary science can teach us about men.

Men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus

We evolved here on Earth, but the two sexes have faced different evolutionary challenges that contribute to reasons why men (and women) are the way they are, feel the way they feel, and do the things they do. Men and women aren’t from different planets, but we are different in significant ways.

Males must compete for access to females

Like the sperm we make, males compete with other males to be chosen by a mate. As a result, men live with constant, though usually hidden, insecurities.

Jungian therapist Eugene Monick concludes that these biological realities of sperm competition can tell us a lot about male insecurity and fear of failure. “What the sperm experiences in its life struggle toward the ovum is the ground or archetypal pattern for a man’s daily struggle for virility.” We know that only one sperm will succeed while most will die. “This is the raw material of masculine psyche, the fuel for a male’s terror,” Monick concludes.

Throughout our evolutionary history, in the competition to mate, most men failed

Throughout human history some men (think alpha males like Genghis Kahn, Wilt Chamberlain, and Warren Beatty) had sex with lots of women. Most men were not chosen.  “Looking back across the entire history of the human race, and taking nature’s criterion of success as passing on your life to others,” says Dr. Roy Baumeister, author of Is There Anything Good About Me, “we can say that most of the men were failures. Being male goes with biological failure in a way that being female doesn’t.”

It may be difficult to believe now, but according to Baumeister, throughout evolutionary past perhaps 80% of women had children, while only 40% of men did so. Most men never found a mate and never had sex (talk about frustration).

In order to succeed, males take greater risks in life

Even alpha males worry that they will be replaced by a more successful male. In modern times most men will find a partner to have sex with, but men never overcome the fear of being left out of the evolutionary lottery. As a result, males are gamblers. Some are hugely successful, many more strikeout. All males, subconsciously, are afraid they won’t be successful enough to find and keep a mate.

Men’s greatest fear is being killed by other men

In his book, Sex, Power, and Partisanship, Dr. Garcia says, “Compared to most animals, we seem inconceivably vulnerable. Imagine walking unarmed through the natural environments of the world, which swarm with fearsome animals with the power to eviscerate us with claws or fangs, trample and crush us, or inject us with a pharmacopeia of deadly poisons.” Yet, the most feared predator, isn’t a wild animal, is another man.

“Even today,” says Garcia, “men account for an astronomically higher percentage of all kinds of violence than women, and recent psychological research suggests that men have been so dangerous across evolutionary history that our brains are primed to fear them…Men from the outside tribe were a prominent threat to our survival across the history of our species, and our brains ‘know’ this.”

Even more fearful to men of being killed by another man was his fear that the other man would take his woman and kill his children. “Male mate competition has been an essential source of male violence,” concludes Garcia.

Males are programmed to become warriors

In her book, Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes, social scientist Joyce F. Benenson says, “Every one of the ancestors of people alive today managed to avoid an early death and to pass their genes to their children. I believe that men and women have evolved to specialize in preventing death from different causes.”

Benenson goes on to say, “Boys and men are less afraid of death than girls and women are, and they take more frequent and greater risks.” Hence, she makes the distinction between the inherent difference of females to become worriers in order to stay alive to care for the young and men’s tendency to become warriors to attend to the threat from other males.

In reflecting on males Benenson asks “What do boys fear? Based upon my years of study of children and, more recently, adults, I believe that boys’ and men’s specialty is worrying about enemies.”

Men change when the conditions of life move us

Like all of us, men resist change when we feel pushed or pulled in a certain direction, particularly when we don’t feel understood and loved. Recognizing our evolutionary tendencies will go a long way to connecting deeply with a man. Our evolutionary history may have prepared us to fight other men, for instance, but we can all help to create a more peaceful world where men don’t need to fight for their lives to protect themselves and their families.

I discuss these issues in more depth in my upcoming book, 12 Rules for Good Men, scheduled for release in November and my current book, Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome. I look forward to your comments and questions.

This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top