Women are hard wired to wonder if they aren’t missing out on something. Could they find a better man? Do they have enough money, the right clothes and shoes? Are they being treated well enough by their husbands, and at their job? I think this pretty neatly fits with the concept of hypergamy, and it does serve a biological purpose. Women need to make sure they choose the best mate possible, and that they have the status and means to care for the child.
But constantly wondering if what you have is enough isn’t always a virtue; in the wrong context (most of modern life) it is a prescription for unhappiness. Not just their unhappiness, but that of their family, especially their children. A sane culture would curb the dangerous part of this tendency. It would caution women of the danger of never being happy, as the Brothers Grimm tale The Fisherman’s Wife does (post pending).
But then again we don’t live in a sane culture, we live in a feminist culture. Feminism’s founding motto is “I never get to have any fun!” Instead of curbing the worst instincts of women, our culture instead amplifies them.
Here’s an experiment you can try on your own. Find a five year old, and ask them why did all of your friends get ice cream today and you didn’t? or why are all of their toys better than yours? Find a bunch of toys they don’t have which look like they would be really great to play with. Then ask them why their parents don’t love them enough to buy them for them. For best results, taunt them relentlessly every day. Wake them up in the middle of the night and ask why their classmates get to sleep in a more comfortable bed than they do. At breakfast ask them if they think their classmates are eating better food right now. Find new and interesting things they should feel slighted about. Try this for say, 30 years.
Now test and see if they are happy.
DH Lawrence wrote about the problem in The Rocking Horse Winner. The story opens with the lines:
There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust. She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them.
They had every reason to be happy:
They lived in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they had discreet servants, and felt themselves superior to anyone in the neighbourhood. Although they lived in style, they felt always an anxiety in the house. There was never enough money. The mother had a small income, and the father had a small income, but not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up. The father went into town to some office. But though he had good prospects, these prospects never materialised. There was always the grinding sense of the shortage of money, though the style was always kept up.
But the mother wasn’t happy. How could she be? There was always more to want, more to wonder if it couldn’t be just a little bit better:
And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money! The children could hear it all the time though nobody said it aloud. They heard it at Christmas, when the expensive and splendid toys filled the nursery. Behind the shining modern rocking-horse, behind the smart doll’s house, a voice would start whispering: “There must be more money! There must be more money!”
Our culture is like the house in the story, always whispering in women’s ears that they deserve better, and mercilessly amplifying every potential doubt. We saw this with EPL, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
My wife has witnessed this throughout her life.
From her devout Catholic maid of honor (now still unmarried at 37) when helping my wife put on her wedding dress 1 hour before the wedding (prompting her to throw her out of the room):
What if you meet a better man in two weeks?
From the girls in the 7th grade class she taught, asking the only girl with a boyfriend why he hadn’t spent more than $50 on her for her birthday (he had saved all of his own birthday money to do so). Why didn’t he spend $100 on her if he really cared? The girl took the bait and was upset until my wife took her aside and talked it through with her.
From a woman we met on a cruise:
Wouldn’t you like a newer car? Don’t you think your husband would take you on a vacation every year if you asked him?
From her friend:
Don’t you think he would take you out to eat at nicer restaurants if you asked him to? Don’t you think you should have a monthly clothes budget?
The whispering is endless, by women and to women. By way of Vox Day’s Warning: Hamster at work there is the advice to a young woman with a self described perfect boyfriend from Amy Dickinson, the replacement for Ann Landers.
Dear Amy: I’m 23 years old and have been dating my boyfriend for just over two years. I love him, and I love spending time with him. He’s everything I’ve always wanted in a long-term partner: caring, intelligent, thoughtful and hardworking.
But lately, I can’t seem to shake this “antsy” feeling.
I find that when I go somewhere with my friends and meet other men (as a “wing woman,” I’m not actively searching out a new partner), I wonder what it would be like to date someone else.
I find myself jealous of my friends who are still dating and not in a committed relationship.
Does the new Ann Landers try to talk her off the ledge and explain that this is a female instinct gone haywire? Of course not. She reinforces it.
You might be mature enough for a committed relationship, but the relationship you’re currently in might not be the right relationship for you right now.
Commitment is like good comedy: It’s all about the timing.
Your guy might be the best guy in the world. He might be perfect for you. But if you can’t tame your restlessness, then you should take a break.
The only way to bring this up is the old-fashioned way: one word at a time.
You start with: “Honey, we need to talk.”