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Theories of Love from Dr. Abrams' Book on Sexuality

David Buss is foremost among theories that take an evolutionary approach to love and all mating behavior of humans. Evolutionary approach considers sexual behavior as tailored to provide solution to specific problems (Buss, 2003). Buss explains in his works underlying rationality that influences and shapes our mating behavior. This term, “mating behavior”, suggests that Buss’s work is primarily focused on sexuality and its manifestations. This is not completely true – he describes and explains a much wider scope of behaviors, but evolutionary theory is essentially tightly related to sexuality, especially when referring to underlying mechanisms of behavior. However, Buss also dedicated a significant portion of his work to social influences, sex differences and love.

Our mating behavior is shaped by evolution; more precisely, it is shaped by the circumstances and rules that affected lives of our ancestors. Thousands of years ago, men and women faced challenges that were quite different from those that we face today. Those who were successful in handling those challenges became our ancestors; those who had failed faced a not so bright destiny. The main goals of our ancestors were personal survival, dissemination of genes and survival of offspring. Those who had managed to survive, but without children, obviously didn’t become our ancestors. Also, considering rather significant child mortality in the past, those who had only one child risked being cut off from the gene pool as well.

Having sex is much more costly for women than it is for men, and this was especially true for our ancestors. Women are able to give birth to only one child a year (more if they get twins, but it is a relatively rare event), and they put tremendous resources into pregnancy, delivery and raising a child. Bear in mind that our ancestors lived in a much more dangerous surrounding, with fewer resources, and that women were often heavily dependent on men. Those women who had managed to choose a partner willing to dedicate resources and time to his mate and children survived; other were in much more difficult position, and often faced harsh consequences. On the other hand, men are not directly endangered by the wrong choice of a partner, and paternity is not a great burden for them – which is why they can have multiple children with different women each year. However, they face an issue of cuckoldry – possible investment of resources into offspring that is actually fathered by another man.

Previously described problems influenced the mating behavior of our ancestors. More importantly, Buss (2003) states that strategies that were developed to help our ancestors respond to these problems also shape sexual and romantic behavior nowadays. Apparently, we have the same taste as our ancestors when it comes to potential partners (and the same ways to attract them).

Short-term and long-term mating are known to exist throughout the history. While they can be more or less socially acceptable, depending on the moment and the culture, these two mating types are always present. Short-term and long-term mating have different rules, as they respond to different adaptive problems (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Men and women differ greatly in respect to these two types of mating behavior – men favor short-term mating in most contexts, but it is very costly for women. Long-term mating is preferential for women, while men sacrifice a lot when entering a monogamous relationship, but also receive some benefits. Men and women have developed distinct psychological mechanisms related to these adaptive problems and their solutions.

Long-term mating is mostly intertwined with monogamy, although not necessarily. This kind of unity is nowadays available through long-term relationships, partnership or marriage. While modern couples face somewhat different challenges than our ancestors, Buss claims that romantic behavior nowadays has similar causes as it did in the past (Buss and Schmitt, 1993; Buss, 2003) . For long-term mating, women desire men able to provide sufficient resources, and also willing to invest those resources into their family. When it comes to ancestral women, physical protection was another major incentive for entering a long-term relationship (depending on a culture and circumstances, this can also be important nowadays). Men, on the other hand, search reproductive value in potential long-term mates, but they also require mates who will be committed to them and their offspring, good mothers and especially those who will not stray – that is, they try to avoid uncertainty concerning paternity. Both, men and women, search for cues that will reveal value of a potential mate. Sometimes they are successful; but since the goals of different sexes are not always compatible, men and women also have strategies aimed at deceiving potential partners about their intentions (Buss, 2003). For example, a woman can agree to enter a casual relationship with an agenda to further charm her partner and turn dating into a long-term relationship or even marriage. On the other hand, men often express emotions they don’t actually have, just to gain sexual access to women. Extended courtship is women’s way of handling these attempts of deception.