by Shane Dowd
Last weekend, I was invited to go out for drinks and dancing at one of the local watering holes. The group that I was going with was mostly women.
*Larry the Lounge Lizard starts to perk up here*
Also, I hear clubs are notoriously full of scantily clad lady folk.
*Now Larry is really paying attention*
To further complicate the issue, my girlfriend has been out of town for the past two weeks. So speaking frankly, Larry (and Shane!) have been missing her ... a lot!
What is a testosterone-filled young man supposed to do in this situation?
Science has shown that when a man’s primary partner is away, his testosterone levels elevate, as does his sperm count. Evolution would have it so, apparently, because in the ancient (maybe not so ancient) past, this was prime time for a man to possibly land an EPC. That’s code for, what biologists routinely call, “extra-pair copulation.”
Higher testosterone = think more about sex and take more risks.
Hmmm . . .
Fortunately, armed with this knowledge, I can now know what challenges to expect, and I can pre-decide how to deal with them.
I am committed to not cheating. However, I also have a deep appreciation and reverence for the power of my instincts, especially when alcohol is involved and inhibitions are thereby lowered and judgment is clouded.
So what did I do?
With Larry whispering inside my head, trying to fulfill his ancient yearnings, I decided to create a game of sorts. It would be a game to see just how impeccable I could be in my actions, and a game to honor my girlfriend. Undoubtedly also, this game would strengthen the “muscles” of my prefrontal cortex that must be trained and exercised to do the “harder thing” — harder meaning, going against our primal instincts (sorry, Larry!).
The day before Larry and I were scheduled to go clubbing, I called up a trusted friend and explained the game:
“I want to commit to only having 3 drinks and also acting in such a way that if there was a video camera on me, and my girlfriend was going to see the tape the next day, she would be proud of my behavior — and feel very honored by me.”
I also shared this game with my girlfriend — which was not at all a scary thing to do. Ever since she and I took time together to read about the basics of our evolved male and female brains (see the links below), I have been able to authentically share what most of us guys assume we just have to keep hidden: that we do notice hot women, and that our Larrys do perk up. (See my earlier post, when I introduced “Larry” as my own playful name for the lustful part of my brain that harks back to when humanity’s ancient ancestor was still a reptile.)
Actually, I didn’t just explain the game to Meredith. Once she got the gist, she and I started joking around about all the hot women that would attract Larry’s attention, but that I, trustworthy Shane, would not be flirting with.
The night was a breeze (and still a ton of fun!). I danced with my female friends, I had my three drinks, and I completely honored my girlfriend and our relationship.
Would I have been fine had I not been playing this game? Absolutely. It was never about “keeping the reins” on out-of-control habits. It was simply a way of honoring my instincts and honoring what's most important to me, which is the trust in my relationship.
If you are a man who has struggled with straying or flirting outside of your relationship — and if you are committed to faithful monogamy — I encourage you to learn about your brain’s evolutionary machinery. Then you can choose to practice honoring its deeply rooted desires, as well as your higher values and commitments.
When you can authentically love those deep drives, without succumbing to their every whim, (and your partner can too), be prepared to enjoy a “lightness of being” and playfulness that's unlike anything else!
NOTE: Links to some of Meredith's and my favorite resources on this subject:
Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships) - Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Strange Bedfellows: The Surprising Connection Between Sex, Evolution and Monogamy - David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton
You Still Don't Understand: Typical Differences Between Men and Women—and How to Resolve Them - Richard Driscoll and Nancy Ann Davis
The Female Brain and The Male Brain - Louann Brizendine
Evolutionary Psychology I: The Science of Human Nature - Allen D. MacNeill