Have you ever noticed that in almost every relationship… sooner or later, but often right from the start or at least very early… one of the two partners is more emotionally involved than the other? And that it's invariably the other of the two who retains the most relationship control?
That one often seems to be more invested, more in love, more interested… that there always seems to be a certain lack of balance?
This phenomenon is what psychologists call a “Passion Trap”, and it has been explained in great detail in Dean C. Delis’s excellent book about the topic, The Passion Trap: Where is Your Relationship Going?, which I think everybody should read in high school… it is THAT important to understanding relationships.
But in the meantime, let me give you a primer… and some insights we “professional seducers” have come to, that psychologists haven’t even written about yet.
The Insidious Passion TRAP
The basic idea of the passion trap is that the emotion of being in love is biochemically linked to the emotion of being out of control. The same part of your brain processes both emotions! That means that you can only be in love with a person as long as you don’t feel like you have control over them.
At the same time, this feeling can be somewhat uncomfortable, which is why people who are in love unconsciously strive to gain relationship control over the other person… at least to a certain degree. They want to know that “he (or she) is mine, I can relax now.”
And this inherent desire brings with it the potential to tip any relationship out of balance and into emotional turmoil.
But let’s take it from the beginning.
When two people first meet and are attracted to each other, neither one of the two really knows where he stands with the other. Is it love at first sight? Does he/she like me as much as I like her? Is this just a fling for him/her, or is he/she smitten too?
This allows both of them to fall in love with each other… the part of the brain responsible for feeling IN love and OUT OF control triggers and they both develop feelings for one another.
However, after a certain time, this balance usually begins to tip, and often quite accidentally.
The Scales Begin To Tip
Maybe he has to spend more time at work one week, and doesn’t get around to texting her as often. She starts to worry… is he beginning to lose interest? She feels more out of control in the relationship, and begins to invest more, in order to win him back.
He notices her increased investment, which makes him feel more secure of her feelings for him… he feels more IN control of the relationship, and begins to actually “fall out of love”. Her reaction to her unfounded suspicion triggered the very event she was afraid of.
This happens to most couples, at some stage… and often pretty early in the relationship. In fact, it has been said that whoever THINKS a relationship is in balance is the one who’s slightly submissive… without being aware of it.
The one who’s more in love is termed the “One-Down”, the other is called the “One-Up”. The real problem, however, is that neither position is ultimately very emotionally fulfilling.
The One-Down is constantly afraid of losing the person he’s in love with… and the One-Up realizes that he has fallen out of love to some degree, and wishes he still felt the same way about his partner as he used to in the beginning.
Both men and women find themselves in both positions equally often… it has nothing to do with gender.
It seems almost impossible to have a truly fulfilling relationship – one where both partners are, and STAY, equally in love with each other. Which of course begs the question… how could such a biochemical mechanism have evolved?
How is it beneficial to procreation to have relationships that are not in balance?
Lover and Provider
In order to answer that question, we need to first look at the different types of men a woman could have in her life.
As we discussed in “What Women Want,” fundamentally, men will fit (romantically) in one of two categories: a woman’s partner is either her lover, or her provider.
Evolutionarily speaking, a woman needs to find the man with the best genes possible to have offspring with. The tallest, most handsome, and most muscular guy, the most intelligent one with the highest status and the biggest social network – the alpha male.
However, this alpha male is in great demand… all women want a guy like him, so he has a lot of options. She may not be able to lock him down into a monogamous relationship and secure his resources.
She may therefore have to get the sperm for her children from one man, and find another man to provide for these children. If you would like to know more about this dynamic, I highly recommend some books about evolutionary psychology such as “Sperm Wars” by Robin Baker, or “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.
In other words, women will often settle down with the best male they can get to commit to them, but they will still sleep with guys of even higher value… this is called “gene-shopping.”
The guy who stays with her to raise the children and provides for her and the family is the provider… the guy she only sleeps with because he has too many other options to commit to her is the lover.
The Chaff and the Wheat
If you have ever had a relationship with a woman, you know that once you “get” her, the game is by no means over….
They say that keeping a million dollars is harder than making a million dollars… well, the same is true for dating, in some respects. Keeping a woman happy in the long-term without sacrificing your own happiness is often trickier than finding a woman to date in the first place.
In a relationship, women and drama are intrinsically linked; women sometimes start fights for apparently no good reason whatsoever. This may have to do with her cranky mood when she’s PMS-ing, or it may be an unconscious test of her man’s strength.
However, there is more to it than that. Women test men not only to see if the man is still psychologically strong and able to look after her, they also do it to see which of the two categories he will fit into.
Can she One-Up him, control the relationship, and get him to be at least slightly submissive to her, so that she can be sure of his attention and his resources in the long run?
Or will her efforts fail… will she have to accept that she’s the One-Down in this relationship, that he’s in control, relatively speaking, and that he will merely be a lover?
All of the above happens completely below the level of her conscious awareness.
Who Will Control the Relationship?
Nature needs to find out.
This is why girls will always throw these tests at you in a relationship. She will always try to tame the alpha that she has conquered, as part of her nesting instinct.
The ensuing drama will often tip the scale – one of the two will prevail and begin to play a more dominant role in the relationship. He or she is now the One-Up, and it is decided:
Lover or Provider.
Which one would YOU rather be?
Rhetorical question here… but the fact is, you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. As I mentioned above, neither position is ultimately very fulfilling… it’s a bit like a nuke war, there are no winners.
If you win the power struggle in the relationship, you begin to lose some of your attraction for her. But if you lose the power-struggle, on the other hand, you’re now the One-Down and she’s firmly in the driver seat.
One possible solution is to have open relationships with multiple girls… but let’s take a closer look at how this all plays out in more traditional relationships first.
Dominant Woman, Puppy-Dog Man
Girl is girl, boy is toy.
At least, that’s the case in most long-term relationships.
A study entitled “Sex differences in the use of demand and withdraw behavior in marriage,” conducted by the US scientists Megan Murphy and David Vogel of the State University of Iowa, found that relationships where the woman is the dominant one are likely to be the ones that last longer!
They found 72 couples who described their relationship as harmonious. These couples had to go through questionnaires regarding many aspects of their relationship…. among others, about specific problems in the relationship and how decisions are being taken together.
Afterwards, the couples were confronted with things they disagreed on, and had to discuss them whilst being filmed. The videos showed that the women were more dominant and asserted themselves more often.
Vogler also says that they did so with logical reasoning and by convincing the man… but of course, a One-Down will always be more susceptible to be influenced and persuaded (dare I say manipulated?) by a One-Up than the other way round… and this process is often completely unconscious!
The scientists are still puzzled about the meaning of this phenomenon, and what causes it.
I think it's quite obvious – a woman will always try to make a man of long-term interest into a provider, so that she can control him and his resources – for the sake of her offspring, as written above.
The Two Possible Outcomes
1.) If she wins this power struggle, the man stays attracted to her, she's dominant and the relationship lasts. The man is now the provider. The man is happy to be with her, but often not overall happy.
The woman doesn't like being the man in the relationship and may look elsewhere for a lover. She may stay with him though, because of a nesting instinct, or because she was conditioned to stay together and be faithful.
2.) If she loses this power struggle, the man loses his attraction; she's the submissive one and loses control over him. The man is now the lover. The girl is happy with the relationship overall. The man is happy with the relationship from a logical perspective but not emotionally fulfilled.
Of course these are broad patterns, and undoubtedly things aren’t always this black-or-white. But, if you take a close look at most relationships, you will probably find some kind of variation on this theme.
How to Claim Your Balls BACK
Have you ever found yourself in the position of the One-Down… where it was clear, or at least subtly apparent, that you were more invested in the girl than she was in you?
Maybe you were always the one to call her, or she was somewhat flaky with you even though you were already a couple… or maybe you simply wanted to spend more time with her than she did with you.
Well, there is a magic bullet that can flip a Passion Trap relationship in a heartbeat… unless her attraction for you has already deteriorated beyond the point of no return, you can try the following:
Call her once for every three times she calls you.
The same goes for texting or any other form of communication... Just in general, make sure she works three times harder for you than you are working for her.
This re-establishes the challenge pretty quickly… and girls respond STRONGLY to a challenge.
It's also easier to count to three than to calibrate this by your gut when you're emotionally involved.
Relationship Control: A Case-Study
The following is an email I received from one of my students who had gone One-Down in his relationship. We were able to turn it around together… here’s what he had to say:
“Thanks for your advice Ricardus, this one turned out in my favor...she's back and fully into me.
After the anxiety and depression from her withdrawing, I decided to give her a taste of her own medicine and use the reward/punishment system. This was basically using your advice to mirror her interest level but always show a bit less interest than she was showing.
I also stopped calling her completely, and was unresponsive to texts…. But I made sure to not let her think I was trying to be a dickhead.
So a few days went by where I did not answer her calls at night when she left work, waited a few hours to answer her texts if I answered at all... and then when I did talk to her, I told her I could not hang out because I made plans for the next two nights.
This strategy really worked, and the tables turned... she started bugging out that she was going to lose me and that I might start dating other girls.
I played reverse psychology when I spoke with her and said that I think space is a good idea and if were meant to be together we will be, plus we can have some of our old lives back.
Needless to say the next time we hung out I shagged her very good and she's spent 4 nights in the past week at my place. Thanks again for all your advice.”
I don’t think it’s a good idea to play these kinds of games just to One-Up women. In fact, this behavior usually just ends up hurting the trust in the relationship and will usually back-fire.
However, if you find yourself in the position where you have clearly lost a lot of ground yet, these strategies can really help to tip the scales a bit more in your favor again.
Ultimately, attaining and maintaining true control in relationships comes down to following sprezzatura and the Law of Least Effort; accomplish more while seeming to do less, and be no more invested in the relationship than she is. Once you start obeying this dictum, you’ll never need to suffer from being in the One-Down position ever again.
Onward and upward,
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