You might think that your confusing love life is uniquely yours — that your particular unrequited crushes and mammoth heartbreaks are private shameful stumbles on the road to finding your one true love. Or worse, maybe you think that your miss hits or your divorce happened because you are a flawed person, unable to create a happily-ever-after union. But I am here to tell you that there’s also a big fat chance that you are quite normal. Your situation could simply be that you are experiencing a difficult stage of the human mating cycle. One where you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Let’s talk about the human mating cycle. First, know this: When ‘til-death-do-us-part was invented, death was pretty imminent. Today, because of our long life spans, even the most monogamous people will have two or even three human mating cycles. And each cycle involves a distinct set of mating behaviors. Let me break down each stage for you:
The Human Mating Cycle – The Stages
- COMPETITION FOR MATES: This is where men compete against men and women against women to attract the best possible mate. This stage is capitalized on by the fitness and beauty industries. Male mating behaviors in the competition phase involve: a focus on making money and losing weight. For women, this stage could include: plastic surgery and hours spent at cosmetic counters.
- MATE SELECTION: This is the active dating phase, the place where mates jockey for position in an attempt to find a mate of their same social status or (for the lucky ones) a mate of higher status. It ends with a mutual pledge of love, a moving truck, or a gold band.
- MATE GUARDING: Once a human has a mate, they usually like to keep that mate, at least for a while. Mate guarding behaviors involve maintenance of one’s attractiveness and reminders that we still value our mate. Flowers are sometimes in order. As are, the odd date nights, as reminders that love is still in the air. Also, humans exhibit appropriate jealousy around potential mate poachers.
- MATE POACHING: This is the world of cheating, infidelity and eventually divorce where partners flirt with the idea of exiting a relationship and test the waters of putting themselves back on the mating market. It’s a really ugly stage of the mating cycle. Lots of tears and thrashed self-esteem here.
- MATE REPLACEMENT: After another round of competition and mate selection, the sun shines again. New love has been found. All is well in the world of human mating. But get busy with that mate guarding, please!
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The idea of the mating cycle is based on the work of renowned Evolutionary Psychologist, Dr. David Buss at the University of Texas, Austin. Buss’s studies have examined cross-cultural mating practices of more than 10,000 people in 37 countries. And guess, what? We all seem to experience the same mating behaviors. Perhaps it’s time to rethink your situation and understand your place in the cycle rather than wallow in an all-is-lost mentality. Love will come again. That’s what your cavemen ancestors got you wired for.