You have probably heard me or other experts tell you about the 3 P’s for men, that they are driven at a primal level to procreate, provide, and protect. According to Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire– Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What We Do evolutionary psychology is all about making babies.
Men are seeking mates who are fertile, so they’re looking for young women. They are attracted to traits that signify good health and fertility. They compete with other men for these women and almost everything they do, especially their work, is a means to get the woman. They want to show that they have the resources to invest in their offspring and the ability to protect them and keep them alive.
Once they have the babies, they want to ensure their survival by protecting them.
And of course, they are resourceful and provide what their children need.
This is why in my coaching practice and in my own experience, almost all arguments start when the man goes into fear about sex, finances, or protecting their family. I don’t think we’ve ever deconstructed an argument where the man wasn’t [usually poorly] conveying his fears in those three main areas.
The Father’s Role
Likewise, men have a very different role with children than women do. While women nurture, men prepare. They help their children learn how to defend themselves, at first through things like good-natured roughhousing. They prepare their boys especially to be able to compete with other men when needed, but also how to form alliances. They push children’s limits, encouraging them to reach higher, run faster, or try harder. For many of us conscious parenting moms, it all seems like the very opposite of what we’re trying to do, what with our attachment-science-following, gentle parenting ways.
Yes, men do indeed have a different role than we do, but that’s a topic for another day.
It’s All About the Babies
Today, I want to talk about what drives women.
Women have long carried our species by finding resources, raising babies, and keeping everyone safe from harm.
First, we compete with other women for resources. The more successful we are at competing, the higher-status male we can attract and thus give our children resources and protection through him. Otherwise, the main way we compete is through physical attractiveness. The younger and more fertile we look, the better (I know, sad but true). Higher-status males not only have the financial means to raise their children well, they often have networks that would give their child an edge. And of course, their genes are important too as we want our kids to be healthy. Finally, we want them to be tall and strong and able to protect all of us.
Women are naturally risk-averse as one of our primary goals is literally just to survive — who would raise our babies if croak? Well, the men would… but we’ve never given them a chance to try. We know that our role is vital and once we have our children, one of our main drivers will be reducing risk to ensure our survival.
That explains why after our first child came I told my husband I wouldn’t ride on the back of our motorcycle anymore! It was just far too risky– especially considering that we’d be riding together so something could take both of us out at once!
And of course, we’re motivated to raise our children… what with needing the species to continue and all. We physically care for them. I think this driver sharply declines after we’ve had children. At that point, we’re working to make sure that our existing children have the resources, networks, and protection they need in order to survive. Like man, we want to ensure the survival of our species through our successful reproduction. Otherwise, we’re “reproductive losers.”
With everyone’s survival at the forefront of our minds, we have to find the resources we need to keep everyone alive. Shelter, food, clothing. Being resourceful is a huge trait in myself and my clients and it’s no wonder, we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. This is probably why the care and keeping of our home and belongings weigh so much on our minds as mothers… we are the ones who tend to what we have and make sure we have enough. In an unhealthy state, we have too much, for fear that a day is coming when we won’t have anything.
What About Work?
And the last thing I noticed in the book was that we aren’t motivated by things like making more money or climbing a corporate ladder, because it’s not as meaningful as the real work that we do of raising children (of course from an evolutionary psychology perspective… plenty of women do other meaningful work). We are most concerned with ensuring that we (and they) continue to have the resources and protection needed to survive, so we want a father that is invested in his children and helping us work toward their successful launch.
So then my theory is that as our children are launching, we then want to continue our meaningful work, to continue our “mothering” in some other way that continues to ensure a flow of resources and protection.
It is after menopause that our husbands may experience a midlife crisis, but not because of something in their life, but because we’re no longer fertile. The animal part of their brain is directing them to do what they need to do (flash their cash usually) to attract another younger, fertile, female. According to the book, if we’re married to a really rich and handsome guy, there’s an even greater chance that he’ll have an affair or go find someone new after the kids are on their own. So the pressure is there for us to either acquire our own resources or keep looking as young and fertile as possible… or have a more evolved guy by the time the kids move out so he’ll be in it for the love and not the animal urge to procreate.
So, let’s get back to our original question.
If men Procreate, Protect, and Provide, what do women do?
I would say we Resource, Raise, and Reduce Risk to Survive.
So a woman’s primary fears are going to be:
- Do I and my children have the resources we need so they can launch as healthy, independent adults who can also mate successfully?
- Am I able to raise my children with a father who is invested in them/us?
- Am I able to survive so I can take care of my children?
I think that last one is a big one because if we don’t feel like our boundaries are respected by our husband, then we worry that he could either leave us (threatening our resources and our childrens’ survival) or kill us (threatening our childrens’ survival).
It’s truly all about our kids — for both man and woman. But for the woman, our “success” relates to a much smaller window. We can only carry one child every 9-12 months for a short window of years, while men could impregnate thousands (if the women would let him). If we die, they can move on and start again, but if they die, our window may already be shut.
I think this is why the pressure is on as we near menopause to ensure that we are with the right man. As our window starts to close, we want to make sure we have the resources we need for our children. I think this is why women initiate divorce and break apart their families — in the primal urge to have the right resources and protection for our children, we forget that today’s child will be more equipped to be successful if their emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical needs are met.
After all, it’s no longer just about survival. Today, our kids have the opportunity to thrive… whether they mate or not.
To learn more about how you can have a conscious marriage and create the relationship you want instead of getting a divorce, click here!
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