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What advantage accrues a man who decides to cohabit instead of marry? Well, for one (and it’s a BIG one), women tend to let themselves go once they’ve extracted marital vows from their men. Here’s a referenced study which shows that once a woman gets what she wants from a man, she doesn’t (subconsciously) care anymore about pleasing him. (Study title is hilariously droll: “Entry into romantic partnership is associated with obesity”.)
Several studies examining longitudinal changes in romantic relationship status report a differential sex effect of entry into marriage, with greater weight gain in women (9,10,30). Women may be differentially impacted by transitions in romantic relationship status; for example, through increased social obligations encouraging consumption of regular meals (31,32) and larger portion sizes (33), resulting in increased energy intake (30). Further, entry into cohabitation or marriage is associated with decreased physical activity (34) and a decline in desire to maintain weight for the purpose of attracting a mate (6). In contrast, obese women may be less likely to marry (35). Our longitudinal findings suggest that both men and women who enter marriage are more likely to become obese, consistent with findings from another large, racially diverse sample of young adults (36). Moreover, we found that individuals who lived with romantic partners for a longer duration had higher likelihood of incident obesity suggesting that shared household environmental factors may contribute to changes in obesity.
Cohabitation may not be good for society in the long run (we’ll see how Scandinavia turns out), but in the here and now it is very good for the individual man, and most people think in the latter terms. As a friendly reminder, a wife bloating up and disfiguring her womanly profile is as repulsive to a husband as he would be to his wife if he lost his job and confidence and skulked around the house with his chin buried in his chest, begging for morsels of sexual release.
Again, we come back to incentives, latent or blatant, and their influence on human behavior. Men have “hand” within cohabiting relationships, while women have hand within marriage. Women are on their best behavior — read: their least bitchiest and gluttonous — when they are cohabiting with men who can leave them at a moment’s notice with little cost to the men. A woman in such a precarious circumstance feels inchoate pressure to maximize her sexual appeal, both physical and temperamental.
Conversely, wives who are not kept in desirous thrall to their husbands — read: hubby became a mincing betaboy or lost his social or economic status, or the spark simply vanished from the passage of time and mundane familiarity — gradually slip into their worst behavior, which includes getting fat and ugly, as the science and conventional wisdom demonstrates. Now, women who do this in pre-marital relationships can easily be dumped; but within marriage, not so much, at least not without SEVERE cost to the disillusioned husband. Women know this, on a very deeply primitive apebrain level, even if they don’t discuss it or acknowledge it outright. Which leads to…
Maxim #204: Modern marriage is a waiver of liability that relieves wives of the responsibility to remain attractive to their husbands.
Corollary to Maxim #204: The modern marriage waiver of liability does not extend to husbands, who must remain optimally attractive to their wives so long as the marriage is intact and the cost of failing in this responsibility is excessive.
Let’s be clear about this, so you don’t get the wrong impression reading these issues in the stark, remorseless light in which I prefer to present them. Social, sexual and romantic incentives and disincentives don’t operate in a coldly calculating way — it’s not like a wife punches numbers into a mental spreadsheet or draws up wistful pros and cons lists before willfully deciding that an extra tub of Ben & Jerry’s won’t matter since her husband can’t divorce without losing a lot of money and the house and kids. The differential power structures of various relationship models aren’t grasped by the bit players in anything more than a gut feeling.
No, these still-human behavioral reactions work on the level of the id. Without really thinking about it, the existence of an incentive to behave a certain way subtly and slowly influences a person to act in accordance with their self-interest. What that self-interest is varies by context and circumstance. A single woman seeking love will avoid overeating and take a lot of yoga classes so that her tight bod will catch the eyes of, hopefully, some high value alpha males.
A married woman who has achieved her objective of locking a man into long term commitment backed by the strength of the state will feel imperceptible undertones or impulses that guide her along paths which take her away from staying sexually desirable and toward fulfilling her other hedonic needs. It doesn’t help her attraction for her husband that the threat of state sanction effectively neuters him by rendering his choice to remain married to her one of coercion rather than mutual delight.
Game is a useful ameliorative to these natural human instincts, (and I know how much asserting that gets under the skin of anti-gamers). But I’ve seen it in action; a husband who uses game (or charisma, if it helps your digestion) on his wife will mold her incentive structure so that selflessly pleasing him takes precedence over selfish solipsism. This will happen because, as I’ve said previously, up-front, near, tangible incentives trump downstream, far, less tangible disincentives. A sexy husband woos a wife better than a powerful state and natural inclination woos her away from him.