Men's evolved survival strategies are different than women's. Ever since Homo Erectus evolved nearly 2 to 3 million years ago, our male ancestors who survived best were the protectors and providers for their clan, tribe, or group. Throughout history, men's survival required mostly physical endurance and being the best hunter and provider.
The best hunters and providers were greatly valued, and that earned them the power to control the group. This rewarding position at the top of the group came with special privileges, like the first choice of food, comfort, and all the women desired for sex. That was the best life a man could hope for in those bleak times. (Wow! That sounds like a pretty good life today!)
For this reason, men evolved to be very competitive and to compete for the rewarding position at the top of their group hierarchy to get the privileges and rewards.
Competitiveness and combativeness are still strong in men's DNA today! However, competitiveness is expressed today in different ways than being the best hunter and provider. Most men today compete and try to demonstrate their superiority by achieving difficult goals, adapting leadership positions, or sometimes just lying and bragging about their importance.
The major drive in our male ancestors, as well as today's men, is "status building", trying to show their superiority over other men. Most men are always working hard to prove themselves as the "greatest hunter" with the highest status in their group. They think being the "top dog" will get them the privileges that come with high status. This need for superiority in today's men often shows up as being a "workaholic". An underlying cause of a workaholic's drive is the need to have high status, and thus reap the rewards at the top. In our modern culture this strategy of "work hard and reap the rewards" often works to some degree.
This ancient need for high status in men is still operating in the deep old brain of today's men. Starting at puberty, it often drives human males to take risks, compete in all varieties of activities and brag (or lie) about their imagined high status.
Fortunately, the newer outer layers of the male brain are adapted to learning new ways of behaving for status-seeking. Unfortunately, teen boys may not show much restraint in status-seeking. There are millions of online videos showing male teens doing incredibly stupid stunts on bikes, skateboards, or whatever trying to prove they are better than their peers. Teen girls obviously are not in need of that kind of status-seeking.
Sometimes by the time most boys reach adulthood (30? 60? 90?) they learn how to be socialized and behave with good manners without openly revealing all their status-seeking tactics.
However, even well-socialized men still often compete for high status, but it is usually done in accordance with their culture's unwritten rules.
One interesting way many modern men compete for a higher status than their peers takes place in playing golf. In this group of male golfers, each is dressing similarly (and perhaps laughably). This conformance indicates their intention to belong in equal status with the others and to follow the unwritten group rules. However, every man is doing his very best playing golf to raise his score above that of his peers and, therefore, raise his implied social status. This type of competition is a common pattern for men in sports, arts, hobbies and, etc.
Most often, high status is demonstrated today with large amounts of money and what money can buy, like a big house and luxury car. (And yes, often men are still seeking high status to get a lot of good food, "hot" women, and maybe a "trophy wife".)
Interestingly, in western cultures it is common practice for a dating man to take a woman to a special restaurant. An abundance of food given to the woman unconsciously demonstrates what a great hunter and provider he is! That is meant to impress her with his high status so she will give him what he really wants, and it is not food he wants!
For women, this ritual of going out to eat provides her more than just nutrition for another day. Women have in their DNA a need to know they are valuable. Their high value implies they will be safe and protected before giving a man what he wants. So women like to see a man spend the extra time and energy in providing an extraordinary environment and meal to prove how important the woman is to him. (Usually costs the guy a lot of money to prove it!)
Today this is still largely true but is disguised:
"Men trade food for sex.
Women trade sex for food, protection, and survival."
The daily activity for many of women's ancestors was to tend the children and gather berries, nuts, seeds, roots or whatever they could find to feed the family. For safety and protection, the women usually worked in groups of women. These daily group activities resulted in women developing two important skills, which women still have today:
That is the reason women today are much better at relationship building and multitasking than men! It is in their DNA from their ancestors!
For women, relationship-building with everyone is a part of every activity. Women build relationships by talking freely about their daily trivia and troubles. "I'll tell you about my day and troubles, and I will listen to yours so that we can be close." This sharing process reassures women that they have a good relationship, are protected, safe, and will survive. This relationship building habit is still very strong in women's genes today!
When a man hears a woman talking about her problems, he thinks she is just complaining, or she is requesting help! So instinctually, the man responds with solutions to the woman's problems -- because that is a man's job: to fix things! But this just frustrates the woman because she feels he is trying to diminish her problem or cut her off. The woman doesn't see a relationship developing with a guy who can not even hear or understand her and her problems! That infuriates most women trying to build trust and a relationship with a man!
In women's DNA is a strong need to build many relationships. That is how women's ancestors learned to survive in a dangerous world.
Women bond in relationships by sharing their daily trivia and problems.
When women talk about their problems, they want to be heard, understood, and have a good relationship!
When a man hears a woman talk about a problem, he wants to "fix her problem". But that is not what the woman wants! She just wants him to listen and be supportive in a closer more understanding relationship with her. She doesn't want him to try to "fix" her or her problem!
Men need to understand how women build relationships with daily trivia.
Women need to understand how men are more interested in raising their status than in building any relationships.
Women need to understand that men are more distant than women in relationships. That is just the way it is!
© Copyright 2015 by Lawrence Rodrigues, M.S., Director: EastWest Institute for Self-Understanding
All rights reserved worldwide.