It’s an old and unhelpful aphorism: a woman should marry a man who loves her more than she loves him. My Genderal Interest column at Jezebel today looks behind this truism, working in references to Lori Gottlieb and the Myth of Male Weakness. . Excerpt:
In this age where hormones and evolutionary psychology are commonly cited as explanations (or outright excuses) for the most appalling male behavior, it makes good sense to teach women to look for an effective and enduring guarantor of masculine reliability. That means encouraging women to make romantic decisions based more on men’s devotion rather than on their own desires. Shorter Gottlieb: “caring” trumps “tedious”, and don’t be so much a fool to insist that you can easily have the former without the latter.
Not only do we believe that men are weak when it comes to impulse control, pop culture relentlessly reminds straight women that they are hardwired to be attracted to “bad boys.” Evolutionary psychologists trot out all sorts of theories to explain why women are sexually drawn to unreliable alpha males, but the end result is that we teach women to be suspicious of their own longings. In a corollary to the myth of male weakness, grandmothers and Gottliebs warn that a woman who is head-over-heels in love and lust will be less likely to see vital warning signs; a woman who finds herself only tepidly attracted to a man will be able to assess his character more accurately. His greater devotion keeps him faithful; her less intense passion keeps her safe — and, presumably in control both of her own emotions and of her male partner.
And then of course, there’s always Auden’s take.