High Risk Relationships

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky?”

           -Dirty Harry

By Dixie Andelin Forsyth

   If you’ve ever applied for life insurance, you’ll be familiar with the questions commonly asked about your lifestyle before you can be granted good coverage. Do you routinely go bungee-jumping or skydiving? How about Formula1 race car driving or repelling from cliffs? And regarding your health, do you chain smoke, drink excessively or use drugs? All of these choices can limit how much money your family receives when you die because you’re participating in “high-risk” activities that have been proven to, on average, shorten a person’s life. Any fitness coach will teach you the health dangers of certain types of diets, and no one would argue with them. Most of us know which things could make us lose quality of life or die earlier, and if we’re smart, we try to lessen our participation in such dangerous activities. But are we as careful with our bodies when it comes to relationships? Do we look both ways to protect our hearts when it comes to looking for the right man?

   A lot of people seem to believe that morals regarding sex are God’s, or society’s, way to hold us back or to limit how much fun we have. In our world today, the idea of being careful about sex before marriage is considered as antiquated as the corsets or coal-burning stoves of the Victorian Era. But have you ever wondered what the REAL reason was behind these ideas to make them so pervasive for thousands of years? It turns out, there’s a lot of science to back up the rationale behind being careful.

In our world today, the idea of being careful about sex before marriage is considered as antiquated as the corsets or coal-burning stoves of the Victorian Era.

   Did you know that, during sex, a woman bonds to a man because of the high level of oxytocin that her body produces (right before orgasm)? Oxytocin, also sometimes referred to as the “love hormone”, is also what helps a mother bond to her baby during labor, birth and breastfeeding. In addition, it’s a natural pain killer and all-around happy drug that your body produces naturally at specific times. Meanwhile, the man isn’t bonding nearly as much with you through the brief encounter, often not much at all, because his natural testosterone blocks oxytocin during sex. What this means for you as a woman is that, whether you mean to or not, you will bond to just about any man you have a good sexual experience with. It also means the man is unlikely to bond with you right away.* Since any man you choose to have sex with won’t be equally vulnerable, you would be wise to stop and consider how important he is to you.

   Popular movies and tv shows today portray women easily walking away from sexual relationships. Think of Sex and the City, and how often Carrie finds herself in bed with all sorts of men, as do her 3 best girlfriends. Of course, the writers of the show allow the characters to be sad and sometimes miserable over this or that guy (while gleefully dismissive about others), but overall there’s a certain imperviousness to psychological disaster portrayed in the four female leads that isn’t close to the painful reality: we, as women, risk heartbreak every time we bond with a man.

   The idea that women can be as unaffected by promiscuity as men can is simply false. Not only is it in our physiology to be more at risk through bonding, we also risk the chance of unwanted pregnancy as well as much higher rates of infection or STDs than men have (just Google it and you’ll see!). And along with all of that, we are in general more sensitive and relationship-oriented than our male counterparts, making us sitting ducks as far as emotional danger. Some of you have been the victims of Don Juans or Casanovas, who sight us as targets in their crosshairs but abandon us once they’ve gotten what they came for. Society and the dating world has its fair share of what we at FW call “rats”, and it can often take more than a few days, sometimes even weeks or months, to realize their true nature. Knowing the risk of bonding through casual or non-committal sex, why would you take a chance bonding with a rat?

Knowing the risk of bonding through casual or non-committal sex, why would you take a chance bonding with a rat?

   When I was young, women were more careful about promiscuity partly because we didn’t have birth control all over the place. Ever since The Pill became mainstream, casual sex has skyrocketed. And I bet you’ve noticed, at least subconsciously, the effects of this (more divorce, more fatherless children, more heartbreak everywhere, cynicism and despair and mental illness at an all-time high).
Something else has to be considered along with everything I’ve mentioned above: men are not as inclined to seek out and value relationships as women are. Studies have shown that males are target or goal oriented, prioritizing hierarchy (or their place in the society food chain) and “winning the race” over emotions. Women, on the other hand, prioritize relationships and people, valuing safety and security for ourselves and those we love. Our differing goals in life should give us pause when we consider joining ourselves to men without a commitment, because they are often not on the same page we are; they may be in the middle of a different book altogether!

   I’m not saying you’re 100% jumping into a volcano if you have sex outside of a strong mutual commitment like marriage. You might beat the odds and get away with having a wonderful experience with a gem of a man who commits to you and wants to bond with you over time so that you can end up building a lifelong love affair together. The Timeless Principles of Fascinating Womanhood can still be applied in such circumstances because they are universally helpful, designed to encourage and improve humanity. But if you’re able to do all that, you’ll be in the very lucky minority of women who engage in high-risk behavior and emerge victorious. We’ve all known too many women who weren’t. So I have to ask you what Clint Eastwood’s character asked: Do you feel lucky?

*Men can bond slowly, over time, partly due to the hormone vasopressin, but that’s a whole article by itself

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