The reason why most books don’t work is because they don’t focus on the underlying problem. The fact is that most of these techniques try to compensate for deficiencies in personality. They try to cover up the problem, but they do not solve it because the fears and insecurities will remain.
Many people who seek to improve their romantic lives have beliefs that place them above or below the opposite sex. These beliefs arise from Cultural Narratives that are encountered in various way in our culture. Cultural Narratives may be one of the fundamental principles that most books or advice in general doesn’t cover and these narratives affect all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, in our romantic lives.
We are constantly influenced by how our relationships should be both in terms of love and sex even before we are really thinking about what appeals to us. We assume that Cultural Narratives are real because we see them in everyday life; in school, family life, the media etc., and we usually approve them without really asking what they are. The problem is that many of them can hurt us. Some examples of these narratives are:
Narratives About Sex
With the beginning of the Middle Ages in Catholic Europe, the Church imposed on medieval society that sex was allowed only within marriage and should be for the exclusive purpose of reproduction. This categorized sex as something bad or impure and that fantasies and desire were wrong or immoral in some way or another.
In those times access to education and information about health was far removed from what we enjoy today. Many people lived in extreme poverty and barely had enough to eat. Having children involved potentially serious consequences not only in terms of the delivery but also when it came to feeding the child. Even for a wealthy man, for whom keeping his children was not a problem, he needed to make sure those children were his own. For this reason, this type of narrative helped maintain fidelity and more control over women. This is also an example of the attitudes that were passed on through generations and are not justified today.
The truth is that most people enjoy, think about and fantasize about sex and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when people take these narratives as truth and because they view sex as inherently immoral a lot of guilt is generated for them. Every time we try to conceal or repress a desire, in this case enjoying sex, consequences such as low self-esteem, shame or self-sabotaging behaviors are generated.
This can also make it difficult to commit or have healthy relationships. It is important for any healthy relationship to accept our own wishes as well as to accept the wishes of our partner without overreacting or judging them.
Narratives About Love
The narratives about love and romanticism have been placed in a very idealized position. In the Middle Ages, love could even be seen as a mental illness which made people act irrationally and do things like elope with other partners or make bad decisions, even to the point of killing for love.
After the Industrial Revolution society stabilized and it was no longer necessary to arrange marriages for economic or political reasons. It was from this point that love began to be seen in a more romantic light, a process of self-realization and a desirable goal to achieve. It was also were this cultural narrative start next to the Romanticism, a cultural movement that took place in Europe from the end of the 18th Century up until the first half of the 19th Century.
Another aspect of this narrative is that it is only successful if it lasts forever. Studies by various biologists and anthropologists show that this is not true. A team from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine did a study with different couples. This study was explained by neurologist David J. Linden in his book “The Compass of Pleasure”. They made brain scans of the subjects while they looked at a photograph of the face of their loved one. The results indicated that in most cases people do not fall in love for life. That idea of maintaining a relationship together, whatever the cost, maintains this romantic idealization that hurts if it goes beyond mutual respect. Sometimes, the best thing is to simply finish that relationship and allow each other to move on.
In Western culture, and perhaps to a greater extent in Latin America, many of us romanticize love and see it as “the great solution to all our problems in life.” It’s love movies, fairy tales, princess stories, pop culture, Disney’s “happy endings”, poems and many things that feed this narrative.
Now, what is the problem with all this?
That our relationships are the first victims. All these messages in some way tell us that: “there is only one true love for all life”, “if we find love nothing else matters”, “that love can do everything and solve everything”, or “that love justifies even behaviors that are not healthy.” And because we idealize love, we also overestimate it.
A very interesting note by Mark Manson called “Love is not enough” criticizes John Lennon for being idealistic and inconsistent with songs like “All you need is love” when in his personal life he abandoned one of his children and beat his two wives.
We should understand that having healthy relationships requires more than passion, emotion or love. We understand that the success of our relationships depends on deeper values. If we are in a relationship in which we continuously perform behaviors that hurt us or hurt our partner then love alone is not enough, it is not a good relationship.
With this I do not mean that love is a bad thing in itself or that there are no couples that last forever. Without a doubt it is a very important experience in the life of any person. But when love is considered paramount then it is most likely that we will ignore fundamental values such as honesty, respect and commitment to the people we love. If love is the solution to all our problems, why bother with all the other difficult things?
And how is it that these narratives affect us?
Well, we already talked about what Cultural Narratives are and how they affect our beliefs, however, we also have our personal traumatic experiences that tend to amplify these ideas, thus generating greater damage. If for example:
– There is a narrative that talks about women as manipulative, malicious and cold and if in our last relationship our partner cheated this will confirm that they are this way.
– If as children we were mocked for our appearance, as adults we could combine that trauma with the standards of society on beauty and generate an obsession with our image.
– Having an authoritative or neglectful mother or father that affects our way of seeing the opposite gender in the future.
Inferiority Gap and Compensation Behaviors
This combination of narratives and traumatic experiences can generate what is called the “inferiority gap“. This means that a person believes implicitly that there is a difference between their value as an individual and a specific sex or gender, and therefore, needs an action to compensate for it. As I said in the beginning, this happens with most people who seek to improve their romantic lives because they adopt a belief that places them above or below the opposite sex. For example:
– If a man puts women above him then he will believe that he needs to compensate with certain behaviors, gifts or phrases.
– Women sometimes put up with bad treatment in a relationship and believe they are not worthy of their partner’s consideration and respect, they want the man to prove their love somehow.
– A man who tries to seek out eloquent phrases and pick up lines in order to have sex with women.
As we said before, these people believe they need some action to compensate for this inferiority gap. These behaviors are called “compensation behaviors.” They are not things we do because we really want to but things we do because we fear disapproval or rejection from someone else. Not only are these behaviors unattractive, they even unbalance a relationship in favor of the person with the most power.
Worst of all, most of the seduction tips in Blogs, Youtube videos or even books and magazines promote this type of behavior. “Say this”, “do the other thing”, “wait three days to answer” …
Every time we see a person above us that makes us feel that we must improve to obtain their approval, we will have compensation behaviors. People in this situation are those who try to be more cool or successful than they are, who seem to know more than they really know, who are not open to their needs, their values or their past.
Romantic movies are full of these behaviors as if they were something normal: “try to say something to impress”, “manipulate”, “pursue”, etc. In reality, a healthy relationship is one in which each person expresses how they feel and their partner takes it or leaves it. If they leave it there is an incompatibility of values and it probably was not a good relationship.
Even those who adopt an apathetic attitude so as not to give a needy impression so that they are perceived as more attractive, paradoxically, are having a compensatory behavior because they are not being authentic. They hide their emotions and do not show themselves as they really are, they are pretending in order to give a more positive image. Basically, all they show is that they care too much what others think about them.
Compensation behaviors are universally unattractive and generate rejection for acting desperately.
These behaviors, besides being unattractive, consist of three problems:
1- Reinforces low self-esteem: If we cannot be ourselves whenever we are facing someone that interests us or if we need an action or behavior to please the rest, this will reinforce the belief that we are insufficient.
2- They are exhausting: They take a lot of energy because we will never know if we are correct: “Did I say the correct phrase?” “Did I talk to him too soon?”
3- They inhibit trust between people: Trust is one of the fundamental values in relationships. If we feel that we need certain behaviors to merit acceptance, we will never be sure whether the other person appreciates us for our actions or for what we really are.
If most of the seduction tips fail, it is because they focus on giving advice on “compensation behaviors” and not on working on the underlying problem that is the “Inferiority Gap”.
When I was a teenager I believed that women were something to be conquered, something for which men had to prove their worth for courtship. That men should entertain and validate or be accepted by them. The truth is that in movies this can work but in reality women do not tend to see these behaviors as something attractive.
While the advice out there tries to counteract these needy attitudes, for example, by saying phrases to make us look “cooler” or waiting for 3 days to respond so as not to come across as needy, they try to present these behaviors as those of a man who respects himself. However, a man who respects himself says what he thinks and talks about his values freely and does not say practised phrases to seek acceptance.
If, on some occasions, “compensation behaviors” have a positive effect, it is because they act as a placebo generating great motivation at the beginning. The tips may also help you a little by simply getting you exposed to more women. But it is not the best way.
If compensatory behaviors are taken as the solution, it will not cure the problem but will disguise it. You will generate an incongruous and inauthentic personality by repeating phrases or acting in certain ways to please others, but deep down, you will continue to seek acceptance.
Remember, “compensation behaviors” are those we do not do because we really want to, but because we fear that others will disapprove or do not want us. Those who feel the need to use techniques or specific phrases feel inferior to the one they want to seduce. The most successful people are those who do not see the opposite sex above themselves. They are those who do not feel that they have to do anything special to earn them. That way your game becomes simple and natural.