Friday, August 8, 2014

Surviving Infidelity - Part I

Untitled by Leonid Afremov
If I ever were to answer one of those social media chain questions that reads, “Here are the top ten things most people don’t know about me. What are yours? (Copy sender and five friends),” I’d likely include the fact: “I have an undergraduate minor in Anthropology.” In fact, the only thing that prevented me from an Economics/Anthropology double-major was two measly classes.

Had I stayed one more summer in the wonderland that was the University of Missouri in the mid-80’s, I’d have taken those two classes, but who in the world needs an economical anthropologist? Still, I enjoyed studying the cultural impact of evolution and I still keep up with the newest theories. One of my most valuable lessons is men and women evolutionary and biological strategies.

(Really? My undergraduate education take-way is men and women are different? “Seven years of college down the drain.)

Regardless, men and women are different, so it’s not surprising that a man’s perception of and reaction to infidelity is also quite different than that of a woman’s.

Infidelity Discovered by Thomas Rowlandson
Speaking strictly from an evolutionary perspective, when one of our female ancestors became pregnant, she was absolutely sure that the baby was hers. Right? Our male ancestors, on the other hand, may have had sexual access to his female partner, but he could not be absolutely sure what his female partner may have been doing while he was hunting woolly mammoth.

The female risk of infidelity from her male partner was the scenario in which he might find a more desirable breeding partner and wouldn’t come home to provide meat and shelter for her and her offspring. The male’s risk was potentially failing to pass along his genes if the female to whom he’s committed. If she’d coupled with another male, he also risked expending the fruits of his labor rearing another male’s child.

This instinct to abhor infidelity in primates is so strong that Lowland gorilla alpha males that take over a band (and breeding rights) not only often kill or banish the previous alpha male, but also kill all infants in the band so females stop nursing and come into season more quickly.
While circumstances in our modern world have changed since our ancestors lived in caves or on the savannah, our fundamental emotions haven’t. When our partner has had an affair, regardless of the reason or circumstance, the reaction can be profound.

Check back next week for Part II of “Surviving Infidelity.”