If a man indulges in a “side dish” while dating a woman to whom he has not pledged his exclusivity, what does it say about his character? Is he worthy of respect, and does he have the potential to be Mr. GoodEnough?
If a man is after a woman rather than just chasing her for sex, her insistence on chasteness works in dating and courtship. Some men, however, are unable to satisfy the expectations of women for physical fidelity during the dating/pre-courtship stage. They can’t remain loyal enough while a relationship develops, and they find ‘side dish’ (or two, or even three) for interim enjoyment. A reasonable but ultimately unsatisfying alibi exists, with roots that extend back to his childhood.
As an example, it happened to Her Highness Tooconfused. Nearing a year into a satisfying courtship and following the guidelines described on this blog, she discovered that he was wandering on her. Regular contact slowed and then stopped for a week. He returned without explanation. As she says, “He had been busy chasing and bedding a friend of a friend (small world heard it through the grapevine). Did they end up dating? No. The ’side dish’ was a once or twice night stand for him.” Judging him as insufficiently loyal, Tooconfused broke off. He kept trying to come back, but she declined without explanation.
What follows is mere speculation about her man. But, I describe an upbringing that will produce an adult male who thinks her man’s kind of dating behavior is normal.
This man appears to be an ‘adultolescent’. That is, physical adult and mental adolescent. He grew up without learning to be a mature adult. Parents are usually blamed, but it’s not the whole story.
First, children do not primarily shape their values, standards, and expectations from the examples set by parents. Absorption is only partial and can be very small when not exposed to parental care that includes these qualities that are admirable among boys: respect for the child as a person albeit a little one; respect for him as self-developer looking for ways to satisfy his self-interest; nurturing that satisfies but is appreciated only for real hurts; and leadership handling that the boy dislikes in the short-run, learns to admire before puberty, and then appreciates when delivered in coaching form during the teen years.
Children are self-developers. They learn and absorb what they want to. They follow their self-interest as far as adults permit. And they develop from what they learn and absorb, which usually comes mostly from other children, and some or many may be older. You can see it begin in three-year olds; they more easily pay attention to and associate more comfortably with children than adults. Consequently, kids are primarily the personality products of who they grew up with other than adults. (Old school moms knew it intuitively and restricted associating with certain kids. ♫ I remember it well. ♫)
Second, parents apply growing-up pressures but often the wrong kind. Parents, especially adultolescents themselves, often reinforce immature peer pressures. Tooconfused’s man likely experienced an upbringing similar to the following.
- His parents may raise him to be a good or great child, rather than a prospective adult. They focus on how he performs and appears to others in fun and games, sports, grades, popularity, self-esteem, and childhood likeability rather than guiding his motivational urges toward adulthood. The difference in pressures that parents apply (outperform a cousin or the kid next door in sports, grades, popularity) and expectations he should meet (make mom and dad proud, make an all-star team) make parental life more involved and beneficial for parents and seemingly a more enjoyable upbringing for him. A good child reflects well on parents.
- Or, his parents may ignore guiding his self-development so that he absorbs the values, standards, and expectations from TV idolatry, celebrity worship, and children with whom he associates. If neglected, parents may wonder but don’t much care that immature values govern his life.
- Either way, his standards and expectations are shaped by trying to live more for the moment and less for the future. It reinforces the males’ primal urge to focus on the present and let the future come as it will. Live to think and act as a child rather than try to learn, absorb, and emulate more mature values and adult-like expectations, such as better planning for his future.
- Raised to focus on short-range thinking rather than practice for long-range achieving, he enters puberty with no more guidance or parental expectation than to continue as a good kid. Perhaps he was indulged and spoiled, perhaps not. For the most part, the responsibilities up to which he is expected to step leave exceed his abilities. His sense of responsibility is too weak or short to prepare very well for his future. The present remains too simple or enjoyable to think of how to improve the prospects for adulthood. He can continue as he does now. He can handle it, or so he’s been conditioned to think.
- He enters adolescence unprepared to exit as a mature adult. Too little assignment of responsibility that over time strengthens his sense of duty (making his bed, cleaning his room, helping mom without her asking). Too little reaching out for adult-like achievements. Too little stimulation of adult ambitions. Too little success achieving long-range goals. Too much enjoyment of teen fun and games. Too little self-discipline. Too little earned self-respect. Too many self-imposed pressures that push toward immediate rather than deferred gratification. Too much time spent learning to bend female thoughts to his will. Too much time studying how to convince girls to uncrossed their legs. Too much time spent indulging the irresistible attractions among females. All of that morphed into his normal behavior.
- The adolescent focus just doesn’t aim at affirmatively learning how to be a responsible adult. It remains focused on immature behaviors and lessons learned that work well and improve popularity among peers. Thus, he passes through the emotional turmoil of puberty only to adopt beliefs based on peer associations and immature values and expectations. He confirms his childhood preparation and superiority as more desirable than parental hopes and dreams for his adolescence.
- His early childhood prompted by the desire for him to be a good child left him with less than a full bag of adult values and beliefs, which was exacerbated by teen-peer influence focusing typically on excitement, adventurism, activism, and today’s sexual freedom. After age 21, he has little or no internal guidance except from childhood values and beliefs reinforced by mounting immaturity among his associates. (Leadership by example, even poor influence by peer associates, is always the most effective.)
- Mature adult values not inculcated before puberty leave a vacuum to be filled by teen peers. His belief system finishes filling up with the only values he’s willing to accept, those more like his own. He seeks and associates with peers who think and act as he does.
- Values and beliefs embedded before puberty last for life if reinforced in adolescence. In his case, beliefs based on values about being a good—but turns out to be irresponsible—child leave him handicapped with women. Unless adultolescent themselves, women expect to associate with men mature enough to be husbandly responsible and fatherly dependable.
In the end, both parents and peers shape the personalities of kids. Parents lay the groundwork, and once lain, peers influence heavily the shape the personality takes. Actually, peers by a wide margin predominate in the process. In the case above, his presence in the adult world is physical, but his heart and mind remain habitually influenced by teenage thinking and habits. Having a ‘side dish’ now and then is perfectly normal for his deeply embedded adolescent-minded values and beliefs.
The dish of chaste loyalty that Tooconfused served up, which required both delayed expectation and gratification, was not as appealing to him as the temptation of a ready-made side dish. After all, how important is loyalty to adolescents? She was mature; he was not. She was ready to exchange mutual loyalty; he couldn’t meet her expectations for very long.
Could he ever become devoted to one woman? Could he qualify as Mr. GoodEnough? That’s another story waiting to be told by the woman who tames such a man sufficiently well that he wants her more than any other. Tough, but it can be done. A few women are that determined, patient, hard-headed, and soft-hearted. I’ve made my best effort to explain what she faces.
P.S. You’re blessed today. Her Highness Cinnamon worked extensively to make this article more easily readable. I’m responsible, however, if you find fault with content. Guy