The question in the title of this post is simple enough. The answer is not.
I believe selecting the right partner is finding a the ideal point in a three-dimensional space. And it is important to note that first this three-dimensional space is not our spatial dimensions of lenght, width and height, second that these three dimensions are probably a crude oversimplification of reality and third that all that follows in this post is written from the point of view evoluion of behaviour (in a darwinian or post-darwinian or later … meaning).
The three dimensions :
1) male fitness (as observed by females)
2) female fitness (as observed by males)
3) selection purpose
In a herd, flock, group, community or whatever contains some individuals, at least in social animals there is some sort of hierarchy. The same holds for humans. The alpha-male is the lucky guy who gets every girl or women he wants. The omega-male is the one who allways goes alone. And between the two extremes every value is possible.
Is very much like male fitness : The alpha-female is the one men fight for (not necesarily literally), the omega-female is the girl nobody wants.
As I wrote in a previous post females select two sets of characteristics in men : first set: he must be as “alpha” as possible (strong, healthy, rich, social … ), whatever characteristics a women wants her children to have. Second set: he must be a good father. And when she does not find the two groups of characteristics in one single man, then many seek the first set in one man and the second in another (they do not need to know eachother …).
Something similar holds for the partner choice of men. A man can select a women to give her the first set of characteristics. A one night stand is sometimes all it takes to give her the right set of genes for her child. Or a men can seek a lifetime partner to raise his children and provide himself with a real home and family.
In the beginning of this post I spoke of finding the ideal point.
A very simple approach would be for a man : just go for the alpha-woman. But it is not that simple. There are right choices and not-so-right choices.
Let me illustrate with a simple graph of the first two dimensions.
The red diagonal represents a totally balanced selection : in the upper right corner we find the alpha-men, selecting the alpa-women. In the lower left corner just the opposite: omega-men selecting omega-women.
The green area is the easy area : It is where a men selects a women who ranks lower on the alpa-omega scale. It is an easy victory for the man, and the woman is happy because she has a better than expected man.
I think this is the more dangerous zone for the women, because chances are high that the relationship will be short. This could work for both in case they somehow agree that the selection purpose (dimension three) is more on the gene (sperm) transmitting side than on the family side.
The read area is more dangerous for the men. He can try to start a relationship with a women who ranks better than himself, but his chances will be be low and then he will find other men ranking higher and even risking agressions of whatever kind. Besides, he risks to be chosen, not for his “alpha-level” but for his family level, by a woman who goes to another man to obtain the right genes for her childeren.
So it remains a very complicated choice, the more that all this happens to a large extend subconciously. A very fertile soil for lovesongs !
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