Studly manosphere blogger Free Northerner wrote an excellent post called Thoughts On Avoiding LTRs, in which he asserts that “girlfriend” is the no-man’s land of relationships. He makes the case that marriage or a sequence of short-term relationships are superior alternatives to having a “girlfriend”.
He was expanding on his previous assertion that:
If you’re looking for an LTR or a girlfriend. Just don’t; it’s stupid. If you want sex, get sex through an STR, FWB, or ONS. If you want companionship, get a male friend or a dog. If you want a family and life-partner, get a wife. Getting a girlfriend is the worst of all three worlds while minimizing the benefits of any of them.
These are my initial comments after reading his post, which are too wordy to place in the regular comments section.
THE AMBIGUOUS LONG RUN
First, it is hard to argue with many of your assertions when viewed from the “long-run” perspective. As you know, the use of the term “long-run” in economics is one of the reasons Economist are the butt of “assume a can opener” jokes. But I will agree that, based on your points, marriage is the optimal status for a LTR in the “long-run”.
However, in the short term, it is unwise for a bachelor to state that he is seeking marriage. For many reasons it is wiser to state that he is seeking a “relationship”, even though he might secretly know that marriage is the best option long-term if “the one” is found.
So while I might agree that marriage is the better solution for a LTR, it is dangerous for a bachelor to ever let that belief be known to the public.
EFFICIENT FRONTIER OF SEXUAL GRATIFICATION
NSA sex is not gratifying sex. To get the full package there has to be a high level of trust as well as an emotional bond. Therefore, STR, FWB, or ONSs are poor substitutes for genuine sex in a committed relationship.
I suppose this is where I depart from conventional wisdom of much of the manosphere, for PUAs do not have gratifying relationships. This is a criticism I have of many of the self-proclaimed manosphere experts.
Allow me to use an analogy of drilling for oil . Gratifying sex required a high-risk initial investment. You can invest much resources in drilling a well, have it come up dry, and you obviously lose your shirt.
However, if the well does produce, it will provide a steady stream of income with low maintenance cost. This stream of income is the return for the initial speculative investment.
I would argue that the efficient frontier for sexual gratification vs relationship costs is achieved in the 3 month to 18 month time frame. That is the payoff for the initial investment in the relationship.
After 18 months, the honeymoon phase starts to end. Maintenance cost begin to increase on the well, but it is still producing oil. This is the phase where it is easy to accept mediocrity, versus having to find a newer, more vibrant well.
Sorry for the mixed analogies I might revisit this later and try to word the thought better. To summarize, you said:
Previous calculations I have done, calculated the economic cost of sex was less the longer your relationship lasted. For the most part though, there was declining marginal utility as the relationship extended. After the first few months, the cost of sex stopped going down significantly.
I agree with the concept, but disagree with the time period. My economics is too rusty to phrase this in Economics terms as this analysis is complicated because you are receiving a stream of utility (quality sex), in exchange for the large initial investment.
After the optimal “honeymoon phase” sweet spot is reached, it is true that costs increase and utility declines, but the value proposition is still very very favorable as evidenced by lack of substitutes that provide equal or better marginal utility.
I basically agree with your assertions except for the six month time frame.
This is different for each individual obviously, but to me the highest costs are in the initial phases of dating. That is hell on earth for me. Having to be patient while she wrestles with her flip-flopping emotions and all that shit…it is aweful.
However, after she develops attached feelings for you, at that point the man has more control in the relationship. Once the man is in the drivers seat non-material cost decrease significantly.
At first doing ordinary things together actually provides utility. But I agree that every man has that moment when this phenomenon comes to a screeching halt. One day it hits you that you are having to discuss shit at length when it is so glaringly evident discussion shouldn’t even be required. You ask yourself, what the fuck are you doing having this discussion anyway when you should be at home with your dog enjoying some peace and quiet?
This is the moment when the immaterial cost begin to increase. But it is not a gradual increase as implied in your article. Instead, the slope of the costs usually makes a dramatic jump one day out of the blue.
Of course, the long-term girlfriend is rational in one scenario. Where you are looking for a moderate amount of commitment, but not too much, a moderate, but limited, level of companionship, and regular sexual access with a singular partner at a not too high cost. But I don’t see the point in pursuing such a lukewarm strategy. It lacks both the hedonic thrills of being a player and the meaningfulness of a strong marriage and family. Don’t settle for mediocrity.
Another problem with this discussion is that we are viewing “girlfriend” as a static status. “Girlfriend” can change into “wife”. But my contention is that can’t be logically considered until one is past the honeymoon phase of the relationship.
I will agree that if the relationship goes for many years and is stagnant, that is settling for mediocrity.
It is only prudent to test before you buy. Marriage is a huge leap of faith I will not make without full information again. For people like me, sex in the spirit of exploring a relationship to see where it might lead long term feels different than a one night stand/conquest.
I think there is some grey area here hidden in between the black and white.
Free Northerner’s points are all valid with the following qualifications:
- You have to manage the short-run and mid-run to get to the ambiguous economics “long-run”.
- FWB, STR, and ONSs are not equal substitutes for sex with a loving partner.
- “Girlfriend” can be a stop along a route, not an ultimate destination.
- Costs and benefits come in irregular spikes, not in predictable, evenly sloped, curves.
- It is fun to think about indifference curves as this topic is discussed.