Why romantic rejection stings: evolved psychology

Humans spent most of our evolutionary history in small bands and/or villages of 30 – 150 people; think about that ancestral environment for a minute: in it, there were likely only a handful of unattached, fecund women at any given time, all of them enmeshed in family kinship ties that had to be navigated by any guy who wants a shot at their p***y. In that environment, making a play for a chick and losing might be severely damaging or even fatal to a guy’s reproductive prospects; a guy should experience a severe psychological penalty if he fails. All of his people are probably going to learn of his failure, and failure may lead to a failure cascade. Fail hard enough and your genes wash out of the gene pool.

Contrast that with today (you can probably see where I’m going): in high schools or colleges, a guy may be surrounded by dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of attractive prime-age women. In big cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or London, that number rises to the hundreds of thousands. Any particular rejection shouldn’t matter, yet to many of us it does, to the point that fear of rejection inhibits the attempt. In some circumstances, circumspection is still desirable: a lot of high school and college chicks are super into a guy’s social network and standing, which is why cold approach pickup is often undesirable in these environments… even though most high school and college guys should be bolder than they are and risk/accept more rejection.

Today, most women have minimal romantic oversight by their kin, particularly for short-term mating and after the high-school period. Women make their own sexual decisions. For guys living in big cities, any particular rejection is meaningless, yet it still stings. I think that’s our evolved response to sexual rejection, which is maladaptive in most modern situations. If she says no, move on to the next one. Practice hitting on women like you’d practice any other skill. If a guy works on his value, value delivery mechanism, and environment, he will likely improve. But in hitting on chicks and accepting their sometimes-cruel rejection, he may be pushing against his own psychology, and that is difficult. I want to acknowledge that it is difficult. Men and women have overlapping but distinct sexual strategies, which means that both sexes will struggle, just in different ways. The way to minimize struggle is to be ultra-high value (unlikely) or give up (unsatisfying). The rest of us must face the dragon.

It’s useful to try and overcome some emotional responses with rational thought. Useful, but difficult, and likely imperfect. I don’t expect to completely overcome emotional responses, but I wish to try, and, in my life, the effort to think through my feelings has been rewarded. Your first feeling toward a situation or thing is often wrong.

Understanding our evolved psychology is important for understanding how to live today. In ancestral times, a sweet tooth was adaptive and helped guide us towards edible fruits and honey, both of which were likely important to survival. Today, industrial agricultural can deliver sugar in quantities totally foreign to evolutionary times, leading to obesity, diabetes, etc. Almost everyone who quits sugar gets great results. Standing apart from the herd, though, is hard, and we see the results of those who can’t stand out (fat people) all around us. The modern information environment may also be bad for us, attempting to generate fake tribalism and bullshit outrage because both are extremely attractive, even if they’re bad for us. We should be reading more books and fewer anger-inducing, polarizing media articles.

I write about the ailments of sugar and the pain of rejection not because I am beyond them, but because I am not. I still struggle with both, even as I try to build habits that minimize the struggle, or allow me to win. I’m not 100% successful. Rejection still annoys me at times. I miss chicks I ought to open. I try to re-center myself by asking, “Why am I responding this way? What is the good response? What would Marcus Aurelius do, besides conquer Gaul?” We live for only a short while. We should try to do it as best we can.

I’m writing this today because I believe I’m both rejecting and being rejected this weekend. Plus, I read an incredible Red Pill account by an anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, who perseveres through both the tribe he studies and the Marxist-indoctrinated colleagues who can’t conceive of a world outside their narrow ideological bubble. The world rarely confirms to an ideology. We try to make it so at our own peril.