The Female Dilemma: Managing Male Interest

“Why do we trade in the attention of a hundred men for the indifference of one?”

I’ve been pondering this for awhile. I remember reading this in a booklet of quotable quotes by famous women about men. That alone tells me, it’s a dilemma that other women have grappled with.

It is a common notion that men change once they enter a relationship. A wave of attention and affection and solicitousness comes our way from the man, during the initial heady wooing days. As we settle into the comfort (no doubting) of a relationship, the tide starts to pull back. Where the minutest change in our appearance would have been cause for a deluge of compliments, an entire makeover elicits not a grunt. At one point of time, the man is vying for a slot on our busy schedule. Now that our schedule is built around him and his idiosyncrasies, it is no more interesting than last year’s calendar. This isn’t what I’d call intentional malice or cruelty. But it does sting at a profound level when you’re at the receiving end.

Compared to the average man, the average woman has a higher degree of attention coming her way from the opposite sex (sorry but that’s the way nature goes). She decides to trade in all that for one man, whose interest declines eventually. Most women do this and what’s more, do it willingly, joyfully and earnestly. So why do women put up with it?

Are we so desperate for the illusory security of one relationship that we’ll throw in all the promissory notes of flirtation that we had earlier? Are we so masochistic that we can’t fathom, cannot bear the idea of being so universally adored and must settle into the mediocrity of accepting less, much less? Or are we just being realistic and trading in our chips before they all lose value, for something that depreciates but stays our own, nevertheless? It bears thinking about.


  1. Why do you have to trade in ALL your chips? You’re getting into a relationship, not a binding exclusive legal contract. So fit HIM into your busy schedule, but not to the exclusion of all else. You’ll retain your value (sounds like I’m putting a price tag on your head,n I know, but that’s not the way I mean it) by the simple method of being… free.

    Of course, you’ll be there when he really needs you. But a relationship is no reason to give up your entire life.

    1. @General Disarray: That’s ideal but is not how it works. Not even in the most liberated, gender-equal relationships.

      The traded in chips were a metaphor for turning in all the freedom of flirtation, singlehood and enjoyment of varied male attention. There definitely is a curbing of that once one gets into a relationship. It does go both ways as he gives up the same freedom too. But given the nature of most man-woman interactions, on an average, the woman has received more attention than the man and so gives up more.

      Also, there are very definitive roles and structures that fall into place, no matter how ‘modern’ the couple. Most of these are societal conditioning and really it is much easier to go along with them than fight each one or create new structures. These long-running structures do dictate the woman builds her life around the man. Even if the man is respectful of her independence, I don’t think we’ve evolved that far as individuals or a society to actually implement it. How many men do you know take responsibility for the good health and fitness of their significant others? How many men go out of their way to seek and nurture career/creative opportunities for their women (even if they are supportive)? And think about how many women do the same for their men.

  2. “…by the simple method of NOT being free” is what I meant. Typing on phone while travelling isn’t conducive to putting thoughts down clearly. Sorry about that, and the obvious mistake, too. There isn’t an ‘edit’ button on the mobile version.

  3. Maybe we trade in because we are conditioned to do so. Because there are “social” benefits of doing so. I wonder if we went back to being nomadic, any woman would trade in her freedom for bondage.

    1. @Nithya: Would we still have the choice to? The contained environment imposed on women began with territorial distinctions over progeny. That’ll all go kaput if we were allowed to mate indiscriminately in the same manner as has been allowed to men down the centuries.

  4. I don’t know enough of my friends’ personal lives to be able to answer your questions satisfactorily. Judging from my significant other’s behaviour, what you say is the norm. Which is a shame.

    I still maintain, however, that it also upto you as an equal to ask for what you want, and make sure you get it if reasonable. as for attention, it’s easy enough to let them know you have a significant other, then let them take a call on whether they still want to shower you with attention. I’ve met all kinds so far, you must have as well. Roll with it, I say!

    1. @General Disarray: Actually I was referring to this significant other’s decline in interest once the ‘significant other’ status was achieved. Attention from other men continues to happen with different responses (like you said) to knowledge of the woman’s attached status. It doesn’t feel right to encourage that attention since one is in a relationship already. At the same time, considering the person for whom all this is being relinquished, doesn’t seem to keep up with providing that attention anymore, the question comes up. Having a lot of attention and then losing it is tough on anyone.

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