But even with our closest and most committed relationships (including those with women, but also those with our friends and our jobs), one cannot assume the work of signaling one's intent is ever done. Hanson:
The really funny irony of Hanson's post, though, is that he assumes the exact wrong kind of signaling. Look at the example he gives:
Even if you’ve come to work in a suit and tie for twenty years, the day you come in a bathing suit, your coworkers may well suspect that your work ethic has changed. So you have to wear that suit one more day.
A man sometimes thinks that after all he has done for a woman surely she must know he loves her and he doesn’t need to keep showing it by saying so, giving gifts, holding doors, etc. Usually such men are in for a rude awakening.Oh Robin, Robin, Robin.
...if you don’t signal your continued love she may well conclude that your love has in fact changed. And you have to work hard enough with your signal to distinguish yourself from someone who doesn’t care as much as you.Of course, Hanson is absolutely right that if one wants to maintain the status quo in a relationship, one must do the work of maintaining the proper signaling. But he seems to be thoroughly trained in thinking that the best way to long-term health in a relatioship with a woman is to signal "caring more than everyone else" and "giving gifts," etc.
This, of course, is the constant position of a supplicant. His "rude awakening" is in pipeline if he ever stops his supplication, because his woman has trained him to react with panic and desperate apology if she ever hints that she may exclude him from her favor.
All you readers know that I advocate a very different way of dealing with a woman (long term relationship or no). I won't go into details; the archives are full of material. But I would like to point out, despite his different ideas of what constitutes a good example of how a man needs to signal to his woman, that Hanson's central point is absolutely true.
So let's assume you are an alpha, and you've trained your woman to supplicate you rather than the other way around. Now, you may assume, like the hapless beta in Hanson's example, that once you have established a firm ground for your relationship, you can relax things a little bit. Au contraire, mes frères. You must continue signaling your dominance: gently pull her hair when you go in for a kiss, raise you voice sternly when she steps out of line, flirt shamelessly with other women in public. If you coast on your past dominance, she will gradually start to see you as beta and lose her passion (and you'll end up like the man in Hanson's example, grovelling at her feet with a box of chocolates and protestations of your loyalty).
Of course, in a way, I am saying the same thing as Hanson. He's saying the man must signal that he still loves his woman. And that's actually exactly what I am saying. I just have a different idea of what constitutes loving a woman, i.e. giving her what makes her truly happy and fulfilled, and not playing the ultimately selfish and self-aggrandizing role of the "nice guy."
Signaling is the central activity of human social interaction. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, or want to learn more, Robin Hanson is an excellent introduction to these matters. Check out the archives under "psychology" at Overcoming Bias for a good intro (and stick around and read all the other stuff too... it's very worthwhile).