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My Peacock Theory

When you find yourself thinking, “the animal world has it right,” it’s likely you’re feeling some frustration with humans. Whether this frustration is with yourself, your relationship, or even the (fill in the blank) who blocked two gas pumps at the gas station because he/she didn’t pull the car up far enough, it’s all the same really. You pretty much end up wondering why or how, with our advanced intelligence and resources in so many aspects, we can possibly still make life so complicated.

Well, being a therapist has allowed me a closer look at human frustration and disappointment from a somewhat emotionally removed standpoint and I have to say, it’s fascinating. Some of my most common examples come from those clients (mostly women in the specific cases I’m writing of) who are dating, or in long-term relationships. The complaints are often something like: “He doesn’t listen,” “He never makes the plans,” “He never remembers to call when he’s coming home late,” “We don’t spend time together,” “He doesn’t care about my feelings,” and so on.

Are these legitimate frustrations? One-hundred percent, yes. Of course, it is important to explore both partner's perspectives in regard to these complaints, along with their relation to past and present contexts, but for our purposes here I’d like to just focus in on these complaints as is.

Why is it that so many of us stick around in these relationships where our needs are clearly not being met, or a lot of times, not even worked for?

Let’s consider the male peacock for a moment. How he must impress the female with bright, beautiful feathers and the ability to move them (along with the rest of his body) in a special dance that might be pleasing to her; how he dedicates this energy and time (without grumbling or delay) into awakening the female’s every desire before he can ever expect to achieve his goal to be with her. And what does the female do? Well, she simply observes the male’s feathers, his size, his moves--- and if there is even one of these things that she finds the slightest bit unsatisfying, it is not only likely, but it is EXPECTED that she will turn her back to him and walk away without a second glance. At this point, the male peacock has lost his shot.

Now let’s shift back to the human world and just call it like it is…

We humans over-think and over-complicate our relationships to death! Always giving each other things like second chances, excuses, and other passes that are unheard of in the animal world. Unlike us, the female peacock isn’t worried that she’ll never find a better peacock; she doesn’t put her own feelings aside because she’s worried about the male getting hurt or mad at her; she doesn’t make the fact that he has some good moves distract her from his dingy feathers, and she certainly doesn’t come around again the next day to see if he’s changed.

Now, my point here is not that we should eliminate our advanced emotional understanding and behavior and regress to animal-like ways, but instead, it is to emphasize how our complex emotions, understanding, and behavior surrounding “love” can end up clouding our relational judgment, often resulting in our neglected individual needs.

In our human defense, we have come to know and see that change is possible with proper guidance, hence, why walking away from all that we love about a person simply because they’re not equipped with our every “ideal” feature or quality has become much harder and, more importantly, unnecessary. Plus, female peacocks don’t exactly have the pressure of long-term relationship goals in mind the way humans do and for this reason, likely have no inclination to even stick around long enough to see what it feels like when the male peacock gets tired of dancing for her. I am quite aware of the many differences between short-term attraction and long-term love and how this complicates a human-peacock comparison...