Can a self-admitted promiscuous douchebag “settle down,” commit to one woman, and possibly start a family? Mark Manson certainly hopes so.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, if it was a specific moment or a subtle, unconscious desire that slowly crept up on me. There was no great, inspiring event or eye-opening moment. I don’t think I even noticed it until it had been happening for months.
But at some point in the past year, I realized I liked kids.
Like I said, I don’t know how or why this happened. All I know is two years ago, the sight of a giggling baby or an excited child shouting to his mother would draw eye rolls and irritation from me. Now? I smile at them. Sometimes I wave to them. And occasionally, I even exhale a silent, “Awwwww…”
But wait, it gets worse.
At some point, while smiling and guffawing at some rug rats, the unspeakable thought penetrated my mind:
“I bet I’d be a good father.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up. Where did that come from? What are you thinking? But seriously, I bet I would be. I’d take my kids to the park too, except I’d probably…wait, wait, wait. Time out. How did these thoughts get in here?
You see, I’m probably one of the most unlikely of male candidates to have these paternal urges. I’ve spent the majority of my 20s indulging in promiscuity to an unhealthy degree. In the past five years alone, I’ve slept with over 100 women. I’m sad to report that I used to keep running stat sheets on them. Friends and I used to have competitions to see who could date the most at the same time. I know, I was a douchebag. Spare me the objectification lecture.
Yeah, it wasn’t exactly healthy. And although I later became a lot more honest and upfront with my partners, took into account their needs, and tried to connect with them as individuals instead of walking vaginas, the body count didn’t exactly slow down. In fact, it only sped up. What can I say? Chicks dig empathy.
But that doesn’t even get to my commitment issues. Girlfriend? Commitment? Relationship? The mere utterance of these words from a woman historically sent me sprinting in the opposite direction.
The only two women I’ve ever managed to commit to for any non-laughable period of time dealt with my ambivalent, head-case bullshit for months before I finally “settled down.” And I use that term half-mockingly, because like a jackass, I still went out and flirted with other women.
And now I want kids? What the hell am I thinking?
Unlike a lot of compulsively promiscuous men, I actually do believe in commitment, marriage, and creating a healthy family life. I’ve been in love and am falling in love again. And despite my overly-sexual history, I am adamant about being honest and upfront with my intentions and feelings with every woman I meet.
But the fact is, almost my entire life has been constructed in order to avoid commitment. I run an my own Internet business. I hop from country to country rarely staying for more than a couple months at a time. I’m a total lush, out on the town two to three times a week drinking and carousing. I have heart-strings dangling across the globe and there’s a part of me that feels a lot more comfortable with it that way. A part of me feels more comfortable alone and isolated. I still enjoy the thrill of the unknown, the excitement and energy that comes with those first few moments of meeting someone new and beautiful.
What I’ve finally accepted this past year is that there’s a horizon to my wayward ways. At least there has to be. It has to end some time. And it’s not going to end on its own, I should start preparing myself. There are deeper and more important things in life I want to experience and enjoy. Superficial thrills are just that, superficial.
As I’ve indulged myself, there’s always been a fear in the back of my mind that there was a point of no return and I already passed it. That this is simply how I’m wired and I’m helpless to ever change it. That I’m going to be one of those sleazy 40-year-old men hitting on girls old enough to be his daughter and then later that dirty 60-year-old spending all of his money at strip clubs or even worse…in Thailand.
I’m trying to gradually wind myself down. I started by spending more time in each country. Make friends. Take time. Establish connections. Give a shit. That helped.
Another step was accepting that my business was not the temporary and frivolous pursuit I started it as but a permanent career choice. I decided to commit to it, to accept it as part of my identity.
The latest step has been easing myself into a commitment with a wonderful woman. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s the first time I’ve been able to commit to a woman without giving her six months of drama and oh-I’m-sorry-I-was-drunk-and-she-didn’t-mean-anything bullshit.
I don’t know what will happen with my new girlfriend or how long we will last, but I do know that taking this step to be with her, sanely and consciously, to buckle down and make the sacrifices to see how far we can go together, while fighting my baser urges, is a necessary step toward my long-term maturation as a man.
Will it get me there? Or will it just crash and burn and launch me further into the sea of meaningless sex and what-could-have-been’s?
I don’t know. Some have said that once a man is promiscuous, he’s ruined as commitment material. I don’t know if that’s true, but sometimes I believe it may be.
There was a popular book written a while back called The Paradox of Choice. It’s about psychological studies which found that the more choices and greater variety people are presented with, the less happy they are with what they ultimately choose, even if that choice is objectively better than what was available in limited choices.
Economically speaking, it’s because in every choice we make, every commitment we make, there’s an opportunity cost. When you perceive your opportunities to be small, then it’s easy to be satisfied with choosing only one and giving up the rest. When you perceive them to be immense, it’s more difficult.
But this is only true if I believe the choice to be about sexual encounters.
The answer is to reorient what I value. Our culture reinforces so much instant gratification and superficial pleasure that it’s easy to lose sight of the unspoken, subtle comforts of the deep trust and understanding that comes with a loving, long-term partner. And with that partner, the eventual chance at the loving stability of a family. And from that family, the opportunity to take my kids to the park too, where I’d probably…
Wait, what the hell am I saying?
Mark Manson is an entrepreneur, world traveler, writer and former pick up coach. He writes about his life experiences and self-development on his blog Postmasculine.com.