Lover, Provider & Friend: The Truth of Men’s Sexual Roles

sexual market positioning of lovers providers and friends

Lovers, providers, and friends are the three main roles with which women classify the men who pursue them.

Most men date as providers.
But a sizable minority uses a “lover strategy” or a “friend strategy”.

male dating strategies

This article explains the sexual market value of the different roles.

It makes the point that it’s not the dating strategy that makes the biggest difference, but the quality of the man that matters most.

Why Some Guys Get It Wrong

Most guys date poorly because they have no idea of effective dating strategies, their own positioning, and of, course, no idea of sexual market value.

Interestingly, even some guys who actually read and study dating and social dynamics get it wrong.

This is because the big mantra in the manosphere is that “lover rocks, providers is beta”.
This is not completely wrong, but also a huge generalization and overall bad sexual marketplace theory.
Just look at this example below:

Providers are those “marriage-material Plan B guys”?

This is a typical case of what I call “alpha male posturing” (and this is why you must quit the posturing).
In a nutshell, it works like this: I point my finger at a supposed idiot so that I can look better by reflection.

This is simply another form of social climbing or, more precisely, what I call “social climbing in absentia” because it attacks a class of people who are not even present.

If you catch yourself playing this game, don’t worry: it’s a human necessity we all have. But if you want to develop yourself, you need to be aware of it, cut that sh*t out, and move beyond that game and mindset.

And now let’s get into some good sexual marketplace theory on lovers, providers, and friends.

1. Lovers

lovers sexual market value
Sex first, later we’ll see

Lovers present themselves as sexually attractive men.
They showcase their experience and knowledge of women, their success with women (pre-selection), and, possibly, the promise of great fun between the bedsheets.

Lover Category: An Explanation

From an evolutionary psychology point of view, men are around the middle in male parental investment (Wright, 1994).

In a nutshell, that means that men don’t just give out sperm, but they invest in their women, offspring, and intimate relationship.

The lover’s strategy is to remove all the support and only give sperm.
Lovers avoid any investment because:

  1. They have good genes: so they can avoid providing anything if they don’t feel like
  2. Don’t have resources to offer: so they present themselves as lovers because they don’t have other options
  3. Don’t make their resources available: they willingly avoid investing in any way, so they can be lovers (this can be an avoidant personality, a player, or a dating strategy)

The Rationale Behind The Lover Strategy

The appeal of the lover’s sexual strategy is that, if executed well, it can lead to quick, “no strings attached” sex.

That makes sense: women indeed tend to move slower with boyfriend candidates.
When women want a boyfriend, they want that boyfriend to stick around. And to make him stick around, she might try to make him investchase, and wait for sex.
Those strategies can indeed increase the chances that he will stick around after sex -but I don’t necessarily recommend women that course of action because cool men don’t like this game and it works mostly with lower-quality men-.

So if he removes himself from the provider and boyfriend candidate and if he is sexy and cool, then she might take him up for the fun of the sex -and, potentially, for the unconscious desire of getting his genes-.

So being a lover is good?
Well, hold your horses.
In truth, there is no such thing as a strategy that always works best. It depends on the woman, on the situation, and on the guy.

Furthermore, not all lovers are good lovers. And we can divide between “low quality” and “high quality” lovers.

Low-Quality Lovers

Let’s get back to that previous example from the Red Pill poster.

The mistake he does is in the generalization.
And generalizing that lover equals a high-SMV man.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As for anything, there are different levels at which a dating strategy can be implemented.

And albeit it’s true that lovers tend to be more sexually experienced and socially skilled, that’s a vast generalization. And there are plenty of low-quality lovers out there.

The Movie The Pick-Up Artist from 1987 is an example of a low-ish quality type of lover.
The one who pursues women and thinks of himself as a lover, but who actually doesn’t really get laid:

He runs around like a kid, acts like a creepy entertainer, and he fails to truly attract any woman he talks to

And you can still go much lower in the lovers’ category.
In a way, a junkie who fucks another junkie woman is also a lover. He has nothing to give, cares more about his next hit than the woman, and he does not invest in any way (because he can’t).

Needless to say, you don’t want to be in this category.

High-Quality Lovers

naked couple kissing

High-quality lovers are what most of the manosphere communities refer to when they think of “lovers”.

These are cool guys who might even have plenty of resources, but either are not too willing to share them or don’t even put them on the table.
Alternatively, they might not have resources but are very skilled, socially charming, and very attractive.

They put their good looks, game, and any other sexually attractive quality on display. And might actively disqualify themselves from the boyfriend’s role.
But since they are overall high-quality men, women still like them.

There are plenty of examples of high-quality lovers and one of them is Ryan Gosling from the movie Crazy Stupid Love:

Not a perfect approach by a long shot. But he’s still a high-quality lover

Nothing Guarantees You to Always Win

A high-quality lover is a thing of beauty.

But of course, there is no silver bullet out there, and not all women will want to take up lovers on their offer.

A few women are adamant in asking for resources and/or investment. These can be super driven towards a relationship, women who have ridden enough penises and want to settle down as gold diggers, or extremely principled and religious women.

Some other women might be worried about their reputation and some others, of course, might simply not like the guy -subjectivity still plays a role, even when one is an objective high-value man-.

However, there are plenty of women who will take the lover’s offer and enjoys a good life.

If you are interested in more resources:

Drawbacks for The Lovers

Lovers tend to be very hit-and-miss.

If it works, it works fast.
If it backfires, there is no turning back.
That makes it a high-reward, high-risk strategy. And at times, in social circles where he has time and a reputation to take care of, a more prudent approach might serve him better.

Another risk is the after-sex: if it happened too quickly, he pushed too much, and/or if he is not good to bond and connecting with her, she might write him off as a one-night stand.

2. Providers

high quality provider sexual market value
I haven’t even seen your Red Corvette yet… And I’m already wet

If the lover is the man who gives sex and little more, the provider gives sex and more.
The provider is the man who is able and willing to invest.

What’s “investment”?

Investment can be money, emotional support, help with their career, etc., etc.
For most guys, investment is the mix of all of them, and more, that comes with a relationship.
It includes time, emotional support, help, and, often, a commitment to exclusivity (exceptions apply, see below).

Basically, the provider is the typical guy in a relationship.

The Average Provider Guy (& The Exceptions)

The provider role is an often misunderstood role in the dating community.
Again, there are good reasons why.

It’s because most providers are average guys with little of the exciting qualities of lovers and, as a matter of fact, few resources to share as well.

The provider role indeed is the main default role for most guys.
Probably around 70%-80% of men’s main default role is a provider.

And of that 70%-80 % of men who go the provider route, 80% of them cluster around the average.
For simplicity, we will discuss the extremes here. But keep in mind that the average is far closer to the lower end than to the top.

For an in-depth article on dating and sexual exceptions, see:

Low-Quality Providers

provider sexual market value
Serve first, sex maybe later. Maybe, we’ll see about that. Just keep serving for now.

The majority of providers with regular office jobs are average, and since they are all interchangeable, we could probably cluster 80% of providers in the lower band.

From the same movie of the previous Ryan Gosling example, here is the example of a provider in the low to the middle range:

Carl: I thought I did everything right. Got married, had kids, the house… What do I get for it? I get cuckholded

But even here, we can go much lower than Cal.
There are guys in menial jobs, minimum wage, and, of course, the guys who borrow to seem like better providers.
Have you ever heard of the guys who rent a supercar, max their credit cards, and blow a whole month’s salary on an evening out with their special gal?
Exactly, those…

In the movie “Gran Torino” Clint Eastwood is grooming Thao to become more of a provider.
Look at this scene where Eastwood lends him the Gran Torino:

Eastwood is probably actually hurting Thao.
In an effort to “impress” the girl, he implies that he must work harder to provide for her, thus underlying the value disparity between him and her.

The White-Knight Provider

A specific sub-type of low-quality provider is the so-called “white knight”.

A white knight is a man who idealizes her princess and bends over backward to do anything she needs because “she’s the queen” and it’s his duty to serve her.

That’s also a terrible mindset and a bad position to be in: these guys enter the relationship in what’s one of the weakest positions possible.
And some women are very willing to help them along the way.
See an example here.

And read more here:

white knighting

High-Quality Providers

There are two areas that make a provider a high-quality provider:

  1. Personal value
  2. Resources

The higher you go with both, the higher the overall provider quality of the guy.
And the two are not separated as some might think: studies prove that more money makes men more attractive. And of course, making money also often requires a lot of attractive traits, including personal drive and resourcefulness.

Some former high-quality lovers who want to stop sleeping around also can make for high-quality providers.

Supertop Providers

However, there is an upper bound limit you can reach with personal value alone.

To reach the super upper echelons of top high-quality providers you will need lots of resources.

The super top providers are the guys who open the tab and let everyone in their group have a good time.
They throw money around, everyone loves them, and when they leave with a chauffeured car or their own Ferrari they don’t even look at the tab: they are enjoying the hot girl in their arm, and couldn’t care less about the few thousands they’ve spent.

The movie “Showgirls” contains an example of a top provider:

Driving Ferrari and getting a BJ while pouring champagne. Classic.

This is also the territory of powerful tycoons.
Silvio Berlusconi is an example of a provider at the far end of the spectrum.

Modern tycoons are the equivalent of the old bygone days of kings and monarchs. At that level, getting sex becomes very easy and it’s often not even about providing anymore. Getting laid for top providers is not about providing, but it’s about the experience of their lifestyle

Indeed at the far end of the provider spectrum, for the men who enjoy that lifestyle, excesses of providing turn into lovers/players (as well as a target for fathering his kids).

However, many super-rich men don’t end up having sex with countless women. Men who get very rich are often driven by a mission that goes beyond women -and women can become a distraction for outsized achievements-.

Flashy Displays of Wealth Turns Providers Into Lovers

When a man shows off lots of wealth, he is playing less in the provider category and more in the lover category.

A study found out indeed that flashy displays of wealth lead observers to consider him more of a “fling” sort of man and less of a “long-term provider”.
This is called “conspicuous consumption”.

In brief: flashy displays of wealth increase his lover status.

The unwritten contract there is this: come with me, I’ll splurge on you, give you a night of luxury, and then you’re free to go.

I’m not a fan of this style, but it goes to show that, at the top, the roles blur.

Read more:

Drawbacks for The Providers

Average providers, such as the majority of men, will be screened and qualified (much) harder.

Entering a relationship moving slowly as the provider often also means that it will be more of a relationship of equals when it goes for him or, more often, that she is the prize.

Also, she might end up playing the Madonna role during dating. That might even mean that she will never show her true colors and never really be herself.

3. Friend

sexual market value of friends
“Hmmm… You’re still having all those fights with Cristina? You could get so much better you know…”

“Friend” has taken a really bad rep in the male dating world.

It has gone mainstream with the term “friend-zoned“. The friend-zoned man is a man who spends time with a woman in the hope of eventually dating her, but whom she has no intention of ever dating.

This is a dynamic that, indeed, happens relatively often. And it’s a terrible situation to be in.

But, again, this is a generalization of the worst type of friend applied to the whole “friend” population.
“Friend”, per se, is a neutral word.
And along with the clueless friend-zone idiots, you also have cool guys who just happen to have fun with female friends.

Let’s dig deeper to come out of generalizations and misunderstandings.

Who is a Friend?

Friends tend to be somewhat less exciting than lovers and not as available as providers.

They can cheer her up, listen to her, and share good times together.

They might be interested in a relationship with her, but they don’t necessarily have to be.
He might be a nice guy, but doesn’t have to be.
And he might be at her beck and call, but he might as well not be available at all.

As you can see, a friend can really be anything because, well, it’s a very generic term.
So let’s dig deeper.

Low-Value Friend

The low-value friend is the “friend” that the manosphere usually refers to.

These guys typically hang on to her because they are interested in sexual favors and, even more often, in a relationship.

Since all relationships entail an exchange, if his value were zero or even negative, she probably wouldn’t want him around.

Indeed low-value friends have enough value that they don’t embarrass women when they tag along and enough value to offer some sort of help and support.
But they don’t have enough value to have sex with -lover category- or be in a relationship with -the provider category-.

Basically: a low-value friend’s sexual market value is not negative, but not high enough for sex or boyfriend candidates.

If low-value friends are not discerning enough, which they often are not or they wouldn’t be low-value in the first place, they can end up exploited by some women.

Neil Patrick Harris in Gone Girl is the example of a friend who is being taken advantage of:

High-Value Friend

Could you ever imagine there is such a thing as a high-value friend in the sexual marketplace?

Of course, there is.
A high-value friend is simply a high-value man who is not in hot pursuit.

With a high-value friend, she can let her hair down and be herself.
He can bond with her, doesn’t judge her and he can help her take her mask down. That means that she can share emotions and feelings she doesn’t share with anyone else -which will likely make her more attracted to him-.

A typical cool guy in a position of friend does help her whenever he can, but without going out of his way. He’d help her just like he would help a male friend.
But since he is a high-value guy, his help is really helpful and his advice goes at the crux of the problem.
And she loves that.

He might be interested in sex, but he doesn’t make it obvious. And since he’s a high-value man, chances are she is also sexually interested in him.

They are not laying their cards on the table though and nobody is making a move.

It could be that they don’t want to make a move.
He might be too busy with his own life, or she is in a relationship with a friend of his. Or he might not want sex to ruin their specific relationship -think for example she’s a flatmate paying him for rent-.
Or he might be in a relationship and would rather keep his word.

This is an example of sexual energy between friends (but a crappy video quality alert!).
That long pause that you hear, that’s everyone being well aware of that tension.

Sexually-Charged Friends

At the top of the sexual chemistry, the two “friends” will avoid being alone because they both know there is too much sexual energy.

Obviously, at this high level of sexual chemistry, all it takes is a move, a spark, or a “situation”.

Sex with old-time friends who have always been attracted to each other releases long-running, pent-up sexual attraction coming off all at once.

Should You Refuse Female Friendships?

Some men who pursued a woman refuse friendships as a matter of honor.

Rollo Tomassi, popular red pill author, and writer of The Rational Male, recommends men to always reject the offer of friendship.

I think instead that makes men come across as terribly butthurt.
And if you apply the “never befriend a woman” advice, you’ll end up with lots of male friends and little contact with real women.

There are many benefits of having female friends.
Here is how both men and women rate the benefits of friendship:

benefits of intersexual friendship chart
Source: Bleske, A., & Buss, D. M. (1997)

OSF= opposite-sex friendships and both genders see it as more beneficial than same-sex friends.
Opposite-sex friendships are a great way of learning about the opposite sex’s thinks, which is very helpful for your mating efforts (Buss, 2016).
Makes sense, no? If you want to seduce women, it helps to be familiar with women and know how the female mind works.

Friends & Social Circle Game: The Connectors

Wouldn’t it be cool to have models enter your life without ever cold approaching?

Enter the power of the “connectors”, or “super-friends”.

Connectors achieve great dating success, as well as sometimes life success, by befriending, socializing, and entering the social circles of high-value men, as well as very attractive women.

The connectors make it a point to be friends first. They make lots of high-quality people, including women. And, eventually, some of those women they keep meeting will like him and naturally move from friends to dating and, potentially, relationships.

This guy here is a great example of a man who has built abundance in his life with both business opportunities and women by making it a point of being a friend first:

Michael Sartain: question is, how do I get out of the friend zone? Point is, I’m not trying to get out of the friend zone. I keep going out, and they keep me introducing to more people
(…) doing all these things that a friend would do, while still being an alpha male

For men who are good at connecting and socializing, this can become a lifestyle choice where the man has an endless supply of attractive women.
Of course, this method only works if you plan on staying in the same place for the long run.

Drawbacks & Risks of Friends

Connectors, of course, are the exception.

And successful connectors need to be based in big cities with lots of high-quality people and successful women.

So unless you are a top-notch connector in a top city and unless there is huge sexual chemistry the friend position has the lowest value in the sexual marketplace.

He has been around for a while, she knows him and if she hasn’t found him exciting so far, what are the chances that it’s going to change any time soon?

Most “normal” guys should avoid dating with a friend-first strategy.

Quality is The SMV Differentiator

If you have noticed, there is a thread running through the dating strategies.

And that thread is that the high-quality guys do well across all dating strategies.
And poor guys do poorly across all dating strategies.

In atypical seduction techniques that work we saw the example of Grant Cardone, who chased his wife for a year.
He was pursuing a provider strategy.
And he was chasing badly.
Yet, he won her over because, overall, he was still a high-quality guy going places.
That’s because it’s the man who makes the sexual market value, not the role.

Look at this sexual market value chart divided by male positioning:

male sexual market value

Basically what this article explains is simple: be a high-quality guy and you will date successfully with whichever approach you choose.

Low-Quality Player is Worst Option

The second consequence of our analysis of sexual market value across dating strategies is this:

Lower-level guys fare badly across all dating strategies, but the lover is the worst role for them.


Because a low-quality lover has nothing.
He has low value as a lover, cannot provide enough value to even be around her, and he has no resources whatsoever.

The SMV Power Scale

Here is the ranking in the sexual market value that I assign to each male positioning:

  1. Value negative (she actively avoids him)
  2. Low-quality lover / Nothing (has nothing of value or negative value, she doesn’t want him around)
  3. Average Friend (can provide support, and might have a chance, but can be taken advantage of)
  4. Average Provider (can provide support and “good enough” genes)
  5. High-quality friend (raises her status, might introduce potentially good prospects)
  6. Good Lover (can provide good genes but little support or he’s not willing to support)
  7. Top Provider (high-quality man with resources with which he could take care of many different women and good genes to boot)

For biological reasons at the top of the pyramid power and resources matter more than looks in terms of his power of sleeping with lots of new women.
Few if any models can out-fuck an average-looking tycoon -possibly even an ugly one-.

The Best Strategy Is A Mix

These categories are on a continuum, of course.

Most men have a tendency of playing around and albeit some men only want relationships few are 100% on one side:

Also, the best guys take the best traits from all of the different roles.
Especially from the provider and the lover.

Look at this text a woman sent me:

text of a man who's both a provider and lover

What she’s describing is a mix of provider and lover traits. And that’s why she kept writing me non-stop.

I am not high at anything, I just got lucky in that example above.

But the principle is that at very high levels and at very low levels all strategies overlap. Because, again, it’s the man behind that strategy that makes the most difference.
A top provider has also all the traits to be a top player. And a top player has all the traits to amass resources and be a top provider or a top friend -if he wanted to.


The dating strategies of lover, provider, or “friend first” are the three most common dating strategies men deploy.

For men interested in finding a romantic partner the “friend first” is the least time-efficient and effective.

Entering as a lover first and as a provider/stable partner later is a good strategy and can give him more power at the beginning of the relationship. But it has higher risks.

The provider first is the most typical strategy, relatively safer -as long as she likes you.

But for a great relationship, you want to be high quality in all of them: lover, provider, and friend.

Also, read:

2 thoughts on “Lover, Provider & Friend: The Truth of Men’s Sexual Roles”

  1. Excellent analysis, first time I see it explained like this.
    It’s important to remember that Lover, Provider and Friend are ROLES, and the same person can play different roles in different relationships.
    I can be a lover to a girl, and a friend to another girl. Or a provider to one and a friend to others.
    With that in mind, I think the right question is what role you’ll play with a certain woman you’re interested in.
    Eg. If she’s in a relationship, maybe be a high value friend for now and wait until circumstances change (while dating other girls)

    1. Lucio Buffalmano

      Very, very, good comment.
      Indeed, I agree with everything. And, depending on the situation, one role works better than another and there is no “one role takes it all”, so to speak.

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