Lover VS Provider: How to Pick Your Best Strategy

the "lovers and providers" concept in a picture

Lovers and providers, together with “friends”, are different roles and approaches to dating.

In simple terms:

  • The provider is intimate with a woman as part of a relationship. His dating often implies that he’s interested in a relationship, and that he will commit and invest
  • The lover is intimate with a woman -or several women- outside of a committed relationship. His dating often implies that he seeks sex, but not a relationship (and that he won’t commit or invest much, if at all)

These are two different dating strategies, and each can be successful (or unsuccessful).
Mostly, it depends on the individual and his value (read here).

In this post, you will learn what’s best, and what’s best for you.

Lovers VS Providers in The Dating Literature

It’s a broad-stroke generalization, but for simplicity:

  • Mainstream dating advice writes for providers
  • PUA and red pill communities even more scoff at the provider and advise on the lover role

Since mainstream media doesn’t recognize the two different modes of dating, “lovers and providers” is typical of dating coaches and red pill communities.
If you run a search for “lovers VS providers”, aside from the first result with a more balanced view -this website :)- these are two of the top results you get:

  • Be a lover, not a provider (from “MasculinePrinciple”)
  • Alpha male lovers VS beta male providers (all as if all lovers were alphas and all providers were betas)

Of course, this dichotomy is simplistic and, if not fleshed out better, it’s inherently misleading.
The lover and provider strategies can both be valid and effective strategies.
It all depends, among other things, on your strengths and weaknesses, your environment, other men’s strategies, your goals and, of course, your favorite type of relationships.

For more on this misunderstanding, read:

This post will clarify when each strategy is best.

Lover Strategy

First of all, let’s define a lover strategy:

A man dating with a lover strategy seeks sexual intercourse with a woman while providing little or no financial support, emotional support, or commitment.

These are the characteristics of a lover strategy:

  • Heightened focus on the physical and sexual aspects of seduction
  • Actively seeking the quickest path to sex
  • Avoidance and rejection of long courtships
  • Actively avoiding big investments of time and resources (unless we’re talking about a highly manipulative approach)
  • Potentially active disqualification of himself as a long-term potential (ie.: presenting himself as a traveler, a player, or saying he doesn’t do relationships)
  • Potentially playing down any indicators of commitment
  • Potentially, but not necessarily, keeping the relationship to sex only

For short-term and casual sex, the lover role tends to be superior.
It’s quicker, more efficient in screening women who are down to sex, and it requires less investment.
The major caveat, of course, is that for the man to successfully use a lover strategy, he must be at least somewhat attractive to the woman she wants.

Lover First, Provider Later

The lover can also eventually “pivot” from casual to a “real” relationship.

There are some advantages to starting out as a lover, including:

Quicker Sex

Why so?

Because women are not screening lovers for resources and commitment, and may not seek to look like good girls (Madonnas in the Madonna-whore dichotomy).

So since women are not auditioning lovers for a long-term role in their lives, they only need “attractive enough” or “fun enough” to enjoy the sex or the adventure.

Potentially More Attractive and Higher Power

Women don’t take just about anyone as lovers.

To be a lover, one needs to reach a minimum level of skills and/or attractiveness.

So entering the relationship as a lover can confer more power and leverage in a possible future relationship.

Why?

First, because she will compare him with other men she’s been with.
And subconsciously, she will rationalize that if the lover was faster, then he must be more successful with other women (and women like sexually successful men).

And second, because entering a relationship as a non-providing lover adds a “double-bind” attraction. First, she picked him for his sexiness. And now she even gets the resources?

Wow, what a win!

Little caveat first: the “lover advantage” is mostly vis-a-vis average providers.
Higher quality men who date more as providers also enter relationships with high power.

Now back to our lover style.
Of course, there is no “all-season perfect strategy”, and the lover role comes with its risks and shortcomings.

The Risks of Being a Lover

Some of the risks include:

  • It might not be her type of sexy: If he doesn’t pull off “sexy enough” or if he’s not her type, then he has no value to her.
  • If sex doesn’t happen quickly, he’s out: Lovers are supposed to be skilled and make it happen. If he doesn’t, he’s no lover, so he’s out.
  • Flawless seduction or nothing: A small blunder and he’s out because he’s not much of a lover if he mucks it up.
  • You might trigger anti-slut defenses and she will turn cold and disappear: Anti-slut defense is a psychological mechanism whereby women don’t want to feel “easy”. If she feels slutty or “too easy” during the seduction she will blame you. Sex doesn’t happen, and it’s over.

Here is a good texting example:

lover strategy texting

The lover frame was set, she was digging it, we moved to discuss logistics and we agreed on the date… And then she suddenly unmatched me.
She likely felt she was being too easy, too slutty… And she cut the interaction.

  • Works less well with low-sex drive women: You have less sexual drive to leverage. Same goes for women with more hang-ups about sex.
  • Buyer’s remorse risk (post-sex anti-slut defenses)

Sometimes anti-slut defenses kick in after sex has happened, and even then… It’s over.

No biggies if you only cared about sex, but if you wanted to see her again, then it’s also your task to minimize her slut-feelings (more on it later).

The risk is especially high with conservative women, or if you pushed for sex.
If you pushed for sex, she might feel used, or like you are too overpowering.

She might also feel like you “won” with your push for sex, and she might resent it (that’s why I recommend collaborative frames during LMR).

As Miller says in “What Women Want”:

Even a woman who is really just cruising for some hot sex will enjoy you more and feel less vulnerable to slut-shaming if she can fantasize about you being a great boyfriend.

This happened several times to me.
Here is one example:

two texts examples of sexual buyers' remorse
How do you go from all over and “miss you” to ghosting? With a lover’s frame that makes her feel like a slut on the day after
  • Risk of being branded as “not relationship material”

Some women slot lovers as the “guy for fun only” or “the guy to fool around with, but not to be taken seriously”.

The risk is present even if she likes you a lot, and sometimes especially if she likes you a lot.

One of my biggest heartbreaks was the woman who disappeared on me saying she “needed to protect herself”.
That was the equivalent of saying “you’re not the kind of guy I can trust, you will not form any pair bonding”.

And that’s one of the reasons why I disagree with the advice of never telling women you like them (see AMS). That’s low-level, fearful game.

  • You misdiagnose her personality (and fall for the bait and switch)

As a general rule, the more she likes you, the more power you have.

The problem with dating high-power is that… You only get to know the people you’re dealing with when they are high power.

Up until the power is on your side, her focus is to lock you down and present the best version of herself.

But things will change as the relationship develops and she accrues more power. For example, after marriage, or after kids.
Then the lovers really get to see the “real” her, and it can be a big surprise.

  • You might not get the type of girl you like

Some women you will rarely get with a lover’s strategy.
It might be a minority, but women who never wanted sex outside of a relationship do exist.
Women looking for a relationship might also be more closed off to men dating with a lover strategy.

Overall, the lover strategy tends to work less well with certain types of women, and better with girls who are libertine, unrestricted, high-sex drive, closeted high sex drive, sexually curious, etc.

You date below your full potential

This is possibly the biggest drawback of the lover dating strategy.

When you date purely as a lover, you are taking important assets off the negotiation table.

You are removing your resources, the availability of your resources, your commitment, your emotional support, and the possibility of true love and romance.

No matter how sexy you are, a sexy man who also adds those traits is inherently higher value.

Keep this in mind: at parity of sexual market value, the boyfriend candidate is superior to the lover candidate, because the boyfriend candidate, who is most often a provider, is the full package.

That means that by dating with the lover role you might lose the chance of dating higher quality women. Women who might have otherwise dated you, had you chosen the provider route.

Look at this chart:

A lover who is a 4 and removes all of the “provider stuff” can hardly date a 9.

But a provider who is a skilled dater and who adds all the provider stuff can more easily get a woman who is above his sexual market value.

Provider Strategy

Let’s define the provider strategy:

A provider is a man who seeks long-term sexual access to a woman as part of a package which might include mutual commitment, emotional support, and financial support.

Some men are providers at heart, and most men date as providers most of the times.
Most so-called “serious” relationships often see the man in a provider role. 

Presenting oneself as a provider with less sexual edge is slower but, on average and for most people, safer.
As PUA Richard La Ruina says in “Soulmate Sequence“:

To proceed at a slow burning pace is just playing easier.
Going immediately from strangers to lover is a pretty hard challenge.

Wining and dining might be in the cards, but he is allowed more room for mistakes.
Part of the reason might not be very encouraging, and in part it’s because most providers are held to a lower sexual standard than lovers.

However, most is not all, and if you’re reading here, chances are that you’re not “most” guys.
And a sexy man can also date as a provider. 

Indeed, there are different layers of being a provider.
The low-quality way is to pitch one’s resources and commitment in exchange for sexual access.

A step above that is to use this frame: 

Here is me, here are my qualities, here are my resources, and if we get along I might join forces with you and commit them or a part of them to you

Some ways in which men show their willingness to provide include:

  • Picking her up
  • Taking her to dinner
  • Paying for her
  • Showing up well dressed and clean for her
  • Caring about her
  • Defending her and taking her side

The advantages of Adding Provider Traits

Advantages of provider-type of dating include:

  • It works best for most men (by definition most men are not super sexy)
  • Has a higher batting average for most men (at parity of SMV, at least)
  • Some women seek to avoid pure lovers (especially the ones looking for a relationship)
  • Relationships with a provider tend to be stronger
  • Many men tend to feel more “whole” and happier when they are also providers: as Bruce Bryan says: the right woman will make you want to be a provider.
  • It allows men to get higher quality women who wouldn’t otherwise sleep with him right away

The last one is the most crucial, as we’ve seen.
That’s the main reason why I would not advise most men to date as lovers unless I knew their goals and preferences beforehand. For men looking for a relationship, I would definitely advise a high-quality provider.

The Risks of Being a Provider

The risks of being a provider include:

  • If they get into a relationship, he might start the relationship with less power
  • He needs to share his resources
  • He might end up moving too slow and attraction might dissipate
  • If he’s boring and showing off too much wealth, it might seem more like a transaction
  • If he’s not good at truly making people open up, she might present him with the mask of what he wishes to see

As you can see, there are risks associated with being a provider as well.

How to Date High Power As Provider

See “Seduction University”.

Blending Roles: The Lovider

Of course:

Reality is not black and white and people are rarely 100% lovers, 100% providers -or 100% friends, for that matter-.

And as much as it’s possible for a rich provider to be sexy and move quickly, it’s also possible for a more “poor but sexy” lover type to add provider’s layers to the mix

Everything is in the execution.
Look at this example from “The Saint”:

Lover: (orders and pays for two wine bottles of $500 each)

Van Kilmer plays the stereotypical artist-type lover.
Yet, her attraction spikes higher when he shows he also has high-flyer type of money and he’s inviting her for the drinks.

This is a peculiar example, but the general rule is exactly that:

Top-quality men combine qualities from both providers and lovers.

And that’s why, I invite you to look less at the roles, and focus more on overall quality.

Short/Long-Term & Lover/Provider

There is an overlap between the lover/provider role and the short-term/long term strategies.

However, the two are two separate concepts.

A man pursuing a short-term strategy might still present himself as a provider, while a man presenting himself as a lover might still want -or later realize he wants- a long-term relationship.

Here is a chart, with corresponding behavior:

Short-term dating with a provider role, in red, is the most exploitative strategy

Long-Term Lover Supports Genuine Relationships

Lovers generally don’t experience Madonna-games because they treat her as a sexual being and because they (try to) frame the relationship sexually.

So the long-term lover also helps get rid of the Madonna/whore dichotomy and the Madonna games since she will not be playing the Madonna at all.

However, providers can also establish the same type of honesty.

If you are reading here, you will soon have all the mating intelligence you need to avoid the “Madonna mask” even as a provider.

Should You Date as Lover or Provider?

As we said, neither strategy is inherently better or superior to the other.

And each strategy must be assessed depending on the environment, the woman, and your preferences.

Here are a few questions to help you decide what’s best suited for you:

Q.: Are you around average or handsome?

– If you’re average or below, provider might be more suited
– If you’re very handsome, lover will come easier to you

Q.: Are you in a conservative or libertine culture?

– If you live in a conservative culture, provider might be more suited
– If you live in a libertine culture, lovers have an easier time

Q.: Do you live in a big city or countryside?

– If you’re in the countryside, the lover is much more challenging
– If you’re in a big city, the environment better supports a lover strategy

Q.: What priority do you assign to women?

– If you have many competing interests, then keep in mind that the lover might suck up lots of your time
– If women are really important to you and “notches” are indispensable, then you should develop the lover’s skills

Q.: What type of places do you like?

– The lover style tends to work better in bars and clubs
– The provider strategy fares comparatively better when you meet women outside of bars and clubs

Q.: What age bracket are you dealing with?

– The lover style tends to work better with both younger and older women
– The provider strategy fares better with women in “settling down age”

Q.: What type of relationships do you prefer?

– If you’re more into relationships, then you don’t lose anything going for provider
– If you’re into casual sex, then you the lover is more effective

Many men (and women) are not sure.
If you are not sure, that can create issues within yourself, so think it through.
If you are not sure and want to find out, here is a quiz for you to take (subscribers only).

Q.: What type of girls do you prefer?

– Low sex drive, more conservative women respond better to a provider
– High sex drive and more libertine respond better to a lover, especially when they’re not yet in “settle down mode”

If I had to pick one way to choose, I would recommend you to pick based on your preferences and the types of girls you like.
For all the rest, you can find ways around it.

Be Like Water, My Friend

Finally, it’s always best not to constrain yourself into a role.

Slowing Down…

If you’re going for casual sex and lover style, you can always slow down if one day you meet a conservative woman who just doesn’t trust you yet. 

I’ve once dated a 28-year-old attractive virgin. Not only virgin, but also had never kissed. She seemed to really like me… Until on the second date I escalated a bit too forcefully. And that was it.

I wasn’t used to this type of woman.
Had I been more patient, more provider style, spent more time together… Who knows (good for her anyway, and god that way).

… Or Speeding

And if you’re going for a high-quality provider, you’re not tied to any number of dates. 

And if things are going great, invite her home whenever it feels right. Be the first date, or the very first day you say “hi”.

Think fluidly, and you will always be more successful.
Fluid minds always beat inflexible ones.

Summary

In sum:

Lover or provider are two different dating roles and strategies.

Lovers seek quick sex with no strings attached, while providers seek sex within a bigger frame of a deeper relationship.

One is not necessarily more effective or superior to the other, and each must be assessed depending on the individual’s characteristics, his goal, and the external environment.

Finally, dating success is less about being a provider or a lover, and more about overall value.
For more information and examples, please read:

This is a preview from Dating Power Dynamics, chapter 7, “Dating Strategies for Men”

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