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Conflict between the sexes is not continuous. Men and women can get along, sometimes for whole days at a time, even weeks. This harmony is, however, inevitably disrupted by conflicts that originate in the differing reproductive interests and strategies of men and women.

From the original difference between the tiny sperm and the larger egg, whole separate worlds of conflicting strategies have emerged to ensnarl our lives. Women can have a limited number of babies, usually four to six, rarely even as many as twenty according to record books.

Men can, however, have hundreds of children and have done so in cultures where a combination of surplus resources and social stratification made it possible for some men to have harems of hundreds of women while many others lacked a single mate. These exceptional cases are extreme examples of the principle that the number of offspring may vary more widely for men than women.

This difference arises from a woman's unavoidably high investment in both time and calories for a single baby, compared to a man's minimal expense of a few minutes and a single ejaculate.

These differences mean that men and women can and do use different kinds of strategies to maximize their Darwinian fitness. A woman can maximize the number of genes in future generations by finding and keeping a man who will care and provide well for her and her children and who is disclined to invest in other women.

Men can use a similar strategy by finding and keeping a women who is fertile, inclined to take good care of her children, and disclined to mate with other men. Men also have another strategy not abailable to women, that of inseminating many women while providing little or no support for them and their babies. None of this implies that men and women think through their options in order to arrive at conscious strategies to maximize their reproductive success, and it certainly implies nothing about how people ought to act.

Nonetheless, natural selection has inevitably shaped our emotional machinery in ways that maximize our reproduction - or that would have in Stone Age circumstances.