Think you’re flirting with or dating romantic partners who fit your idea of the perfect match? According to the intriguing results of a new study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the answer is probably not.
New study reveals you ignore Mr./Ms. Right when dating
After reviewing the list of physical and personality traits that 41,936 online daters stated they were looking for in a mate (such as age, level of education, height and body type) and examining the people these folks actually ended up contacting on a dating website, the study authors made a surprising discovery: The romantic partners people pursue bear very little resemblance to the physical or personality traits they’re actually looking for in a mate.
In fact, in this study, a clear majority–65%–of online daters initiated contact with someone who had one or zero traits they’d stated they were looking for in a mate.
The results also showed that while men were less picky than women, both sexes from 18 to 40 were far less likely to contact folks who matched their ideal traits than those who were older than 40.
Why isn’t the person you date the perfect mate?
Since there’s typically a much wider range of singles from which to choose on dating sites than, say, at school, work or a bar even on their most crowded ladies-drink-free nights, and their dating profiles and photos show right up front what kind of person they are (or, more than likely, that they hope you perceive them to be), it would seem far easier to select potential romantic interests that match your romantic “wish list” item for item.
So, why are folks straying so far from their ideal match?
The study authors theorize that, perhaps, daters are simply being flexible–choosing mates who are less Mr./Ms. Right and more Mr./Ms. Right Now.
They briefly touch on an evolutionary explanation of why heterosexual males might pursue female partners who don’t match any of their preferred criteria in a mate–it may be that they’re feeling a biological push to cast a wide net to spread their seed.
However, they don’t explore what I see as an obvious explanation for why women pursue partners who aren’t their perfect match: hormones.
Hormones steer you away from your ideal romantic partner
Strange, but true: The primary function of the ups-and-downs of the hormones in your monthly cycle is to get you to land a mate. However, the type of mate your hormones want you to snag actually changes depending on where you are in your cycle. And they don’t give a fig what kind of wish list you have for a romantic partner–they’re going to push you toward the one they want you to have.
Here’s how it breaks down:
During your Week 1 (your period week), Week 3 (the 8 days following ovulation) and Week 4 (your premenstrual week), low estrogen has you preferring cooperative, sensitive, caring cuties who aren’t afraid to show their softer side. These are folks who would make good long-term relationship material since they tend to be committed and supportive. That’s because their traits indicate lower testosterone, which shows a tendency to be more faithful.
However, once your Week 2 rolls around–the week leading up to and including ovulation–high estrogen triggers a desire for partners who are far more dominant. They tend to be more physically attractive, confident, flirtatious, assertive, ambitious and athletic or successful in their field. These types are better suited for short-term relationships since they have a tendency to be self-absorbed and stray. That’s because their attractiveness and dominant traits indicate a higher testosterone level, which can prompt them to be less faithful. (This is a generality, of course, since many high-testosterone individuals make perfectly wonderful long-term mates.)
Why do your hormones change who you’re attracted to?
During low-estrogen days in your cycle, you’re getting a biological push to seek out gentler partners in case you need help raising a baby. Cooperative mates would help support you emotionally and/or financially while also gleefully pitching in with the nappies.
During high-estrogen days in your cycle, you’re getting a biological push to seek out more dominant mates because it’s the fertile phase of your cycle–and high testosterone can be an indication that the person has strong, healthy genes to pass on to your child in case you get pregnant during ovulation.
How this affects who you choose to date
So, how does all this impact how far you stray from your romantic wish list?
Say you’re on a dating website or at a singles event or even just introduced to the new person at work. If you’re in Week 1, Week 3 or Week 4 of your cycle, chances are, you’ll be more attracted to the individual of he or she is a self-effacing, nerdy, aspiring folk guitarist–even if your romantic wish list states “confident, ambitious, corporate go-getter”.
And if you’re on a dating website or at a singles event or simply introduced to the new person at work during your Week 2–and that individual is a cocky, sharply-dressed weekend rugby player with killer pick-up lines–you’re likely to go week at the knees for him or her. Even if your romantic wish list states “sweet-natured, humble, introverted artist”.
Making things a little more complicated, another hormone can determine if you actually try to build a relationship with someone who’s a total mismatch to your romantic wish list: oxytocin. This bonding hormone is released during kisses, cuddles and intercourse.
Which means if you get physically intimate with your new sweetie, this hormone could make you feel more emotionally bonded to him or her than you really are, leading you to enter into a relationship that may not fulfill your needs and can make you wonder months or years later, “What was I thinking?”
How to ensure you pick the right romantic partner all cycle long
Once your next Week 3 arrives, grab a pen and paper, then write a list of all the traits your future partner must have—no compromises—for instance, the same stance as yours on having children, a desire for the same length relationship you want, a career (or at least be on a path toward a career), a kind nature, where you want to live and so on. On these cycle days, rising progesterone is dampening your libido and making you more level-headed, making it easier to focus on long-term goals (like having children one day) over short-term ones (like feeling that hot bod).
Keep that list in your purse or pocket at all times. Then, when you meet someone new, especially in your Week 2, if that person doesn’t meet any of the criteria on your list, but you still feel a strong attraction, you can blame your hormones.
Then, you can decide whether it’s worth trying to create a relationship with someone who’s woefully wrong or keep looking for someone who’s wonderfully right.
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Gabrielle Lichterman launched the growing movement to live in sync with your cycle and discover how your hormones impact your moods, health and behavior with her groundbreaking book, 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals about Your Love Life, Moods and Potential. Learn more about Gabrielle and how you can join her mission to educate future generations of girls and women about their hormones.
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