What Is Love?

What Is Love?A reader of this blog shared a Huffington Post article with me last week.

In it, author Sheryl Paul writes:

“We live under a massive cultural delusion about the nature of real love. Propagated by mainstream media, from the time you’re born you’re inundated with the belief that love is a feeling and that when you find “the one” you’ll sense it in your gut.”


“We have mythologized love to such an extent that people are no longer prepared for the realities of long-term relationships. We are taught that it is good not to compromise, not to put up with anything we don’t like, not to sacrifice our own beliefs for anyone or anything. Yet compromise and sacrifice are the cornerstones of marital love.”

Isn’t it possible that the problem isn’t with the opposite sex, itself but rather your expectations of the opposite sex?

She quotes another author, Kate Kerrigan, in an essay she wrote called Marriage Myths, as saying that “the best thing you can bring to a marriage is not the feeling of ‘being in love’, but romance’s poor relation: tolerance.”

Paul, who works as a counselor, says that “it’s a crushing moment for couples when the infatuation drug wears off and they’re left to begin the real work of loving.”

This is all stuff you’ve read here before. I find it pretty much irrefutable.

But for those who want to refute it – for those who say you should never compromise – even though every happy couple in the world will let you know how much they compromise on a daily basis – what exactly are you hoping for in a partner?

And isn’t it possible that the problem isn’t with the opposite sex, itself but rather your expectations of the opposite sex?

In short, great relationships are understanding what you should compromise on. You DON’T compromise on character, integrity, kindness, devotion, and selflessness. You DO compromise on everything else.

Read the article here and let me know what you think I’m getting wrong. You always do. 🙂

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  1. 91

    @Tom @89
    Clearly YOU are pickier, but I believe that most men DO want relationships.

    Given women’s attraction to a small percentage of men, any man that can say he is spoilt for choice (as you do) must be part of that privileged group. You do not see the same world other men do.

    You will I believe make the decision to settle down, not on meeting the ‘right’ woman, but more on reaching the right time – as you suspect already.

    Fiona, whilst accepting that she is not “drop dead gorgeous” is still chasing the Tom’s of this world. Her chances are therefore pretty slim.

    As Goldie points out, women can reduce the odds by concentrating on the non physical attributes, which are never the less attractive in their own right, and in this way chemistry is nurtured.

    Men are able to fall in love at the drop of the hat. If they do not show initial interest, it is unlikely to develop over time.

  2. 92

    This all still keeps coming back to attraction and initial infatuation/chemistry. And I keep seeing the same things here…people assuming ATTRACTION is based upon that initial infatuation/chemistry. It can be…but the reality is in the modern human your psychology, belief systems, and expectations have MUCH more to do with it.

    As an example…Fiona’s comment about bad oral hygiene. Hmm. What do people who live in cultures who do not prioritize oral hygiene or have access to it do? Don’t mate and die off? No…that doesn’t seem to be the case. Wait patiently for that one person who has the sparkling whites in the entire area? No…they don’t seem to do that either. Because their expectations of such aren’t there, they aren’t a modifying element of their attraction.

    Let’s use a topic that nobody really seems to discuss directly. What do physically “ugly” (and I hate that word) do? According to many who consider themselves attractive, they “suck it up” and live unsatisfying lives either single, or with mates they aren’t truly attracted to. However, unfortunately for this theory, this doesn’t bear out as happening in reality. In fact, they’ve been shown to have longer-lasting and MORE satisfying relationships over the long-term.

    Yes, their biological short-term mating instinct is forced to “settle”…but an amazingly interesting thing happens. They end up prioritizing their LONG-TERM relationship desires in their selection process. In this respect, they DO NOT “settle.” And here’s something more interesting: Most do not ever feel that they “settled” because they HAD to accept reality. What became important to them was different…and more in line with the characteristics that define a relationship that lasts for the long term. Another interesting tidbit: Most report very satisfying and lasting sexual lives–because they are driving their attraction towards their partners based upon psychological and emotional cues, instead of attempting to have physiological cues drive their emotional states.

    People like this are forced to accept a reality that WE ALL end up accepting eventually. You can be absolutely the most attractive person by societal standards right now, but…that’s only going to decline. If your interest is short-term, by all means use it to your advantage and have fun if you want. But if your interest is long-term, the predictive element of that attractiveness is actually pretty dismal. In addition, you are far more likely to be disillusioned when your partner’s attractiveness fades and less likely to be ABLE to drive attraction based upon your emotional desires.

    We live in a society that now emphasizes the short-term over the long-term. As a result, our expectations are set over short-term parameters. The problem is, most people in this state also expect such short-term parameters to remain inviolate over time, when one of the primary parameters (attractiveness) is guaranteed to decline.

    Your psychological makeup, and your understanding of it are far more important to long-term mate selection than anyone wants to admit because in this society we do not want to take any responsibility for looking at ourselves. Fiona’s “gag reflex” when she refers to kissing someone she isn’t attracted to is a perfect example. People, by simple biology, don’t respond that way. In fact, the selection process when left only to physical parameters is far less violent than that, as Zaq and others have pointed out. Biologically, people respond not with REVULSION over those they do not have “chemistry” with predominantly, but with INDIFFERENCE. It actually takes a VERY distinct disfigurement for humans to respond with any sort of revulsion. Fiona’s REVULSION to this seemingly large set of individuals indicates she either lives among a group of people who are predominantly disfigured as such (not likely unless she lives in a burn unit) or, her psychological makeup and belief systems are driving that revulsion (in the same way it can drive attraction). It works both ways.

    When it comes to long-term mating, your success is going to depend on who you are as a person and your psychology FAR more than it is going to depend upon initial attraction. Nobody wants to hear that, but this has been shown time and time again.

    Goldie, above, makes a point about “developing” chemistry with someone after getting to know them. Chemistry didn’t develop…compatibility did. And because her expectations of such didn’t preclude an attraction, one DID in fact develop. And she’s completely right…THAT kind of attraction to another person will stick around as long as both people strive to maintain that attraction AND have the psychological makeup which values maintaining it vs. instant gratification.

  3. 93

    @ 73

    You seem to be posing a false dichotomy – you should instead look for indications of longterm potential, and revise your expectations accordingly.

    @ Fiona

    “I am physically attracted to a very low percentage of men that I meet – between 1 to 20 percent depending on the day and where I go. I think you’ll find for most females of the species who are not programmed to sleep with everyone they encounter of the opposite sex, this is quite normal. My Mum said that she was the same, my sister is the same, almost every single woman that I meet is the same…on the bright side I do also seem to be hard wired to be faithful.”

    As Zaq once note: “I wasn’t attracted to him… at first”, is often heard from women with a demonstrated ability to

    What do you suppose makes these women different from yourself, or any hypothetical sample you represent?

    But, you do realize the implications of what you are writing, and what this says for your prospects, don’t you?
    Namely, if we accept your assumptions(which I think are justified) as representative of some sample under consideration, it renders an insoluble scarcity of male candidates for these women, if a longterm pairing is the goal.

    @ Mia

    “Men may be physically attracted to far more women, BUT they also appear to be interested in a very tiny number of women for an actual relationship.”

    Evan has already covered this topic, in disputing what you seem to be implying about men being more averse to ‘settling down’:


  4. 94

    Karl R and Zaq: I don’t think you’ve disproven Mia’s point.

    We don’t care about who’s more picky in choosing people at the outset. We care about who’s picky when it comes time to actually making a long-term commitment to someone.

    Is that women or is that men? If Tom’s comments are representative of how men think, then I’d have to say that the men are pickier in terms of focusing on the relationship that matters to this blog as a whole: the long-term relationship.

    So what if men start out with a wider net and women are more choosy at the outset. They may eventually balance each other out in terms of how many are acceptable for LTRs – or, the women may exceed men in acceptance at that point. It’s a process, you know. Not a one-time thing.

  5. 95

    @Helen #97

    ” If Tom’s comments are representative of how men think …”


    There are guys out there who marry the first girl that will have them

  6. 96

    @ Zaq

    “As Goldie points out, women can reduce the odds by concentrating on the non physical attributes, which are never the less attractive in their own right, and in this way chemistry is nurtured.

    Men are able to fall in love at the drop of the hat. If they do not show initial interest, it is unlikely to develop over time.”

    Um, I’m a woman and I used to either fall in love at the drop of a hat, or write the person off. Because it repeatedly didn’t work out, I eventually tried a different approach. If I could do it, so can you. It’s not about the difference between women and men as much as it is about the difference between two different dating strategies — one involving instant gratification in form of chemistry vs the other one, taking it slow and getting to know the person better to see if anything develops.

  7. 97
    Karl R

    Helen said: (#97)
    “If Tom’s comments are representative of how men think, then I’d have to say that the men are pickier in terms of focusing on the relationship that matters to this blog as a whole: the long-term relationship.”

    As I stated before (#93), Tom’s comments (#89) should be taken as hyperbole. If he’s only interested in dating 0.001% of the women who are interested in him, then the only way he could date is if his last name is Cruise.

    And as you pointed out (#91), there aren’t 1 billion available women in the world. Even Tom Cruise has to be less picky than that.

    Helen asked: (#97)
    “Is that women or is that men?”

    From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t matter. If you’re overly-picky, you prevent yourself from getting into a relationship regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.

    I take that back. Indirectly, it does matter.

    If most men are too picky, and I’m an exception, then I benefit far more than if all men are less picky like me. (It’s a game theory thing.)

    You get the best result by being a less picky member of the most picky sex.

  8. 98
    Happy Person

    Re: relationship math. I never understand it. You have guys saying they slept with all of these women and women saying they didn’t sleep with all of these guys. Seems to me that unless we’re talking about men stepping out with men, that the average number of partners for each gender would be the same, right?

    Same with commitment and pickiness. I don’t know how pickiness or its opposite gets communicated. But at the end of the day, commitment involves two people who are picking each other, with neither being pickier than the other.

    I’m with P in rejecting the evo psych world view of relationships, where people argue like this about “mate selection.” I’m just not seeing any big dance floor where the women are standing in a display line saying “please please please pick me!” to any guy who walks by; nor do I see any jungle where the guys are killing each other over a presenting female.

    But I don’t get out much.

  9. 99

    Karl– when I said I meet several men a year I could see myself having a relationship with, I’m talking about the men who pursue me for maybe 5-10 dates and then things fizzle bc they dont want an LTR. The actual number of men I am willing to date is large, but it’s irrelevant b/c we women can only date guys who initially like and pursue us.

    And no, I don’t care about income — so what if they make 50k if they’re a teacher, work for a nonprofit , or are a journalist as long as they’re smart and passionate about their career .

    As for looks? The last 3 guys I dated were a 10, a 4, and a 7. I wasn’t attracted to any initially but gave them a chance. I was also recently crazy about a bald guy 2 inches shorter who made abt 50k –he wasn’t the commitment type, though.

    I still stand by my point that men are absurdly picky when it comes to choosing a ltr – if you dont meet every predetermined requirement it’s over for them. a guy who pursues a woman and is good to her has a decent chance of winning her over.

  10. 100

    This debate about which gender is pickier is absurd. Who gives a damn! Not only is there no way to really determine an answer to such a question, but it doesn’t help anyone who is single here find a partner.

    Let’s talk instant chemistry, or something like it. First off, when you’re hot for someone right away, it’s lust. End of story. Falling in love at the drop of a hat is really falling in lust. Physical attraction, coupled with an imagined image of what someone is like.

    Have to say that every time I have experienced falling in lust, it’s been a fairly quick crash and burn. Just happened to me again recently. We plunged deep quickly, and it was like a dream for about six weeks. And then, I started paying attention like I’m always writing about doing on my blog. And signs of trouble were all over the place. We didn’t even make it another six weeks; that’s how fast it was over.

    I think there is a difference between zero attraction, and feeling something, but not really being sure what it is. All of my long term relationships have begun with that “something” which I chose to explore, and which developed into love and attraction over time. I’d like to emphasize the word “choose” here. Because when I think of people who are truly picky, its those who almost always choose to reject quickly, and who are focused on finding whatever negatives are necessary in their minds to justify the rejection.

    If we want to talk about gender differences, I would say that from what I have seen, women are more prone to overplaying the importance of instant chemistry. Whereas men are prone to overplaying the importance of physical “hotness.” In the end, both of these are major mistakes when it comes to looking for and developing healthy long term relationships.

  11. 101

    [email protected] to be clear I don’t think I’m drop dead gorgeous but I do attract a fair number of men who are. Be careful what you assume.

    P, to be clear, I was repulsed by the idea of kissing the one person I described because I just was. I am only actively attracted to about 1 to 20% of men I would guess. That does not mean the other 80% are by definition repulsive. It just means that I am not attracted to them. I am not going to justify this.

    I will wait until I find someone compatible emotionally, intellectually and sexually. My compromises are all about age, height, career etc not about any of the important stuff and that includes compatibility on all three levels. If other people are prepared to compromise on that, I wouldn’t advise it but that’s up to them.

  12. 102
    Karl R

    Happy Person said: (#101)
    “at the end of the day, commitment involves two people who are picking each other, with neither being pickier than the other.”

    If you end up with someone at the end of the day, pickiness probably isn’t an issue.

    We’re talking about the people who don’t end up with someone.

    #1 They turned down somenone who was interested in them.
    #2 They were turned down by someone who they were interested in.

    Most people who date (including the successful ones) encounter both situations multiple times.

    If someone has ended up alone, they could have avoided that situation by accepting one person in #1.

    Since my #1 contains more/less than your #1, we can make relative statements about our pickiness.

    Happy Person said: (#101)
    “You have guys saying they slept with all of these women and women saying they didn’t sleep with all of these guys.”

    Are you referring to a different thread, or are you misreading this one?

  13. 103
    Saint Stephen

    Karl R: The problem with “your game theory” is that regardless of the male gender being picky or not. if you’re unfortunate enough to fall under the large group of undesirable males your being less picky won’t get you any bonus points/edge, as women can hold out for their sub-select group of choice males to come to their right senses, due to having become financially independent.

    As the Okcupid study indicates; The majority of men are unattractive to women. Hence, men seem to have already embraced your game theory by becoming the far less pickier. Apparently evidenced in their setting the bar low and adjusting their expectations in accordance to reality.

    Happy person asked:
    Seems to me that unless we’re talking about men stepping out with men, that the average number of partners for each gender would be the same, right?

    Re: Wrong. Actually, the relationship math is quite plausible if a large percentage of women chose to mate with a small select group of choice males.

    @P (#95)

    You make very excellent points. I personally think you should consider writing a book on the illusion of chemistry, and i’m assuming you haven’t done so yet. You seem to be so grounded on this one.

  14. 104

    @P #95

    I agree mostly, but I think you are overstating the case.
    “the ugly …. have been shown to have longer-lasting and MORE satisfying relationships over the long-term”
    Really ? Do not think so.

    I too have read that such unions can be happy, because they accept the other person, warts and all and they work to achieving joint goals and happiness. No competition so no straying.

    BUT, that is not what I observe. I had friends who stated that they married each other because no one else would have them. That ended badly.
    Another guy I know is actively looking for a replacement, because the wife is so unattractive. Again best he said he could do.
    Another couple who openly proclaim love, but I think there is evidence that both would eagerly jettison the other given the option.
    I conclude that in the research they are probably asking the wrong questions.

    I think dissatisfaction can enter two ways.
    1. If either party feels they had to compromise a lot, its bound to re appear later (and that is likely to be the woman) to cause relationship stress.
    2. If the couple are surrounded by more attractive couples. There is evidence that our level of satisfaction is related to our level of expectation. It is so much easier if all our friends are in the same boat.

    And lets not forget that a good proportion of men and women are permanently single because they are too unattractive to the opposite sex. Too far under the bar.

    I do agree with much of what you say though

  15. 105

    Sorry Helen – as Karl said I exaggerated a small bit there to demonstrate Mia’s point that men have hugely varying levels of pickiness depending on what they’re looking for. Good work on the sums though 🙂

    Good point Zaq; I accept I’m definitely not representative of most men (Evan is – that’s why he’s a coach!) However, I recognise myself in the men Mia, Heather & Fiona (to name a few) have met and complained about, so there’re definitely a few of us out there, and we probably have a disproportional impact.

  16. 106

    Mia – well done on your last post. you sound way gentler than previous comments.
    i’m with you – it’s not about income, height whatever. it is about someone actually wanting to get past date 5.
    the perennial question – why don’t they? and if they don’t want a LTR why put all that effort into FIVE DATES – why not stop at the first one!

  17. 107

    Zaq…I believe you have some cultural bias going on, which is entirely understandable. My own research as well as that of colleagues does not bear out your assertions when applied as a generality across all cultures. You own observations are based in a culture (I believe, based on your writing style that you are in the United States or otherwise a culture heavily influenced by such) that has effectively created this issue and as such your observations, for that culture, are quite valid.

    As a GENERAL rule, a good proportion of men and women do NOT remain single because they are “too ugly” and fall under the bar. That doesn’t even really pan out in this society based on years of research. The proportion that do for those reasons is actually fairly small…right now. It IS growing, and growing in this society only. But the reality is that regardless of this society’s emphasis on physicality, the number of people with “average” to “low” physical attractiveness is much higher than those with “high” physical attractiveness. This is even more the case when you account for cultural preferences and biases. We tend to believe the opposite or that the proportion is different because we “see” people of “higher” attractiveness and don’t see (or tend not to remember) the others. Plus, the media bombards us with images of culturally derived and driven attractive people so our collective memory tends to skew our own impression of these proportions. Someone mentioned an OKCupid study indicating that the greater majority of men were not attractive to women on here previously. Think about that for a minute. That’s a prime indicator of the cultural bias taking place. Women do have a biological desire to mate with the “best”…but society is bombarding them with a skewed impression of the availability of the “best.” The cultural belief that such men are in abundance. “Where are all these men?” Add digital enhancement, makeup, and careful selection (actors, etc) and your perceived reality is that they are out there to find. The reality is…they aren’t in ANY kind of abundance. Its the same “barbie doll” issue brought forth upon men now. Its only more dangerous in this way because the biological imperative of women is so much more picky and this society tends to let people believe acting primarily on animal instinct is the proper course.

    I believe your assertions about dissatisfaction are very valid, but both points come down to one basic thing: expectations. And expectations are where this society is in a LOT of trouble when it comes to relationships. The concept of expectations plays a huge role in all the points I made previously and in fact the expectation of short-term mating “highs” applied to long-term mating goals is very instrumental.

    We, as a culture, have been taught (predominantly now through media and advertising) to expect and attain the best in everything. Now, what is the “best” and what is attainable realistically? When we get back to that message in the context of long-term mating things get REALLY sticky really fast. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING in this society right now revolves around sexuality. There are lots of little reasons for this but a predominant factor in this is quite simply advertising. As we all like to say, sex sells; it appeals to that biological component we all have. Its become so pervasive in this society that one is really hard pressed to find ANYTHING that does not emphasize sexuality as an important component.

    When you couple messages that emphasize sexuality as a core element in practically everything along with a society that emphasizes that the individual deserves the “best in everything” what tends to follow is that of all things we should strive for, we should have the best sexual lives and that sexuality in and of itself IS “the best” in terms of happiness in our lives. Neat little trick huh? Its a self-feeding system. If you don’t believe this, spend some time in cultures that do not have this system in place (which is actually becoming harder to find as western-style culture invades others) and you rapidly begin to see a huge difference in how people think about everything, including relationships.

    So what is wrong with this? A number of things. First of all, this emphasis on sexuality affects relationships of ALL kinds. I have a colleague who is doing a long-term study that indicates that as a culture, we provide such preferential treatment in ALL areas of our lives to those with higher sexual appeal so much so that we simply don’t even consider other aspects of who they are. MUCH more than you see in other cultures. Job seekers have a MUCH higher chance of acquiring a position if they invoke sexual chemistry with interviewers–when in fact in other cultures you have a slightly LESSER chance if that happens because its viewed as a potential disruption and therefore your actual qualifications had better be even higher. Individuals in this society tend to choose non-sexual friendships based upon perceived sexual elements of the friend far more than in other cultures. In fact, in this culture its now more plausible to define sexuality as a root element in why anyone does ANYTHING, including just performing well at a job as a motivation. You simply don’t see that otherwise in the collective psychological makeup of other cultures.

    When it comes to long-term mating this is basically disasterous for the cause. Regardless of what society tells you, in the modern world sexuality is (although quite fun) a rather small element of the modern life individually. Sexuality is also the prime instinct in short-term mating. Its no wonder that individuals, and especially women, place an expectation of sexual fulfillment into a goal which is really, by definition, an emotional and mental choice-set. Its no wonder that when sexual chemistry wanes, people are ill-prepared for that outcome and unable to make the transition to drive it psychologically. Its no wonder people expect sexual chemistry to “naturally” remain if they have chosen the “right” partner. It doesn’t matter that biologically the system didn’t evolve that way and in actuality has the exact OPPOSITE goal. Given that exact opposite evolutionary goal, is it any surprise that in a culture that emphasizes sex in every aspect of our lives that our expectations of long-term mating are being met with disappointment?

    Back to the topic of attraction. In this society now, and as a result of expectations vs reality in ths battle, there is actually a growing inverse correlation between individual sexual attractiveness and long-term relationship stability. Because of that emphasis on short-term mating (sexuality), the more sexually attractive you are, the less likely you will remain satisfied with a long-term partner. The reason? Because you emphasize sexuality as such a core element of your life, and because this by default de-emphasizes long-term emotional goals (after all, in this society nobody talks about THAT in abundance like they do sex) you are far more likely to define sexual highs as indicative of emotional and mental relationship status. In other words, you’re more likely to covet the “high.” Yet, because its a societal imperative due to your exposure to such, when that high is not apparent, the only course of action is to define the relationship as not “right.”

  18. 108

    The Toms of this world truly are a minority, but women deal with them disproportionately bc those are the guys that pursue us and ask us out. I’ve been told that bc im attractive and exotic looking, a lot of the nice, regular guys aren’t even going to approach. So most men I’ve dated, whether ugly or hot, do have a certain level of confidence and options.

    But there’s a way around some of this, ive learned. The absolutely golden guys I’ve met, I’ve met through friends or work — they don’t prowl around bars or match.com as much — but they’re the guys who aren’t that good looking, or confident with women either, or approaching or focusing on them, but are just funny and interesting and real. I think women should also be less averse to talking to men first — just in a friendly way– so that they can meet more of that hidden gem group. Probably a third of men are too nerdy/weird/lack social skills to date ; another third fall into that hidden gem category; and the other third are the picky, confident pursuers. Women should really just try to be outgoing wherever they go and not in an aggressively romantic way, but just to meet more types of men than they would otherwise.

  19. 109
    Happy Person

    Karl 105/SS 106:

    My point is that relationship math is ridiculous.

    Example #1: That men have more sex than women. If we’re talking about heterosexual sex, the AVERAGE is the same for each gender. (One man has sex with three women. Team Man: 3 sexual acts. Team Woman: 3 sexual acts. One woman has sex with five men. Team Woman: 5 sexual acts. Team Man: 5 sexual acts. How it breaks out individually is irrelevant to the team total.)

    Example #2: That one gender is “pickier” than the other in partnering up. You can’t measure something that doesn’t happen. You can only hypothesize about it (which is what you’re doing in #105, Karl). So if people aren’t partnering off, maybe it’s because of “pickiness”–or maybe it’s because of something else. If they ARE partnering off in a 1:1 hetero fashion, which is something you can observe and therefore measure, neither gender is being pickier than the other.

    But I’m with Nathan. This is a pointless discussion. Relationship math is stupid.

  20. 110

    P: I would give an amen to your post 110. Especially your point about how, when something is so pervasive in society, we hardly notice it. We might have noticed it as kids – why is there this strange emphasis on all things sexual – but we grow accustomed to it and assume it’s the normal way to think.

    Except two things:

    1 – I’m guessing Zaq isn’t American, but Canadian based on his diction.

    2 – I don’t know of any culture or any time period where sexuality is not emphasized. Where are these cultures that you’re talking about where sexuality has a negative impact in hiring? Even our own time period isn’t unique in its overemphasis on sex. Look at Sigmund Freud. Or look at the Canterbury Tales or the Decameron. For that matter, look at the Bible. Whether these sources portray it negatively or positively, it is always there.

  21. 111
    Happy Person

    Addendum to above: Though I really love what P is saying in #110, even though I’m taking some of the assertions as hypotheses rather than empirically proven facts. Since you can’t really prove any of that evo psych stuff. It’s just nice to hear someone speaking about relationships as being something more complex and elevated than “guys just wanna stick it in and women just want it so they can have babies.” I mean, what grade are we in.

  22. 112

    Mia #111

    So, a third of all men are completely undateable, and a third are diamonds in the rough, and a third are confident/picky, although it is unclear how many of them you would actually date. Ok i’ll buy that.
    Toms are the ones that actually approach you, so that is why you have experience of the non committal ones. The reason the others do not approach is that they are scared of rejection, which is pretty much what tends to happen every time they do.
    OK i’ll buy that too, but i’ll bet my bottom dollar that you’ve rejected a fair number of the non picky group as well.

    I’m sure that these ‘golden guys’ are on match.com but there are no tick boxes for funny and real, but unfortunately there are for how much you earn, and your picture is everything.
    That is why internet dating is such a joke.
    So pretty much in agreement there Mia.

    @P # 111
    Mmm, so what do we agree on…
    That the ‘falling in love’ hormonal effect is natures way of blinding you to the potentially significant drawbacks of the potential mate long enough for the production of offspring.
    The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins lays the ground work in 1976 !
    Further the propagation of genes may well be detrimental to the future of the organism. What happens to male spiders for goodness sake. North Pacific Salmon…

    And of course the joke is on us for allowing this ‘feeling’ to become THE best indicator of compatibility, when in some instances, it could be the WORST.

    So in agreement there I think. Where we do not agree is on the affect of culture.

    Survival of the Prettiest – Nancy Etcoff
    We are powerfully attracted to beauty, which is no myth, and there is no cultural effect, its all evolution.
    Feminists have found this hard to take. This is probably because if there is no cultural element, its not possible to change things.
    Men may not think about sex every 7 seconds, but its clear hormones are going to influence our decisions every single day.
    The OKCupid study seemed to show lack of cultural effect on the men.
    Please note that Mia, above has written off a large percentage of men. I fail to see that there is any evidence that this is due to the influence of culture.

  23. 113
    Karl R

    Zaq said:
    “And lets not forget that a good proportion of men and women are permanently single because they are too unattractive to the opposite sex.”

    I disagree with this statement. Most people get married. If you look at the population in the 65 to 74 age range, only 8% to 9% have never been married.

    Furthermore, some of the people in this category have other reasons for never marrying:
    – Homosexuality
    – Incarcerated with life sentences
    – Roman Catholic priests, monks and nuns
    – Severe mental retardation or severe mental illness

    While these reasons don’t prevent a person from getting married, they certainly lower the likelihood.

    There probably are some people who never get married because they are unattractive. But based on the numbers I’m seeing, it’s an extremely small portion of the population.

    Stephen said: (#106)
    “if you’re unfortunate enough to fall under the large group of undesirable males your being less picky won’t get you any bonus points/edge,”

    If a man is short, fat, bald, broke, unemployed and middle-aged, he has a low chance of finding a partner. If he decides to be picky and hold out for a young hottie, he has no chance of finding a partner.

    Even though he’s in that group of undesirable males, being overly-picky hurts his chances too.

    Mia said:
    “I still stand by my point that men are absurdly picky when it comes to choosing a ltr – if you dont meet every predetermined requirement it’s over for them.”

    I could make the same statement about women. One time, on this blog, I pointed out to a woman that she’d ruled out about 99.8% of all men, and that she might consider trying to be a little less picky.

    Another woman responded that by ruling out 99.8% of men, this woman wasn’t being picky enough.

    I would say that picky people are disproportionately represented in the dating pool, because their pickiness prevents them from accepting the great partners they meet.

    Don’t let the picky people get to you. I met plenty of overly picky women. Each picky woman could only prevent me from succeeding with one woman (herself). But by being that picky, she prevented herself from succeeding with every man.

    The same principle holds true with the picky men. If they’re overly picky, it will barely slow you down. Be more concerned about being the overly picky one, because that will sink you completely.

  24. 114

    Writing off a third of men is not a huge number. I’m simply being honest about who I am and am compatible with. For example, I work in the world of politics and writing. Someone who doesn’t read, or who doesn’t remotely follow current events, would be a lousy fit. I care a lot about (low budget, free wheeling) road trips and travel and do some if it solo — well, a lot of people think doing things by yourself as a woman is weird, and so I need someone who gets me and has a sense of adventure and would even want to join me. I am introverted and click best with people who are outgoing.

    I’m not demanding these men be college educated, six figure earning, or smoothe and popular … But they SHOULD share my outlook on life or at least understand it.

  25. 115

    Well, this is my observation as a guy: It seems to be way too easy to get ourselves written off with you women in some ways (e.g., for not making a move fast enough or not “sparking chemistry”), and in other ways it seems to be way too hard (big red flags that women tend to ignore when the chemistry IS there). I think both genders would do a lot of good to go by the two date rule–unless the other person gives off huge red flags on the first date, they will consider a second date with him.

  26. 116

    I want to say that as a guy, I get Mia’s frustration about her staying single while a lot of other women who seemingly have less going for them, are getting into relationships. I don’t think that makes her shallow at all.

    If a coworker who didn’t seem to be nearly as good as her job as you are at yours got a promotion over you, how would that make you feel? Sounds to me that Mia has been diligently going by the “dating job description” for a while and she just wants to know when it will really pay off for her.

    Here’s the thing. Many of us who are still single when we get up into our late 30’s are single because we have some way-out standards. I should know because I struggle with this in myself. My point is that the guys with the more realistic standards partnered up much earlier, and now what’s left are guys who are more picky (who would benefit from a version of EMK’s advice tailored for guys). Which might explain the people who are paired up–they met in high school or college and just stayed together.

  27. 117


    I never said no other culture has had any emphasis on sexuality. What I was saying was as a culture, we have FAR MORE OVERemphasis on sexuality than has EVER been seen in history. Part of the reason for this is in fact our modern media and the fact that practically everyone in society has access to it. It has an astounding effect upon the group psychology. In this society, you can not escape even for a minute the constant message that sex and sexuality are the most important aspects of life. In truth, that was actually quite true in the past–not the sex itself, but the act of procreating. What we’ve done today is what I like to call “reprimitivize” ourselves…but in a modern world with different goal sets, this isn’t working out collectively in a very constructive way and the fact that this message is now used (for profit and otherwise) in a collective societal forum is creating quite a bit of mayhem.


    Oh I never said we don’t have a biological basis for having an attraction to beauty–not at all. We’re actually most strongly attracted to (and this is true of all objects) symmetry and this has its basis in the physiology of the brain and its mechanisms of processing. There are also lesser cues which are taken relating specifically to mating.

    BUT…and this is a big BUT…

    “Beauty” is a self-defined term. AND, to say there is no cultural basis for modifying what we call beauty is a completely ridiculous assertion. We know symmetry is important biologically in determining something to be beautiful, yet…a great deal of modern art is asymmetrical in nature and yet defined as “beautiful” and is sought after. We know that various body types have been defined as desirable in the past as opposed to how they are seen today.

    Etcoff’s assertions aren’t necessarily in conflict with what I was saying. “Beauty” is NOT completely a cultural construct…but from what I am gathering from what you are saying, it is immodifiable by culture which I do disagree with and in fact do not believe that is what her assertion was to begin with. She was starting with the feminist premise that beauty is ENTIRELY a cultural construct. I’m starting with the premise that is is of course not JUST a construct, but that constructs CAN and DO modify such basic biological instincts. Again, part of the amazing part of being human and having a complex psychology beyond that of simple creatures.

  28. 118
    Karl R

    Happy Person said: (#112)
    “You can’t measure something that doesn’t happen.”

    Really? I do it for a living. It’s a fairly common calculation in the insurance claims and in litigation.

    Happy Person said: (#112)
    “If they ARE partnering off in a 1:1 hetero fashion, which is something you can observe and therefore measure, neither gender is being pickier than the other.”

    That’s incorrect. I’ll use an example to demonstrate.

    Let’s assume we have two genders (we’ll call the genders C and D). We’ll assume a small community of 10 Cs and 10 Ds. In this community, the typical pairing is one C and one D.

    Let’s assume the Cs are incredibly picky. All of the Cs want to marry one of the Ds (named D3). Not only do all of the Cs want to marry D3, but none of them will settle for any other D.

    Let’s assume the Ds aren’t picky at all. They’re willing to marry any C who will have them.

    D3 will marry one of the 10 Cs. The other 9 Cs will choose to remain single rather than settle for any other D. That means 9 Ds will remain single also.

    Cs and Ds are still paired off on a 1:1 ratio (or equally unpaired), even though they’re at opposite ends of the pickiness spectrum (including D3, the only D who is married).

    And if someone makes an observation that the Ds are too picky, there is no possible way for the Cs to benefit from that information. But there are nine Ds who could benefit from the information … if they’re willing to realize that they could be married just by being less picky.

    Since men and women aren’t Cs and Ds, there’s pickiness on both sides. But there’s still no benefit in identifying the pickiness in the other person. If you’re looking to benefit, identify the pickiness within yourself and figure out which pickiness you can do without.

    Happy Person said: (#112)
    “Relationship math is stupid.”

    If you don’t find it useful, don’t use it.

    I did find it useful. It helps some people get a different perspective on specific dating problems.

  29. 119
    Happy Person

    Karl 121:
    1) Extrapolating is not measuring something that has occurred, although measuring something that has occurred goes into the calculation of an extrapolation.

    2) In your scenario, you assume (note that word) that pickiness is the reason that people aren’t getting married. To be clearer: In the real world you cannot isolate (your word “identify”) pickiness as a variable in mate selection, given that there are so many other variables in our imperfect world, and “pickiness” is hardly an observable quality that can be measured anyway. So your scenario above is very nicely thought out and I applaud the effort. And you’d be right if your initial assumption were true. If it were able to be proved it wouldn’t be an assumption, though.

    3) True, I don’t use relationship math. I prefer to use my math skills in other ways that are useful to me.

  30. 120

    pickiness = not that into you. in one person you might be picky about their physical appearance, yet another might have the same basic characteristics and you’ll find it irresistable. its simply about that ”click” with the whole package.
    what one considers needy another considers honest. what one considers attentive another considers clingy.
    i am beginning to think its just about a numbers game. and in the meantime i just keep on being the wonderful person that these dates tell me i am…and hope that one day one of them will want to get beyond ”lets be friends cos you’re so awesome”

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