Tag Archives: dating

Top Three Predictors of Successful Relationships: PI.C.L.

I love making up a good acronym as much as the next relationship researcher, and today I’ve invented one about the top three predictors of a successful relationship:  PICL*.

PI=Positive Illusions


L=Love Continue reading

Math Nerd Announcement: A Breakup Equation For Lovers


As someone who takes comfort in reducing highly complex human experiences into single-line mathematical equations, let me share my latest shiny new toy:  a formula that predicts the breakup percentage of a given sample of dating folk over a particular period of time.

Isn’t that intriguing?

Check it out: Continue reading

Chocolate And Online Dating: Do We Get Overwhelmed with Choice?


Can the tasty cacao bean predict your next love-life move?  Not necessarily…but since I’ve already drawn one dubious parallel between food preference research and matters of the heart, why stop there?

Good, that’s what I thought too. Let’s consider, then, how our behavior in the presence of proliferating chocolate choices could predict our course of events when faced with a clamor of potential dates. Continue reading

A Pithy Thought From Jane

I recently read Jane Austen’s Emma for the first time–a great read if you like the romantic antics of Victorian England.  (And who doesn’t?)  This quote reminded me of the series I’ve been posting lately, called “How Exactly You Talk Yourself Into Dating the Wrong Person:”

Emma, the novel’s heroine, has just heard that her friend Harriet has accepted a marriage proposal from a local farmer.  In surprise, Emma says: “I had reason to believe her very lately more determined against him, much more than she was before.”

The stately and attractive Mr. Knightly, deliverer of this juicy news-morsel, retorts: “You ought to know your friend best, but I should say she was a good-tempered, soft-hearted girl, not likely to be very, very determined against any young man who told her he loved her.”

Ahh…how malleable we are. 

I’ll leave you with Pascal:

How, Exactly, You Talk Yourself Out of Dating the Wrong Person

I’ve been talking about dating lately, and about how good we are at ignoring our own best advice in the early stages.  We might go thoughtfully out into the world of cute singles, intending to find someone warm and intelligent this time around, but can easily end up with someone attractive and materialistic instead.

I’ve been talking about research that looks at our perception of ideals in a romantic partner, and one thing is clear:  we veer easily off-track if we like someone who doesn’t match up.  So, what value do these ideals really have, if any?  Should we just ignore them, since they falter as soon as we see a pretty face?

Dr. Eastwick’s study, which I’ve been reviewing in this series, suggests that ideal traits do have value—down the road.  Once our new relationship lumbers over early hurdles and enters the realm of legit, long-term love, whatever artifice we constructed to get ourselves into that relationship begins to weaken.  Groggily, we remember what we originally wanted…and see more clearly who we ended up with.

The researchers followed up with 500 speed-daters more than two years after they were recruited from speed-dating events.  Surprisingly, participants chose current partner ideals (e.g. physically attractive, good earning prospects, warm, exciting, conservative) that matched what they had said they wanted twenty-four months prior.  Even more interesting, for participants who had formed a committed relationship since Time 1, their partner’s ideal-trait- match strongly and positively predicted:

  • The passion they felt for their partner
  • Their bondedness and satisfaction with their partner
  • Their commitment to their partner
  • Their desire to marry their partner

This “predictive” finding means that lots of people were in relationships (56%), but the people whose partners matched up well with their original ideals were in more passionate relationships, and were more likely to want their relationship to last.

Surprisingly, the following things didn’t predict the current outcome in participants’ love lives:

  • How long the participants had known their partner
  • The participant’s perception of his or her own “value” in the dating marketplace (e.g. how easily they could get another partner)
  • Whether the participant had thoughtfully selected this dating partner with ideal trait-match in mind! (e.g. “When I enter into a serious relationship, I carefully consider whether his/her qualities match those that I desire in a romantic partner.)

(I appreciated the irony of the last point.  Basically, it meant that lots of people think of themselves as purposeful daters, but not everyone is).

The authors offer a poignant summary:  “Particularly when initiating relationships, it seems that potential partners who happen to match our ideal partner preferences get no preferential treatment from our hearts.  But once a relationship has been established, the match between a current partner’s traits and the pattern of our ideal partner preferences may ultimately affect relationship well-being.”  In other words, our sense of what we want doesn’t really guide us into new relationships, but it probably impacts whether we break up with that person or continue dating them.

I must say that I was quite surprised by these findings.  In my opinion, I don’t think our perception of others, or of ourselves, is precise enough for us to be able to say which 3 or 4 personality traits we really need in a lover.  I suspect that we usually refer back to past relationships that didn’t work out, and think “he was so controlling and anxious.  I don’t want someone like that again.  I must need an easy-going man who is a good communicator…”  Or, we look at people we like, and think about their dominant traits.

But, if people can look at a list of traits and pick the same ones out two years apart, maybe there is a permanence, and therefore a tangible importance, to these ideals after all.  Kind of like personality–it might change a bit over time, but there is something steady about it.

So, since we’re pretty bad at knowing what will attract us in the short-term, but pretty good at remembering what we actually wanted in the long-term, should we get familiar with our ideals and stick to our guns?  Or, are these willy-nilly, passion-driven beginnings valuable in their own way, and then we come back to our ideals to help us to weed out the keepers from the kickers?

Prior Posts in this Series:  Post 1, Post 2, Post 3