Monday, July 12, 2010

Romantic Love is an Addiction, Girls. Fight it!

Finally my long-held theory gets quantitative backup!  This article on CNN details proof that the thing that so many more women than men seek out in online dating (a tool that is totally dysfunctional in terms of aiding social, face-to-face creatures like we are in identifying potential "The Ones") is actually sourced in the addiction centre of their brains.  It is a craving for what can only be called "an un-controlled substance."

Image courtesy of www.islandcrisis.net

What it leads to is their constant and consistent rejection ("click-delete") of decent men, who actually could be ideal mates, because they reject them based upon some very small thumbnail shots that rarely give a decent impression of what the guy looks like in person, across a room.  Had they met the same men in person, they'd have agreed to date more than one of them.

Some excerpts from the study article:
Researchers found increased activity in the pathway near the base of the brain associated with profound cocaine addiction, as well as in a region associated with nicotine addiction.
"Romantic love is an addiction. It's a very wonderful addiction when things are going well but a perfectly horrible addiction when things are going poorly," said Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and one of the study authors.
"When rejected, you're still madly in love with this person. You're really craving them," she said. "You're obsessively thinking about them. You're in physical and emotional pain. You're feeling deeply attached to the person, and you're also really desperately trying to figure out what happened here." 
"In a sense, it's sort of like somehow I preconditioned my mind to say, no matter how bad the relationship was, I was in love," said Brake, 38, an editor and publisher with his company, Mel Brake Press Inc. "I needed this person." 
If love is an addiction, getting over a lost love should be akin to quitting smoking, Fisher said. Don't write, don't call, don't show up, throw out letters, and don't try to be friends with that person for a while. Don't ruminate; instead, try new things. Novelty drives up dopamine in the brain, which can help you feel better.
But most significantly, even after getting over the 'One True Love', or even having merely come close to this feeling through teenage crushes, we crave it to the exclusion of really great, loving, caring partners.  We seek that mind-altering high with bad boys/girls and reject the people with great potential to be really ideal life-partners (rather than hot short-term sex partners), even while stating that a long-term life partners is what we really want (see my post on the Superman/Clark Kent conundrum here).  I see this constantly in women's profile descriptions:
  • "I'll know him the moment I see him"
  •  "I can't settle for anything less than my One True Love" 
  • "Sorry if I 'click-delete' guys, but I if I don't see the potential for my Knight in Shining Armour in your profile pics...."
  • "It will all come down to the chemistry during the first minutes of our coffee date" 
  • "He will have to be over X inches tall, this weight, this hair colour, must be like X" 
  • Etc., etc. 
The bar is set so high, few men get through the online dating 'click-delete' lottery (see my post on the average women's 300 criteria for a second date), and those who do are very likely NOT the guys who would have actually lit up all her hot buttons. What I've noticed in chatting with the girls who are REALLY driven to 'not settle' for anything less than both Superman (the ideal sex partner) AND Clark Kent (the boring lover who brings home the paycheque and is the ideal dad) in a single package is that the way that they talk about finding this fantasy man is both VERY closely linked to animated Disney fairytale film plots, and to what sounds like addicts talking about the substances that rule their lives.

If, just for a moment, you can live with that thought, that the love you are looking for is not only not likely (nearly impossible), but that it is deeply unhealthy insofar as it is distracting you from healthier 'substances' and opportunities (the guy in front of you is not coming across like your fantasy tape dictates he should), then maybe, just maybe, you should be trying to fight the impulses and opening up to guys who don't immediately 'light up' all your brain's addiction centers. Just a thought.

Here's a snippet from another post of mine:
What nets out is that your average man does not really believe that there is ACTUALLY a single individual woman out there that he will magically and mysteriously match with at some metaphysical level -- he's satisfied when he comes across a lady who is 'good enough'. Women, on the other hand, really DO believe, in their heart of hearts, that this fantasy is true. (And the nature of online dating, with its endless supply of new profiles of, apparently, available men, encourages girls to believe it can deliver the fantasy!)  (Click here for the post: "The Male vs. Female Brain".)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Addictive, Compelling, Seductive Appeal of Online Dating

In a reply to a woman on a online dating site who asked what my experience has been with meeting any women who made it to Date Two, here's a synopsis of my take on the online dating conundrum and my newly invented "Dating Appeal Funnel" to illustrate how I think most of us filter our dating choices in real live:
Online I've met, serendipitously, an old girlfriend who I dated more than once.  I've also met a lovely woman who has become a friend and we compare experiences with the opposite sex online.  Outside of those two, I haven't met a single woman I've dated more than once over a period of two years (during which I have to admit I have not 'worked it' very hard!).  I have been on many dates that, from the first moment, turned out to have been a waste of time because the woman could not resist the temptation to engage in 'false advertising' on her online profile and no longer looked like her decades old photos.  I've been on a few more in which the woman had posted recent pics, but thought I looked older than my photos  (In the latter cases, as they were both attractive and in their early 30's, I also suspect my interest in making it to Date Two led to them 'smelling desperation' and helped to ensure 'click-delete' after Date One!)  
OFFline, however, I have little difficulty meeting women with whom we move through several dates.  Why the distinct difference?
Online is just not suited to what human beings need in terms of being first and foremost visual-social creatures.  Versus dogs, who start with sniffing, then assess size, opportunity, dominance and willingness, humans start with visual cues about confidence, sensuality, warmth, attraction, size, shape, grace, sociability, etc., then get close enough to check for a pheromone match and voice cues, humour and intellectual clues, etc.  Only AFTER checking these factors do we move into more complex 'personality profile' attributes (background, culture, interests, etc).  Online dating attempts, unsuccessfully, to lead us through this experiential sensory pyramid in reverse. 
Double-click for a larger view.
Online dating generally results in wasting a HUGE amount of time because, on the basis of a few thumbnails and some heavily biased self-selected profile information, we have to send out dozens of contact attempts, only to face 'click-delete' on the majority.  On the few that result in a response, we have to invest even MORE time in back and forth banter, arrange a meeting, and only then finally experience, in the first few moments of meeting for the coffee date-'chemistry check', what we would have already have learned about the other person if we'd met in real life at the office, in public, or at a wedding, etc.  
Adding to our drive to use online dating is a simple, but only recently understood 'hook', oxytocin, also called "the love hormone".  It is the hormone that floods new mother's brains and ensures bonding, but it also spikes in the brain when we hug someone, or socialize with friends or family.  It rises when we go on Facebook or text message friends.  It is also very addictive.  Whenever we check our online dating profiles in the slim hope that someone has fallen in love with us based upon our thumbnails and interests, our brain begins to suck in oxytocin.  It GULPS the hormone when we discover a new admirer.  ("Dr. Love" FastCompany.com article link)
So, the appeal of the online dating 'promise' is addictive and compelling.  The experience, for anyone mature enough to be discerning, is frustrating and disappointing.  As I've described it in many posts on this blog, online really has to be treated as what it currently is (before two way video becomes more common): identical to getting on the subway to go to work in the morning.  You might, on any given trip, see someone you think looks interesting at a distance and maybe, just MAYBE, you will see them at the same time at the same place on another day and might meet their eye and establish contact... but probably not!
 Romantic Love is an Addiction, Girls.  FIGHT IT!

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