The Latest Study Says You Should Stop Playing ‘Hard-to-Get’ to get where you want to be

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Playing hard to get can be, well … be f… hard. You’d love to talk to that cutie you met at the bar, but your friends say you aren’t supposed to call or text for at least a few days. And even then, you should come off as cool and indifferent, right? It turns out that the whole “playing it cool” act was never rooted in science in the first place. New research has even more good news: Playing hard-to-get might make your would-be boo less attracted to you. Finally, we can all relax!

This Situation Leads to Agitation

A team of researchers from Israel and Rochester, New York looked at the relationship between uncertainty and sexual desirability over the course of six related studies. The first study looked at single heterosexuals aged 19 to 31 from a university in Israel, including 50 men and 51 women. They were each shown a photograph of an opposite-sex individual (the same photograph, for control purposes) and told they would be chatting online with that person. At the end of their chat, the participants were told they could send a final message to their partner. Once they were done, the researcher told them to check their messages: Some got a final message from their chat partner, creating certainty that the person was into them, while the others didn’t, creating uncertainty.

Next, participants were asked to rate the sexual desirability of their chat partner from 1 to 5. The people who received a final message gave their partner a significantly higher score than those who didn’t. They were also more interested in future interactions with that person. That certainty and security of knowing where you stand with someone really can make a difference when it comes to how much desire you feel for them.

Shields Up

So what’s wrong with having a little mystery in your love life? “People may protect themselves from the possibility of a painful rejection by distancing themselves from potentially rejecting partners,” Professor Harry Reis, one of the co-authors of the study, said in a press release. “People experience higher levels of sexual desire when they feel confident about a partner’s interest and acceptance.”

Social psychologist and lead author Gurit Birnbaum added that based on the results of the study, sexual desire may “serve as a gut-feeling indicator of mate suitability that motivates people to pursue romantic relationships with a reliable and valuable partner,” while “inhibiting desire may serve as a mechanism aimed at protecting the self from investing in a relationship in which the future is f…… uncertain.”

A 2012 study published in the European Journal of Personality supported the idea that playing hard-to-get is the wrong tactic to use, particularly for people looking for a short-term fling. But not all research agrees that uncertainty is necessarily a bad thing; a 2010 study published in Psychological Science concluded that uncertainty can increase a woman’s romantic attraction towards a man.

The jury is still out on whether playing hard to get is worth the effort, but research seems to be leaning towards honesty being the best policy. Either way, though, it’s good to know that being straightforward and honest doesn’t automatically mean you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

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Henry Sapiecha

As an anthropologist, I arranged to conduct a test on my 10-year marriage

It’s been a long time since I’ve conducted a sociological experiment. Trained as an anthropologist, my usual research locations were tropical climes, not my own home.

But this time it’s personal. The subject of this experiment will be Steve, the man who’s been sleeping in my bed for the last 13 years. The one who, maybe, I might take for granted.

Last year, we renewed our 10-year wedding vows and in doing so renewed some long lost romantic spark… but, now, the day-to-day has again started to wear us down.

Within couplehood, how do we ward off the mundane and preserve its romantic core? Will kindness engender kindness? And does investment in the little things keep the most important thing alive?

Experiment Take one grumpy wife plus one long-suffering husband and see what happens when wife performs 10 secret acts of kindness over 10 days. Explore the effects on said relationship. (Caveat: in order to prevent suspicion, acts of kindness will commence in a subtle, low-key manner. Would not want to risk husband having heart attack.)

Day 1: “I love you”

Involves Three seconds. Before hubby goes to work in the morning, I say, “I love you” meaningfully. As opposed to, “Mate, you’re seriously just going to walk out of the house and leave your @#$%^&* everywhere?”

Relationship effects None.

Day 2: “If I were in your shoes…”

Involves Empathy, changing viewpoint. Everybody stars in their own movie. The human mind is preoccupied with the self. But not so when first falling in love. During courtship, the other person is the clear movie star. What would he like? How does he feel? In other words: how can I make him want me more? In long-term relationships, rather than co-starring, over time, we cast our partners in less favourable roles: servant, villain, or even worse, bit character who inspires no intense emotions either way. Today I will be the director and focus my lens on my leading man. I will practise partner empathy and try to see everything from his point of view.

Relationship effects Slightly warmer between us. He calls me “Hun.” Pardon? It’s been ages since he’s used a cutesy name like that.

Day 3: A grand gesture

Involves Thoughtfulness, planning. The romantic pulse is often dulled within the confines of monogamy. To sharpen it, never underestimate the power of a grand gesture, especially if it’s a surprise such as a weekend away or tickets to a favourite band. Hubby’s birthday is tomorrow. (Yes, I know, a convenient time to conduct my “be nice missive”). Anyway, I book a restaurant and conspire with his mother that she fly over and surprise him at his birthday dinner.

Relationship effects Husband effortlessly steps into “starring” role. Whispers to me just before falling asleep, “Thank you so much for my birthday surprise.”

Day 4: Pen a love letter

Involves Gratitude, reflection. Husband is away for work. I write him a love letter about the things I admire and value in him. To throw him off, I get the kids to write him gratitude letters, too. Before kiddies leave for school the next day, we give him our letters.

Relationship effects Underwhelming. He reads them, smiles, and chucks them on the bedside table.

Day 5: Tender touch

Involves Physical love. My plan is to offer husband a massage. “Want a foot rub, honey?” I’m aware that this may cause deep suspicion and blow the experiment. Admission By the time hubby gets home from airport, this is so not going to happen. The next morning, however, I practise, er, “tender touch”.

Relationship effects Husband is happy but very confused.

Day 6: Total loving

Involves Extreme patience. Not one eye roll. Not one huff. I will step over his dirty ice-cream bowl left beside the couch and say nothing. I shall bite my fiery tongue. I will practise love through actions. Is this possible? Seemingly not. I fail the mission before we’ve even had breakfast. We bicker over little things throughout the day. I will try again tomorrow.

Day 7: Day 6, take two

Fail! Again. Urggggghhh! Hypothesis: Even if there is overriding goodwill between a couple, all can be instantly undermined by the murky sea of unresolved issues. Usually, for me, this pertains to gender division; for him, wishing I’d chill out.

Relationship effects Desire within me grows… to end this stupid experiment.

Day 8: Lie in

Involves A small sacrifice. I surprise hubby by not waking him on Saturday morning. Somehow he sleeps through the kids doing Just Dance and singing Despacito on repeat.

Relationship effect He is definitely smiling more.

Day 9: Freedom

Involves Space. I suggest he go out that evening and catch up with some friends.

Relationship effects Who knows? I’m fast asleep by the time he returns home from the bar.

Day 10: The way to a man’s heart

Involves Old-fashioned wisdom. Maybe once a week, I ask the kids in the morning, “What would you like for dinner?” (Son: pizza; daughter: sadly, two-minute noodles.) Around 5pm, miraculously these items appear on the dinner table. When is the last time I asked my husband what he’d like for dinner? Honestly, it was probably BC (before children). You know what my husband gets if he’s lucky enough for me to prepare his evening meal? Salad. Yep. Or, as the more hipster among us call it, a “dragon bowl”. I’m a vegetarian, so that’s usually what I’m eating.

Note My husband has never once complained about his raw vegetable meals. Although once I did catch him emailing a picture of his dinner to his mum. Half an avocado, a small pile of kidney beans and a bouquet of spinach leaves, undressed. Hubby is going to get the shock of his life tonight when I prepare him a steak, mashed potatoes and gravy. I may even light candles. Typical. Although husband said he would be home early, he is not. So dinner ends up being served the way he’s used to getting it – cold.

Relationship effect Despite lack of heat, he appears full and content. Me, as I do the dishes afterwards, not so much.

In conclusion, during this experiment, although there were many wonderful moments, the same unresolved issues kept cropping up. To be really happy, we must dig further, beyond kindness and sweet gestures, and fix the deep underground stuff.

Over the past 10 days, my husband’s perspective and his happiness were at the forefront of my mind. When I was kinder, he was kinder. The mood between us has shifted. It’s now more playful, more patient, more loving. Marriage is not a single experiment but a long-term one that takes continuous effort from both parties.

Dance like no one’s watching? How about, love like you’ve never been married. Why not see what happens if you put your relationship to the same 10-day experiment? Feel free to write in and share your experiences.

Henry Sapiecha

Chances are we’re more likely to date someone who has an ex

couple-kissing-in-farmyard image www.mylove-au.com

MOST people would agree choosing “the right” partner is fairly important, and a bad selection in this area can be devastating.

Most people want to attract a partner, and this involves a combination of self-promotion, and taking down the competition in order to appear to be “the right” partner.

Some of our efforts are conscious and some are unconscious.

Research has found people with relationship experience, all else being equal, tend to be more romantically desirable than people without relationship experience.

In other words, people are attracted to others who have already been “pre-selected” (or pre-approved).

We call this phenomenon “mate copying”.

Mate copying can be thought of as purchasing a product (a romantic partner) after seeing others (former partners) “use” it.

By virtue of having been in a relationship, an individual is communicating they have “desirable” romantic characteristics (these have appealed to at least one person previously) and you can be confident there is something about them that is appealing.

Do men and women mate copy?

In a sense the previous partners of a person are “endorsing” them, or attesting to their romantic competence. By doing so, they are indirectly offering relevant information about the person.

But why might this be useful? Well, if you are going to make an important decision (who to partner) you generally want a fair bit of relevant information. Knowing someone else has been chosen before is additional relevant information that will help you make your decision.

But there is a sex-difference here, and it essentially comes down to biology. There is plenty of literature supporting the idea men are largely attracted by physical qualities (physical beauty, youthfulness).

Women, however, are generally attracted to less observable characteristics (social dominance, kindness). Where men can get a fair bit of mate-relevant information from simple observation of a potential partner, women can’t, and are encouraged to look for additional information. One cheap source is knowing what other women think of a man, specifically, whether or not he is considered a good romantic prospect.

While some researchers have found evidence of mate copying in men, there is a fair bit of literature suggesting the phenomenon is quite a bit stronger among women.

One reason for this is men don’t get as much out of mate copying as women do. The information gains men achieve by knowing what other men think about a woman are marginal.

Being in a relationship is attractive … or is it?

Although you may not have heard of “mate copying”, you may have heard of “the wedding ring effect”. This broadly describes the popular(ish) belief that wearing a wedding ring makes a man desirable, because he has obviously won the romantic favour of at least one opposite-sex person (his wife), and he is willing to commit.

Given indicating a willingness to commit makes a man very attractive, and considering he is conveying a lot of positive characteristics (he’s likely a good partner, he’s willing to commit), the persistence of this belief is not surprising.

However, evidence does not support the idea married men are more desirable than single men. A big reason for this is married individuals are so much harder to attract and/or date than single individuals. Also, there are some strong moral proscriptions against pursuing a married person.

It’s not all about quantity

One of the interesting things about mate copying is that, like with many things, quality is more important than quantity. It’s known a man is much more desirable if his female partner (current or former) is highly attractive (than if she is less attractive). But we also know that while a moderate amount of relationship experience makes a man more desirable than if he has none, too much makes him really undesirable.

A study I co-authored looked at how romantically desirable a man was perceived to be, as a function of how many partners he’d had in the past four years. Men with one or two previous partners were far more desirable than men with none, but men with five were far less desirable than any of these.

This non-linear relationship might seem curious – if a bit of relationship experience is desirable, wouldn’t a lot of experience be really desirable? Well, no, and the reason probably has something to do with promiscuity.

While having had five or more previous partners is certainly far from unheard of, it may indicate the person can’t or won’t maintain a relationship for long. Maybe they have trouble committing, or maybe they are more interested in quantity. Whatever the case, they are indicating undesirable relationship qualities.

Mate copying among nonhumans has received a lot of attention in the past several decades, with numerous authors finding evidence for it in aquatic, avian and terrestrial animals. While enquiry into the existence of the phenomenon among humans began far more recently, preliminary evidence suggests it definitely exists and is an extremely powerful attraction force.

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Henry Sapiecha

This simple trait in men attracts women to them like a magnet

Salman Rushdie with former wife, Padma Lakshmi image www.mylove-au.com

Spin a good yarn?
Salman Rushdie with former wife, Padma Lakshmi.

Seduce my mind and you can have my body, wrote M.D Waters in her novel, Archetype.

Turns out there is truth to this – for women, at least.

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A new study by psychology researchers from the University of North Carolina has found that the ability to spin a good yarn makes men more attractive. It also improves their status, in the eyes of women.

Conversely, women’s storytelling abilities did not affect the men’s perception of her attractiveness as a potential partner.

“Telling stories is a universal human activity, and effective storytellers can bring about comfort, joy, and excitement to their audiences,” wrote lead researcher, John Donahue.

It was this ability to evoke positive states in others that makes storytelling an attractive quality, Donahue explained.

In three separate studies, men who were supposedly good storytellers were rated as being more attractive short and long-term mates. Participants also rated good storytellers as having positive personality traits, including intelligence, prestige, ambition, dominance and sense of humour.

Good female storytellers were considered more intelligent but were not rated as more physically attractive or a more appealing partner.

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Why?

“Evolutionary psychologists generally follow a distinction in women’s attraction to men between the traits that indicate ‘good genes’ and the traits of a ‘good dad’ – the latter was suggested as the basis for storytelling ability being a positive evolutionary trait,” Donahue hypothesised.

“The fact that storytelling ability was not valued for both men and women, but only for women alone and primarily for long-term relationships, suggested that women desire a “good dad” and that storytelling ability reflects a man’s having the potential to gain resources.

“Beyond the idea that women are attracted to a man who is a ‘good dad’ (one who can provide tangible resources) the results… may imply that women actually instead prefer a man of high status (who presumably could gain resources through his talents or position).”

Donahue says that further studies needs to be done to understand whether other skills (like cooking or artistic talent) also make for a more attractive partner, but his findings adds to a body of research that has found that looks are less important to women than other qualities.

7-7u

Henry Sapiecha

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