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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


This Week:
Online Dating Profile Perceptions Differ Amongst Gender
How to Tell if Someone’s a Keeper or Not

Are men and women attracted to different things in a potential partner’s online dating profile?

 

All indications are “yes.” Notwithstanding that most people agree they want a partner who’s “honest, caring, loyal, and fun,” evolutionary psychologists contend that men and women are instinctively and predictably attracted to different types of personal characteristics or traits in each other. Dr. Monica Whitty from Queens University Belfast nicely talked about all of this and how it relates to offline and online dating in a pioneering research article [Whitty, M. T. (2004). Cyber-flirting: an examination of men’s and women’s flirting behaviour both offline and on the Internet. Behaviour Change, 21, 115–126.].

Dr. Whitty gives the bottom line to us straight – men rate physical attractiveness as an important quality in a partner more highly than women, and women give higher ratings to traits reflecting dominance and social status. There’s likely an evolutionary basis for this. Specifically, men and women contribute different resources to mating and reproduction. On one hand, women contribute their physical bodies, so men automatically respond to physical beauty because this implies good health, youthfulness and fertility. On the other hand, women seem to look for indications that a man has resources to care for her and her future children. Therefore rather than physical beauty, women seem inherently drawn to characteristics like physical dominance, social status, ambition and high income levels. Research studies since the 1970s have consistently born out these ideas, and Dr. Whitty’s own research shows that these different attractors hold for online flirting and dating as well. I urge everyone to take a trip to a university library, find Dr. Whitty’s article, and read it at least twice.

Now, I and Online Dating Magazine are not sharing this information so you can enhance your online dating profile with “white lies” or what you think are harmless exaggerations about your attractiveness, health, earnings or education level. This is actually a widespread problem in online dating profiles, which I’ll address in a feature column in April. However, do take time to learn from evolutionary psychologists and the latest flirting and relationship research about what qualities and blessings you may be underselling to romantic prospects.

Don’t lie or misrepresent, but for goodness sake, don’t ignore human hardwiring and be overly modest in your profile as well. If you’ve got it, feel free to flaunt it responsibly!

How do I tell if someone’s a keeper or not?
If I knew that with the utmost certainty, I’d be a billionaire. The problem here is that everyone’s definition of a “keeper” varies in slight but often important ways. For example, what’s an intolerable personal characteristic to one individual can be perfectly acceptable to another person. This set of personal preferences is commonly referred to as our “deal makers and deal breakers.” Everyone has them, and everyone’s set is unique.

Although I can’t concretely identify a set of traits that you’ll totally agree makes for a keeper, I can pass along some thoughts that will help you identify someone that will almost always make you unhappy and unfulfilled in the long run. The more statements below with which you agree, the shakier I predict your relationship is or will become. In other words, more “yeses” means the more likely you don’t have a keeper –

1. Frequency of arguments and their resolution is a constant problem

2. Consistent dissatisfaction and resentment over the amount of time spent together

3. Direct or indirect pressure to change how you look and behave when in your partner’s company

4. Thoughts of physically and emotionally intimacy with your partner are lacking or cause you distinct discomfort or apprehension

5. Constantly making excuses to your family, friends or acquaintances for his/her behavior

I don’t want you to use your ponderings of these statements to judge, criticize or ridicule your partner. They’re intended to help you assess the relationship you’re in now or to make you think more carefully about whether the person you’re falling for could be a keeper. It all comes down to asking good questions… to get good information… to make good decisions for yourself.




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