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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:
Avoiding Profile Mistakes
The Dating "Chase" Moves Online

What are some things you should avoid putting in your profile?

 

I guess this depends on what type of dating site you’re talk about (i.e., is the focus a casual or long-term relationship?) and what your personal goals are for using the site. But, I always tell people to avoid five broad types of information no matter type of online profile they have – casual dating, long-term relationship or social networking:

1. No incorrect or deliberately misleading information.

2. No personal information that can identify you to just anyone, such as your personal email or revealing where you work. These things can be revealed later, if you feel want.

3. No in-depth details about your children. Being a parent is certainly part of who you are, and it’s good to let romantic prospects know up front that children are “part of the package.” However, going over board on details about can actually distract from the advertising of yourself and why you are personally attractive as an individual. Furthermore, going in detail and providing photos of children can fuels pedophiles who are frequently online looking for potential victims.

4. No cliché or obvious references. Everyone wants someone who’s caring and truthful, and everyone loves moonlit walks on the beach. Avoid these types of references, if at all possible. Also, tell people what you want not what you don’t want. This means don’t give a laundry list of “faults” that is meant to disqualify romantic prospects. Instead, give a detail explanation of what you want from a relationship and in a partner.

5. No bad photos. I’ve discussed this at length elsewhere, but the basics of good photos bear repeating. Try not to post photos with more than you in the picture, you posing with distracting props, and you in overly suggestive poses (even on casual or adult sites you can show class; class is attractive). Make your primary photo a good close-up of your face and shoulders. Your secondary photos are better opportunities to be more liberal and show variety or different moods.

Why is there a "chase" in the dating world and how is that played out online?

Courtship deals with finding a mate. And in different species of animals there will be different numbers of males and females that are involved in those relationships. In the human species, typically a single male and single female are involved at one time in any given relationship. Scientists refer to this as sort of a reciprocal or a representative breeding system – one the public knows as “monogamy.” But, whether we are speaking of monogamy or sexual situations involving multiple partners, there is almost always some sort of courtship “ritual” involved. These rituals can be biological or socially-learned, and they often appear to be “game playing.” Of course, such game playing can actually serve a purpose.

The first purpose of courtship behavior is to determine whether the other individual is a member of the same species and of the opposite sex, because that’s the only way that reproduction has any chance of being successful. The basic definition of that is you have the two individuals that are involved in reproduction, members of the same species, and can produce a viable young. While human beings don’t have difficulty recognizing other human beings, many species of animals have to make sure that they are interacting with the same member of the same species.

Therefore, courtship “game playing” behavior can be very specific.
For example, the Banana Slug leaves a chemical in its slime to attract other slugs when it’s ready to find a mate and lay eggs. Another slug smells the chemical and follows the trail to the slug that left it. They often eat each other’s slime before mating. They begin to circle each other and may bite each other’s right side. Their actual mating can last for hours.

Penguins prefer a life-long monogamous partner. The problem is that they suffer long separations due to their migratory habits. When reunited, a pair will stand breast to breast, heads thrown back, singing loudly, with outstretched flippers trembling. Two weeks after a pair is formed, their union is consummated. The male makes his intentions known by laying his head across his partner’s stomach. They go on a long trek to find privacy, but the actual process of intercourse takes only three minutes.

Yes, banana slugs and penguins are relevant to the question. You see, one of the other purposes of game playing is to establish whether two individuals can get along and work together in order to fulfill the basic mission of mating. After all, mating takes two individuals working closely together. Thus, game playing is not just for our friends in the animal kingdom. We homo sapiens are pretty good at “game playing” ourselves.

Whether online or offline, humans are just like animals in that we also play games to get to know one another and feel each other out. Human flirting is a verbal and non-verbal “dance,” that helps us explore how attractive we are to other people. For example, by “running away” via playing coy or hard to get, often times it’s to see if the other person will come “running after us” with attention. I don’t advocate playing hard to get, but you see what I mean. Game playing is only productive when words and deeds are consistent, as opposed to sending mixed messages. Sending mixed messages serves only to confuse and frustrate others. But done sensitively, game playing is a natural, productive, and fun expression of our drive to explore how well suited or compatible romantic partners are to us.




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