5 Ways You Sabotage Your Love Life (Explained by Science)
Over the years, I've made a commitment to helping you get laid. And if you followed the advice in those articles, you're probably having some trouble reading this one because the writhing mass of naked bodies you're currently tangled up in won't hold still. So you've got the hot, meaningless sex part down, but studies show that young people are still more interested in relationships than hookups, and, despite the sky-high divorce rate, the vast majority of people still want to get married one day.
Even Hef's on board.
So, if everyone is wandering around just dying to commit, why is it that you're still alone, crying so much that ocean life could live in the soaked folds of your shirt? Well, chances are ...
You're Looking for a Soul Mate
While your grandmother probably prayed that her future husband would be a caring father or know how to raise a barn or just be a supernatural hump machine (pausing to let that image sink in), these days it seems everyone is hoping to find their "soul mate." And while it may sound romantic, in reality trying to find your soul mate can lead to The Last Airbender levels of disappointment.
"Your concept of romance was already dead."
According to one recent poll, a whopping 73 percent of single Americans in their 20s believe in the idea of a soul mate, and they consider finding that person more important than any other aspect of a relationship, including emotional connection, financial security, and moral stance on beards. And before the guys reading this skip to the next list item, assuming that it must be purely a lady phenomenon, 63 percent of the men polled think that the perfect person is out there for them and expect to find them one day. So suck it, wussy boys.
But the problem with soul mate relationships is that they never live up to the golden, glowing statue we've built in our heads. While couples are obviously capable of meeting and instantly having an intense connection, eventually problems are going to arise in the relationship, mostly because keeping intensity going for long periods of time is exhausting. It's easy to think, "If we were truly soul mates, we wouldn't have any problems at all. This person is obviously a product of Satan's mocking design." At that point, individuals who believe in soul mates are more likely to check out.
"Did he laugh at that Adam Sandler trailer? Oh, fuck this."
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that people who believe in soul mates are statistically more likely to get divorced. The idea that you will "just know" when your soul mate shows up, or even that finding the perfect person is possible, means you might think there is no need to work at your relationship. If you are destined to be together, everything will just figure itself out, and if it doesn't, all you need to do is leave and find your real soul mate. This is like throwing your toddler off of a cruise ship, and if he doesn't make it back to shore, he was never destined to swim -- but that's OK, because you can always just hump up a new one.
You're Dating Online
If you're single and your religion doesn't prohibit you from using computers because they're fueled by the shrieking souls of the damned, you've probably tried Internet dating at some point.
Obviously, exceptions can always be made for sending dick pics.
A decade ago, most people still thought online dating was just for nerds sitting at computers who were incapable of meeting people in real life without first putting on an anime costume and a con badge. Now that the stigma of online dating has virtually disappeared, an estimated 40 million people have tried it. And according to studies, 1 in 5 relationships now starts on a dating website, with one-third of marriages resulting from first connecting digitally.
Those might seem like impressive statistics until you realize that a large percentage of the population is searching for someone special online just as casually as looking up bleeding nipples on Flickr. There are an estimated 54 million single people in the U.S., meaning that if online dating were truly effective, we would be seeing statistics like "75 percent of new relationships begin on the Internet."
Laugh at the spam-bots all you want. You're the one with an OkCupid account.
So why aren't we? According to science, it's the overabundance of choice that makes you less likely to find a good match. You could find someone online who would make a great match for you in real life, but because they have a different religion, or a child, or are trying to build a death ray to enslave humanity, you move on to the next option. It's like not considering an exceptional deal on a used car because you're holding out for a dealer to pay you to take a brand new one off of their hands.
Then there is the fact that profiles are a terrible way to figure out if you are compatible with someone. I know you've already started blaming all those potential life partners for lying on their questionnaires and posting old photos from when they weighed less than a dump truck full of 50 Shades novels. Bad news: It's not them, it's YOU. Science has proven that people are terrible at consciously knowing what attracts them to others. You might claim to like blondes but then only hit on brunettes. Or you might say you want someone with a great sense of humor and then get embarrassed when they arrange their vegetables to look like a cock and balls at your parents' Thanksgiving dinner. Especially if they do it with a human stencil in the same fashion that kids draw hand turkeys.
You're in the Friend Zone
Regardless of how hard the phrase makes us roll our eyes, there is, in fact, a Friend Zone. It occurs, shockingly enough, whenever a man and a woman become friends. Yes, nice guys and men's rights activists, it's safe to come out of your abstinence caves now (no innuendo intended), because you were sort-of right all along. But there is some science that goes along with this, so you can feel free to skip the next few paragraphs and continue When Harry Met Sally-ing it all over Reddit, or you can grow a vagina and deal with it.
According to numerous studies, there is a scientific explanation for why men feel "stuck" in the horrible sexless, friendly, caring, respectful relationship hell that is the Friend Zone, while women claim to be totally oblivious. In one study of opposite-sex heterosexual friendships, men and women were interviewed separately about how they felt about the other. In general, women saw their male friends as just that, and said that they thought the guy felt the same. (After all, they had just signed up for a study about FRIENDSHIP and not "People You Secretly Want to Slip It To," so you can see why they would be confused.) Meanwhile, in another room, the men were all telling the researchers about how they totally wanted to bone their female friends and, more importantly, how they were sure those sexified feelings were reciprocated.
"She said, 'Nice pants.' The pants that contain my penis. Clearly there's an implication."
This doesn't mean that every male/female friendship is doomed to failure. It just means that if you find yourself attracted to one of your friends and you want to get a relationship out of it, it might be a good idea to tell that person. Relationships don't just magically happen; they usually involve phrases like "I like you," "We should go out sometime," and "Would you care to sacrifice your hymen at the altar of Rod Thrustshaft?"
His grandfather changed it from Dickpokski for business reasons.
Look, guys, I really don't want to say you're incapable of just being friends with a girl, because that would be sexist. So help me out here: If you're holding out for your female friend to fall for you because you think it is totally obvious that she has a lady boner for you and doesn't just platonically respect you as a human being, move on. I promise there are plenty of women out there willing to put you in the Relationship Zone and immediately start beating all of your female friends with a morning star in a hate-fueled frenzy.
Your First Relationship Was Amazing
Puppy love may have a cute name, but it could completely mess you up. It turns out that, before you even had a grasp on what being in a relationship meant, you were already scarred for life.
She's sizing him up against that fling she had in preschool.
The surprising part is that we're not even talking about bad first relationships ... it's the good ones that eventually turn you into a romance wrecking ball. As one helpful researcher put it, "Remarkably, it seems that the secret to long-term happiness in a relationship is to skip a first relationship. In an ideal world, you would wake up already in your second relationship." Thanks for the help. It also turns out that the best way to avoid lung cancer is to not have lungs.
The problem is that everything going on in your life at a given time will affect your relationship. And since most people meet their "first love" when they are relatively young and don't have the sort of responsibility and aggravations that they do when they get older, it is hard for any future relationship to measure up. If your first relationship was passionate and carefree, you could expect every subsequent relationship to live up to that one, but chances are that none will. After all, when you first start dating as a teenager, you haven't quite reached the stage of life where something as simple as an empty milk carton in the fridge can result in open gunfire.
He's all smiles now, but tomorrow he's getting an assfull of breakfast buckshot.
The idea of a purely emotion-based relationship gets lost as you get older and life starts tarnishing your actions and perspective. Researchers have found that if you use your first happy-go-lucky relationship as the template for what later, more adult, and more difficult relationships should be like, you will never be happy. So keep in mind that long-term relationships require a lot of work and aren't all about copping a feel in the janitor's closet during band practice. And if you're an adult, the latter will likely get you thrown in jail.
You Believe the TV
We've already told you how romantic comedies are bad for you, but to recap: Romantic movies only concentrate on the beginning of a relationship, the time when everything is sex and love bombing and breaking up James Marsden's marriages, but it's OK because the main characters were totally meant to be together. A study of 40 popular rom-coms found that they constantly repeat the same themes; specifically, that your partner should be able to know what you're thinking without you actually saying anything. But because you're not psychic and life lacks an expository voice-over to keep everyone filled in, this trope can negatively affect actual relationships, which is why I hired a professional voice-over guy to follow me around 24/7.
And while it usually has less overt messages than romantic movies, it turns out that TV is just as bad for your relationship, even in shows that aren't specifically about couples. You might have never watched a rom-com in your life, but seeing relationships that are unlike your own on television can just as easily give you an unrealistic version of what being with someone is like. No matter what genre of TV show, there is usually a partner around who sorts things out when your wacky hijinks just get too darn zany. The problem occurs when you start to see these relationships as normal.
They can't be there for you ... they don't exist.
Fat, moderately funny men with blue collar jobs don't usually get to marry stunningly attractive housewives. Criminals don't often have borderline-supermodel women back home who will help them conceal their crimes. And according to at least one study, if you connect most to shows that happen to have some romantic storylines, you are less likely to work at your relationships and more likely to believe that if you left your partner you would find a more attractive and more amiable person out there. Just the act of watching television could be the reason you never have any relationships that last and why you're so disappointed that your dog can't talk or write its own blog.
"Oh, I talk. Just not to you, you testicle-stealing son of a bitch."
So try to think positive: Once you overcome all these obstacles and are finally with someone, remember that you probably can't do any better. That ... sounded a lot nicer in my head.
Kathy wrote a very funny book, and you can buy it here and here.