Our favourite anthropologist, Helen Fisher on the Anatomy of Love
Anthropologist Helen Fisher takes on a tricky topic – love – and explains its evolution, its biochemical foundations and its social importance.
Dr Helen Fisher gives a TED talk on why we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? To learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love, Helen Fisher and her research team took MRIs of people in love — and people who had just been dumped.
In an article in the Guardian today, Katy Guest writes that people who read are better lovers – now that’s great news for you who have a book on the go at all times! Apparently heavy reading increases empathy and on dating sites, it makes a user more likely to choose the profile that says ‘reading’ on their hobbies. In a way it does make sense – most of us are attracted to people who are intellectually stimulated, who enjoy learning and spending their time in a way that enhances brain activity and creativity.
In dating there are so many elements people are looking for in a prospective partner and I believe that in London, the requirement list is longer than some other areas – we have so much choice here and so many different types of dating services from apps, to online dating to pop-up dinner dating to personal introduction agencies. In London we have the crème of the crop, and yet more and more people find themselves single in cities such as London.
Why is that? What has happened to the dating scene in big cities? Have people become so confused by all the choice that they don’t really know what they want anymore? I would argue that is very close to reality. Having worked in the dating industry for many years now, I’ve seen a shift from more traditional dating to something completely new and contemporary; it’s almost like dating on the go – where no-one is in a hurry to actually find someone but just keeps on looking until something outstanding comes along. The question is; is that the unicorn everyone is chasing? Does it exist? Sadly no, no one is completely perfect.
At Elan London we offer a VIP service to all our clients – we provide professional guidance, coaching and matchmaking. Our approach is very organic and tailor-made for each individual. We want the London dating scene to be full of happy, confident and secure daters!
We can provide a very personalised service for you, we can help you get over ‘dating fatique’ or any confusion you may have after experiences with online dating or apps. We will create a positive, encouraging and pro-active dating strategy for you. If you’d like to know more, I would love to have a chat with you!
Senior Consultant, Coach and Matchmaker
The latest addition to our team, Miia Koponen tells us about her journey to Elan London…
When I first started working in the Matchmaking industry I thought it was a bit bonkers: people really letting someone else choose their partner? I was young and carefree and easily met partner candidates (alas not always that suitable!). So to me, it did seem a bit unusual indeed. I had however, always had an interest in human interaction, the psychology of romance and how people choose their partners so from that perspective, I was landing a perfect job!
For the past eleven years I worked for a very established introduction agency in London and learned the ins and outs of matching, people’s quirks when it comes to dating and how for some people, finding a partner was just another (very important) box they wanted to tick in their lives. I worked alongside some amazing people whose background ranged from psychotherapy to running a photography business. I was lucky to have many mentors during my time at my first matchmaking agency.
For the past few years I was the most senior and most experienced consultant at that place and my feet were itching – I wanted a new challenge and a new opportunity. When the company was taken over by a new owner I was ready to move on. I knew it would be well looked after by the team and the new owner and I handed in my resignation.
I knew I loved matchmaking, helping people in one of their most important and sensitive areas of their lives and I would have been keen to stay within the industry but I also knew that opportunities very rarely arose as it was a small industry. I contacted one agency – a same sex matchmaking company – I knew of who sadly didn’t have any opportunities. I started thinking of other options and went on to have couple of interviews for recruiter positions – matchmakers and recruiters have quite a lot of transferrable skills! However, recruitment just didn’t feel right. I then saw Elan London advertising a Senior Consultant position and couldn’t actually believe it – I applied straight away and was invited for an interview by Tina Bradley who owns Elan. The interview went well and a little while after Tina offered me the position – I was thrilled!
I’m just coming to an end of my first month at Elan and I thoroughly enjoy it. I have started working with some incredible clients and am looking forward to be able to introduce them to some equally amazing matches whilst guiding, coaching and mentoring them along the way. What I really like about Elan is that Tina trusts my experience and expertise with clients and although am very much guided and mentored by her, I also have my independence and my own style of working with the clients. I seem to have much more time and energy to give to my clients now, than I ever did in my previous role. We really care about our clients at Elan London!
Most creatures choose a mate based on two factors: the ability to procreate and the possession of a pulse.
Humans are obviously a lot more complicated; we tend to screw up by putting too much weight on appearance and spark. In fact, if you value attractiveness when looking for a good partner, you’ll go on too many dates for the wrong reasons. If you’re not good at screening out the beauty-and lust-struck, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time.
Sure, you’ll have hot dates and passionate encounters, but you’ll be distracted from looking for the qualities that make a good partner. Couples bound by mutual chemistry can be blind to the fact that the relationship lacks qualities necessary for a partnership and enables red-flag behaviors that no partnership can survive.
So attractiveness and chemistry may be good for generating hot affairs and cool couples, but they’re also good for driving up the divorce rate.
If you’re looking for a partner, look beyond attraction, figure out what qualities of character and personality you require, and be ready to ignore strong attraction if those qualities aren’t there. No matter how hot the package or interpersonal sizzle, remember what you’ve learned about what spoils a relationship, no matter how much you are tempted.
Since you’ve probably read a landfill’s worth of magazine articles on how to be more attractive or get the other person to like you more, and they haven’t improved your own love life, it’s time for a new strategy.
Learn how to define what you’re looking for, focus your appeal in a way that shows your strengths, and conduct an efficient search for a partner who won’t wear you out or waste your time.
If you want bliss and romance and instant chemical attraction, this strategy won’t work. If you want a partnership that’s as solid as a swan’s and won’t end in divorce, we can help.
Of course many people are attracted to online dating. It is not surprising that it has become hugely popular in recent times; suddenly having people messaging and arranging potential dates can be quite exciting. Addictive in fact.
For the main part, most people tend to go onto online dating sites to find a life partner and then get off the site quickly, sometimes never to return. There are some however, who find that being on the site is actually more exciting than the prospective of finding true love. They become obsessed with logging on and reviewing their emails. The time they spend online increases and starts to revolve around several dating sites. Conversely they start spending less time with their friends off the site in case they miss an important message from someone on the dating site.
How can you tell if you are addicted to online dating?
So how do you know if you might be addicted to online dating? If you can answer yes to any of the following you may have a problem:
- You log on to your online dating sites as soon as you get home from work.
- You spend most of your free time in front of your computer so that you do not miss any messages.
- You are spending more and more time logged onto your dating site, going to bed later and this is affecting your day.
- You get annoyed or irritated if you do not get any messages.
- You start to check on past dates to see whether they are still active on the site.
- You start to see the same people on different dating sites.
So why is it that some people become addicted to the endless chase of many different loves?
Why do people become addicted to online dating?
With online dating you immediately enter into a world of never-ending choices. New people sign up every day, you can peruse your options as often as you like and keep change the characteristics of the person you are looking for.
However, having so many options available can make it nigh on impossible to focus on the person who is sat in front of you at that very moment. In your mind you are always elsewhere, wondering if you could get someone a little better, someone who may be more suited to you, or with a more fun outlook. But that person could be on the date with you right now. Because you are not present in that moment, you are thinking about logging online and messaging someone new, you could miss a real opportunity to connect with them.
The problem is that it is very much human instinct to be curious and adventurous, I mean, why settle for just one when you can try out a whole range of opportunities?
Whilst in some areas of our lives it is fantastic to have several options available to us. However, when the important element is the search and not the end result that is the driving force in our quest, we then have a problem.
It is perfectly acceptable to realise there are certain features in a prospective partner that we won’t put up with. But when you are picking out silly little niggles about every single person you go on a date with, simply to get onto the next potential date, then this becomes addictive behaviour.
What do to if you are addicted to online dating
If you are worried that you might be addicted to online dating then perhaps you should take a break and spend some time offline for a while. Go out with your real friends and enjoy their company and leave dating alone for a short period of time.
Remember that dating should be the means to the end, and the end is finding your one true love, not endless options that lead nowhere.
If your idea of a great night in is to settle onto the couch with a tub of popcorn and get swept away in a romantic comedy, you are certainly not alone.
Many of these films focus on the premise that a Prince Charming will come and whisk his true love away into the sunset on a white horse. But this is a fantasy right? We don’t really believe that out there is the ‘one’, who will find us against all the odds and we’ll end up living happily ever after?
I mean, shouldn’t women take matters into their own hands if they want to find love?
It may have been true that in the past, men were expected to make the first move, whilst women played a more passive role in their own future. But this is the 21st century, and times have changed.
However, there’s still a general sense that women should sit back and let the man pursue them. Media suggests it through these stereotypical romantic comedies that pile out of Hollywood each year. And strong women, who do make their own choices, are labelled by the press as ‘man-hunters’.
So why are we given this impression from different sources that it is the norm for the man to chase the woman?
How the media portrays unrealistic relationships
Romcoms, the staple diet of the diehard romantic, often portray situations that would not happen in real life, but at the same time influence those who are watching.
A study conducted at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh blames romcoms for unrealistic expectations in love.
The study reviewed 40 films, including Runaway Bride, Notting Hill, You’ve Got Mail, Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner and While You Were Sleeping.
Research into these films found several common themes they believed to be unrealistic and harmful in real life. These included; instant trust with a new partner, perfect sex from the outset, and no need for communication.
The university’s Dr Bjarne Holmes said: “Marriage counsellors often see couples who believe that sex should always be perfect, and if someone is meant to be with you then they will know what you want without you needing to communicate it.
“We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people’s minds.
“The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realise.”
Further evidence showed that many romcom fans believed in a ‘perfect relationship’, a ‘soul mate’ they were ‘destined to meet’ who could ‘read their minds’.
“We all want to be successful in our relationships,” said Dr Holmes. “We want to be the special one and meet the special one. Unfortunately people tend to believe the Hollywood idea of a perfect relationship.
“That is just unrealistic. People feel if their relationship is not like a Hollywood film then it is not any good.”
Women being proactive in dating
So there you have it. Life’s no Hollywood film. There’s no director, no script, no extras, no set.
Except there is. You are in control of your own life. You direct the action, you make up the script and you call the shots.
Which includes your love life. Because there’s no Prince Charming, no fateful meeting about to happen, and no telepathic mind reading, but there can be a happy ending. It all depends on whether you want to take charge of finding that someone wonderful.
Being proactive significantly increases the chances of finding a life partner. And if you’re not quite sure where to start, joining a matchmaking service like Elan London can be a great way to dip your toe into the dating world.
Elan London have consultants who are well versed in relationship and people skills. They work closely with clients to understand the key values and issues that are important. They then use these findings in order to help source a suitable partner for introduction, so all the hard work of looking for a potential date has already been done for you.
But whichever method you use to find your life partner, be proactive, because Prince Charming is not coming to get you!
Dating can be hard at the best of times, but when you have recently divorced, or have ended a long-term relationship, it can appear especially daunting. When we get married we instantly become a special unit of two – we are now a couple and our lives become intrinsically linked to each other. To lose that companionship can be as devastating as a bereavement, and with it comes a grieving process.
There may also be a sense of failure and a worry that we are no longer attractive to the opposite sex. We may ask ourselves ‘How will I ever find love again?’ This is a common fear amongst divorcees. Not to mention that dating practices may have changed somewhat since we were last single.
The truth is, finding love after a divorce can be unnerving and feel strange. If there are children from a marriage, you now have to decide not only if your prospective partner is a good match for you, but will he get on with the kids?
So where do you start?
Move on emotionally from the divorce
When a marriage ends, there are usually two types of feelings that are dominant – guilt or resentment.
The person who initiates the divorce may feel guilty for walking away, abandoning the marriage or moving on to better things. There may also be a sense of shame associated with giving up on the marriage.
It is important that this guilt be shed in order to move on. If it is not, the guilty person may start to feel they are not worthy of a fulfilling relationship. They could then start to tolerate bad behaviour from prospective partners.
The person who was rejected in the marriage might feel an acute sense of being left behind, especially if the divorce was unexpected. They may harbour feelings of hurt and abandonment, and could develop a distrust of potential partners.
Those who were left behind need to rebuild their self-esteem and confidence and not let any feelings of bitterness, sarcasm or negativity affect future relationships.
Preparing yourself mentally for dating after a divorce
Once the divorced person has rid themselves of any residual, unhealthy emotions associated with the breakup, they are ready to move on again.
One difference between men and women after a divorce is that men do not look too far into the future regarding potential dates. They will focus on the present, whether they are having a good time at that particular moment. Generally speaking, women tend concentrate more on the future and possible long-term partner material.
The message is to go with the flow. Take things slowly, don’t compare new dates with your old partner, and try not to map put your future after only a few dates. You may feel pressure to settle down immediately and recreate what was lost, but some time nurturing yourself and regaining your self-confidence is time well spent.
How to find love after a divorce
It’s all very well being prepared and letting go of negative emotions, but now that you are ready, where do you actually find love? Well, it won’t come knocking at your door, so you have to go and find it. And there’s no shame in that. You wouldn’t expect to find a great job without looking for it.
There are practical things you can do to find love again.
Engaging a professional matchmaker can be a great move, especially if you are a little hesitant in actively dating. Your matchmaker will introduce you to compatible partners, will screen them and of course you can be sure that each person you meet is serious about finding a long term partner.
There are mental steps that can be undertaken also.
One thing that makes us attractive to the opposite sex is when we appear to be full of life, living a passionate existence, doing the things we love. So, do the things you have always wanted to do. And don’t wait until you have someone to do them with. If you’ve always wanted to visit an art gallery then go. If jazz music is your thing, book a ticket. If you have yearned to travel to a certain part of the world, plan a solo trip.
The message really is to start living your life. There is nothing as unattractive as a person who is waiting to be scooped up and looked after. We naturally gravitate to those who are happy in their own lives. Be one of those people. Don’t wait for someone else to fulfil it for you.
While you are living your life, make sure you are open to any new possibilities. Before your marriage, you may have had certain ideas of what and who you were attracted to. Being more open and flexible will give you far more opportunities for love.
Taking a chance on someone that you wouldn’t have normally could lead to something rather special. So if you normally wouldn’t have dated a blonde or brunette, or a bald or short man, give it a go this time. You may be pleasantly surprised. And you never know, it could lead to something rather wonderful.
What do men find most attractive?
Men are biologically programmed to find attractive traits in women. It is in their nature.
Generally speaking, men are first and foremost visually stimulated, but can be drawn towards a number of different attributes. However, knowing what men find attractive in a woman is not rocket science. It is pretty similar to what women find attractive in men, but with a few differences.
Imagine you are walking into a party; what would it take for you to notice a man in the room?
~ Someone who is gregarious, who is the centre of attention, making people laugh?
~ Someone who is facially attractive and well groomed?
~ A man who is not too big or that small, but looks as though they take care of themselves?
~ A person who appears to be kind towards others, and respectful of other people’s views?
~ Someone who is not afraid to voice their opinions, and is passionate about personal causes?
Well, it probably won’t be surprising that these are exactly the same factors that make a woman attractive to a man. They are just not in the same order. Men tend to place physical attributes slightly higher than character based ones, usually in this order:
- Facial attraction
- Physical attributes
- Happy demeanour
- Warm and nurturing nature
Let’s look at these factors in more detail:
Studies have shown that if a man is looking for a one-night stand, he will place more importance on a woman’s body than any other feature. However, when he is pursuing a serious relationship, a woman’s face is the crucial element.
In a study at the University of Austin at Texas, 75% of men, who wanted a long-term relationship, stated that a woman’s face was more important to them than her body.
Some men may admit to favouring one part of a woman’s body over another. However, studies have shown that the ratio between the waist and the hips is the most important factor.
Evolutionary psychologists believe that this hip to waist ratio is a key indicator of good and fertile sexual health. The ideal ratio is within the 0.6 to 0.8 range, which is typically the classic hourglass figure, commonly associated with Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe.
Professor Devendra Singh, at the University of Texas, held a number of experiments and found that in younger men aged 18 to 22, the favourite shape for women was this classic hour-glass figure.
A bright and sunny outlook can really turn a man on. There is nothing like a flirty laugh and to watch a woman having a fun time to make a man wish he was part of it.
If you have a miserable face and look depressed all the time, don’t think that someone is going to want to help solve your problems, they will not.
And if you spot a guy in a bar, don’t be afraid to make eye contact and smile. Let him know you are interested. Men are not mind readers, give them a signal that it’s ok to come over.
Warm and nurturing nature
Men like to be known as the stronger sex, but there are times when they need some care and attention. A woman that understands this, who can look after a guy with warmth and love is going to enjoy a wonderful relationship.
Women that are cold and emotionally blocked will have a hard time with men who require a little extra attention occasionally. It is fine to be a strong and independent woman, but the sexes need different things at alternating times.
Being able to swap roles is essential for a successful relationship, but also very attractive to a male.
You can be the prettiest girl in the world, but if you have no character, you won’t be very attractive for someone looking for a long term relationship.
Once a man has been attracted by your physical features, he will then start to delve a little deeper. If he is thinking long term, it will be important to him that he can trust you, that you share the same morals and values, particularly if he wants to start a family.
Men like women who know their own mind and possess a strength of character and integrity.
Good relationships are where couples are able to be themselves. And if you cannot do that from the start, it probably won’t end well. So be yourself, and here’s hoping you’ll find your perfect match. We can obviously help you with that!