So you went on a terrible date last night. His name was Colin but he made you call him "Lion," he spent the entire night talking about his ex-girlfriend with his terrible sardine breath and, finally, he forgot his wallet.
The saddest part? It's not even the worst date you've been on. In fact, you've reached a point where you're not sure if you should even be complaining about your less than subpar date with Lion. I mean, at least you got a date. And he had nice hair, right?
Cue: Sunday morning brunch conversation about how hopeless your dating lives are. You share your story about Lion and your friends go around sharing their respective horrible date stories. Either that or they complain about how painfully single they are. Then conversation turns to Sharon who's been sitting quietly the whole time.
Sharon's been quiet because she doesn't share your issues. Sharon has the perfect boyfriend, Tom. And, if we're being honest, Sharon's pretty perfect too. So perfect that you can't even hate her for it, she's so dang likable that she managed to be one of your best friends.
You and all of your friends strive for a love like that of Sharon and Tom.
And that's the how the conversation always goes, right? You complain about how single you are then you all sit around talking about how much you want to have a love like your one friend does.
Well, a new study by University of Texas psychologists Daniel Conroy-Beam and David M. Buss in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explains exactly why it is that you don't have a love like Sharon and Tom's. Turns out, it all boils down to one simple fact: She's just more desirable than you. And Tom is more desirable than his male counterparts (i.e. Lion).
In the study, the researchers sought to see whether or not people's stated mate preferences matched with the people they actually ended up with in the long run. They did this by asking two groups, long-lasting married couples and newlywed couples, about their preferences (both looks and personality) for a partner.
They were also asked to rate themselves on their own "mate value." In other words, how big of a catch they thought they were. Newlyweds were rated on this by independent researchers and long-term married couples were trusted to rate themselves and their partners.
Next, the researchers took the results and plugged them into a fancy system where simulated "agents" reflecting the respondents and their reported preferences and characteristics were placed into a virtual dating market. What happened then? Well, it turns out that people will pursue and guard the mates that they are the most attracted to. Sounds a lot like real life, huh? Yep.
The study confirmed a finding that's been around for a while. It's called "associative sorting" and it states that the most desirable people find the most desirable partners... leaving the rest of us in the dust. Yeah, the truth hurts.
The study gives you some tips for ways of finding someone like this one, "people must select their mates from among restricted pools where ideal partners may not exist."
So, next time you go out, maybe don't invite Sharon.
Citations: Finally, a Scientific Explanation for Why New York Dating Is So Terrible (New York Magazine), Do Mate Preferences Influence Actual Mating Decisions? Evidence From Computer Simulations and Three Studies of Mated Couples (Journal of Personality and Psychology), Preferences in human mate selection (APA PsycNet)