Cast aside those fairytale notions of finding the perfect mate. If you don’t, you might just find yourself looking for him or her forever.
It’s a dismal and depressing tone to adopt in the lead up to Valentine’s Day, but there’s science behind the pragmatism.
In his new book, "The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for True Love," University of Maryland Psychology Professor Ty Tashiro suggests that the secret to finding enduring love is to embrace a willingness to settle for less.
“We only get to wish for three traits in an ideal partner,” says Tashiro, who suggests that too many singles focus on superficial qualities in their search for a mate.
Tashiro underlines the statistical improbability of finding your ideal match in his findings. He also notes that this improbability increases the more you seek above-average traits in a prospective partner.
“Imagine you have a room of 100 men. If you choose mediocrity — the trifecta of average income, looks and height — you’ll have, statistically, only 13 suitors out of 100 to choose from. Increase your criteria to an attractive man at least 6-feet tall who makes $87,000, and you’re left with only one. Add another trait — funny, kind, even a political affiliation — and it becomes statistically impossible to find him out of 100 men.”
So what are romance-starved singles out there to do? Tashiro says that we should turn the focus from what we want to what we definitely don’t.
“All this wishing has led to a case of wanting everything and getting nothing,” wrote Tashiro, adding that dating should be “about learning to weed out the undesirable traits and rethinking our views about what really matters in a romantic partner.”
Those who do not properly account for these undesirable attributes while overemphasizing desirable traits run the risk of being counted among the 70 percent of people who fail to find enduring love in their lifetime.
Tashiro also suggests that we evaluate what is really important to us before adding it to our “must-have” list. However, he does this while challenging our most deeply-held notions of what is considered essential while embarking on the pursuit of love.
According to his research, there “is no reliable association between physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction.”
A study published by the University of Tennessee, in which newlyweds were asked to rate each other’s attractiveness, further validates Tashiro’s findings. The study found that “no relationship (exists) between either partner’s level of physical attractiveness and either partner’s relationship satisfaction.”
In another surprise, Tashiro found that income plays a less integral role as a predictor of future happiness, as well. While incomes at the lowest end of the scale lead to the highest divorce rates in the first year of marriage, incomes above $75,000 offer little in the way of improving couples’ shared happiness.
“Once this $75,000 threshold is crossed, there is no significant association between more wealth and higher levels of psychological well-being,” says Tashiro. “There comes a point when affluence becomes associated with social pressures and social isolation.”
He suggests finding a partner who can help meet your basic needs and avoid economic hardship rather than waiting for the man who captains his own yacht and flaunts his NetJets membership card.
With attractiveness and income off the table, which trait should we most aggressively seek in our prospective partners?
“Men high in agreeableness are not only more likely to be kind, but also more likely to keep the sexual desire alive in relationships,” writes Tashiro, who suggests that this personality trait should be valued above looks and money, as it can be counted on to remain consistent throughout a lifetime; whereas, the latter attributes cannot.
Placing a principal focus on “lasting features” like agreeableness is essential, as all relationships can expect to suffer from attrition.
According to studies cited by the New York Post, couples like one another three percent less and lust for each other eight percent less each year. If we place too much emphasis on superficial qualities, that rate only increases, consequently increasing the likelihood that the relationship tanks.
It is also crucially important to be wary of any red flags that present themselves early in a relationship.
“If you choose someone with traits that drive you crazy or make you sad while you’re dating, then those traits will make you crazy or sad for decades to come,” says Tashiro. “So you want to choose well, because what you see is what you get.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Top Photo Courtesy: We Heart It