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Pheromones and Attraction

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Have you ever found someone completely irresistible, but you’re not sure why? Some scientists argue that we might be picking up on someone’s genetic compatibility with our sense of smell.

When we smell something, tiny odor molecules bind to receptor cells that travel directly to the brain for processing. Smell—unlike the other senses—is analyzed almost instantly. This rapid analysis is the reason why smelling something familiar can trigger an emotional response instantly, and sometimes these responses can be quite powerful. Think of the last time you smelled chocolate chip cookies. Did you feel a cozy, comfortable feeling? What about popcorn? Did you find yourself in an upbeat, casual mood?

If smells can solicit hefty emotional responses, can they trigger us to have romantic feelings?

Scientists still debate the answer, but they all can agree that the discussion starts with pheromones.

Pheromones describe the special cocktail of chemicals that our body releases that may influence the way people behave towards us. These chemicals—when smelled—are known to stimulate the hypothalamus, a part of the brain known to regulate sexual behavior, mood, and hormones.

To figure out how sensitive we are to pheromones, Swiss zoologist Claus Wedekind conducted “The Sweaty T-shirt Experiment.” He instructed 44 different men to wear the same t-shirt two consecutive nights. After collecting the t-shirts, he asked 49 different women to sniff each t-shirt and rate the odor for intensity, pleasantness, and sexiness.

Results showed that the women preferred the odors from men whose DNA was most different from their own. Because choosing a mate with a similar genetic makeup can cause a host of genetic complications for an offspring, the women’s choices show that they have an ability to analyze and gravitate towards men who guarantee greater reproductive success. In other words, women preferred sexual experiences with men who smelled a certain way.

Pheromones also solicit responses based on sexual preferences, not biological sex. In another study conducted by Dr. Ivanka Savic and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, a group of men—some straight, some gay—and women were asked to rate attractiveness to two different pheromones. Both the gay men and women responded strongly to the male pheromone, whereas the heterosexual males preferred the female pheromone almost exclusively.

Despite the science, there is no real way to determine the true effect of pheromones; There are simply too many mitigating factors. For example, it’s impossible to confirm the real reason we gravitate towards certain people we find attractive. It could be the scent they carry, but it also could be related to personality, confidence, appearance, or status.

If pheromones can influence sexual responses, is it possible to recreate certain smells to make yourself more sexually desirable?

Unfortunately, pheromones are an elusive mix of natural chemicals, impossible to replicate in a lab. To date, scientists (and fragrance companies) have not been able to get to the heart of what exactly makes up pheromones, how they are created, or how to emulate them. Some companies tout “love potions”, but these are most likely gentle, pleasant fragrances.

Pheromones could be influencing attraction, but it’s more likely a combination of factors with pheromones playing some small role. Visual cues, body language, and the quintessential “chemistry” of how your personalities mesh all play into your perception of a potential romantic encounter.

 

Dating Fatigue is Real. Here’s What to do if it’s Happened to You…

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If you’re single and interested in a new relationship, first dates are inevitable. If you’re lucky enough to have friends setting you up or an experienced matchmaker on your side, you can count on some pre-filtering and quick turnaround time to make those first dates somewhat easier. But, if you’re searching for love online or on apps, you could invest countless hours getting to know someone before ever meeting—if you ever get to an actual meeting. According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, nearly 1/3 of people using apps never make it to a date. For those that do schedule dates, many experience several bad dates before something relatively good pans out.

 

You know the drill. Anticipation and excitement grows as your first date approaches. Then, not even 20 minutes into the first date, you know there’s no chance of a future. This anticipation—disappointment—optimism cycle seems to repeat itself and, before you know it, you’ve stopped dating completely.

 

Dating burnout is similar to job burnout: An activity that once posed a satisfying challenge is now a mundane task. If the mere mention of a date conjures up feelings of inevitable disappointment, you’re definitely in the midst of dating burnout.

 

Other telltale signs include:

 

Experiencing jealousy over your friends’ relationships.

Jealousy is a sign of insecurity. If you feel slighted by your friend’s relationship or, if you’re pulling away from the new couple, you might be internalizing feelings of frustration about your own romantic life. “I couldn’t stand my coworker’s boyfriend,” says Marie. “Listening to her talk about his anniversary plans was so annoying, but I couldn’t figure out why. I typically liked hearing all of her dating stories. Then, I realized that it had nothing to do with boyfriend. I was sad we weren’t going to talk about our hilariously bad dates from the weekend.”

 

Feeling like the search is hopeless.

When quitting seems easier than fielding another bad date, you’re not heading towards dating fatigue—you’re there. If you’re fearing boredom, rejection, or exhaustion, nixing future dates will seem like the perfect way to prevent future pain.

 

Willing to go for anyone who isn’t terrible.

Settling for someone to stave off loneliness is a sign that you’re losing faith in yourself. Lowering your standards is the best way to find yourself in a relationship you should avoid. “The worst relationship I ever had was actually the first woman I met after my divorce,” says Tom, 41. “I didn’t know what I was doing and the thought of dating again blew my mind. Well, I learned my lesson.”

 

A string of bad dates.

Nothing is more exhausting than a streak of dates without any semblance of connection. Mustering up the enthusiasm—and courage—to get yourself out there again will seem like an uphill battle.

 

Finding your couch more appealing than social gatherings.

Taking a break from all social activities—not just dating—reveals that your frustration from the lack of romantic connectivity is seeping into your other relationships. If you are closing yourself off from everyone, it’s time to evaluate your approach to dating.

 

So what can you do to recover from dating burnout? Consider the following to get back the good vibes:

 

Lower your expectations, not your standards.

Instead of focusing on if the other person likes you, flip the equation to figure out if you feel something towards the other person. This process takes time and might not lead to fireworks initially.

 

Keep the first date short.

You’ll know if you want more—or not—within the first 20 minutes. Keeping the first date short will help you build tension for date #2 or save you from spending too much energy on a dead end. This advice is especially true if you are dating vis-a-vis apps and online.

 

If you know you aren’t interested, don’t go on a second date.

No one wants to be the bad guy, but going out again when you know it’s not there will waste your time and theirs. “I would rather sit through drinks with a guy I wasn’t into than have the ‘I’m not into you’ conversation,” says, Molly, 37. “Of course, this only makes things harder in the end.”

 

Keep your dating life private until you’ve narrowed it down to one person.

Save yourself the trouble of rehashing the same details of lackluster dates.

 

Give yourself a time out.

You’ll project your best self if you’re not forcing yourself to feel or act a certain way. If you’re juggling five people, none of whom you really like, do everyone a favor and take a break. Channel your energy and free time towards a new hobby, keeping physically active, seeing friends, etc till you are ready to date again.

 

Get honest with yourself.

Self awareness is the first step to making sure you aren’t self sabotaging. If you don’t feel anything after several dates, ask a trusted friend about what it could be. If this isn’t possible, seek a dating coach —an objective third party can work wonders.

 

Although it can feel overwhelmingly hopeless, dating fatigue is only temporary. At Linx, we’re here to streamline your dating experience. Matchmaking isn’t just about more dates; it’s about optimizing the variables for connection. If you’re feeling disconnected, we can help. Email our founder Amy at amy@linxdating.com

 

How to Date When You Want Kids Yesterday

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All too often the subject of kids—and knowing if they’re a possibility with a new partner—isn’t handled with much care. It has a sneaky way of becoming a checklist question; a question that is asked early on to determine whether or not someone is worth seeing again. With biological clocks ticking, some women and men are rushing to get an answer before “wasting” one more minute with someone who might not share the same goals. That rush prevents real chemistry from blooming, regardless of the partner’s desire to have children in the future.

So how do you date when you know you want kids?

Describe your approach to family plans, without any pressure for your partner to be a part of it.

 

What to say: “Family dinners and minivans are probably out there somewhere, but I still have no idea how I’m going to get from point A to point B.”

 

Here’s why this works: This kind of comment reveals your plans for a family without any expectation for your partner to respond in a certain way. Not only are you able to express yourself authentically, but you are doing so in a way that doesn’t involve deadlines or ultimatums.

 

Don’t let kid-centric or family-centric conversation be the hot topic.

 

Here’s why this works: You are more than your desire to have children. With a healthy self-esteem intact, you don’t need a sperm/egg donor to make your life complete; you have yourself and you are complete as is. Even though children are a top priority, you come first. In other words, you are looking for the right person for you before looking for the best parent to a child. When dating is about you, you partner will feel like he or she complements you, and isn’t just being vetted for sperm or egg donor.

 

Accept where your partner is—and the personal goals he or she has.

 

Here’s why this works: In the wake of amazing chemistry, we can create a narrative that doesn’t exist. For example, we may think, “We have such a good thing going, of course he will change his mind when we get more serious.” This kind of thinking reveals that we do not accept our partner as he or she is; instead, we are hoping for them to change. This added pressure on our partner will ultimately cause friction and disappointment when his or her mind doesn’t change.

 

 

Be patient with those who are unsure, but keep the door open to those who are.

 

Here’s why this works: Some people aren’t sure about kids in their future for situational reasons. Perhaps they are in the midst of a career transition that is taking up most of their future planning. Maybe they are close to someone who is dealing with the agony of infertility. Maybe they need the right partner first to see kids in the future. Whatever the reason is, there’s no need to eliminate someone who isn’t exactly on your same page right away. With that being said, it’s also wise to keep the door open to those who may be ready to start their family sooner.

 

You should have a sense of your partner’s feelings about a future family before committing.

Here’s why this works: Dating is your chance to explore the likelihood of a lasting relationship. If you aren’t sure what he or she feels about kids, continue keeping doors open until you have a better sense. Signing onto serious emotional and time investment without a nod to your personal priorities is too much to risk—your time is too valuable.