“I am writing to tell you that (name omitted) and I are in a committed, exclusive relationship! She is the love of my life! I am as smitten today as I was on our first date in January. Only now I know that much more about her and have fallen in love with this spectacular woman! She is adding so much to my life!
I have met her children and am off to a good start with them. We just returned from a fabulous one-week vacation and enjoyed every minute of our time together! She has invited me to join her later this month, with her family and friends, at her treasured vacation home. And we have a long list of things to share into the future.
We have agreed that we are perfect for each other – always comfortable together, discussing everything openly (including the hard stuff) and supporting each other during these times of change.
She is such a caring person, empathetic, listens so well, is flexible and accommodating. Yet she is also strong and voices her feelings and opinions to me. She is a hard worker devoted to her family, career development and charitable interests. So fun to be around such a motivated, interesting woman!
I want to thank you again for introducing me to her. You certainly saved your best client for me! Amy, thanks again for your very caring and professional support on this journey! I am very grateful to have her in my life!”
Does it feel like you’re getting more attention now that you’re in a relationship? If so, there’s a scientific explanation behind your new popularity.
When women prefer a man they know to be taken over a single counterpart, they are engaging in a phenomenon scientists call mate-choice copying. Specifically, the phenomenon describes what happens when a woman “observes a romantic or sexual interaction between a male and another female (referred to as the model female) and preferentially chooses that male as a mate” (Pruett-Jones, 1992). In other words, the woman on your arm or the the wedding band on your finger are letting other women know that you’ve been pre-screened.
Finding a compatible partner isn’t easy—and the equation becomes even more stressful with a biological clock ticking in the background. To help filter worthy candidates, women look for clues. They evaluate men for the usual trademarks of great genes: height (Sheppard & Strathman, 1989), facial hair (Waynforth, Delwadia, & Camm, 2005), and facial symmetry (Little, Jones, & DeBruine, 2011). Women are also analyzing contextual clues; they rated men with status symbols like expensive cars (Dunn & Searle, 2010) and expensive clothes (Townsend & Levy, 1990) more desirable.
But, what about the other factors? Like temperament, passion, or sociability?
Personality does count but, unlike evaluating external cues, getting to know someone requires a substantial time investment. Instead of running her own due diligence, a single woman might take a shortcut with mate-choice copying. If a man is with a girlfriend, the single woman will use the girlfriend’s judgment to determine that the man would make a good partner.
So, I should only leave the house with a woman from now on?
It’s a bit more complicated than that. For a single woman to value the girlfriend’s judgment, the girlfriend must be as attractive if not more attractive than the single woman. To understand how much the girlfriend’s attractiveness matters, scientists gave participants pictures of potential mates alone and also pictured as part of a couple. Each potential mate was pictured with a “girlfriend” who was either unattractive, moderately attractive, or very attractive.
The desirability of the man was directly correlated to the attractiveness of his female partner. Participants rated men with attractive “girlfriends” much more desirable than the same men photographed alone. But, if the man is holding company with an unattractive partner, he’s actually rated as less desirable.
Mate-choice copying might sound like a conniving dating strategy specific to some morally questionable single ladies, but scientists assert that it’s more benign. It’s less about a single woman trying to steal another woman’s mate; instead, it’s probably just a single woman adapting her opinion to mirror that of a peer. We use other people’s opinions to help shape our own. If a woman sees a man who has been highly rated previously, it’s likely she will do the same.
If you’re not getting approached, you might wonder, ‘What are these men looking for?’ or ‘What is wrong with me?’ To answer the question, it’s important to note the difference between desirability and approachability. We all have traits that make us desirable, but unless we look available and willing to engage in conversation, our best qualities will stay a secret. In other words, YOU are not the problem, but there might be something wrong with the SIGNALS you send.
When it comes to approaching an interesting stranger, men and women are quite similar. We all have egos to protect. To make sure they don’t end up embarrassed or rejected, men look for any clue that reason to initiate conversation. If you want him to make the first move, try these five tips.
- Choose your group wisely.
Women tend to go out in packs, adding extra pressure on someone deciding when and how to approach. When he knows he will not only have to impress you, but also your friends, you’re making it easier for him to bow out.
Men are also sensitive to other males. It doesn’t matter whether he’s your brother or gay best friend. He’s not paying attention to the context, just the chromosomes.
Pro Tip: If the group is large, stand to the side so you can be approached without forcing him to engage the group. If you’re not interested, you can easily segue back into the group setting.
- Cultivate an inviting vibe.
Your facial expression and body language matter. Smile at him and the people around you to put out the ‘I’m friendly and won’t be standoff-ish’ vibe. To escalate the moment, catch his gaze for sustained eye contact. All nonverbal communication has meaning, so consider what your posture and demeanor are saying.
Pro Tip: Always scan your surroundings to see if someone is trying to communicate with you via nonverbal cues. If you’re fixated on the conversation, you’ll miss opportunities to reciprocate interest.
- Give him something to say.
For men, the hardest part of the approach is knowing what to say. You can grease the wheels by inadvertently supplying the topic via clothing or behavior. You might wear a sports jersey to give him an invitation to talk about the team or the upcoming game. Or, you could peruse the menu at length to give him an invitation to talk about what he ordered.
Pro Tips: Bring a prop. If you’re at the coffee shop, leave the book you’re reading on the table. It will give him the perfect springboard into conversation.
You might also consider wearing an unusual pendant when you’re out and about. The pendant doesn’t need to be expensive, but it needs to stand out to be a great ice breaker. As you’re sitting in the café, run your fingers along the chain while “reading” your book and glance up, locking gaze with an attractive male. You’re signaling interest without saying a word and inviting him to talk to you.
A pendant with a great story will help you gain even more traction. Maybe it’s an unusual crystal you had cast in silver from a hike you took in the Dolomites or a coin from your great grandmother. Sharing an interesting story about yourself is a great way to keep his attention and reveal your sense of adventure. And who doesn’t love being entertained by an interesting, worldly woman?
- Remember: Location, Location, Location.
Proximity is one of the biggest factors when it comes to the approach. If you’re moving around, you’ll be a lot harder to catch. Try to stay in the same place to give him an opportunity to make a move.
Pro Tip: Settle in a place that is central to the room. If you are in a corner, not only are you harder to access, but you’ve raised the stakes by making it harder for him (and you) to move along if there’s no conversation.
- Give him a reason to contact you.
Getting him to approach you is only the first step. You can escalate the conversation by bringing up topics that segue into plans. Upcoming events make for perfect conversation, even if you don’t end up attending the event together. In the conversation, you might ask about an extra ticket, but days later you might find yourselves circling back to talk about how the event was.
Pro Tip: Have personal calling cards with you at all times. Whereas business cards reveal too much personal information (like your last name) and tend to set the stage for business, a personal calling card is a smart dating tool that gives him all the information he needs to get in touch. Think first name, personal email, and mobile. Simple, classic, and elegant is best.
Ultimately, all of your actions should be inviting and reassuring to help your partner escalate the interaction into a more romantic situation. Smiling and encouraging the conversation to flow will make you more attractive to interested strangers.
After a bad date, string of bad dates, or zero dates, you might hear someone encourage you to try again with the old adage: “Dating is just a numbers game.” Sounds like a straightforward concept, but is there truth to this?
Although more dates increase the odds of meeting someone, you are not making the most of your dating experiences or your time unless you are learning more about yourself or figuring out a better picture of what you’re looking for.
MEN: If the “numbers game strategy” involves asking every woman you meet on a date in hopes one says yes, you are missing the point. However, if you are employing some level of discernment beyond visual cues, you are more likely to find a meaningful connection.
WOMEN: If your “numbers game strategy” involves going out with men with whom you haven’t had a single meaningful interaction but who are simply interested in you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Give yourself a chance to establish baseline connectivity before committing to a date.
When dating becomes a numbers game, it pushes us into a quantity over quality mindset, overwhelming our capacity to connect. One, it becomes easier to be more casual, passive about dating if each date is just an outing—not finding an opportunity to really connect. Two, you risk dating burnout. And, three, to achieve stronger, more meaningful interactions—the kind that last—we must know ourselves to filter potential candidates effectively.
Think you might be stuck on a lackluster romantic hamster wheel? Try asking yourself the following questions:
Does this person offer me chemistry and sustainability?
The chemistry makes things interesting, but what good is amazing chemistry unless it can lead to a deeper, enduring relationship? Unlike chemistry, the sustainability question requires logic. It may feel like you’re conducting an interview but getting clear answers on whether a potential partner is in a place—geographically and emotionally—to invest in a relationship will ultimately save you time and energy.
Am I aware of myself and what I am looking for?
Some of us carry negative habits and energy which can block our ability to receive and give love. Left unaware about the things we do to make ourselves less loveable will make it harder for a partner to connect. Furthermore, without knowing our blind spots, we won’t be able to select the right person to balance us.
Am I willing to take responsibility for the impact I have on another person’s emotions?
Taking responsibility for the way you date will make you more conscious about who you date. When you are deliberately seeking sustainable relationships, you’ll fine tune your ability to sniff out the relationships that don’t serve long term needs.
Both sides of the break up coin are agonizing. The person initiating the split has to fill the role of bearer of bad news, usually wounding the heart (and ego) of someone who he or she cares for deeply. He or she usually experiences guilt, confusion, and a unique type of stress that stems from knowing the end is near. On the other hand, we have the person receiving a final decision. Stripped of all opportunity to direct the course of the relationship, this person is left vulnerable, helpless, shocked, or disappointed.
If there was connection—real connection—pain is to be expected from all parties involved. We also know that every relationship that doesn’t make it to the next level will end with a breakup, yet we still find ourselves hurting after every split.
So, how do we heal from heartbreak faster?
- Avoid Numbing Agents—Shopping, food, alcohol, rebounds, pills, and drugs used to mask the pain will only prolong the agony of loss. Deriving relief this way will only push you deeper into depression, debt, or weight gain.
- Feed Yourself Well—When your heart is hurting, it’s even more important to monitor what goes in your body. Excessive sugar will crash your system; processed food will challenge your energy; and not eating will stress your heart even further. Now is the time to treat yourself to the best food you can get your hands on.
- Bring Yourself Joy—It’s easy to fall out of love with yourself just because someone else has. So many factors lead to relationships ending; we forget that so many of those reasons have nothing to do with who we are.
- Follow the Good Vibes—We tend to feed off of the energy around us. Experiment with a new crowd that offers you a fresh start. Science reveals laughing and smiling are instant mood lifters, so give yourself an opportunity to absorb the joy around you.
- Remove the Reminders—Pictures, cards, and other reminders should be out of sight. There is no need to live among reminders of relationships past. The mementos, seemingly innocuous, can derail your path to healing. Also, consider un-following—not unfriending—your ex on social media. You can always change the setting when you’re in a better place without anyone finding out.
- Keep it Simple—This is harder than you think. Attending parties he/she might attend? No. Finding reasons to reach out? No. Keeping in touch with his/her friends? No. It’s easy to think you can “be adult” about crossing paths, but the heavy emotional charge has a way of clouding better judgment.
Ironically, the things we are least likely to do during a break up — eating right, visiting friends, meeting new people—are the things that will help us heal the fastest. Giving yourself the time to cope with loss is going to fast track you to a better place with a better partner.
After several years of fun, but unsuccessful husband hunting in San Francisco, I discovered that the love of my life lived only 2 blocks away. Dating pretty much every single college-educated guy over 6 feet tall in New York and San Francisco during my 20s was a thrill! Meeting men through friends, in bars, and on Match, Tinder and eHarmony, I certainly met my fair share of men who never asked questions, expected to split the check on a first date, older men who claimed to be around my age, and extremely short men who claimed to be over 6 feet. Despite a few uncomfortable conversations and awkward hugs, I feel so fortunate to have met so many interesting men, several of whom have become good friends and business contacts. Most importantly, my active dating life enabled me to determine exactly the type of man who would be my ideal match. All I needed to do was find him…
I remember feeling frustrated when people told me that I would only find someone when I stopped looking. How can you find someone when you’re not looking? As I approached my late 20s, I decided to take this advice, but with a twist. I deleted my dating accounts and stopped going out as much socially. I also worked with Amy Andersen to complete my ideal match profile, which helped me become very clear on the traits I valued most in a life partner. Instead of Tindering to find the tallest, hottest guy, I set forth my intention to the universe to find a loyal, intelligent, charismatic man, and I stopped looking for him.
To fill my free time, I pursued my two passions – rowing and yoga. I signed up for a 200-hour yoga teacher training and started a group of Bay Area women who rowed in college. Between work, yoga and the rowing group, I had virtually no time to date, and guess what? I met my husband right away. In the first 5 minutes of a co-ed rowing event I helped organize at an upscale bar near my office, my future husband and I locked eyes. Our chemistry was off the charts, and we quickly discovered that we had several common interests a ton of mutual friends in San Francisco.
After 6 months, I moved 2 blocks away into his apartment, after 9 months, we were engaged, and 2 years later, we are married. As cliché as it sounds to find your match when you aren’t looking, it’s exactly what happened to me. I feel so fortunate to be married to the man of my dreams, and I’d love to share some tips I learned along the way.
5 Tips to Meet your Ideal Match
- Enjoy dating! Interacting with new people helps to broaden your horizons, learn more about yourself and the traits you value most in a partner, and to appreciate meeting the right person for you. Especially in San Francisco, dating is an opportunity for you to grow both professionally and socially. In such a small city, you will run into former dates frequently, so focus on building a strong brand in the dating world. Your future husband may be your awkward Tinder date’s best friend! And meeting people through location-based apps like Tinder enable you to meet new friends and tour guides while traveling.
- Identify the traits you value most in your ideal partner. Spend time thinking about similar traits in people you have dated, in your parents, and what you value most in a life partner. Be specific on the key traits, flexible on others, and understand your non-negotiables. Write everything down and discuss with friends, family, a therapist, or a matchmaker. Don’t write off someone whose company you enjoy just because they don’t check every box. It wasn’t until I became clear about what I wanted in a relationship and shared this vision with people that my ideal partner walked into my life.
- Focus less on finding Mr. Right and more on becoming Ms. Right. Be the best version of yourself. We hear this advice all the time because it’s so true. If you aren’t into watching sports and you love running, join a running club instead of trying to meet men at a sports bar. I am not interested in watching sports and have been guilty of this many times! If you don’t like your job, get a new one. Don’t pretend to have your life together and rely on Mr. Right to fix your problems. We continue to work on ourselves throughout life, so get to a good place where you and your future partner can work on yourselves together.
- Choose happiness! – Life is full of challenges. Make a conscious decision to be happy and stay positive though the worst of times. Radiant, happy women attract similar qualities in others. Be the happy, upbeat person people want to be around. Greet others with smiles and compliments. I have always found volunteering, celebrating others, and travel to lift my spirits and open my heart to endless gratitude. And it’s so easy to meet new people while volunteering and traveling!
- Refine your body and mind. Exercise, drink more water, and get enough sleep. Your body will thank you, and fit, healthy people are valued in athletic cities like San Francisco. Attend classes and groups you enjoy, to meet like-minded people. Your husband may be waiting for you in your next boot camp, rock climbing or meditation class! Go outside, breathe deeply, feel the endorphins, and appreciate the natural beauty around us. Get into the best shape of your life, take care of yourself, and SHINE!
Christine is a 30-year-old, Ivy League educated, East Coast transplant in San Francisco. She believes that the meaning of life is to love and be loved, and she is passionate about volunteering, technology and yoga