Dec 27

Many clients tell me of difficulties finding the right relationship partner. Of course such problems almost always have psychological reasons – in one way or another, these persons sabotaged themselves, they suffer from forms of social anxiety or (in my experience, this is the most common reason) have low self-esteem.

The issues around dating, attraction and sexual attraction have inspired researchers and artists since the beginnings of mankind. Under this – rather ironic – article headline, I will summarize the results of relevant studies and research – and continuously expand and update this collection as soon as there are new findings.

But beware: I’ll not guarantee for the plausibility – or especially success – of any of these hints! 😉

Attractiveness and mate selection

  • “Attractive bodies and faces are symmetrical” – when selecting a partner, we jump on aesthetic impressions indicating a good state of health and fitness, including reproductional capabilities (Source).
  • People with symmetrical physique receive more positive attention when dancing and during mate selection” (source)
  • Women without ideal measurements are stronger, tougher and more resistant to crises” – in Western countries, women with a greater waist-hip ratio than 0.7 are considered to be less attractive than in other world regions, but better prepared for times of crisis (Sources: [1, 2, 3])
  • Estrogen makes women’s faces look more attractive.’ –  during their fertile days, the faces of women obviously look more attractive (Source)
  • Women tend to be selected if they are beautiful, men are more likely to be selected if they act dominantly‘ – this actually refers to political elections, but then, maybe not .. if you consider the other research results mentioned in this blog entry (source)
  • Beauty makes insecure.‘ – this, and that attractive men and women usually find it more difficult to find partners than averagely attractive people, would be a possible conclusion from the so-called ‘sidewalk experiment’ by James Dubbs u. Neil Stokes (‘Beauty is Power: The Use of Space on the Sidewalk’, 1975): on a sidewalk, pedestrians altered their walking direction more often to give space to men rather than for a woman, for 2 people rather than for just 1, and for pretty than for  unattractive women. Their theory was that attractiveness, group size and gender are signals of power which involves territorial claims causing the aforementioned evasive behavior (Source).
  • Other attributes for attractiveness will be judged based on attractiveness of the clothing‘ – attractively dressed subjects were judged as more competent and social than non-attractively-dressed individuals, and, as the researchers suspected, probably as physically more attractive as well (source).
  • Taller men are sexually and socially better off than shorter ones. ‘ – men seem to have their greatest difficulties when dealing with strong, attractive and wealthy competitors, but the taller they are, the less of a role these attributes play in dealing with them. Little men tend to be most jealous. In women, however, the taller and shorter ones are more jealous than the ones of average size. Average-sized women are most shaken by tall and socially dominant rivals just as by other women’s  persuasiveness (link)
  • women prefer older men, older men prefer younger women.’ – a possible explanation for the biological causes of this phenomenon was provided by a study that found that women with a four-year-older partner, and men with a six years younger partner show the greatest reproductive success (source).
  • Man perhaps lost his body hair because it was sexy to the opposite sex.’ – new hope for bald people? (source)
  • Results of an econometric analysis of online dating behavior showed that men who reported that they were in search of a long-term relationship achieved much more success in online dating than those who were merely out on an affair. For men, the appearance of women is of outstanding importance; for women, the man’s income is of utmost importance: the richer the man, the more emails he receives. Income increases the attractiveness of a woman for men as well, but only up to a certain height. [..] Men are attracted by female students, artists, musicians, veterinarians, and celebrities, and they avoid secretaries, retired women and women who work in the military or the police. Women prefer soldiers, policemen and firemen as well as lawyers and financial experts in a management position, but they avoid laborers, actors, students [..]. The data analysis of about 30,000 users also revealed that men have significant drawbacks when they are short. For women, obesity is fatal. That’s probably why many online daters ‘adjust’ these parameters relatively often: male online daters are slightly taller than the average man while the typical female online dater is 10 kg lighter than its real counterpart. In the book Freakonomics in which the results can be read in detail, the authors described their findings, obtained by mathematical methods, as follows: ‘In the world of online dating, a head full of blond hair has about the same worth for a woman as a college degree.’
  • “‘Nasty’ men not only get most women, but also the most beautiful ones.” – in most studies on this subject, these men showed distinctive combinations of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy (Sources: [1], [2], [3])
  • Men should not act as if they were ‘carried away’: uncertainty about the feelings of the opponent increases his/her attractiveness (Source: E. et.al in Whitchurch: “Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction”, Psychological Science, 01/2011).


Sexuality

  • ‘The mere presence of a woman increases the testosterone levels’ – regardless of her appearance, the testosterone levels in men sitting in the same room as a woman increased by 8% within 300 seconds (Sources: [1],[2])
  • The frequency of female orgasms increases with the income of their partner ‘ – sex with wealthy or powerful men probably feels more exciting by women because it may help to obtain access to wealth and power, or to keep this access up (Sources: [1], [2], [3])
    Addendum 04/2010: a counter study was published that shows different results.
  • The more attractive women consider themselves to be, the greater demands they make on their sexual partners – in men, this correlation doesn’t exist, which could mean that they are less picky or less inclined to enter into permanent relations aiming at reproduction (Sources: [1], [2])
  • (indirect) relationship between voice and sexual activity’ – volunteers with a voice perceived as attractive had about equally long fingers on both hands (reference to the context of attractiveness by symmetry, see above), their first sex at a younger age, more sexual partners and more affairs (Sources: [1], [2])
  • Women respond differently to male body odor.’ – their brains can differ normal male perspiration from perspiration resulting from sexual arousal (Source)
  • Women’s tears put off men and reduce their testosterone level. (Source: Shani Gelstein et.al, “Human tears contain a chemosignal” in: Science 01/2011, DOI: 10.1126/science.1198331)

Family / Children / Fertility

  • ‘Correlation between wealth and reproductive success‘: a British study found higher reproductive success for wealthy men; in women, the number of children declines with increasing education and income (Source)

(First published in German language (‘Wissenschaftliche Aufriss-Tipps’) in 01/2008; continuously updated. Last update: 12/2011)

Oct 26

Almost everyone has seen it or even have personal experiences with what is commonly called ‘addictive relationships’. These are the forms of relationships where everyone around a particular couple might raise their hands in disbelief over why both partners are still together.

There might be a strong and obvious imbalance between both of them, sometimes aggressiveness or jealousy of one partner towards the other or blackmailing, but still, for some reason, the ‘addicted’ partner can’t find a way to ultimately break up or might even excuse their loved one’s behavior. Others are highly indifferent to the unhealthy aspects of their relationship as they are hard to see, especially if one is in the middle of it.

I have helped numerous clients get rid of their addictions over the years, and in working with couples (another major field of my work), I couldn’t help but notice certain patterns in chronically difficult relationships that resemble problems of addicts that their partners or family members have to fight with.

An addictive relationship thus is unthinkable without one partner who is emotionally unstable and would in most cases require professional support to successfully deal with their problems for one. This person might also be very self-centered and look very independent and self-confident – or very needy on the other hand. But this since they are not ready to do that or because they are delusional, it needs someone who is ready to ‘support’, or in better words: invest their time, energy and often enough money to take the edge off the other’s imminent issues and to keep not only themselves, but also the relationship going, hoping for things to get better in the near future.
But often enough, it just keeps a vicious circle going – a circle the partner might actually already have experienced during their entire life, sometimes extreme behavior endured by helpful souls who took care for them along the way.

7 Signs of Addictive Relationships:

  • Dishonesty. Both partners don’t communicate openly about their real intentions, needs or worries.
  • Unrealistic expectations. Both partners hope for the other one to ‘fix’ their problems, be it their self-esteem, body image, family, or existential problems. They believe the ‘right relationship’ will make everything better. Yet, they’re in a disastrous addictive relationship.
  • Instant gratification. One of both expects the other one to be there for him whenever he needs her; he’s using her to make him feel good, and isn’t relating to her as a partner – well, because she’s like a drug.
  • Compulsive control. Imminent threats of one partner to leave if the other one doesn’t behave a certain way, and anxious worries of the other one if this idea comes up. Both might feel ‘stuck’ together – for good or for evil.
  • Lack of trust. Neither partner is 100% certain about being ‘truly’ loved by the other one as sometimes they can sense the feelings of hate or desperation their partner is experiencing.
  • Social isolation. Nobody else is invited into their relationship – not friends, family, or work acquaintances. People in addictive relationships want to be left alone and can react harshly if someone is asking about the status of their relationship.
  • Cycle of pain. Often, couples living in a relationship determined by addictive patterns regularly experience cycles of pleasure, pain, disillusionment, blaming, and (often emotionally or sexually  loaded) reconnection. The cycle repeats itself until both partners seek professional help or one partner breaks free of the addictive relationship.

Unfortunately, there is no simple ‘recipe’ on how to help such partners effectively, as the one who suffers most is often very resistant to all efforts aimed at helping them get back on their feet again. Often, someone with a neutral viewpoint as a counselor can help, but if both partners feel determined enough, have strong self-control and are able to accept mutual accountability they might also find back to a fulfilling, balanced relationship.

Strategies for Overcoming Addictive Relationships:

  • Make your ‘recovery’ the first priority in your life.
  • Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
  • Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself, i.e., fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself and/or get rid of the problems that turned you into an addict in the first place.
  • Learn to stop managing and controlling others; focus more on your own needs for a while and improve your self-esteem to become more independent
  • Find out what brings you peace and serenity and commit some time to that endeavor on a daily basis.
  • Learn not to get ‘hooked’ into the games of relationships; avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, e.g., ‘rescuer’ (helper), ‘persecutor’ (blamer), ‘victim’ (helpless one).
  • Find a support group of friends who understand and share your experiences.
  • Consider getting professional help to speed up the recovery process.

Many of you will know firsthand how many times friends or acquaintances entangled in an addictive relationship end up emotionally damaged, financially weakened or even physically injured. What you as a fellow friend can do is to avoid getting sucked into the ‘black hole’ of such an relationship yourself and to push both of them to seek professional advice.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011; Image source: bhaskar.com; Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, Counselor; Hints on how to overcome AR based on Robin Norwood’s book ‘Women Who Love Too Much‘)

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06.01.16