Eager, aloof and all things in between

Fact: Eager Beavers Win More Sex.

Why is dating so hard? Dating is hard because it involves creating intimacy with strangers. You must strike up a conversation and a sense of connection with someone you either don’t know at all, or don’t know very well. Why does dating suck? Dating sucks because we know we judge. And we know that as we look into the eyes of the person sitting opposite, they’re trying to answer the same question: “Am I really that into you?”

So we play our little games, and we concoct winning strategies. Some of us play hard to get. Others play all our cards at once. And as we go about this mad business of trying to be with other people – trying to find the golden triangle of love and sex and friendship – we wonder whether we’re doing the right thing, or we’re cocking it all up spectacularly. How can I get you to like me? How can I get you to sleep with me? How can I behave so we can be happy together?

Well here’s the good news: The academy has determined there is a pattern of behaviour that can make you more desirable, an approach which fuels attraction. And it mightn’t be what you think. In fact, for many people, the behaviour outlined in this research runs counter to one of the most commonly held assumptions about effective dating practice. That thou shalt treat them mean to keep them keen.

(Read on)

According to the article, published earlier this year in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, when it comes to initiating a new romance (and sex), success depends upon perception. No surprises there. So here’s the interesting part: desirability shares a positive relationship with how responsive we perceive our potential partner to be. To wit, people who are eager and interested and willing to display affection are generally more attractive than people who are too cool and aloof.

How does that sit with your courtship experience?

If it jars, it could be worth noting a few mitigating factors outlined by the authors.

  1. Gender: Men are more likely to respond positively to women who are eager than the other way around. This is because women are thought to be more selective about their choice of partner, and therefore more suspicious of a potential mate’s behaviour.
  2. Attachment orientation: Some people crave intimacy, other people prefer distance. Where you sit on the spectrum impacts on whether you’re likely to find a new flame’s enthusiasm attractive or repellent.
  3. Stage of relationship: The attractiveness of responsiveness improves with time. Intimacy in established relationships has a positive relationship with sexual desire, and responsiveness is key to achieving intimacy. While responsiveness during the initial getting-to-know you phase is largely a good thing, too much too soon may still be a problem (especially in view of the aforementioned conditions).

    In other words, gents may want to take their natural eagerness down a notch, women may want to reverse their remoteness and virgin encounters might benefit from some initial softness. Make sense?

    For my own part, I certainly agree with the idea we like people we know like us. I agree with this because I feel that liking yourself is one of the biggest of life’s challenges and a core motivation to forge bonds with other people. Some people find affirmation through sexual intimacy, others through emotional intimacy. Some of us need affirmation more than others. It’s important to be mindful of what it is we’re really looking for so we can go out and achieve it. And it’s important to convey what we want too, especially when it comes to what we want in our love and sex lives.

    Yet so many people have gone after what they want only to wind up wounded. I know many who feel they scared off someone special because they came on too strong. It’s difficult, sometimes, because there is a gentle line between enthusiasm and obsession. There is a way to walk it.

    How?

    Here’s where the diversity of your advice and insight comes in.

    Are you male or female? Where do you sit on the attachment spectrum? Do you prefer new lovers to be eager or aloof? Does that carry through from emotions to sex? And are you an eager beaver who has been burned – what happened, and how did you deal? Or do you think the research is wrong – that the mean are mightier than the keen?

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    The story Eager, aloof and all things in between first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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