Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Finding Love 101

Last week we deconstructed a finding love fail. The verdict was that (best case scenario) the guy was just having a bad day or (worst case scenario) he's a clueless, self-absorbed loser.

Unfortunately -- as amusing as it may be to call random people names on the Internet -- I really don't want my blog to be about gratuitously trashing people. I'm not going to waste time fretting over whether or not the name-calling was "nice" of me (because the niceness debate opens a whole new can o'worms). Instead I'd rather focus on constructive advice for people who can't find love and can't figure out why.

When looking for love, there are three key factors:

1. What you're offering. This includes the obvious things like your physical attractiveness, your wit, charm, intelligence, status, wealth, and earning potential, and it also includes valuable character traits such as loyalty, honesty, stability, trustworthiness, fairness (in particular a willingness to divide tasks with your partner fairly), open-mindedness, reasonableness, affectionate-ness (affectionality? cuddliness?), libido, etc. These are just some that came to my mind -- feel free to add any trait one might like in a partner.

2. Your expectations for a partner. See #1, only in reverse. Which traits do you value in a partner?

3. The set of people you meet. That is, your entire social network.

You can change all three of these things in order to work out an effective finding-love strategy.

1. People say that people should love each other for "inner beauty". I agree. The first step to inner-beauty-based love is to think about how you treat other people, and especially about how you treat your partner. (Henceforth in this article your future love-interest shall be referred to as your "partner".) Be considerate of your partner's feelings and make an effort to treat him/her how s/he would like to be treated -- don't just base your actions on how you personally would like him/her to treat you.

That said, physical attraction is a huge and critical part of love and romance. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be as beautiful as you can be and wanting to be with someone who's beautiful. I'd just recommend being realistic about it and not going totally overboard on the skin-deep component. (Also be wary of going overboard on wasteful wealth/status symbols.)

2. A lot problems arise from unrealistic expectations. I hope I don't have to explain what's wrong with saying (a) "It's not fair -- all of the [handsome, rich, outgoing] guys just want docile women with perfect bodies," or (b) "It's not fair -- all of the [sweet, gorgeous] women just want handsome, rich, outgoing guys! Those [sweet, gorgeous] women should stop being so shallow, and love me for who I am on the inside!"

Admittedly, there's also (c) "It's not fair -- even the ugly, unemployed guys who can't talk about anything but 'World of Warcraft' still only want docile women with perfect bodies" (regarding guys who believe in statement (b)), but it's a fallacy to imagine that all straight men suffer from unrealistic expectations. And that brings us to...

3. Meet lots of people! This is the most important factor, and it's a factor that many tend to under-estimate. Finding someone who offers what you want and who wants what you're offering is no small matter. You have to meet a lot of people to expect to find a good match.

I don't mean that you necessarily need to date (or hit on) a lot of people -- often it's better just to have a large network of friends. If you're nervous about approaching a prospect (of your desired gender/orientation), spending time with lots of different friends means frequently meeting new people in an informal context. (Who knows? Maybe your friend's roommate's girlfriend's cousin will turn out to be your soul-mate.) And you can make friends (and perhaps find love) while improving yourself doing social activities you enjoy such as clubs, sports, volunteer work, classes, etc.

The Internet is obviously a fantastic resource for meeting people. However, explaining the best strategies for meeting people online would require a whole additional course (Finding Love 102 perhaps?) which I hope will be offered by one of the other profs of the World Wide Blogiversity.

Now, probably some of you are going "Chanson, how cold and calculating! You must be the least romantic person on the planet. Going on a date with you must be like going on a date with Mr. Spock!" Guilty as charged, as I explained in the disclaimer to my atheist love scene.

But some people like that. ;^)

p.s. Unfortunately my brother has taken down the photos of me dressed as a Vulcan/Romulan for our community-cable Star Trek parody, but maybe I'll try to find them again and re-post them.


Aerin said...

I agree chanson!!

My only comment would be that relationships are not always necessary or a given. I think it's great if someone finds a partner. I don't think a person is doomed to unhappiness as a single person/without a lifetime relationship.

Sometimes I see couples where I think - wow, they are doomed to unhappiness IN the relationship they are in! Of course it's their life and their relationship - but I believe firmly it's better to be happy and single than miserable and married.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Aerin!!!

Very true. This is just for people who want a relationship and are having difficulty finding one. Whether you want to be in a relationship or not is an entirely different question. :D

Anonymous said...

I heard somewhere (that's how urban legends begin, no?) that (uncited) research found that married people tend to feel either happier or worse than single people. In other words, marriage pushes us toward extremes. Remaining single is a more stable arrangement that offers fewer of the ups and downs of marriage. I can attest to that.

Marriage, an extreme sport.

Rebecca said...

In terms of just friendship, I think I've met more people online than in real life the past few years (and some of them have turned into real life friendships). I think this internet thing is a keeper.

Varina said...

Any chance we could get the whole Star Trek public access parody posted on the internets? Otherwise it seems a bit cruel to bring it up ;->

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Jonathan!!!

Interesting. I'd never heard that, but I guess it stands to reason that it's easier to find your own stable equilibrium if you don't have to factor some unpredictable other person into the equation.

Hey Rebecca!!!

Absolutely, I completely agree!

Hey Sabayon!!!

I have a three-DVD set of the whole series (thirteen episodes) just gathering dust on my shelf. I should see about getting the others in the series to post part or all of it to YouTube...

littlemissattitude said...

Just a couple of thoughts on the physical attractiveness component of looking for a partner...

Yeah, it's cool to have an attractive partner, but attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. Also, it has been my experience that men (in my case, since I'm female and straight) often get more attractive to me as I get to know them. I'm given to understand that it often does not work that way for men, but I'm just saying...I've met men who I didn't find at all attractive physically at first, but when I've gotten to know them better, they've gotten a lot better looking to me.

The other thing is, I fear that very often young people, especially, don't take into consideration that looks just don't last. In other words, don't decide that you want to be with someone forever just because he or she is good-looking. Because the fact is that as we age, we start to sag and wrinkle and get gray (or thinning) hair. Personally, I don't think this is a bad thing, and I'm generally against cosmetic surgery and botox injections just to keep ahead of the wrinkles...it isn't natural for a 70-something person to have completely smooth skin.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's all good to want to play with the more attractive of whatever gender you happen to be attracted to, but when you're looking for a partner, for the long-term if not for life, it's probably a better thing to put a bigger emphasis on other things besides looks.


Holly said...

"A lot problems arise from unrealistic expectations"

I was very relieved that you didn't say anything in that section about wanting to fall madly in love with your high biology lab partner who is an incredibly gorgeous vampire who doesn't actually kill people, because that's what I'm holding out for, and I would hate to think that's at all unrealistic.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Elaine!!!

Very true, those are all good points. I was just giving a quick overview, and wanted to make the point that claiming that physical appearance is (or should be) totally irrelevant isn't very realistic.

That said, you're right that tastes vary; what's beautiful to me might be ugly to someone else -- all the more reason to meet as many people as possible! Plus, you're right that getting to know the person affects your perception of their appearance.

And, naturally, beauty isn't the quality that's most likely to lead to long-term relationship harmony. Indeed often the opposite. Since beautiful people are in such demand, to get one you often end up having to be less picky on other valuable character traits. In the long run, you often get a better relationship by placing the priority on other traits.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

ROTFL! It's true, I came very close to linking again to this post when I wrote that. ;^)

Holly said...

Do I remember correctly, that you intend to attend Sunstone this year? Plan is, there's to be a panel about Twilight, and I'm to be on it--as the person who HATES Edward, Bella and everything else about the entire series. Which means that at some point I have to read the last two books...but I just can't bring myself to do it yet.

Melisma said...

My frustration with the internet is the absence of vocal inflection and body language. Personally, I am more comfortable with a spoken conversation than the writing process (I have read your blog for years and this is my first comment). And yet, I must agree that increasing the pool of acquaintances increases the probability of meeting a potential good friend or partner. Thanks for pulling me out of my turtle shell!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

That is too funny! So is it going to be you against three Twilight fanatics who want to bear Edward's children? Have they got someone representing the pro-Jake camp?

Yes, I'll be at the Sunstone Symposium this August, and I can't wait to see that panel! Bummer about having to read the other books, though. I read the first one (and didn't find it terribly interesting), but I think the "Twilight phenomenon" is fascinating -- and the discussions of it are hilarious!

Hey Melisma!!!

That is so true about the absence of vocal inflections and body language on the Internet. It's so easy to read something in a completely different way than the author intended it, and get caught in a misunderstanding.

Good luck on making more real-life friends! I've recently set myself upon the same task -- increasing my pool of real-life friends. When my kids were very small, I actually didn't have anyone in town that I could just call up and say "Hey let's get together for coffee" or something, and I missed day-to-day live friend chatting. Now I've made a few friends I can hang out with (mostly parents of my kids' friends, but, hey, that's what I spend my leisure time on).

Danlj said...

I would simply add, as an old geezer, that what's called "personality" does influence what's tolerable in the long run, and communication skills (and style) go a long way toward making oneself tolerable, especially the skill of active listening. This applies to any relationship, regardless of any contract.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey DrDan!!!

So true!