Dear researcher, 

Lately I’ve been feeling that I’ve put so much effort into new relationships, just for them to go on and end for various reasons. I think I’m running out of steam and I simply don’t want to date anymore unless i have a good idea it’ll work out for me. How do I become more effective in my dating strategies, stop wasting so much time, and actually find a good long-term partner?

Dear reader, 

I truly understand the struggles you have been having. It can be difficult and tiring to constantly put yourself out there only to be let down in the end. Although it can be hard to predict how a relationship will turn out when something is so new, here’s some advice and research about how you can go about the dating scene and get the most of it, hopefully finding the right person for you.

In one study, it was found that those who had more long lasting, stable, and satisfying relationships had less activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the right nucleus accumbens.1 These areas are heavily associated with pleasure and reward, with the nucleus accumbens being known as the “pleasure center.” Although this may not be the most applicable to everyday life, as most people don’t have immediate access to an fMRI machine, it could be helpful to note whether or not you feel this sort of obsessive and addictive love for the people you are seeing, because this can be harmful.

Other research has shown that socially constructed ideas of gender norms, hook-up culture, and power dynamics between men and women can lead to women being in relationships that are perceived as pleasurable in society but are in fact not.2 These norms can be hard to combat in the dating scene when hook-up culture is so prevalent, but the best advice I can give is that you should stick up for what you want. If you want to have casual and fun relationships, do that! Don’t let society and double standards shame you from doing this. However, if you are truly looking for a monogamous, long-term relationship, don’t be dissuaded or pressured by men into not doing this either.

Whatever you decide to do when pursuing a romantic relationship with a new partner, know that staying for longer and trying to work things out with someone you just aren’t compatible with rarely solves anything. Trying to “change” the other person can be a tiring process. Research shows that the outcome of a romantic relationship, whether it be good or bad, depends little on the time spent in the relationship but much more on the partner of choice.3 So in these cases, maybe these “failed” dates can actually be a good thing! You are another step closer to finding someone who you are compatible with and is emotionally available, rather than staying with and trying to change something that simply wouldn’t work. 

1, Xu, X., Brown, L., Aron, A., Cao, G., Feng, T., Acevedo, B., & Weng, X. (2012). Regional brain activity during early-stage intense romantic love predicted relationship outcomes after 40 months: An fMRI assessment. Neuroscience Letters, 526(1), 33–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2012.08.004

2. Torras-Gómez, E., Puigvert, L., Aiello, E., & Khalfaoui, A. (2020). Our right to the pleasure of falling in love. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 3068. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03068

3. Puigvert, L., Gelsthorpe, L., Soler-Gallart, M., & Flecha, R. (2019). Girls’ perceptions of boys with violent attitudes and behaviours, and of sexual attraction. Palgrave Communications, 5(1), 56. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0262-5

7 Replies to “How to Fall in Love With the Right Person

  1. I think your blog is in a very interesting format——an advice column. One thing I can get out of your post is that it’s okay to have a “failed” relationship, and we shouldn’t be shamed by the society that says “oh you can’t break up or divorce.” It’s very important for people who are suffering from a toxic relationship to know that they have the option to leave (not knowing their options is one of the major reasons why people decide to stick with their aggressive partner)

  2. I like how you talked about the biological and social psychological aspects of finding your right partner. I think its never one or the other but are extremely interconnected. The only issue with the fMRI is that its not accessible and definitely not affordable. I wonder if there is another way to test the levels of activity in the cortex and nucleus accumbus without going through that process. I liked the positive spin about the failed dates at the end as well because dating can be exhausting, but all worth it if your one step closer to the one!

  3. In touching on social influences and pressures in your blogpost, it made me think of the reading regarding gendered differences between men and women in what they perceived they wanted in a partner and what they actually wanted. It might be interesting to look at how perceived desirable traits (dictating by gender norms and roles) vs. the actuality might be intersecting to limit people finding the right partners for them.

  4. I enjoyed how you tied the research back to cultural norms and double standards that exist within society. I think it would be worth while for future research to examine the difficulties that first generation Americans have when it comes to initiating relationships and finding acceptance from their parents when, at times, there are competing cultural norms when it comes to premarital relationships.

  5. I agree with Lita — I think it’s great that you not only tapped into the biological aspect of relationships but the ways that societal pressures and gender norms influence relationship satisfaction. It reminded me of one of our first readings by Berscheid (1999) on “The greening of relationship science.” It seems that research on falling in love would benefit from a multidisciplinary lens, encompassing aspects from sociology and biology in addition to psychology.

    Your blog post also reminded me of class conversations regarding current outcomes and alternatives. In a college setting specifically, it seems that it may be challenging to find a long-term partner and happiness as one or more partners may believe there are many (high quality) alternatives/options, feeding into the hook-up culture.

  6. It’d be interesting to dive deeper into how social constructs play a role in what kinds of relationships people end up in? Are people’s standards/desires often compromised in favor of the norms they’re around? How resilient can we be when in these environments? Nonetheless, I particularly enjoyed reading your advice/encouragement to follow your own instinct and stick up for what you want!

  7. I like how you touch on both cognitive and societal influences in the pressures faced early on in relationships. The way you framed this post made is very easy to understand the practical implications of the research and made it very accessible to readers!

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