We all want to settle down and have a partner who loves us, cares for us, and holds us when we’re sad. But for most of us, it seems like no matter how hard we try; we’re not happy until we find the one. So, what makes us choose our partners? Mind you; we’re talking about real partners here, not hook-ups.
Two theories guide the scientific thinking:
This theory claims that behavioral tendencies, physical characteristics, and personality allows us to envision the ease of survival and reproduction together. These traits make the other person desirable to us. Like animals, this theory predicts that women need help and protection during and after the pregnancy. So, it is pretty logical that men who can provide protection, care, and love are the ideal pick – if they are fertile.
Social Role Theory
This is the other theory about how we pick our partners. It was developed by Alice Eagly who argues that mate selection is based on the roles men and women have in society. It is, therefore, a matter of establishment within their lives – to be chosen as a partner. This means selection shifts as social norms shift. If the inclination of power moves towards women instead of men in our society and equality is fought for, women will not seek protection from a man; they will seek loyalty.
So, with these theories in front of us, what exactly do we look for when choosing a partner for life?
Naturally, we grow close to those who are frequently in our lives. We have a much higher chance of accepting those that we spend more time with. This is one of the core reasons why when picking out our life partner – whether we spend six months or 6 years with them – it is usually the person we know best at that time.
2. Physical Attraction
Beauty on the outside is significant in the dating game because it attracts you to the other person. Simply put, this is why most people don’t choose someone to be their life partner if they’re not drawn to them. People also tend to be with people that they consider on the same level of beauty as them. The beautiful match the beautiful, the average match the average, and so on.
Note: This is not a judgment if you are beautiful or not. Everyone has a different definition of beauty.
3. Personality and Character
Two personality traits are found most desirable when choosing a partner: competence and warmth. Those who are competent are desired for their intelligence, and those who are warm are wanted for their kindness.
Warm and wise is a winning pair in the mate selection game.
We also choose our partners by the physical distance between them and us. It is unlikely that we would move forward with a relationship or stay with a partner if they don’t live in the same city or at least the same state. We even keep the minimum distance option selected on Tinder!
As the great poet, Yehuda Amichai wrote, “Advice for good love: Don’t love those from far away. Take for yourself one from nearby. The way a sensible house will take local stones for its building.”
This is one of the areas that makes or breaks your belief. We are drawn to people because of our similarities. We will naturally feel closer to those who have a similar life story to ours. For example, you will instantly connect with someone else who lost a parent at an early age or grew up in the same area as you.
Another reason for this is that similarities make it easier to do things together that we both enjoy. By enjoying the time we spend with another person, we naturally grow closer to them and want to spend more time with them, especially if we can see that they are also enjoying themselves and our company.
6. Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health
We tend to compromise emotional stability if our partner is physically attractive. But, the opposite is alsoexactly as we will choose partners who are emotionally and financially stable, even if they are not necessarily physically appealing to us. This could be why some young, beautiful women are genuinely happy to be with older, wealthy men.
Although other people at the same age may experience pressure to settle down and have a family, those who are pursuing higher education are seen as being able to benefit society through their studies and are therefore excused from the expectation to reproduce. However, because of their potential to be successful in life, they are also highly sought-after as partners.
Someone who is very sociable by nature will attract us more than the rest for one reason. The confidence of your potential partner motivates and boosts their personality which draws you to them more than to other people.
Women give more importance to socio-economic status than romantic love. They also prefer emotional stability over attractiveness while men emphasize youth, beauty, and physical health with a desire to have children.
More so, other studies have indicated that women are more selective and demanding while choosing life partners. This is because women usually have more to lose when making a wrong choice, especially in the later stages of a relationship when most women become more reliant on their partners to meet their physical needs.
The poet Margaret Atwood once said: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
Now the important question: How do we choose just one person from an entire group of potential candidates?
Well, there is no scientific answer.
The winner – the final selection among all the worthy candidates – is decided by a subjective internal process that is obscure, whimsical, and does not necessarily obey the dictates of rationality, evolutionary mandates, cultural pressures, or even our own conscious will, plans, or intentions.
At the end of the day, as the philosopher, Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has reasons that reason doesn’t understand.”