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Saturday, 25 April 2015

The head-heart dilemma

Wednesday evening, while enjoying dinner with and talking to a long-time business and personal friend, I was lucky again as I felt another breakthrough in one of my few remaining challenges: why is my heart open to very different personalities than my mind? I have dubbed this the head (mind) -heart (brain) dilemma. Some further soul searching that night led me to a very interesting "Psychology Today" article: why your partner may be like your parent.

A study by Glenn Geher suggests that we do tend to choose a romantic partner who is similar to our opposite-sex parent. In his research, he not only asked participants to self-report on how their romantic partners were like their opposite-sex parents across various categories - he actually interviewed the parents as well. The shared characteristics he discovered between his subjects' partners and their opposite-sex parents were robust, and not merely coincidental. Needless to say, when romantic partners were like parents in good ways, relationship satisfaction was high; when the similarities were related to negative characteristics, relationship satisfaction was low. (source)

I feel that this article may indeed explain one side of my head-heart dilemma. The other side may be explained by the notion of Mating Intelligence (MI) as developed by evolutionary psychologists. 

Mating Intelligence (source) consists of the entire set of psychological abilities designed for sexual reproduction. MI includes the mental capacity for courtship and display, sexual competition and rivalry. It is at work in our efforts to form, maintain, coordinate, and terminate relationships. Mating Intelligence guides us in flirtation, foreplay, and copulation; in mate-search, mate-choice, mate-guarding, and mate-switching; and in many other behaviours that may have reproductive payoffs. 

We have a radar for opposite-sex interest and intentions that has its own unique calibrations. And it follows Darwinian, rather than Aristotelian, logic, because the very survival of our genes is at stake. Men and women need to minimise reproductive mistakes that could thwart their mating goals: For men, missing a chance to score constitutes an error. For women it is dangerous to trust a man who simply wishes to score and move on. (source)

Men and women selectively tune into the noisy channel of opposite-sex interest depending on their own gender-specific needs: Men scan for sexiness and availability; women scavenge for clues to personality and commitment readiness. The errors of engagement we make in the early stages of courtship, before we're certain of opposite-sex intentions, might appear to set men and women on a permanent collision course. But each one of us is evidence that men and women do in fact connect. The sexes actually have overlapping, if not identical, goals: Men and women both want stable relationships in which to raise children. Women just tend to rally for an earlier commitment. The result: When our tracks finally converge in commitment, our biases overlap as well, because we now share important goals. The most important of these is preserving the relationship. (source)

To me, both perspectives help me in understanding the (very different) criteria that my head (mind) and heart (brain) are using in mating. I suppose it's also related to my - initially subconscious and subsequently conscious - decision for building a new Maslow pyramid rather than repairing my existing one. Also see my August 27, 2014 blog.