The Science Behind Dating

headshot of Justin Hoshaw
Justin Hoshaw, Biology Instructor

Love is in the air this month, but if you find yourself single, nervous, and wondering if your new interest is also interested in you, perhaps you can take comfort in realizing that the vast majority of people do not want to be alone. Perhaps you can do even better by having science on your side.

If you are going to be the best you possible, then like any subject in school, it’s important to do your homework. Although seldom talked about, science can open up your eyes and better prepare you for dating, being in love, or experiencing real love. Imagine how much more effective “the talk” would be if parents could arm their children with scientific facts and lay a foundation for successful relationships. Currently, more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. Accounting for those who regretfully stick it out, only three out of 10 people are in happy relationships. The odds worsen when including misconceptions about physical attraction, the opposite sex’s general preferences and anatomy.

The time to understand the science of dating and relationships is now. The issue goes even beyond happiness or successful marriages. By investing in our relationships, we can live longer, are more likely to survive cancer, have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and enjoy several other health benefits.

By educating ourselves on what science says about relationships, we can enter into the scene with a clearer understanding of ourselves and the opposite sex. It flies in the face of the old saying “opposites attract,” but studies have found that most happily married couples actually share very similar backgrounds and lifestyles. Knowing this might offer a better idea about the type of person you are looking for. Also, understanding how “the pill” can affect female attraction is a fascinating area of study that can have a large effect on happiness and even divorce rates.

Once you find Mr. or Ms. Right, it’s important to know the molecule that makes them and you tick. Levels of testosterone affect everything in a relationship from kissing preferences, female orgasm and preference for the time of day for sex. Once you know that, you’ll want to know how sleep, exercise, music and game day can affect testosterone.

Simply cuddling more after intercourse prolongs skin-to-skin contact, which increases another important molecule, oxytocin. Higher oxytocin levels increase relationship and sexual satisfaction. We are not above our biology - we should embrace it in an effort to live happier lives.

After understanding the biology of relationships, you need to know the psychology. Besides emphasizing how important good communication is at every level of a relationship, the best advice I can give you is to read The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.

Although science doesn’t have all of the answers, it’s a tremendous step in the right direction and a great way to address those yet unanswered questions. The question you should ask now is, why haven’t we used science in our dating lives before? I encourage you to invest time this February in better understanding relationships according to science.

Justin Hoshaw is a biology instructor at Waubonsee Community College