Love and attraction are universal emotions. For almost four centuries now, a romantic love has played a critical role in a man-woman relationship. The concept of romantic love played in the 18th century when Europe began linking romance to love. However, things seem to be changing, and confluent love is taking over Western society (Cárcel 87). Romantic love is based on gender stereotypes of a homemaking mother and breadwinning father. The roles persist throughout the relationship. Romantic love is a person’s lover, “the one,” and is supposed to endure all hardship (Cárcel 88). Confluent love is flexible with an individual’s role and advocates for a relationship where every partner grows. For people to form a relationship and express love, there must be some form of attraction, personality, or physical level (Cárcel 87). What makes men and women find love and attraction and choose one another from the multiple available candidates?
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Initial attraction to a potential partner or mate is highly linked to physical attractiveness. Researchers have argued that physical attractiveness or trait is vital in the relationship and dating process. (Li, Norman P., et al. 1). Even during early life stages, infants express a preference for attractiveness as they tend to like more pretty faces. A similar pattern is seen in school-going children who mostly show preferential treatment toward prettiest peers (Braxton-Davis, Princess, 6). Further research has established that high self-monitors exhibit preferential treatments toward the physical look of their potential mate. High self-monitors are individuals who value their physical appearance and readily adjust the way they appear in social public or social settings based on social cues. They are self-conscious about their look and try to be their best every time—this is contrary to low self-monitors who do not care about appearance. As for high self-monitors, the physical appearance of a potential mate also matters (Braxton-Davis, Princess, 6). Hence, physical attractiveness significantly influences the lifespan, impacting love and attraction and ultimately choosing a life mate.
In comparing men’s and women’s love and attraction, researchers who study mate choice and preference have indicated consistent findings that men prioritize physical attractiveness and sexual access when choosing a potential partner (Li, Norman P., et al. 3, Lippa, Richard, 194). On the contrary, women tend to focus on the potential partner’s social status and ability to amass wealth/resources. Such relative preferences echoed in self-concepts and folktales seem to be universal and have been widely acknowledged for decades (Lippa, Richard, 194). But are they valid and held up when individuals consider potential instead of hypothetical mates? I think so. Whether or not mate preferences/inclinations are right in the interactive settings can also be studied from the evolutionary frameworks that theorists and philosophers have presented concerning the utility of mate preference. The evolutionary perspective mostly looks into biological and social configurations between men and women.
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For instance, from the evolutionary viewpoint, the preferences in mate selection reflect what forms the reproductive value of men and women. Scientifically, logically, and historically, people’s ability to bear offspring declines as they age. That is common knowledge. However, the rate of decline in fertility is faster in women than men. The same can be seen in our everyday life, where a man as old as sixty still manages to sire a child with a fertile woman, but a similar case in women is considered a miracle worth being aired on television. For women, fertility declines faster after 30 years and vanishes by menopause. However, for men, fertility declines gradually over the lifespan (Li, Norman P., et al. 2). Since women’s fertility is highly linked to age, men appear to have evolved to desire romantic mates who are physically attractive and sexually mature, youthful, and hence more fertile in the short-term and can sire more offspring in the long term. From the research and even in practical life, physical features associated with youthful women, including smooth skin, a low waist-to-hip ratio, and soft hair along with fertility, are mostly preferred by men and form the foundations of first attraction and even mate selection (Li, Norman P., et al. 3).
Again, men’s wealth has been particularly significant for offspring’s survival and viability from the ancestral periods (Li, Norman P., et al. 3). However, since there is a substantial difference in men’s ability to create wealth, women seem to have evolved to prefer social status in their potential long-term partners because social class is linked to access to wealth. But the man’s ability to provide may be less significant in short-term mating. Women also look at other factors, including genetic qualities such as intelligence, which can be passed down to offspring (Li, Norman P., et al. 3). Consistent with this philosophy, research has shown that women prioritize physical features linked to genetic quality, such as facial masculinity and symmetry. In the most fertile periods of their menstrual cycle, women are likely to consider causal sex with men having such qualities than the opposite (Li, Norman P., et al. 3). Therefore, both men and women have evolved to value physical attractiveness mostly in short-term mates, even though preferences vary significantly for long-term mates, particularly for women. For men, physical attractiveness appears to be a constant variable in choosing mate for most of their lifespan, while in women, physical features mostly matter in short-term mates (Fink, Bernhard, et al. 139). Though slowly diminishing with the widespread acknowledgment and application of confluent love, the partner’s ability to provide is still a priority preference for most women’s choice of a mate.
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Besides physical attractiveness for men and the ability to provide for women, many other factors, including distance/proximity, personality and character, exposure and familiarity, and similarity, influence attraction, and love. For instance, studies on nature and character factors that attract us to other potential mates and potential mates to us have established two primary personality features that are cross-board desirable: warmth and competence. Competent or intelligent, and socially skilled individuals are attractive potential mates across the board. Kind individuals with warm character are also considered more attractive (Sunderani, Arnocky, and Vaillancourt, 11). But a combination of intelligence and warms appear to be an ideal mate selection tournament.
Based on proximity, if I am not wrong, it is logically, historically, and even scientifically correct that most of us have married or will marry people who live within driving or a walking distance. Logically in the sense that a relationship requires the partners to at least have some physical contact, spending time with each other, something that may not be practical or easy for someone who is a transatlantic flight away even with the advent of internet and globalized world. Long-distance is still expensive and requires planning. Hence, it beats logic to date, someone you can cost-effectively interact with as much time as possible. Historically, almost 90% of the world’s married couples throughout history have been people who come from the same country, and it has proven to work for them. Scientifically, love is more emotional, built on trust and frequency of interactions. The two variables are not easy to nurture when people leave flights away. If you are a fun of romantic poems, you might have come across one of Yehuda Amichai’s poems, “Advice for good love,” where he says, “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” (Neudecker, 2007). If you have not read this great poem, please try to. It gives a great insight into proximity and its impact on love and attraction.
The similarity is another most potent factor in love and attraction. We are drawn to people who are like us, which is a factor. Christians attract Christians, Muslims, and Hindus the same. Educated people attract educated fellas. Generally, we prefer people whom we share a lot in common. This is perfect because it makes communication easier (Sunderani et al. 537). It is also like killing two birds with one stone. She is lovely like me; hence I am lovely.
Overall, from the analysis, there are myriad factors determining attraction and love. However, everything seems to start from physical attractiveness. And for men, this forms the basis. However, I would recommend people consider several other factors, most aspects that do not fade with time for love to last. Aging is adversely linked to physical attractiveness. Research shows that husbands tend to be less attracted to their spouses as they age and beauty fades, adversely impacting men’s sexual and relationship satisfaction (Li, Norman P., et al. 1). Hence, although physical attractiveness influences the first attraction and determines who dates whom, it should not be the sole purpose of interest and love. However, I also believe that there is no precise formula to determine which factors to consider when choosing a mate, and people should be highly selfish to go for exactly what they want. If you are comfortable with a flight away partner, go for it. Again things are changing. Women may not be relying solely on the man’s resources to feed the offspring. If you are a woman attracted only to physically attractive and intelligent men, go for it, do not settle for smart and physically attractive men because you will have an unfiled void throughout your life.
Braxton-Davis, Princess. “The social psychology of love and attraction.” McNair Scholars Journal 14.1 (2010): 2.
Cárcel, Juan A. Roche. “The coexistence of romantic love and confluent love in Spain.” Societes 3 (2020): 87-102.
Fink, Bernhard, et al. “Female physical characteristics and intra-sexual competition in women.” Personality and Individual Differences 58 (2014): 138-141.
Li, Norman P., et al. “Mate preferences do predict attraction and choices in the early stages of mate selection.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 105.5 (2013).
Lippa, Richard A. “The preferred traits of mates in a cross-national study of heterosexual and homosexual men and women: An examination of biological and cultural influences.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 36.2 (2007): 193-208.
Neudecker, Hannah. “Buildings in the Love Poems by Yehuda Amichai.” Studies in Hebrew Literature and Jewish Culture. Springer, Dordrecht, 2007. 229-240.
Sunderani, Shafik, Steven Arnocky, and Tracy Vaillancourt. “Individual differences in mate poaching: An examination of hormonal, dispositional, and behavioral mate-value traits.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 42.4 (2013): 533-542.