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Game Theory #3: Dating, Biology and Psychology

In this 3rd article in a 3-part series, from Dating Advice TV, on sex, courtship and dating, we look at what game theory, biology and interpersonal psychology tell us about the benefits and costs of waiting to jump in bed with a prospective dating partner. To recap Parts I and II, game theory studies[i] by two male mathematicians Seymour and Sozou on dating, courtship and sex – suggest some good advice for women would be not to jump in bed with a new dating partner until they have accumulated more data to determine if he is a worthwhile candidate for dating and mating (in their words, a “good” man). And that men that are willing to wait for sex are viewed as better prospects for becoming good fathers than those who don’t. Furthermore, that “good” men who do wait are seen as better caretakers in general and more in it for the long haul than so called “bad” men who just want to get laid

 

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couple lying downWhile game theory is an exercise in mathematical probability and not as “real world” say as biology or psychology, its findings in the area of dating and sex are quite in line with those of biology and interpersonal psychology. First let’s look at the biological implications of having sex too soon. Having sex can drive up levels of the hormone oxytocin which in turn can create a strong attachment[ii].   Oxytocin has been called the cuddle, bonding, or tend-and-befriend hormone.  This means that your body may start the attachment process with almost anyone you bed, whether or not you want to be in a relationship with the person!  Throughout the whole sexual act you will experience increases in this hormone and your oxytocin levels stay high after you leave the scene (more for women than men).

 

And if you start falling for this new dating partner, you might also begin experiencing what Helen Fisher, the renowned anthropologist, calls the addiction of romantic love[iii].  Love addiction is like shooting up cocaine or heroin–which means reason often flies out the window.  When we “fall in love” our brains make large quantities of dopamine and norepinephrine, which also happens when you take speed!  These brain chemicals create the excited, exhilarated and focused state that allows us to have five-hour dating events and remember every detail about what our new hottie did and said.  These speed-like chemicals can also drive up our levels of testosterone, which increases sexual desire.  Second, when we fall in love, serotonin levels fall and resemble the levels found in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders[iv].  So we tend to ruminate, fantasize and obsess about our new (drug-like) dating partner. FYI, I’m giving away $500 in Free Bonus Gifts check it out.

 

As a clinical psychologist and trainer of singles and couples therapists for over 25 years I can tell you that for women, in particular, once this process takes over, they can become like craving coke addicts.  Even if they are bright, accomplished professionals! They lose touch with reality, seeing only the positives in the guy, ready to do outrageous things, sometimes self-destructive things, whatever it takes, to be with him. Even though they don’t really know him.

 

If you fall into this addictive dating pattern you are putting yourself at risk for an agonizing withdrawal if this is not the One and he rejects you.  If this occurs, sleeplessness, crying jags, over-or-under eating, obsessive and upsetting thoughts, all mess with your brain chemistry even further.   Add that chemical to any dopamine surges and you’re desperately waiting for his text, email or phone call.  Having sex too soon means you open yourself to premature infatuation, dependency and a kind of pseudo-intimacy that almost always backfires.  Then, caught in the chemical soup of dopamine and oxytocin, you will likely lose yourself.

 

So what are the costs of waiting while dating?  First, you give up the possibility of delicious, hot sex.  That’s right.  Those partners who are not looking for a lasting relationship will disappear on you the minute you say no.  (Some of my most loyal male readers and at times my most venomous critics on my PT blog probably fit into this category; you know who you are…) My advice to you . . . consider this an entry fee.  Second, you give up the great fantasies and sexual freedom associated with having wild no-strings-attached sex.  Finally, some of you, after a few months of abstinence, might become sexually frustrated (OK—all of you).  I do have good news and some advice, however.  Most, I believe, have figured out ways to self-soothe. (If not, Google “masturbation”).

 

Lesson Learned: If you are looking for a lasting relationship, best advice is to get into a multiple person dating fest where you date several people at the same time while not having sex with any of them. In Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love you would follow my advice for dating three people at the same time with the mindset of an anthropologist. That advice would include you learning about their personalities, backgrounds and behaviors and most importantly how you react to them. Armed with this knowledge of yourself and these dating prospects you will be better equipped to make choices especially without the complications of the chemical soup I’ve detailed here.

 

This dating advice program helps you avoid the number one mistake singles make: the addictive moth-to-a-flame over-involvement with some dating newbie who is supposedly the “One.” On my program, my dating advice is to spend at least two months of consistently improving contact before one considers dating exclusively and possibly having sex.  Over the course of these two months of dating, there should be more sharing of friends, family and personal space, as well as feelings and thoughts.  True love comes from having a best friendship along with chemistry.  Dating and waiting then is a good thing for both men and women.

[i] See http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-true-love/

 

[ii] See a review of the literature in M. Kosfeld, M. Heinrichs, P.J. Zak, E. Fehr, 2005.  Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature, 435, 673-676.

 

[iii] H. Fisher, 2004. Why We Love: the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

 

[iv] D. Marazziti, H. Akiskal, A. Rossi, & G.B. Cassano, 1999. Alteration of the platelet serotonin transporter in romantic love. Psychological Medicine29, 741-745.

Diana Kirschner, Ph.D. is a frequent guest psychologist on The Today Show & author of the highly acclaimed new book, “Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor’s Guide to Lasting Love” as well as the best-selling author of “Love in 90 Days.” Dr. Diana’s revolutionary work is the basis of her PBS Special on love. Connect with Dr. Diana through her FREE Dating and Relationship Advice Newsletter.

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