Why are we more attracted to some people than to others? A Relationship Counselor explains the science behind what happens when we are falling in love!
As a DIVA, you are working toward being in that place where you are happy with yourself and ready to find your Perfect Partner. You are doing all the right things in all the right places; you’ve met some nice men and had some fun dates, but you just haven’t found your love yet. What makes people fall in love with each other? You’ve watched your friends meet their special someone and have seen the way there seems to be a spark between them, something that draws them to each other from across the room. Why do we find some people more attractive than others? What happens when people are falling in love?
As a relationship counselor, I have spent years working with men and women looking for love, and hours each week delving into the current research on love and marriage, and I can tell you, a lot of falling in love comes down to biology.
Scientists tell us that the urges that drive us to fall in love are a series of biological processes evolved to keep the species going. (It’s working really well, maybe too well, but that’s another topic). Of course, we all know that not every man is attracted to every woman and vice versa – so what makes that one woman in a room of women stand out to any particular man?
It all comes down to the fact that each of us has our own unique body scent made up of what we eat, what we wash our clothes in, what kinds of scented body care products we use, where we work, and perhaps most importantly a cocktail of pheromones secreted in our sweat and other bodily fluids. Even if we don’t consciously notice our own body scent or that of the people around us, our brains and bodies collect lots of important information about other people based on what we smell. Yes. You read that right. We are smelling each other, we may just not be aware that we’re doing so.
But what are we smelling? Besides that new cologne, I mean.
The most basic information we are detecting in one another’s smell is about health and overall fitness. That’s ‘fitness’ as in ‘how fit and/or ready is he/she to father/mother my children?’ Our fundamental biological needs center around surviving long enough to successfully birth and raise the next generation. To do this, we need water, food, shelter, and love – and that takes a lot of work, which means you want to find a mate who is healthy, strong, preferably kind, and will survive for the long haul. This may sound primitive, but isn’t that what we’re all really looking for anyway? Finding someone to love means finding someone to walk through life with, to share the workload and the family, to help each other when things are difficult.
So how does that relate to our smell? Science has revealed that in addition to hormones and brain chemicals that work inside our bodies, we also produce pheromones that linger outside our bodies and broadcast a subtle health report as part of our personal body scent. For example, one study had a group of women smell t-shirts worn by a group of men and long story short, the women were able to smell how symmetrical the men were, and symmetry is strongly linked to health. A similar study gave men t-shirts worn by women at different points in their fertility cycle, and almost invariably, the men chose the shirts worn by women who were at peak fertility as more pleasant and sexy.
Both men and women can detect each other’s major histocompatibility complex genes (MHC genes), which play a major part in the strength of his immune system by helping identify beneficial versus harmful antigens. The interesting thing about this factor is that we tend to choose someone who has different MHC genes from ours.
Another study showed that we may tend to choose mates with similar genomic heritage as ourselves. Genomic heritage or genetic heritage is the DNA contributions of our ancestors to our own DNA profile, so this means we may be more attracted to someone whose family came from the same place as ours and share some similar DNA.
We also send out signals in our body scent linked to our moods. Brain chemicals like serotonin are released when we are happy, and serotonin triggers the same response in others. Negative emotions such as fear or anger cause other chemical responses in our bodies. So in addition to our body language revealing happiness or unhappiness, our bodies broadcast mood indicators as part of our own personal perfume. If you’re happy, you’ll smell happy and other people will want to be around you so they can get a whiff of that nice serotonin too.
What does all this mean for a girl looking for love? It means that putting your best foot forward has everything to do with taking good care of yourself, inside and out. Being healthy and happy is far more important than what kind of shoes you have on or how expensive your perfume is, and a great deal of what attracts people to each other has to do with instinct and body chemistry and there is a bewildering set of factors that help us choose our Perfect Partners wisely.