How do mate values shape how we date?

We are all very familiar with the term “out of your league” but have you ever stopped to consider why you approach certain people to get to know them better? And why others may feel unattainable as you flick through online dating profiles and weigh up whether they would agree to meet with you?

There are so many factors we look for in a love interest, from physical attraction and career success to their values and personality traits. If you could sum up the perfect person in terms of the former, you’d probably picture a celebrity or a supermodel. However, not many of us are adamant on landing somebody in the league of Brad Pitt or Cara Delevingne, so how do we go about looking for potential partners that feel about right for you?

Psychology Today recently highlighted the matching hypothesis, which predicts that people will couple up with somebody with the same “social mate value” as them. According to the relationship science theory, everybody has a social mate value which sums up their value as a potential partner. This is based on the sorts of factors that make you desirable to a potential date, including the likes of skills, personality, physical appearance, and your qualities. The theory states people partner up based on having a similar social mate value – so, if you’re a seven out of 10 in terms of mate value, you’ll end up with somebody who is around the same. 10s go with 10s, and so on, explains the article. In a nutshell, we ultimately end up with somebody who roughly matches our own mate value.

Dating up

What was interesting is that researchers found that people do actively seek dates with somebody who roughly matched their mate value, though it didn’t stop them wanting to “date up”. In their study they found many aspired to contact people they saw as more attractive than them, but they feared they’d be rejected due to the mismatch in perceived value. Interestingly, the researchers also talked to online daters who often tried their luck with people they viewed as more attractive than them, because the rejection on dating apps was a lot less hurtful because people can just not respond if they aren’t interested. It was often the case they wouldn’t hear back from the person with higher mate value, but they would receive messages back from somebody who was in their league – so a six would hear back from a six that they had approached.

The lesson here, the article concludes, is you don’t always get what you think you want. Pushing for a more attractive partner might seem important, whereas you will have much more luck looking for love in your dating pool as your own mate value determines the person you are more likely to end up with. It also cites another study which found partners with matching mate values had better relationships which lasted longer, had more frequent interactions and a better sexual history.

Be open-minded

It’s a timely reminder that it’s important to get too hung up on a checklist approach to love that leads to you overlooking people who may be perfect for you. People with high mate value may be attractive or have something about them that you think is important, such as a six-figure salary or being over 6ft tall. However, in the grand scheme of things, these elements are no guarantee of relationship success. Holding out for the best possible match on paper is not a good strategy for future happiness. When you consider the type of things which do make a relationship a success – shared values, similar outlooks on life and personality traits you view as important – it pays to look for somebody who has these qualities. Being open-minded is key and being willing to give somebody a chance, even if they aren’t the type of person you’d usually go for. You may be amazed who you might connect with who you could have discounted otherwise. It’s worth not overfocusing on attractiveness as it can lead to overlooking other important traits which can lead to more satisfying relationships, while not actually being a predictor of whether a relationship will go on to be successful or long-lasting. Your perfect person may not be what you thought you were looking for, but it’ll hardly matter when you are in a happy and long-lasting relationship.

It’s so valuable to having a helping hand in your dating journey, with a trusted friend working with you to decide the type of person who would be perfect for you. That’s why it can be a great idea to work with a matchmaker, who is available to support you and offer advice at every step of your dating journey. Matchmaking offers a personalised search for love which is stress-free and enjoyable. Call our friendly team to find out more!

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