How Math Can Help You Find (And Hold Onto) Your Perfect Match

December 26, 2017

Who knew showcasing your flaws and picking fights could be a good thing?

In today’s complicated dating scene, don’t you wish there were a formula to figure out exactly how to find love and make it last?

Maybe there is. For the math-minded among us, finding the perfect match – and holding on to that person – might actually be a little easier if we simply employ some strategy. In an eye-opening TED Talk, mathematician Hannah Fry explained her top three theories on the mathematics of love.

Turns out, there are some mathematically-proven methods for successful mating – and you don’t have to have aced your high school calculus class to understand them.

Theory #1: The upside to ugly

Okay, maybe not ugly, exactly. But people who aren’t conventionally attractive actually have a better shot at finding their perfect match online, says Fry. She explains that someone who most everyone agrees is nice-looking, i.e., “the cute girl next door” is actually less likely to be popular on an online dating site or app. The people who have more, shall we say, interesting faces are the ones who will get a passionate response. Because while some people might think those unconventionally-featured folks are hideous, others are bound to think they’re stunning. (Fry uses Sarah Jessica Parker as an example: some people think she’s stunning, others think she looks like a horse.)

In other words, it’s better not to be middle-of-the-road, but to be that person who divides opinions.

How to take advantage of this? Fry recommends playing up your differences in your dating profile pics. The features you might be most sensitive or worried about – your lantern jaw, hook nose, or generous curves – are the ones that are more likely to draw people to you who are really, genuinely into you. Making your photos generic, although it might be your impulse, doesn’t end up working to your advantage.

Theory #2: Quitting while you’re ahead

The second mathematical equation Fry brings to the dating game is known as “Optimal Stopping Theory.” This is how you know when to stop searching for Mr. Right and settle down with Mr. Good Enough. According to the math, you should spend 37 percent of your dating life playing the field, and then when that time is up, you should stick with the next one you find who’s better than the others you’ve found. That’s the point when you don’t want to gamble that you’ll find an even better one down the road.

In fact, says Fry, most of us already do this instinctively when we spend our 20s and early 30s dating and not getting serious. But those of us who got married young may have done better if we’d waited a while longer instead of tying the knot with the first guy we fell hard for – and those who hold out for too long might just end up alone forever.

So, while there’s something to be said for not settling in love, you also don’t want to keep kissing frogs forever, either. At some point, you’ve got to accept that they’re never going to turn into princes.

Theory #3: Sweating the small stuff

The third mathematical fact Fry highlights is the most surprising to me, though it really shouldn’t be. I’ve frequently written about Dr. John Gottman’s work: he’s the psychologist who wrote The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and one of the world’s leading experts on relationships. From him, I learned that couples need to have five positive interactions to outweigh every negative one, as well as the importance of kindness in relationships. I always thought this meant it was essential to avoid fights and be unfailingly kind at all costs, even if you were boiling over on the inside.

However, being kind and staying positive doesn’t actually mean letting things go, as I thought it did. And Fry says she thought the same: that the happiest couples were the ones who could swallow their irritation and tolerate negative feelings. But as it turns out, that’s not the case at all.

“The mathematics and subsequent findings by the team have shown the exact opposite is true,” says Fry. “The most successful couples are the ones with a really low negativity threshold. These are the couples that don’t let anything go unnoticed and allow each other some room to complain.” She explains that it’s important to continually try and repair your relationship, nipping issues in the bud before they can become a big deal. And this makes perfect sense, when you consider that couples who don’t fight at all are often on the path to divorce.

Even if you weren’t the world’s greatest math student, these principles are pretty easy to master. No matter what grade you got in calculus, there’s always hope for scoring an A+ at love.

Image via pexels.com.

Comment: Have you tried applying any of these mathematical theories to your dating and love life? 

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