Why I Hate Dating/Reading Helen Fisher and Feeling Vindicated

Remember that time, about a week ago, when I concluded that all of the reasons not to participate in online dating are stupid?

Let me amend that: all of the reasons not to date online are stupid unless, like me, you actually hate dating.

This admission may sound strange coming from someone who writes a blog with a title that contains the very word; I understand this. I would not blame you for assuming that my obsession with romantic love translates to a general enjoyment of meeting people and going on dates.

I think I too, at times, have assumed this logical correlation as well.

And then, at such times, I go on dates with random people and remember that, actually, dating sucks. I mean, I hear there are some who enjoy it. I don’t think I’ve ever met one, but still. (Is it me, or does everyone speak of “people who like dating” by way of identifying themselves as someone who is not among those people?)

It is easy to lose sight of this when you meet someone who is really tall and interesting and attractive and you think you might marry–or at the very least have life-changing sex with. In such situations, dating seems fun.

And in the online world it can also seem fun: for that brief initial period of time when you trade witty messages and compulsively admire each others’ profiles and the fact that you have absolutely no idea what the other person sounds like or–honestly–looks like only enhances the anticipatory excitement which leaves tantalizingly open the possibility that you might, in fact, marry.

But then–as has happened to me twice in the past week–you meet: any hopes of a second date, much less more, are quickly dashed, and you must then suffer through one-to-two hours of forced conversation with someone who looks nothing like their online photos/asks you not a single question/is startlingly arrogant and, moreover, very unlikely to be your husband.

So, one and a half weeks and two bad dates into my internet exploits, I was relieved to come across some justification for my malaise. Said justification came, as it so often does, in the form of a book.

This is one that my old elementary school friend C recommended to me way back when I first started blogging. As also often happens, I promptly went out, bought the book, and did not read it. I was inspired to pick it up when another friend who is also dipping her toes into the online dating world mentioned she’d heard that the best matchmaking site is called Chemistry.com. Upon googling, I found that the site is designed by a woman named Helen Fisher, who also happens to have written the book C had told me about it: “Why Him? Why Her?”

Folks, I may not have found life-changing sex or a life-changing partner, but I have found–in this book–an explanation for absolutely everything I have ever done and probably ever will do. Will it change my life? Unclear. Will it make me feel better about doing things I probably would’ve done anyhow? Totally.

Fisher’s whole philosophy centers around a schema of four personality types, that she says we all more or less fit into: explorers, builders, directors and negotiators.

To summarize: explorers are intensely adventurous, creative and impulsive. They’re easily bored, good at focusing and relentlessly optomistic. They’re drawn to each other.

Builders are fiercely loyal, orderly and cautious; respectful of traditional values and authority. They are also drawn to one another.

Directors are decisive and bold, independent, analytical and pragmatic. They’re high-achieving and inventive, competitive and unemotional. They have a lot of testosterone. Which perhaps is some explanation for why they often pair with the last category, negotiatiors, who are high in estrogen.

This afternoon, when I told my mother about the book and about how absolutely perfectly I fit into this personality type, she asked whether the author had met me. Negotiatiors are passionate and empathetic. We’re vividly imaginative: daydreamers who look to identify patterns and broad concepts. We’re intuitive, agreeable, debilitatingly indecisive and easily persuaded.

Not least, we negotiators fall in love all the time. We are in constant search of intimacy, seeking it in just about every connection we make: whether with a lifetime friend or partner or someone next to us in line at the airport newsstand. We’re not interested in interactions that don’t have real substance or depth.

Which is why, my friends, I am not making this up: negotiators hate dating.

I’m sorry, but you must allow me to quote:

Because negotiators reveal their hearts to a potential partner, they can be deeply hurt by rejection. In fact, negotiators are often the type that stops dating for periods of time. To them, dating isn’t “fun”; it is a true giving of themselves and a journey deep into the psyche of another–all for the high purpose of forming a bond for eternity.

I’m not sure if anything has resonated so much with me since the last time I watched My So-Called Life as a lovesick fifteen-year-old. (Fisher also points out that “Negotiators…often idealize a lover, regarding him or her as perfect” and that because we’re so interested in people, we “are able to build a meaningful relationship quickly.” I mean, come on.)

I’m not sure what to do with this information, besides feel triumphantly, pointlessly vindicated: it’s true that I want to find a soulmate, and true that I feel endlessly frustrated with what I must go through to find him.

Which, I suppose, is why I’m here. Here’s hoping, friends, that he’s somewhere out there.

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4 Comments

Filed under Love Life

4 responses to “Why I Hate Dating/Reading Helen Fisher and Feeling Vindicated

  1. Susie II

    Lizzie, I do love your writing…even though I’m old and well into my second marriage. Not too old though to remember dating days and finding your latest book discoveries enlightening.

    Consider another way to meet your intended. A friend once said to me, “The right one will be sitting next to you at the dinner party when you’re really ready”. It has more meaning than just the literal and helped me weather the waiting years.

    • I like that, and thank you 🙂 I’ve met several (good) people on public transportation, so perhaps for me it could be, “the right one will be sitting next to me on the bus/train/plane/subway when I’m really ready!”

  2. I haven’t commented on a post here in a while, but I’m still reading your blog. Sorry this is a bit long.

    I would probably be considered a negotiator. Lines such as, “it is a true giving of themselves and a journey deep into the psyche of another–all for the high purpose of forming a bond for eternity” and “because negotiators reveal their hearts to a potential partner, they can be deeply hurt by rejection” sound like me.

    That said, I not only don’t hate dating, I still enjoy it, generally. Maybe it’s from wanting to meet people whenever I can. Or from an idealism that believes every date will be great. Or even from… perhaps a resignation or acceptance – though neither seem to be quite the right word – that in all likelihood if I want to someday be married, a fair amount of dating will have to take place first.

    I suppose I don’t agree with Fisher that, at least in my case, negotiators don’t find dating to be “fun.” But then maybe I’m not sure what aspect of dating it is that she feels negotiators hate. The sifting through prospects before there is a date, the time spent on the dates, the consequences of the dates (ie. saying no to a second date)? Or maybe all of the above. Sifting can be trite, some dates are boring or difficult, and the consequences can be hard if you can’t say “no.” All of that is true.

    I think I’ll go with it’s a combination of meeting new people, idealism, and resignation/acceptance that keeps me from hating the dating game.

    • I commend your enthusiasm! And of course, I share in it to some extent as well…I suppose I’m just terminally impatient, and therefore loathe to participate in all of the not-so-fun parts of dating, even though I tend to suffer through them in eternal hope of finding the good stuff eventually. It can be tiresome, but yes: all of must soldier on!

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