Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blind spots in early dating often jeopardize the ability to make proper decisions

Just as I had completed my essay on “Judging Others,” and how important it is to be aware of our limitations, I read an article by Kaja Perina (the editor of the magazine) in Psychology Today (January/February, 2007) entitled “Love’s Loopy Logic,” which explained the reasons why our ability to judge others is so limited — a situation in which Perina explains, “it sometimes pays to deceive ourselves.”   I have borrowed some of the language and many of the observations in this essay from that article, and I have, for the most part, refrained from using quotation marks simply because of the distraction that often causes.  The ideas in this essay belong to Kaja Perina, and I owe her a debt of gratitude for her insights.  Read her essay. 

You [the reader] will best profit from [at the very least, identify with] the observations in this essay if you can transport yourself back to the time when you were trolling for the wit, kindness, curiosity, intelligence, and “chemistry” that would allow you to make the proper decision regarding a future mate.  It is often within the parameters of such a quest that an explanation for the limitations of our observations and judgments can best be understood.  Perina casts both her observations and descriptions within the broad rubric of “mating intelligence,” which, she explains, is as oxymoronic as the term suggests. 

The key sentences in Perina’s article are, “We’ve all got blind spots about the opposite sex.  And sometimes that’s for the best.” 

The first blind spot occurs very early in the dating experience when men are wooing by grossly exaggerating their income, commitment, and affection for the opposite sex, and, despite the outlandish hyperbole, women are accurately gauging their date’s personality.   The blind spot occurs in the report of what occurred.  For example, if males have a great first date it is likely they will disclose more interest in themselves by their date than females are likely to describe.  Women, on the other hand, are likely to give an account that men are interested in no-strings-attached sex than is likely to be the case. 

Geoffrey Miller, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, labels these very early meetings as a “never-ending arms race of romantic skepticism and excess.”  Glenn Geher, an associate professor of psychology at SUNY at New Paltz, who, with Miller, has edited a volume on mating intelligence, comes to the conclusion that women who are skeptical of men’s intentions are almost always better off than women who spend hours deconstructing the first date.  For women, Geher suggests, using the rule that “men are always pigs,” will more likely result in finding honest, committed, and long-term-seeking males. 

A second blind spot, and one, too, that contributes significantly to the first one described above, is how males and females see the world through their own deeply skewed lenses.  This has less to do with minds set in mating mode, than it has to do with everyday perceptions.  Role play once again, and you are likely to see the problem.  Pretend your date is both powerful and beautiful.  Isn’t it likely that along with these features you imbue him or her with personal and intellectual qualities he or she is unlikely to possess? —smart, intuitive, creative, knowledgeable, gifted, and talented?  In addition, in such a situation, you overestimate your own abilities [after all, you have attracted a powerful and beautiful date!] and downgrade the importance of any skills that elude you. 

There is a third blind spot, too, that results from gender-related characteristics.  When I describe it, you will quickly agree, I’m sure, but what this bias does is tend to obscure other possibilities.  Men scan potential mates for sexiness and availability while women scavenge for clues to personality and commitment readiness.  Men are not looking for intelligence, creativity, curiosity, talent, or sense of humor.  If they find any of these characteristics, of course, it is simply icing on the sexy and available cake they desire.   

That is precisely why women are likely to be more accurate and realistic when it comes to looking for relationship partners.  They look for the things that will secure the foundation of relationships and better predict longevity such as a man’s character, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability.  Their judgment of a male’s commitment readiness may be inaccurate [males often lie about this to increase a woman’s sexiness and availability]; however, despite the static, at least females’ antennae are attuned to the proper station. 

The fourth blind spot is embellishment.  When all goes well early in a relationship, both partners tend to embellish the other.  Many call this the “infatuation stage” of dating.  The positive experiences the two of you have tends to turn up the volume on the traits you love.  Your date becomes the best-looking guy in his family, or the unheralded star of her office.   Faby Gagn , a research consultant and visiting scholar at Wellesley College, found that 95 percent of people think their paramour is above average in appearance, intelligence, warmth, and sense of humor.  There is a great deal of wisdom reflected in these observations, of course.  Not only does this help confirm a mate’s knowledge that he or she has struck romantic gold, but it, too, increases their own self-esteem for having found a mate of this caliber.  Gagn  discovered that when partners feel their mate has such outstanding qualities they are more satisfied with their relationship and more committed to their mate. 

The fifth blind spot, in a sense, justifies (more than some others) the basic premise of Perina’s article, that it sometimes pays to have blind spots. Self-deception is an equal opportunity bias. She says that the kind of positive illusions illustrated in the paragraph above help us marvel at our mates, overlook irritating or noxious behaviors (especially when a relationship split jeopardizes children, finances, or status), and make exceptions for aberrant or unjustified actions, especially when it is likely to bring on the alternative: uncertainty, distrust, and fractured loyalties.  Without the fifth blind spot, there is likely to be paranoia, heartache, and paralysis. 

Fortunately for most males and females, their goals, in the end, are overlapping.  Both want stable relationships in which to raise children.  Women, however, tend to want an earlier commitment than men.  But when the female-male tracks converge in commitment, the early biases often fade into the background, and males and females begin to share important goals, the most important of which is preserving the relationship. 


At the Relationship Saver Blog, there are four wonderful, informative, and provocative essays that treat the blind spots people face in relationships—all written from different perspectives. 

The essay located at the Psychology Today website, entitled, “ Marriage Help: Rear and Side View Mirrors,” (January 23, 2009) ends with the paragraph: “Adjusting for your blind spots in emotional interactions has to be intentional, just as you have to intentionally adjust the rear and side view mirrors of your car. If you drive on automatic pilot on the road or in your relationships, your blind spots will lead you to disaster. Putting a little care and effort in your blind spot adjustments will get you where you want to go.” 


Copyright November, 2010, by And Then Some Publishing, LLC.

1 comment:

  1. My mate is the wittiest, most beautiful (she could be a model), most intelligent person in the world. I know this for a fact because I am in love and love clouds nothing!


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