- Flickr/Bubble Fishh
There are lots of “rules” out there about love and relationships.
If you just went on a date, wait three days before texting or calling. If you’re fighting, you’re toast. If it’s over, write down your feelings.
Unfortunately, if you dig into the science behind dating and romance, you’ll learn that many of these rules are based on complete misconceptions.
Below, we’ve busted 10 of the most common myths and explained why they’re totally wrong.
Myth: You can’t make yourself more attractive
Hold off on the cosmetic surgery – scientists say beauty isn’t just a function of your appearance.
In fact, the difference between looking hot or not can be as simple as the color of your shirt, whether you own a pet, or your musical ability.
To heterosexual women, certain personality traits can be even more meaningful than a man’s physical attractiveness.
Myth: Men don’t like when women ask them on a date
Dating site Match told Business Insider that straight women initiate only 18% of emails between straight women and straight men on Match.
If that’s because those women are afraid of coming off too strong, here’s a wake-up call: Another Match survey found that 90% of American men (not just Match users) say they’d be comfortable with a woman asking them out.
Myth: Just journaling your thoughts can help you get over a breakup
A tear-stained notebook page isn’t necessarily the solution to getting over your ex.
In fact, a 2012 study found that simply writing about your thoughts surrounding a breakup can make you feel worse than when you started.
For example, one person in the study who wrote in a redemptive-narrative style said, “‘I am really sad that we broke up, but maybe it’s for the best. I am better off without somebody who doesn’t treat me right.”
Myth: When you’re interested in someone, it’s best to make your feelings clear
We’re all adults here – can’t you just tell someone you’re interested and ask if they are, too?
Not quite. Multiple studies suggest that playing hard-to-get when you first meet someone can be an effective way to entice them.
For example, one 2014 study found that men liked women more when the women acted disinterested in them – but only if the men felt committed to the women in the first place.
The weirdest part? Even though the men wanted the women more when they played hard-to-get, they liked those women less.
Myth: Over the course of a relationship, you get to know everything about your partner
After dating someone for a couple of years, you might feel like you know everything about them: what kind of toothpaste they use, which TV series they guiltily binge-watch, which foods nauseate them.
But you probably don’t know them quite as well as you think you do.
According to a 1997 study, couples who had been together longer expressed more confidence in how well they knew each other. But as it turns out, relationship length wasn’t related to accuracy.
Even when participants had to guess how their partners would rate themselves on intelligence, athleticism, and attractiveness, they were only right about 30% of the time.
- Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Myth: Women are more romantic than men
In 2011, researchers learned that people generally think women are the first to confess their love in a heterosexual relationship.
But when the researchers asked people to recall who had said “I love you” first in their relationship, it turns out it was men – about three-quarters of the time.
Meanwhile, a 1989 study found that men were more likely than women to believe in love at first sight and to idealize their partner and relationships.
Myth: Nice guys finish last
We’ll give you the bad news first: Research suggests that, when it comes to flings, nonaltruistic (read: less nice) guys have the edge.
But if you’re looking for something serious, go ahead and flaunt the fact that you volunteer at a homeless shelter or tutor elementary school students. That same study found that altruism is a desirable trait in a long-term partner – even more desirable than good looks.
Myth: It’s best to wait a while before responding to your crush’s text
We get it that you don’t want to come off as too eager, or worse, desperate. But leaving your date to wonder if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth probably isn’t doing you any favors.
As Tech Insider’s Sarah Kramer reported, researchers in one study looked at 182,000 messages on an online dating site and found that for every day that passed between the first message and the response, the chance of getting a response back from the initiator dropped by about 0.7%.
Myth: Conflict means your relationship is heading south
Conflict is an inevitable part of any romantic relationship – but it only signals trouble ahead if you feel like your partner doesn’t get you.
As former Tech Insider correspondent Drake Baer reported, a 2016 study found that the more often couples argued, the worse they felt about the relationship, unless they felt that they understood each other.
Myth: Opposites always attract
People do tend to prefer faces dissimilar to theirs – but only if they’re currently unattached.
That’s according to a recent, small study reported in Gizmodo, which found that people who were in relationships didn’t rate faces that looked similar to theirs as any less attractive than faces that looked different.
The researchers say that singles might be concerned about the possibility of inbreeding, while those who are already partnered up might be more interested in friendship.