In using dating apps, I go by who looks cute in photos (followed by a call). But I keep going on dates and finding I have zero physical attraction to the guy. No spark. Big depressing waste of time. How do I prevent this?
—Unhappy Hour Girl
"Looks cute in photos" is a start. But vision is just one of our five senses, and a few of the others refuse to be left out of the "Hot or not?" action.
I experienced this firsthand when this hot guy came up behind me in the coffee line, and I nearly passed out. Not because he's just that hot, but because — despite his appearing recently showered — I found myself living a cop show cliche: that moment when the junior detective retches into a hanky, then makes a run for it to puke in the bushes.
Beyond how a guy smells, there's the pitch of his voice ("You da man!" versus "You da mouse!") — along with stuff you can only see in person: how he moves and how tall he is. If, like most women, you're a height queen, you might figure it's because your dad cast a big shadow. In fact, in "Why Women Have Sex," psychologists Cindy Meston and David Buss explain that much of what we're into goes back waaaay further — to our "evolutionary past."
This might explain why my two female friends, standing right next to me in line, did not smell what I smelled. Or as one put it: "Hello, Crazy. Is there something medically wrong with your nose?" It probably comes down to our genes. Women are drawn to the scent of men with dissimilar immune system genes — with whom they'd make a baby with a broader set of defenses against disease — and grossed out by men whose immuno pack is redundant with theirs.
In other words, all those dud dates are actually time well spent — and this goes double for the most disastrous. See them for what they can be: comedic gold — making you a sparklingly amusing addition to cocktail parties, where you might draw the eye of some Mr. LCIRL ("looks cute in real life"). Then and there, you'll be able to see (and smell) all the man-vetting essentials — including his height actualas opposed to claimed on a dating app, where 6'2" is very often another way of writing almost 5'7" . #OKLiar
I thought my (second) husband and I were happily married, but based on my past experience, the signs are there that he's planning on leaving me. He's going to the gym regularly, working later, eating healthy, and dressing better for work. At New Year's, he did say his resolution was to improve himself and get ahead at work to provide better for our family, but that seems too convenient. His recent behaviors are almost exactly like what my rotten first husband was doing when he left me.
To be human is to leap to conclusions — when we aren't doing Simone Biles-level gymnastics to avoid exploring the obvious: "Hmm, might there be a connection between the bizarre shrinkage of all my clothes and my mowing through six jumbo bags of Doritos daily?"
In your defense — for your Olympic long jump from "He's eating healthy" to "He's yet another dirtbag who's leaving me" — our brains are pattern-spotting machines, hoovering up similarities in things and events. Sometimes these patterns are meaningful, or as science historian Michael Shermer puts it: "Sometimes A really is connected to B," but often it is not.
This mental sloppiness seems like a design flaw, but it's actually a feature. We evolved to be protectively wrong — to err on the safe side — meaning make the least evolutionarily costly error: for example, going temporarily paranoid instead of potentially coming home to a house that's permanently short one breadwinner.
To replace your assumptions with information, talk with your husband. Ask questions instead of making accusations. For example: "Awesome New Year's rez. Love to hear what inspired these changes."
Evoke his empathy by telling him about the pattern that's got you so worried. Open with "Okay, maybe crazy..." -though maybe anything but — because "Ugh, the workings of our minds" will get you more answers than the defensiveness-provoking "Ugh, you're just like the last one."
Finally, look to history. Does his prior behavior over time — combined with the output from these other lines of inquiry — suggest he's the sort to go "Toodles, wife and babies!" If not, what stinks in his gym locker probably isn't a "go bag" with fake passports, $100K in cash, and plane tickets to a country that doesn't extradite for himself.