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Jan 09, 2022
If there’s one thing we know about love, it’s that it defies science and reason. But if there’s one other thing we know about love, it’s that that first thing is a myth. Ever since there have been scientists, people have been trying to apply scientific principles and methods to love — with varying success. Fast-forward to today and those efforts have spawned a raft of dazzling tech and data projects, all hoping to up your odds of being happy. From apps to drugs to driving your love life entirely on data, in today's Weekender we’ll delve into it all — and maybe you’ll even find something here that informs your own search for love.
1 - Love, Digitally
While hookup culture is unlikely to thrive during a pandemic, dating apps are doing incredibly well — the top 20 gained millions of new active users in 2020 and 2021. But that doesn’t mean people who are lonely have to jump right onto Tinder and Grindr. There’s a host of different solutions: French app Happn tries to insert a little destiny back into dating apps by connecting its 91 million users with people who physically cross their path. Of course, the pandemic has made such apps alter their business models — since physical proximity is less likely under lockdown, Happn’s expanded the geographic proximity parameters to allow users to meet new people as much as 75 miles away.
While we can’t recommend using LinkedIn as a dating site — even though apparently some people are — plenty of people are using non-dating apps to meet potential partners. Teen game sensation Among Us has so many people on it looking for love that there’s a whole Reddit community devoted to documenting (and sometimes mocking) these would be Casanovas.
1 - Brain Chemistry
Many looking for love turn to a different kind of science: medication. In the 1960s, MDMA was used as a love aid for struggling married couples — and while current research is spotty because it’s illegal, what’s there suggests that it may actually work. For a more dramatic and emotional take on the effects of mind-altering drugs on love, there’s Errol Morris’s documentary, My Psychedelic Love Story, in which LSD-advocate Timothy Leary’s former lover recalls their romantic romp around the world taking acid every day.
Then there’s Dr. Brian Earp, whose research is dedicated to the ways humans can use drugs to control whom and how they love. That could mean paying attention to neurochemistry in order to revive relationships and fall back in love — but it could also do the opposite. Say you’re married to an abusive spouse, but you find you’re still in love with them. Earp’s chemicals could potentially help you get past those feelings and do what you need to do to protect yourself. On the other hand, some say his work focuses too much on the chemistry of love, and ignores the social and psychological aspects of a very complex set of emotions.
3 - Love in the Synapses
Drugs can affect love, but love can affect drugs too. Noted love hormone oxytocin has been shown to play a major role in sex, according to new research from Japan’s Okayama University — but some researchers believe it could also be effective in treating the mental disintegration associated with Alzheimers disease.
1 - Food and Sex
Looking at scientific studies can help you determine what a majority of people might say or do — such as a third of Americans say they would never date a vegan, or gender is a less important factor when choosing a romantic partner for today’s teens than for any previous generation, by a lot. While relationship experts say the biggest deal breakers are still the classics — disagreements about finances, values and kids — canceling plans a lot and fighting dirty also make the list.
2 - Left and Right
If your politics are right of center, dating a French far-leftie is probably off the table, while mixed-politics marriages become increasingly rare in the U.S. as well. And that polarization is rising rapidly in America: Just 48 percent of American singles think you can date someone who doesn’t share your politics, a 4 percentage point decrease in just the last year. The most uncomfortable with revealing their political affiliation to a potential significant other? That would be Gen Z Republicans.
But remember, those studies can only tell you about probabilities, and not what any specific person will do. Just don’t be too exacting: 90 percent of Americans say they think they have a soul mate, but only 30 percent actually find a lasting relationship, perhaps a sign that a lot of people are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
By the numbers
1 - Hard Times
Sure, economics is the dismal science, but that’s still a science. And it may be relevant to your relationship: Historically, marriage rates have plummeted during recessions and depressions, though economists say they’re not sure if the COVID-19-caused recession will have the same effect because it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen (and marriage rates were dropping before the pandemic hit). There is good news, however: Couples who actually did get married during the Great Depression had stronger unions than those who married during boom times.
Maybe that’s connected to another startling statistic: The more you spend on your wedding, the shorter it’s likely to be. Given that the average American wedding is thought to cost nearly $34,000, it might be worth giving your wallet a break — for the sake of a long and happy relationship.
3 - Cash on Hand
Of course, stress over money affects the day-to-day quality of relationships — not just whether they last forever. A new meta-analysis of negative relationship dynamics found that it was more common for couples experiencing economic strain. What’s more, the effect was more severe in American couples than for those in other countries, which researchers guessed might indicate that living without the security of health care and education available to those in South Korea and Canada ups the stress quotient for couples.
The big bust
1 - The End of Everything
What, you thought we weren’t going to get to breakups? Heartbreak has given rise to an entire new industry, with breakup boot camps and seminars promising to help you through this tough time — while cashing in on feelings of helplessness (and a determination to show the ex what they’re missing). If you’re interested in divorce-proofing your union, consider following some basic guidelines, like getting married to someone near your age (within a narrow 12-year age window). But as we said above, the heart wants what it wants. Sorry for quoting Woody Allen. Twice.
2 - The Bright Side
But divorce can actually be good for you (especially when companies like Hello Divorce are making it cheaper and simpler in the digital age) and good for the institution of marriage. After Chile legalized divorce, it saw a record number of marriages, presumably since people figured they’d no longer be trapped for life by vowing till death do you part.
And if you’re currently going through a breakup, maybe ignore the fact that heartbreak can have serious physical symptoms and dive instead into this story of plucky 13th century Japanese women who temporarily became nuns so they could divorce their husbands via a legal loophole. But if you’re feeling bad after a split, blame it on your brain, which some studies have found treats emotional rejection with the same response it makes to physical pain.
Which of these is statistically correlated with having an inexpensive wedding?
A longer-lasting marriage
Which country saw a record number of marriages after it legalized divorce?
In 13th century Japan, how did some women obtain legal divorces?
They stole their husbands’ identities.
They changed their names.
They temporarily joined a convent.
Which party drug was used in the 1960s to help troubled married couples?
What percentage of Americans believe they have a soul mate?
Which group is most uncomfortable revealing political opinions to dates?
Senior citizen libertarians
Gen Z Republicans
For which disease is oxytocin thought to be a potential treatment?
Errol Morris made a documentary about which pioneer of drugs?
A longer-lasting marriage
They temporarily joined a convent.
Gen Z Republicans
What to read:
Love Machines: What if instead of dating according to science, you started dating your own science project?
Ann Coulter is known for a lot of things but holding back is not one of them! This lawyer turned political pundit and author came into the scene while heavily involved in the Bill Clinton scandal of the 90s. Carlos sits with Ann for an interview diving deep into her upbringing, her favorite politicians, her opinion on Donald Trump and much more! To listen to the full, unedited conversation between Carlos and Ann Coulter, subscribe to the podcast version of the show here: http://podcasts.iheartradio.com/s_34Zjdh
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