Dr Helen Fisher is Match.com’s world-renowned relationship expert and biological anthropologist. The good doctor and author of Why Him? Why Her? has spent years working out whether there is a love potion, if love at first sight exists, why some couples stay infatuated even after years together and how to find the perfect match. She gives us the lowdown on chemicals meeting Cupid’s bow…
What drew you to research love, attraction and human relationships?
In graduate school, I noticed that no one was studying the evolution of female sexuality and pair-bonding (or monogamy). Women have some highly evolved sexual traits, and monogamy is rare in mammals, which was fascinating for me – so I thought I would tackle some of these issues for my PhD thesis. One thing led to another, and I’ve continued my research and work in the field since then.
What makes some couples stay ‘in love’ after years of marriage?
They chose to marry the right person. Then they sustained their positive illusions: in short, they sustained their belief that this partner was sexy, smart, and handsome, to name some examples.
Are there certain characteristics of “lucky in love” people?
This has never been studied. But some people are able to remain optimistic, flexible, caring, and humorous, and continue to express the other qualities that make them attractive partners.
Are certain personality types better suited to each other?
Yes: adventurous, curious, creative people are drawn to one another and can make exciting long-term partnerships. Traditional people are well suited with other traditional people. And highly analytical, tough-minded people tend to be well suited to tender-hearted, verbal, compassionate people.
Is there a reason why aloofness and disinterest is actually attractive in some people? For example, the girl or guy who never calls, or who expects to have their drinks brought for them?
Barriers heighten one’s desire. We tend to want what we can’t get. And scientists now know some of what is happening in the brain. The dopamine system has been triggered, and once triggered, it will just keep working, perhaps even work harder to get what it can’t get.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Yes, actually it is easy to explain biologically. When you are ready to fall in love and someone comes along who fits within your concept of an ideal mate, the brain system for romantic love can be triggered instantly.