All posts by Dr. Wendy Walsh

Mating Matters Podcast “Mothers, MILF’s & Wives” Part 1

Ever wonder what the one right way to become a mother is? Well, there’s no one right way. In fact, for many millennia, women have used all kinds of reproductive strategies to keep their genes on the planet. This is Mating Matters.

Listen to the Podcast Here!

Read the full transcript below:

I love you, mom! Attractive young woman with little cute girl are sitting on bed and spending time together at home. Mom is receiving presents from daughter on Mother’s Day. Happy family concept.

Dr. Wendy Walsh: I love being a mother, but if I’m going to be completely honest with you, I also sometimes hate being a mother. That’s because motherhood is all about sacrifices and the paybacks aren’t always measurable by society. A dimpled curly grin here, a warm snuggle there, a holiday singing pageant or high school graduation where your kid makes you proud. All of these are brief respite between the sleep loss, the embarrassing public tantrums, usually the kid, but sometimes the mom, and the worry – no doubt about it.

Motherhood is burdensome. Despite this, about 80% of women become mothers one way or another, and most of the others are mothers to the village.

Female:            I always wanted to be a mother, always, always, always. I was always the one that babysat in the neighborhood, always loved kids and loved little babies. I wanted to have 10 kids when I was growing up. That changed once I became a mom and realized how much work was involved. But growing up that wasn’t my dream.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Welcome to Mating Matters, I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh. In this episode, “Mothers, MILF’s & Wives – Part 1”, we’re talking about women’s reproductive strategies. If you’re a woman, there are plenty of ways to keep your genes in evolution’s chain or raise the species as a whole. Women have long had plenty of reproductive choices. If they have a baby, when they have a baby, with whom they have a baby, whether that baby will survive and whether they’ll care for their own or others.

If you still believe though that love just happens and marriage and children are mostly about the luck of the draw, I want you to listen very closely. Things have changed. Since the 1930s when McCall’s Magazine put out this helpful little film – What a Housewife Must Know.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:02:50 to 00:03:18]

Granted, even decades later, women’s gender roles and reproductive choices seemed pretty limited. The media perpetuated the idea that a woman’s role was to be a good wife and mother to one man for life. Even today, very deep inside some progressive career women lies some version of the dream of a house with a white picket fence, two children and a wage earning husband, because to some, that feels natural. And why not? It’s been pumped into women’s heads for a couple of centuries. Here’s a 1951 educational video on marriage.

[Video Clip Playing 00:03:56 to 00:04:28]

I hate to burst your bubble, but the idea of a nuclear family, the one with two parents, one being male and the other female living in a home with children who are biologically related to both of them while they live happily ever after, is a relatively new invention for human beings, and it’s not attained by the vast majority of people.

More natural for us is a moving encampment of cooperative care givers that may include grandmothers, brothers, friends, cousins, aunties, anyone a mother can enlist to help her out. When I say more natural for us, remember, that humanoids have been on the planet for about 4 million years. That’s how old our behavioral memory is. We’ve only been doing widespread modern farming and industry for about 400 years. Farming, by the way, was the big downfall for women because we were pulled away from our girl pack and plunked into narrow gender roles to become that barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen girl.

But we women are wired for something very different from last century’s idea of a nuclear family. And as you’ll hear in this podcast, the modern women we spoke to are behaving in many ways like hunter gatherer women in terms of their reproductive choices. The only difference is that many feel like they’re failing because they aren’t living up to that new-fangled idea of a nuclear family.

Like cave women, we are looking at our mating marketplace, making unconscious and sometimes conscious decisions about attracting, keeping or replacing mates based on how well they provide or give care. We consider the timing of our pregnancies. That didn’t begin with the invention of the birth control pill. Women all the time practiced staying away from men at certain times or putting all kinds of material inside their bodies as a barrier.

We also weighed the pressures of our fertility window against the pressure to make enough money to feed our babies. There’s no one right way to become a mother or a mother’s helper. If you’re feeling like you’re failing, I’m here to pull you off the guilt train because I think we’re returning to something more natural. And this return to what is more naturally female probably began with the advent of the birth control pill in 1962, and then with the march into offices in the 1970s. That was around the time Helen Reddy was singing “I Am Woman”.

[Music Playing 00:06:57 to 00:07:05]

Let’s start with the statistics. The research of Harvard trained economist and demographer, David Foot now at the University of Toronto, shows that the big deciding factor in whether a woman will reproduce is her level of education. Graduate degrees are birth control. Yup, the more education, the less likely a woman is to have babies and she’ll likely have only one or two.

The more a couple is educated, the more likely they are to have baron nest or be childfree. And that group is growing. Childfree women were relatively rare in the 1950s, but today, make up about one in five women. Hold that thought because in a moment, I’ll explain how this is more natural for our species.

Wealthier women maybe having fewer babies because they run into fertility problems or a mate crunch in the mating marketplace when they spend a large part of their fertility window obtaining education and building careers.

On the other hand, high school educated and lower income women are likely to have children early and have more children. This may be because reproduction may seem more urgent for those with fewer life choices. They also get a jump on finding mates early and then sometimes, there are the life changing accidents.

This woman was on birth control, engaged and living with someone when she accidentally became pregnant at the age of 20. Unfortunately, the dude just wasn’t having it and he bailed.

Female:            Yeah, it wasn’t in the plans. With my son’s dad, it was definitely one of those, “Hey, this would be great because we’re in love in the future,” and there was a plan and everything such as that. But then there was the unexpected blessing of my son. So, it was definitely one of those things where I realized, “Oh man, this is a lot harder.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         She says she comes from a strict family and even though she says she’s pro-choice, she didn’t feel she had many options if she still wanted her family’s support.

Female:            And I knew even adoption wasn’t going to be something because my mom was very like, “I’m not having a family member live off with someone else and I’m not going to know anything.” So, they were big on that.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         She told me she finally got up the nerve to tell her mother what was happening when she was about four months pregnant.

Female:            My mom would always – her bad joke, but she would always joke and be like, “Mom, I have something to tell you.” It didn’t matter what … she’d be like, “You’re pregnant,” all the time. That was like her joke. But I remember sitting her down and I was just like, “So, mom, I have something to tell you.” And she was like, “You’re pregnant.” And then it was like, “Yes.” I was more afraid of seeing my mom cry in disappointment than having her beat my butt. My dad was not thrilled. Oh yeah, my dad actually kind of lunged at me. Like he was just like, “What?” My mom was definitely my rock. I actually became a single mom. So, she was the dad in that aspect.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         The man problem. Women’s reproductive choices are intrinsically linked to the potential for male support. Either financial support so she can hire babysitters or actual paternal caregiving. And that can be a crap shoot if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Anthropologists and primatologist, Dr. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy of UC Davis is known worldwide as one of the most important women in science for her contributions to female evolutionary behavior. Her books, Mother Nature and Mothers and Others have always been my bibles. Here is some of her UCLA talk called Born Human; how the utterly dependent survive. You can find it on YouTube.

Dr. Sarah Blaffer:           Fathers clearly have this potential to respond to babies, and you have these species where mothers need help so very much. In that case, how is it that paternal care varies so much? I mean, you have some men who are totally dedicated to their children. The Mrs. Doubtfires out there.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         The character played by the actor Robin Williams in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire was so in love with his children that even after divorce, he went to great lengths to get hired as their nanny.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:11:25 to 00:11:35]

Dr. Sarah Blaffer:           And you have other men, men certain of paternity who behave as if they didn’t even know they had children. How can this be?

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Bad dads still find mates. Listen to the Mating Matters episode called “The Trouble with Testosterone” to understand why. Besides testosterone though, are there other reasons why some men are good dads and other are cads? Well, for one, when there are more men in a mating marketplace compared to women, men are more likely to be monogamous and more into fatherhood. And when they spend more time with babies, their testosterone goes down and their prolactin and oxytocin go up. Men become better fathers by actively fathering.

But right now, we have an oversupply of successful women and an under supply of corresponding successful men. Thus, many men are focused on mating over child rearing. And many of them are baulking at the idea of paying child support.

Brian:               “I bring home $1,626 a week and 350 go to child support.”

Female:            Brian says $18,000 a year in child support for his infant son is too steep. At 29-years-old, he says he had to move back in with his parents.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And there’s another reason there’s such variance in whether men help with kids. According to Dr. Hrdy, men get lazy when the family lives in a match or a local setting, meaning with her family and friends rather than moving in with his family and friends.

When a mother lives with her man’s family, there’s less support, so he has to help. You see, grandmothers tend to invest less in their son’s children and focus more on their daughter’s kids. One of the reasons for this is because grandmothers are assured that their genes came out of their daughter, but their daughter-in-law, who knows if another man has gotten access to her hidden eggs.

This maternal grandmother preference is so prevalent in human beings that at least one government accidentally created a child welfare social policy in the form of an old age pension. According to the economist Esther Duflo of MIT, grandmothers in South Africa who received pensions turned out to have taller and healthier grandchildren when they were born to their daughters compared with those born to their sons.

Bottom line, men can’t always be counted on, and grandmothers may or may not be available. But what about those one in five educated women with no kids? Well, according to these women, they made their decision not to have children for a number of reasons. For instance, financial reasons or because they couldn’t find a mate on time.

Female:            If I found the perfect partner, perhaps I would want to. I don’t have the feeling of that wanting like some women do of like, “I have to have a baby.” In the past, when I have been with partners that I felt in love with, I’ve thought about it, but it hasn’t worked out. I haven’t ever really wanted to be in a partnership and a breakup with kids involved.

Female:            I could have been interested in having kids, but the guy had to come first. And I wasn’t so hell bent on having kids that I would have done it at any cost, by myself or anything like that. Like I had to have the partner that I wanted and he never showed up, at least not in time. So, that was that.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Or they made the decision because their career is so fulfilling.

Female:            I guess I would say I am married to my job and some people would think that was sad. However, I think it’s great because I love the people I work with. I love the events that I go to and it’s really about my lifestyle that I love leading.

Female:            I have moved around a lot in my life and I feel like I’ve put career first. So, children have never really been a goal of mine. And recently, I decided that I don’t think I want to have children. My work is very challenging, very demanding. You always have to be on mentally. It’s hard enough trying to take care of myself sometimes because the job is so demanding. It’s hard to imagine having to take care of a whole another person.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Some childfree women say it’s for ethical reasons. They want to save the planet from overpopulation. And for others, it just might not have happened biologically. This woman says she never used birth control and never became pregnant.

Female:            I never consciously decided not to have children, it just never happened for me. And believe me, I worked in an industry where I knew people in IVF, where I could have gone that way. I could have gone the surrogacy way. I never wanted to put my body through it.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And psychology plays a role too in whether a woman becomes a mother. Good mothers beget good mothers.

Female:            But I always knew I wanted to have kids because I thought my mom was a great mom and she made it a wonderful experience for me. So, I thought, “Well, maybe I could do this as well.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And sometimes, it happens the other way around.

Female:            My childhood was great, but it wasn’t the best. I had a mom who wasn’t necessarily the most loving because she was very selfish. But I don’t think that played a part in it so much. Like I know I’d want to be different, but maybe in the back of my mind it was, I don’t know.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Whether it’s by choice or by circumstance, childfree women and men are paramount to human survival. Could this be Mother Nature’s way of creating something evolutionary psychologists call “extra aloparents”? Aloparents are adults who may not be biologically related to children, but have a big impact on their survival.

In Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s book, Mothers and Others, she makes a great case that our explosion in intelligence is linked to the stimulation and care provided by other adults, teachers, doctors, coaches, pastors, neighbors, other mothers in that mommy group, and childfree women.

Female:            My cousin is a single mother and she is going through absolute hell. Her partner left her with absolutely nothing and doesn’t pay child support. So, I very much feel even more so to help them out financially.

Female:            So, I just never had that absolute need to be a mother. And I think that’s because I have lots of nieces and nephews. I’m very close with them. I’ve been with them growing up and it kind of felt like that fulfilled the need.

Female:            I have a niece who’s following in the same footsteps as me. So, I’m constantly mentoring her about her role in the company because she’s doing the same thing that I do. And then I have two other nieces and a nephew. So yeah, I look at them and I think of them as my own.

Female:            I had moms who said, “Hey, I’ll pick up your kids so that you can do this.” Or there were times when I would pick up their kids or “Hey, you don’t feel well? Well, I’ll pick them up and take them to church and you can have a few hours to yourself and that kind of thing.” Having that support system has helped me to understand how we all need each other.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         The nuclear family is giving way to something else. In fact, for more than two decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 40% of American babies have been born out of wedlock, and the rest are vulnerable to a high parental divorce rate.

Single mothers with an aloparent village are fast becoming the societal norm. And aloparents even include that single dude hanging around and helping out single mothers. I happen to be a single mother. My personal trainer lugs our Christmas tree up the stairs every year, and he taught both my girls how to ride bikes. Thank you Troy.

I’ve also had plenty of what I call hover men, guys who hover around hoping for sex, but not before I audition them by putting them to work in my house. And women know to keep men happy and helping, they need to look good. Thus, the rise of the MILF – a mom I’d like to f***. A hot mom seeking aloparents or a better mate, and looking very attractive while doing it. Fergie knows about MILFs. She wrote her song MILF Money after the birth of her son. You got to see this video. It’s filled with hot celebrity moms in lingerie, tempting a milkman, some of them breastfeeding.

[Music Playing 00:20:16 to 00:20:23]

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Even if childfree women and men aren’t giving direct care to other people’s kids, they may be doing it indirectly. They may employ parents or work in law or government making rules that support parents. So, even if you don’t have a cave woman grandmother around, you might have a female boss who helps feed your kids via a paycheck.

Female:            As a mother, we have to kind of prioritize our energy into these lives that are dependent upon us. But I have one friend who prioritizes her energy into going to all these places all over the world and helping to dig wells for kids who already exist and don’t have access to clean water. I would love to do that. But for her, that’s her way of giving back, contributing to the future, making life better for so many more children than what I can do with my four. It’s just we need all kinds and we all balance each other out.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Another fascinating thing about human mothers and cooperative breeding, is that will love and raise a child that isn’t genetically ours. Think adoptive parents and step parents. Evidence of the fact that aloparents in the village are paramount to breeding, is the fact that we are one of the only apes that will hand our newborn to a stranger, say the doctor or midwife. Try doing that with a chimp.

It’s easy to imagine that last century’s nuclear family is the best thing for kids. There’s plenty of research to show that our culture doesn’t yet provide enough supports for single parents; free childcare, tax breaks for parents and adequate parental leaves. But things are changing as women and men evolve into families that may look more like our hunter gatherer ancestors than a father knows best 1950 style family.

[Video Clip Playing 00:22:09 to 00:22:20]

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Here’s an example of a single woman with three children aged 20, 14 and 2. She’s a great example of what our cave women ancestors might have chosen. How she risked her life bearing babies, how she spaced her babies, lost a baby and replaced a partner. Her maternal life began with an unplanned pregnancy in her early 20s that she chose to terminate. She later married the man who had impregnated her and later they gave birth to a daughter. When her daughter was four-years-old, this woman was nine months pregnant with her second child, a son named Kyle. The couple was excited as they arrived at the hospital for a scheduled caesarean section.

Female:            I knew that when I got to the hospital and they were prepping me for the C-section and technician after technician kept coming because they clearly couldn’t hear a heartbeat. I kind of knew until my doctor came in, looked at me and said, “I’m really sorry but your baby didn’t survive.” I was given four months maternity leave. In Canada, you’re given a lot of time. I had to bury my son because he was a full term baby. I actually still think that I probably haven’t really dealt with that.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         The couple did go on to give birth to a healthy baby boy 14 months later. But soon after, she replaced her partner because he wasn’t providing. Single motherhood was hard, but in some ways easier for her.

Female:            In my case, it was a different dynamic because I was the provider protector in our household. So, I was the breadwinner. So, my husband’s income was nice and certainly missed when it wasn’t there because I was carrying a mortgage, two small children, I had to get a nanny. I didn’t see him as a provider. Hence, the reason why this relationship ended.

Now, what I did get from that relationship was the physical intimacy to be completely honest and that was nice, but it wasn’t enough.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         After spending a decade as a single mother, her support system included an aloparent in the form of an on again, off again boyfriend. Then she accidentally became pregnant again.

Female:            So, I had been dating my partner for about nine years on and off at the time. We were in a good period. He’s eight years younger than me, and I’d been working so hard that I had just forgot that I didn’t have a period for about two months. I decided to take a pregnancy test. For some reason, I just didn’t think I could get pregnant. I’m 44 years old. And so, I wasn’t even thinking about protection. It was just a non-issue until it became an issue, and I had a decision to make.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Her decision meant looking at these factors. She was 44, she had two children to continue to support. She had a boyfriend, but the relationship had been unstable, and she was the main provider. But get this, she was also a MILF. Her job was to look hot, young and sexy on TV. What a pressure for a mother.

Female:            I am the main featured person in this show and the first thing I’m thinking is what is the impact of this pregnancy on the show? Because they hired me for the sexy person that I am. This sassy, able to do anything anywhere and travel and now I’m pregnant. And I’m doing the math saying, “Oh, I have a season to be on and I’ll have a baby who’s two-months-old, how am I going to do this?”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         This is the terrifying struggle of every mother, whether she is a hunter gatherer worried about keeping a mate while finding enough food for herself in any living children or a modern day homosapien female scrounging up resources on a TV set. The feelings are the same. The fear is equal.

Did you think about terminating the pregnancy?

Female:            100%, and for many reasons. I had weighed pros and cons. I was looking at it from a financial point of view. I was looking at it from the impact of my family, the relationship, my two older children, how are they going to feel? They were equally shocked when they knew. And I had committed to not sharing it with anyone until I had made the decision we’re keeping the baby and we’re happy about it.

But I also at 44 went to my doctor and said, “What are the tests I need to happen? What are the risks?” So many pregnancies, it’s a high risk. It’s over 50% of women over 40 that give birth to a child with some genetic defect over 40. On top of the fact that I’m highly stressed and have no time and another mouth to feed, like what is going to happen here?

So, yes, I absolutely contemplated it. So, my daughter might not have been here had I made the other decision.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And what was the thing that put you over the edge do you believe, to decide to give birth to her?

Female:            I really looked at my pregnancy at that time. Really, I looked at it as a miracle.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         In fact, the research shows the number one factor in whether a woman will terminate her pregnancy is maternal age. Younger women are far more likely to have an abortion as this woman did when she was much younger. Women near the end of their fertility window, believe this may be their last chance to have a baby. In the end, this 44-year-old woman has a career, a boyfriend who’s a very involved father, and three healthy children. I think she’s winning the mating game.

And when mothers do decide to raise children, the payoff according to one mom of four and grandmother, is that motherhood brings the village together. Cooperative breeding spreads love.

Female:            That love that you have as a mother for your children, it’s universal. You see it in animals, in the animal kingdom. You see it in different cultures, in different ways and in different countries. And it supersedes almost everything you can think of that would be divisive.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Well, some people may think the decline of the nuclear family is a signal that society is collapsing. Social scientists like me think it’s a welcome move backward. Back to a time when women had far more reproductive choice to something more similar to our hunter gatherer days; more ability to extract resources from the environment and plenty of aloparents around to help.

This family evolution is not without speed bumps though, and this new movement to create a culture where women are more free to be well women is coming in loudly and not without conflict. It’s cloaked in the current women’s rights movement that’s sweeping the planet. And if you listen closely, it’s about women’s rights to attract a mate by how they dress to mother freely and to control the timing of their pregnancies.

[Video Playing 00:29:20]

Female:            A group of mothers staged a unique protest outside the pool. They gathered to nurse their children in a show of solidarity.

Female:            Iran is one of two countries that requires women to cover their head in public.

[Foreign Language 00:29:30]

Female:            Protests against compulsory hijab have gotten bolder this year and they’re all been broadcasted …

Female:            Thousands gathered this morning on Manhattan’s upper west side for the second women’s march on New York City.

Male:               Historic change in Saudi Arabia. Women getting behind the wheel.

Female:            Our politicians don’t have a clue what they’re subjecting women to.

Female:            An incredible amount of activity going on, both in our federal government and across the states to try to close the gender wage gap and to fight pay discrimination. States are especially …

Female:            Last month she announced that she is asking the Federal Election Commission to approve the use of campaign funds for childcare.

[End of Video 00:30:17]

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         It’s a noisy time in our evolution. Humans continue to adapt to the challenges of their environments and find ways to reproduce. Evolutionary psychologists like me never predict the future. I can tell you one thing, we’re in a time of fast paced social change.

In part two of Mothers, MILF’s and Wives, how the females in our species are adapting to our environment. An environment that increasingly involves changing technology from adoption databases to egg freezing to in vitro fertilization, and the very emotional choice of terminating a pregnancy. Cave women bodies are operating in a very high tech age.

Mating Matters is produced in partnership with iHeart Media. It is researched, interviewed and written by me, Dr. Wendy Walsh. And it is edited and produced by Brooke Peterson.

People don’t learn about podcasts usually by just searching around, they learn about a podcast because somebody who loved that podcast told them about it. So, I encourage you to please subscribe, write a review, and more than anything, hit that share button now. Think of somebody who would like to hear this information as much as you enjoyed it.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram at Dr. Wendy Walsh. Listen to Mating Matters on the iHeart Radio app or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thanks for listening, I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh.

Mating Matters Podcast “Survival of the Gayest”

Ever wonder why same sex behavior evolved in our species? I mean, at this point in our evolution, humans still need egg, sperm and a womb to reproduce. But Mother Nature is a perfect planner, and survival of the fittest might also mean survival of the gayest. This is Mating Matters.


Listen to the Podcast Here!

Mating Matters is the podcast that looks at human behavior through a lens of reproduction. I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh and I’ve always been fascinated with the science of love and evolutionary psychology. In recent decades, the great thinkers in evolutionary psychology have expanded Darwin’s original premise. Remember survival of the fittest? You see, Darwin believed that we’re here simply because we learned to survive. He said, we evolved because we learned to adapt to our environment and procure food and shelter often in very harsh conditions.

Pink wedding cake with red roses and lesbian couple on top

Here’s the problem with that simplistic view of evolution. Even if one smarty pants, hunter gatherer, lived a life of fine dining on animal carcasses and outfitted his cave with only the very best animal skins and modern heating called fire – if he or she forgot to reproduce, that caveman is not our ancestor. He may have survived, but he didn’t create descendants. Survival doesn’t ensure that genes stay in evolutions chain.

Now, reproduction, that’s another matter. In evolutionary terms, she who dies with the most grandchildren wins. I believe nearly every human behavior is designed to increase our reproductive odds, but what about homosexual behavior? Why did it evolve? That’s the question I set out to answer in this episode of Mating Matters. Welcome to Survival of the Gayest!

[Audio Playing 00:02:34 to 00:02:44]

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         The multiple award winning performance of Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, the bio pick up Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, depicted a man who seemed to struggle with his sexual identity. He was deeply in love with a woman named Mary, played by Lucy Boynton. And also, had many same sex relationships. In fact, he wrote the song “Love of my Life” for Mary.

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Watching that movie, I at first experienced the feeling that the producers probably intended. Here was a gay man in the 1970s from a conservative immigrant family who was under cultural pressure to act straight and maintain a heterosexual relationship. But the social scientist in me had an inkling of another thought. His lifelong love for Mary was so deep and their attachment so crucial to his feelings of security. What if he was a bisexual man who is under cultural pressure to choose a side, and what percentage of people live with that pressure to be put in one box or another?

Dr. Alfred Kinsey:          “Hello, I’m Dr. Alfred Kinsey from Indiana University and I’m making a study of sex behavior.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         That’s the actor Liam Neeson playing Dr. Alfred Kinsey, in the movie “Kinsey”. Some of the earliest work on sexual behavior was done in the 1940s by this Harvard-trained scientist. In fact, even today, the Kinsey Institute produces some of the most respected research on human sexuality in the world. In the 1940s, Kinsey interviewed thousands of people asking them about their sexual histories and creating something called the “Kinsey Scale”.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:04:31 to 00:05:12]

In a nutshell, the Kinsey Scale looked at two things; sexual fantasies and actual sexual behavior. Kinsey’s hunch was that many gay people were culturally constrained to behave as straight people, yet still might have homosexual fantasies. And Kinsey was right. From these interviews, he created a six-point scale. Someone scoring a one on the Kinsey Scale would be completely heterosexual, meaning all their fantasies and behavior were reported to be heterosexual. At the other end of the scale, someone’s scoring a six would be considered 100% homosexual. Virtually, all their fantasies and sexual behavior was reported to be homosexual. That leaves the rest of us.

You might think that the vast majority of Kinsey’s respondents would have ranked a one or a six. But Kinsey found that most people lie somewhere in the gray area in between. They might have mostly homosexual behavior but experience some heterosexual sexual fantasy or have opposite sex relationships at some point, or they may be mostly straight with some gay fantasies or experience often occurring in young adulthood and adolescents when hormones are high and self-identity is forming.

This man says he had plenty of girlfriends in high school. But one summer home from college, he decided to wander up the beach to an area known as “gay beach”.

Brian:               It was the summer of my freshman year in college and I knew, okay, I’m going to try and kind of explore this a little bit. Without really defining that I was going to do something that day, I knew I was open to walking down the beach to where the gays were. And I happened to notice a guy who was really attractive. That was that. I noticed him. So, anyway, I went out into the surf and soon he actually came out to the surf coincidentally because I don’t think he noticed that I noticed him.

I’m Brian. I am the program director of the new National LGBTQ radio network known as Channel Q. I came to the realization that I was gay at about age 14.

… we reconnected. I went to his house for a barbecue and ultimately as I think the kids would say today, we hooked up.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         If this experience had happened 200 years ago, some historians believe this man might not have “become gay”. Meaning interpreting his sexual behavior as part of his self-identity. The concept of an exclusively gay person is relatively new in our history, say about 150 years. It likely got bundled up with the spread of Western religions who wanted to grow their ranks through reproduction and limit sex for that purpose. Listen to the Mating Matters podcast episode called “The God Who Clubs” for more on that.

In reaction to the negative cultural attitudes toward homosexual behavior, gay eventually became a community, a civil rights movement, a political platform. Harvey Milk, a gay activist in San Francisco was the first openly gay elected official in America when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of supervisors in 1977. The actor Sean Penn, played Harvey Milk in the 2008 movie simply called “Milk”.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:08:27 to 00:09:13]

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Tragically, Harvey Milk was assassinated while in office by another former county supervisor.

Why do you think that in the last 100 to 150 years there’s been this pressure to self-identify as one or the other?

Brian:               Well, I would say maybe perhaps (and this is really just off the top of my head), I think, speaking in modern times, I know once I got out of college and I moved to the Bay Area, San Francisco specifically, there was a need to then identify because there was a political drive behind what I was doing and others were doing. Now, mind you, this was also during the Aids crisis. And so, in order to have a voice and to demand attention in a way, we certainly really were loud and proud about being gay or queer. We took back that word.

And I think there are lots of reasons why as a younger person might want to identify as that because it’s helping them find that voice, that lane, if you will. Which is separating them or shedding that former life of theirs, which is maybe what they thought they might be or what their family expects them to be, which is heterosexual. And so, there’s a need to identify, I think if only to figure it out.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And while there are some who thrive in gay communities, other people in same sex relationships choose to live in conservative, mostly heterosexual suburbs and don’t even take on gay as part of their identity.

Do you self-identify gay?

Female:            No.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Why? Anything?

Female:            I really don’t.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Interesting. Do you have a same sex partner?

Female:            I do. I’ve been with the same partner for 28 years, celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary in July. But yeah, we’ve been together 28 years, and I’m raising two children. They’re adults now though. 24 and 21 – two boys.

So many families tell me all the time, they’re so grateful that like our kids will become friends with their kids and then they find out that my kids being raised by two moms and they kind of have to question their own, bigotry or not. And they’re like, “Okay, is this going to be okay with me? Is it not in?” Then they get to know us and they’re so grateful because they’ve been exposed to something that they had no idea really existed.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Whether you subscribe to the idea that gay is an identity or gay is a behavior, it still doesn’t explain why we as humans evolve to have the behavior. Same sex relationships are seen in all primates and all human cultures throughout all human history. Napoleonic friendship is a term that refers to special bonds of friendship that grow between men in a homo social environment like the army. Yet at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a reproductive benefit.

You should know that there are other sexual behaviors shunned across human cultures because they don’t positively impact reproduction. Take incest, for example, sex between siblings is generally taboo in all human cultures, but not same sex behaviors between strangers. Why would this be? Anthropologists have often pointed to the gay uncle or gay aunt theory. In our anthropological past, if a mother had an extra child free-adult around to help with her own children, especially one with a biological interest in protecting them, more of her children would have survived to adulthood and gone on to have babies themselves.

The theory is that gay uncles and gay aunties often called “alloparents” also nurtured their own genes, and those genes flourished in their nieces and nephews. Thus, the gay gene if there is such a thing, would have stayed in evolution’s chain.

Sounds like a good theory, but here’s a more impactful one. Remember Kinsey and his scale? All of his data came from self-reports. If there’s one thing people often lie about, it’s sex. There’s just too much judgment and made up stigma around sexuality. Nevertheless, very few people reported being exclusively gay or exclusively heterosexual. The vast majority of gay people he interviewed also had had heterosexual relationships at some point in their lives. Often because getting married and having kids was the only thing allowed. Sometimes, homosexuality was downright illegal and even dangerous.

Besides the helpful gay uncle theory, evolutionary psychologists remind us that “gay people” are also reproducing and passing on their genes that might include an affinity for same sex behavior. That certainly makes a lot of sense. And all of the gay people we interviewed also said they’d had heterosexual relationships. Not always because of cultural pressure, but just because they enjoyed them.

Male:               I was quite the lady’s man. I had a girlfriend after girlfriend after girlfriend, and was happily engaged in that activity because it’s what I knew.

Male:               I have had sex with women. My first sexual experience was with a woman at age 12. She was 15. Yeah, and then shortly thereafter when I was about 15 or 16, is my first sexual experience with a man. To be that way, it’s more fluid for me than necessarily being a wholly identifying homosexual male.

Female:            Some days, I will be very into women, but then I’ll see a cute boy walking down the street and I’ll be like, “Oh, he’s so cute. Even though I was with a girl yesterday.”

Female:            I didn’t even really have an experience with a woman until I was 22, I suppose. And it never crossed my mind that I would ever find women attractive. I find men very physically attractive. And then so I always tell people, “I fell in love with the person.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         But there’s much more to the story of survival of the gayest, and for that, we turn to gender role and gender expression. Here’s a fun fact about gay men that might surprise you. The more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. One researcher has even isolated the biological underpinnings for this phenomenon.

Tony Bogaert:   My name is Tony Bogaert. I’m a professor of Health Sciences and Psychology at Brock University in the Niagara Region of Canada, and I do research and teach related to human sexuality.

In 1996, Ray Blanchard and I actually conducted the first study demonstrating that on average, gay men do have more older brothers than do heterosexual men. And we were perplexed by that. We thought that was very interesting and we ended up replicating it in a number of other samples including the original Kinsey sample. Then other people actually ended up replicating. And in fact, it’s been replicated cross culturally as well.

So, it’s one of the more consistent, reliable findings in sexology. We didn’t have a mechanism for why that was though. So, we were unsure about why that was the case. And so, I actually ended up doing lab work with immunologists. And just recently, we published a study that in fact suggest very strongly that the older brother effect is in fact biological, in fact immunological in nature. That a mother develops an immune reaction to a protein that’s male oriented. So, she herself is female and male fetuses have certain biological structures that are very foreign to her. And therefore, she may end up developing an immune reaction to it. And it becomes increasingly likely with each male fetus that she in fact will develop an immune reaction against that male protein.

And once she does, what ends up happening is it alters brain development and makes later born males more likely to end up having certain mechanisms in the brain that end up making them more likely to be attracted to men as opposed to women.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         So, it’s almost like the more men she’s had in her body, her body says, “You know, the next one, let’s make it a little more female?”

Tony Bogart:     Kind of, yeah.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And how many siblings do you have?

Brian:               I am the youngest of five. So, there are two sisters and two brothers.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         All this research makes me think, could a gay little brother be helpful for families? After all, reproductive strength is a family affair. Could Mother Nature be manufacturing, strong, caring siblings who might not reproduce? Well, Mother Nature may do it sometimes biologically, but there’s at least one group that does it culturally. Meet the Fa’afafine of Samoa – a third gender group of people who are born biologically male but prefer female dress and gender roles, and are very dedicated to their families.

Male:               Fa’afafine, they are now staying home, helping up the family and helping the people, sisters and brothers and you better do your own thing so your family will keep contact with you all the time.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         A popular western theory is that when a Samoan mother gives birth to too many sons, the family raises the youngest son as a girl to help with the labor. Although this idea has been disputed.

Male:               Sisters and brothers develop like awhile because they have kids. The Fa’afafine in me has to stay home, care my mother and my dad because I have no kids.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         These special community members are considered a third gender. They are also reported to only have sex with nonb- Fa’afafine men. They are accepted and today some even take hormones so they can breastfeed younger siblings.

But wait, as you can hear, I’m mixing up sexual orientation with gender role and gender identity. These are three distinct concepts. They aren’t necessarily connected. Just because you can see someone’s gender expression, doesn’t mean you know who they sleep with. However, I noticed that when I asked the mostly self-identifying gay people in our studio about their sexual identity, they almost always tied it to gender role.

Brian:               I’m married to really a traditional guy’s guy. He knows what to do with the hammer and nails. Well, he’s a rocket scientist so that helps. But he’s very even keel … I would come to expect in a man. He is very protective. I know that no matter what, we’re always going to be safe and sound with Dr. Steve around.

I on the other hand, I’m much more emotional that we attribute that with women oftentimes. I know how to make things look pretty. He knows how to make them work.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         It sounds like your definition of gay identity is also intertwined with gender identity.

Brian:               Correct.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And so, do you think that this sort of forcing people into a gender pigeon hole has led the way into making them go into a sexual orientation pigeon hole?

Male:               I think that’s a really good evaluation. I think the best tangible entity for that, we are raised filling out forms from a very young age, and there have always been a male or a female box to tick off or to check. And it is really hard because it takes a certain amount of self-awareness to identify that maybe I don’t necessarily fall into those.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         When you see someone’s gender expression, how masculine or feminine they may dress and groom themselves and you notice the gender roles they prefer – are they a tidy housekeeper? Do they love to work with power tools? This may not be a predictor of their sexual orientation, but stereotypes exist. And stereotypes exist because enough examples are noticed that the culture generalizes it to all members of the group.

You’ve heard the stereotypes about gay people. Gay men decorate well, they are cleaner. Gay women are handy around the house. Speaking of that stereotype, I’m a landlady and once I had a gay woman tenant who owned her own tool belt. She was an amazing tenant, never called me once for a fix-it.

I had the good fortune of finding a tenant who happened to match the stereotype. Okay, hold that thought for a moment. That gender role and gender identity are stereotypically linked to sexual orientation.

First, we need to talk about peacocks. Male peafowl known as peacocks have indisputably the most beautiful tails of any bird species. They shimmy and shake it to a full fan spread of glory. It’s three times the size of their body. The large green and blue plumage when fully expanded, is a wonder to behold and a dangerous burden when it comes to fleeing from predators.

Peacocks lug around this enormous tail. They have to procure enough calories to maintain it, and they’re at a huge disadvantage against those who want to eat them. In short, their tail has no survival value. In fact, it’s a handicap. So, why would Mother Nature have created it? For one simple reason – it drives ladies wild. Enough peahens chose fancy tailed mates in the past that the trait became dominant in all males across the species. It’s a big drag that functions as a chick magnet.

Okay, so let’s go back to that stereotype of gay men being cleaner, kinder, more nurturing, and great housekeepers. Could women have selected them for mates because they’re prettier and neater? It’s called “the beauty happens” theory. And it says that females love select ornamentation as a signaler of good genes. Did enough women choose those “gay” traits in men because it made relationships more harmonious? houses easier to tend to and children easier to raise? And then homosexual behavior came along for the ride?

Of course, homosexual behavior might not increase vulnerability to predators like a peacock’s tail does. It’s not exactly a handicap until you consider that in some cultures, people who live openly gay live under a real threat of violence.

Male:               We weren’t like acting crazy. We weren’t like drinking. We were just walking back to our car after we had a great night with our friends.

Female:            That’s when they say a man walked past them saying a homophobic slur. Next, the man and his group of friends follow the couple yelling more expletives, then getting violent.

Male:               And that’s when Tristan took the first punch directly to his face. And that is what broke his nose. He took two or three more punches. And then he was down on the ground motionless and he took a very hard kick to the back of his head.

Female:            Spencer says, he lunged at the attackers, but they immediately started punching him in the head, leaving him unconscious.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         For another theory, let’s turn to ornithologist, yes, the study of birds, including gay birds, Richard Prom at Yale University. He believes that same sex relationships were designed to help females move more freely and safely, a kind of protection for women. Dr. Prom explains this in his big think talk that you can find on YouTube or read his book, “The Evolution of Beauty” and judge for yourself.

Dr. Richard Prum:          In the case of female, female sexual relationships, they could contribute to female alliances that could protect females from sexual coercion by male hierarchical groups. At the same time, I propose that male, male sexual attraction could have evolved because any social situation in which males have multiple sexual outlets, would have contributed to female freedom to move among the individuals in that social system and to avoid coercion and sexual violence.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         But there’s something else about primates you should know. And this idea aligns with Dr. Prum’s idea. We all practice grooming, whether it’s a chimpanzee picking insects out of each other’s fur, or the stroking and preening that goes on in every primate social circle, often in exchange for food. In modern humans, this primate grooming habit has become commercialized in hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, spas and massage parlors. And rather than exchanging food, we give the groomers money to presumably purchase their own food. And we know that touch is good for us. It releases dopamine, oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and it lowers cortisol levels and improves immune function.

Male:               As silly as it sounds, you’ve got this new trend with millennial men of cuddling. Two men cuddling that have nothing to do with. They are totally boning down with the ladies or whatever they want to say, but because they are close with their male friends, there’s an affection level.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And affection can become sexual. Homosexual behavior can also be seen as a form of caregiving, a pleasurable form of grooming. In Bonobos, who we share 98% of our DNA with, young females often pleasure the older higher status females so that when men return with more protein to the nest, the higher status women will share. In fact, Bonobos are famous for using sex for just about everything. It’s a substitute for aggression. Bonobos have sex in virtually every partner combination except close family members, and females use it politically. All this makes me think about the award winning film, “The Favorite”.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:27:34 to 00:27:50]

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         The Favorite, the story of competitive feuding con sorts of a mentally and physically disabled Queen Anne played by Olivia Colman. And yes, in the film, both women serve the queen sexually. One woman played by Rachel Vice was married to a military leader and used her favor with the Queen to sway the war. The other played by Emma Stone had fallen into a lower status and used her attentions from the Queen to elevate herself back into society through the Queen’s granting of a wedding to a gentleman. A wedding that came with a royal apartment.

In her case, homosexual behavior granted her access to a higher status mate for reproduction and increased the chances that she and her offspring would survive. Were the women in the favorite gay or did they practice exceptional grooming and caregiving? Was it simply a case of situational homosexuality that can increase survival chances? Think about it. Situational homosexuality has been observed in all kinds of settings throughout history, within military ranks, same sex boarding schools, convents, monasteries, and most notoriously in prisons.

Humans are wired to bond. We need each other for health, safety and survival. Humans use sex as an exchange of care as much as a route to reproduction. Most gay people have also had some heterosexual behavior. Only a few are exclusively gay across their entire lifespan.

Brian:               My husband, for instance, is what we call “a gold star” gay. He is on the extreme end of the Kinsey scale where he’s never had sex with a woman, has no interest in it, it doesn’t cross his mind, would never cross his mind.

Male:               I’m not a gold card or a platinum gay if you’re familiar with either of these terms. Gold card meaning that you’ve never had sex with a woman. Platinum meaning you were born by cesarean section, so you’ve never had any proximity to a vagina.

Brian:               I’m just learning about true bisexuality with some new friends who are that, and it really does exist. Before you always thought, “Well is that just your way of trying to get to the truth or acceptance that you’re really gay?” No, actually it’s not. Some people are capable of loving and having sex with both.

Male:               Sex with a woman for me is fulfilling in a more nurturing and soft way. There’s a different connection. There’s also maybe more abstract, but when you’re having vaginal sex, there’s an intake. But with a woman it’s much softer. There’s definitely almost like – this maybe not received well, but it’s like a mother’s embrace, having vaginal sex. There’s a definite different emotional connection.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And don’t forget that some of the same traits that gay males have stereotypically speaking of course (being cleaner, better groomed) are also traits that women tend to choose for reproduction. Then it makes sense that gay behavior would stay constant in our culture.

Finally, gay as an identity is a relatively new concept in human evolution. For centuries, people married and had kids despite a grayish sexuality. They didn’t necessarily choose to limit or alter their lives that much. In fact, today’s millennials see sexuality as something more fluid.

Female:            I think it’s just hard because there’s such pressure to fit yourself into boxes, but reality is not like that. Like it’s always a gray area. No one ever perfectly fits into a box.

Male:               There’s a fluidity to sexuality and it doesn’t matter where you fall on that spectrum. We’re not going to play the Kinsey Scale game, but if you are a man who is masculine identifying and you find another man attractive, it does not mean that you’re a homosexual. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find them attractive and find some arousal in it. It’s just one of those spectrum things.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Well, millennials need not worry for long about being forced into a gay box or a straight box. These days, sexual identity has exploded into a long list of sexual identity categories for any individual. Take your pick. There’s heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, gay, lesbian, queer, questioning, asexual, a romantic. Honestly, I’m not making this up. Look it up.

Why did homosexuality evolve in our species? Well, whether you subscribe to the helpful gay aunt or uncle theory or the need for someone to fulfill both gender roles in a sex-based division of labor, like the Fa’afafine or that gay little brother idea phenomenon, or you get the sexist behavior used for much more than reproduction – it’s clear that there are many, many reasons why mother nature designed us the way she did. Sex evolved in primates, not only as a mechanism for reproduction, sex is also an exchange of care. It can grant you access to higher status mates for reproduction and offspring survival. For all those reasons, not only has gay survived, but maybe it’s actually survival of the gayest.

Mating Matters is produced in partnership with iHeart Media. It is researched, interviewed and written by me, Dr. Wendy Walsh. And it is edited and produced by Brooke Peterson. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram at Dr. Wendy Walsh. You know people don’t learn about podcasts usually by just searching around. They learn about a podcast because somebody who loved that podcast told them about it. So, I encourage you to please subscribe, write a review, and more than anything, hit that share button now. Think of somebody who would like to hear this information as much as you enjoyed it. Thanks for listening. I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh.

Listen to the Next Episode Here!

Mating Matters Podcast “Sexy Money”

Why do men make money? I know. We think it’s so they can have a comfortable living. But, I think it’s so they can have access to women. Sexy money! The price of sex.


Listen to Mating Matters Here!

Welcome to Mating Matters. I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh. In this episode, “Sexy Money”, you’ll learn how the pursuit of money is really a pursuit of sexual partners for men. And that when women make a lot of money, it can hurt their reproductive opportunities, unless they live in a matriarchal society and have what’s called a “walking marriage”. But even in a patriarchal society, the price of sex goes up and down depending on cultural supply. And today, we’re in a high supply sexual economy. This is Sexy Money!

Dollar bills and finance and banking on digital stock market financial exchange

[Song Playing 00:01:23 to 00:01:32]

Money, Money, Money – a song released by the Uber Famous Swedish pop group ABBA in 1976, basically sums up the dilemma of so many females working hard under a patriarchal system, but never seeming to get ahead. The dream of a Cinderella fantasy. It permeates our culture, a financial rescue.

Whether it’s Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born, or the many, many actresses who have tried on a glass slipper in all the remakes of Cinderella, female mating strategy seems to involve one of two choices; toil away and hope for true love or get a big time rescue by an alpha male. Of course, in the fairytale fantasy, it’s always both; true love and a financial windfall.

Here’s Julia Roberts as a lovable small town girl turned prostitute in the movie, Pretty Woman and Richard Gere negotiating the price of her company for six days. Spoiler alert, it turns out to be a lifetime of company when they fall in love or so audiences are led to believe.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:02:41 to 00:03:05]

Movies aside, in real life, does sex have a price? I mean, we all know that some women charge for sex as professionals, but what about the sex that happens in relationships? I know it seems kind of immoral to think that love has a price tag or that women actually sell dating sex. But anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists believe that unconsciously, there’s a market value of reproduction. Whether one is paying for dates or displaying large wasteful resources like fancy cars and houses or buying absolutely wasteful gifts like diamonds, sex has a price.

Women realize that there’s a cost to reproduction. Let’s start with the risks associated with pregnancy or labor and delivery. Until the advent of modern medicine, many women died in childbirth. And oh yeah, there’s the cost of feeding and sheltering a child until they grow up. Thus, whether men know it or not, sex has a price. It may be monetary or it may be the very high price of care and commitment, but love is costly.

Here’s why. Human males generally want sex more than human females because the cost of sex is so high for women, especially if they choose the wrong sexual partner. For women, the clear risks are threefold. One, because of a female’s unique biology, women are more likely than men to contract a sexually transmitted disease. Two, because most women’s bodies produce high amounts of the bonding hormone, oxytocin, during female orgasm, women are more likely to fall in love through sex. Hint – ladies, men don’t fall in love through sex, they fall in love through trust.

And three, as I mentioned, women are far more likely to contract an 18-year case of parenthood. For men, the cost of choosing the wrong sexual partner is one lousy night that he can forget about quickly.

Amy Adams:     “I can’t go to a big Ivy League school and I can’t run a company or be mayor. That’s just the way the world is for a girl. I need you. And right now you are a big fat piss soaked zero.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         That was Amy Adams playing Lynne Cheney in the movie “Vice”. That was a woman’s angst in the early 1960s. Historically, women had to be choosy. Picking the wrong dude to mate with could result in poverty and starving children. That’s why if he wasted resources on her, she could be assured of his commitment and his ability to provide more resources if he ran out.

Now, think about this in behavioral economics terms. Remember, your economics 101 class? When something declines in supply, the price goes up. When something rises in supply, the price goes down. If women want less sex than men and are choosy with who they mate with, they keep the supply low and the price of sex is high.

Back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the price of sex was about six months of courtship where men had to sacrifice a lot and compete with other men to win a woman’s favor. And then pay big time at an altar with a wedding. But in recent decades, sociologists have begun to notice a trend. The price of sex is going down. They suggest this is because of two factors. One, the physical risks of sex are reducing and two, female competition for mates is increasing.

How did sex get less risky for women? Well, let’s start with modern medicine that made childbirth less dangerous. And then in 1962, there was the introduction of the birth control pill.

Female:            “This is my husband Mark. We’re going to have three beautiful children and live happily ever after in Paris someday. But for now, I’m on the pill.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Besides medical advances, another great thing happened in the 1970s and 80s. Women entered the workforce in droves and finally had their own money as a buffer against poverty. With that insurance policy in place in the 1970s and 80s, women began to enjoy the pleasure of their own bodies and have sex because it felt good and it was fun. And they worried less that motherhood would throw them into poverty. Thus, sex began to rise in supply and the price begun to drop.

Remember the price of sex that used to be six months of courtship and a wedding back in the 1950s? Well, by the 1980s, the price of sex had dropped to the cost of the three expensive dates. It was an unspoken rule. It was called the “Three Date Rule”.

Male:               I’ve been married for 33 years and the last time I dated was 33 years ago.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         That would have been 1986 when the price of sex was still three long evenings.

Male:               There were a few times when I would go out with a girl and the first time, yeah, nothing would happen. The second time, you’d try to do something. Maybe you’d like, in the movies, you’d lean back and kind of yawn and put your arms out and put your arm around her. And then the third date, if you did that, she snuggled up with you, you would know, “Oh, this is going somewhere.”

Female:            I’ve known my husband for 25 years. We have been together for 19 and we’ve been married for nine. The three date rule is you never wanted to have sex on a first date. I mean, that was my own thing too. Is I never wanted to have sex with anybody on a first date because I wanted to one, see what kind of person they were. And you couldn’t really tell that always from a first date. So, the second date was for me, used to kind of figure out even more who the person was. Like how did they react when I called back? Did they call me back right away? Did they give me that attention that I was looking for? And then by the third date, I think I felt I knew people well enough where if I wanted to have sex on the third date, I would have been very comfortable doing so.

Male:               The three dates is kind of like the expectation that you spent enough time with this person, you’ve gotten to know them and now you want to see them naked. I think it was an expectation on both of our parts because we’re both there, we’re both into each other. We’re both at that third date kind of goal, I guess you could say. And we’re like, “Okay, this is the time to move on.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And I mentioned more competition from women. Here’s the other problem for women. When all the women lower their price for sex and enter a mating marketplace, that includes competition from online pornography and an endless stream of beauties on dating apps, the cost of sex drops to the bargain basement price of one, well-worded text. Here are the words that this young man in his 20s puts in a text in order to woo a woman.

Male:               Come over – but maybe I would add something beforehand. Like, “Hey, what’s going on? What you’re doing today? You free tonight? Like, yo, come over. I want to hang out.” She usually knows what the deal is. I’ll say, “Come over.” And she’ll say, “Yeah,” and it’ll be an implied like booty call.

Female:            I’m 30-years-old, single, living in Los Angeles with a dog and a pretty well-paying job and a ton of friends. Courtship has been a little nonexistent or has gotten more few and far between, I think with the men kind of in the dating scene, especially in LA. And it’s really kind of been boiled down to maybe a dinner, maybe a movie. And if you’re not willing to have sex at that point, then it’s kind of onto the next. I don’t think I’ve had a guy call me and ask for a date in probably six or seven years. A lot of it is through social media now, whether that’s Snapchat or Instagram, where they’ll just write you a message through your social media channel and compliment you and ask if you want to meet up that night.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And women are apparently on call for cheap sex at almost any hour. When asked, what is the latest time the young man we interviewed would text a woman for sex, keeping with the times, he’s kind of shameless.

Male:               Because like going out and drinking and stuff. The bar closes like two, so maybe like 2:30.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Compare that to the 1980s when dating was expensive for men.

Male:               In the 80s, you still felt like as a man or as a young man, that it was up to you to be the “provider” and when somebody else gave you the money, it’s just sort of, it almost took away the power that you had, I think. Because if you paid, then you kind of felt like she owed you.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         But looking at the new sexual economy, using an old lens, may sound like sage advice. However, it might not work if the female to female competition is high. If your friends are putting out and your boyfriend is exposed to an endless array of filtered beauties on Instagram, and many, many virtual sex partners on porn sites, this is who your new competition is. And the old advice may not work anymore.

Female:            I think that’s maddening for them not to connect that because they had sex on a first date that this is why a guy doesn’t want to commit. I hear this from lots of friends, especially when I was younger, who would be like, “I can’t get this guy to call me back.” It’s like, “Well, you had sex with them on the first date. What do you expect? He doesn’t need to call you back. He already got what he wanted and when he wants it again, that’s when he’ll give you a call because you’re waiting for him to call.” They think they’re trying to get a relationship, but they’re doing all the wrong things.

Mark Regnerus: My name is Mark Regnerus. I’m the professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. And I’m the author of Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy. We’re talking about the price of sex here. So, when the price of sex diminishes via a form of technology – and so, the book talks about the birth control pill, pornography, online dating, all three kinds of technologies. When those diminish the price of sex, men are more able to sort of command kind of the price that they want, right?

Female:            I mean, men can kind of get by with the happy hour budget or a couple of cocktails, really. Maybe a dinner. I’m newly dating someone and even just getting him to take me out to a movie has been a challenge.

Mark Regnerus: I mean, we’re speaking about very economic terms. We can slather on top of that all sorts of romance and wooing, etcetera. But when it comes right down to it, men have not changed fundamentally for a very, very long time. What has changed and fairly recently, is the ease with which they can access what we call high-quality sexual experiences.

Female:            You can attract a woman through Tinder. You can attract a woman through just four or five photos of yourself. You don’t really need to have all of the glitz and glam. It’s just, are you relatively good looking, are you bangable.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And when men can access high sexual experiences, Dr. Mark Regnerus says they lose the ability to commit. After all, men don’t have a fertility window. The advantage in the race to procreate now lies with men.

Mark Regnerus: It really pushes women in a corner of like, they’re the ones who have to compete with each other for his attention. Even though his quality sort of objectively speaking, maybe notably lower than in the generation before them. And I think it’s arguable that men have not improved lately, and that this sort of lowering of the cost of sex has not improved men, it’s turned them more boorish, and at the same time maddeningly, it gives them control over the pace of the relationship.

Female:            No, I definitely feel a pressure to have sex early on because of that fertility window. I’m 30-years-old and haven’t had a child at this point in my life, and I feel that if I don’t present myself in a way sexually that’s desirable early on, then they’ll get bored. They’ll move on and find somebody else.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Anthropologists have long known that when women are economically disadvantaged, marriage rates go up. More children are born into wedlock, virginity is coveted and oh yeah, prostitution rates go way up too. That’s because when women are economically disadvantaged, they’re forced to negotiate with their most valuable asset – their vagina. So, they either maintain their virginity and ask a man to sign on the dotted line and agree to support them and any offspring in a contract called marriage, or they rent it by the hour.

Here’s another scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts plays that lovable prostitute and her colleague played by Laura San Giacomo discuss the power they feel when negotiating for sex.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:16:45 to 00:17:00]

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         But in a high supply sexual economy, according to Regnerus, women have lost their bargaining chip.

Mark Regnerus: So, when you think about technology, she gets control over fertility with the advent and the uptake of contraception. So, she gets the control over how many children she has and when. He gets control in exchange for how quickly is sex introduced into this relationship.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And the latest research shows that the dream of fertility control with the birth control pill is also starting to crumble.

News Anchor:   “In this morning’s health watch, birth control pills and blood clots. The hormones and oral contraceptives are what makes them work. But over the years, side effects have become a big concern. Now as Dr. Jennifer Ashtyn reports, one particular type of the pill, maybe linked to some new problems. Problems that can be deadly.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Technology certainly adds to the problems for women. Pornography and online dating have made finding a suitable mate tricky.

Mark Regnerus: And then you introduce sort of high technology digital porn, which is like, “Wow, now I can have an almost sexual partner right in the same room with me. I can be in one relationship in reality. I can be in virtual relationships in the sort of unreality at the same time.”

She wants his monogamous attentions. He’s like, “You have my monogamous real life behavior with a real human being.” She’s like, “No, that’s not good enough.” He’s like, “Well, that’s what you’re going to have to settle for.”

The advent of pornography and its increasing digitalization and quality sort of really provides competition for her.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And all this competition means dating becomes expensive for women. Even when the prize is an immature boy who fails to man up.

Female:            I get my nails done every other week. So, that’s about $80. As far as hair, hair is about $400 every six weeks. The budget, probably a good 200, $300 a month. I would say my dating budget between Yoga classes and shopping in upwards of $1,000.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         As for single men, the one we interviewed says he spends not more than 30 to $60 a month on dating. And that’s the odd movie. If he has to take a date out.

Male:               To be honest, it’s usually not like that. It’s usually just like come over. Maybe I’ll have drinks at the house if that’s what they ask for. If they request like, “Yo, you got anything to drink? I would love to have a drink when I come over.” Like okay, I’ll go buy a drink. I don’t want to sound like a perv or like a mean dude, but that’s usually just how it goes.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         So, is there a way to game the new system? Here’s an idea. What if women had total economic power and men needed us for support? We’re certainly seeing a culture of young men who seem to be failing to launch.

Mark Regnerus: When we think about online dating as another technology, I mean who would have ever thought of people sending pictures of their genitalia, men sending pictures of their genitalia to women and thinking this is somehow attractive?

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         In fact, some sociologists say that when men don’t have to work for sex, they lose career ambition. Could women pick up the slack? Research shows that there are a couple problems with the “Sugar Mommy” ideal. The first is that when men make less money than their wives, they’re more likely to cheat.

In the movie Crazy Rich Asians, a rare Hollywood take on a matriarchal family system, the wealthy and beautiful Eris Astrid played by Gemma Chan hides most of her luxury purchases, including expensive jewelry so her husband who has far less money can still feel manly. But it doesn’t work. She discovers he’s having an affair anyway.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:20:42 to 00:20:56]

The second problem for the “Sugar Mommy” ideal is that women tend to not to choose men who make less money than them. Researcher Fiona Moore from the University of Abertay Dundee is a sociologist and coined a term called the “George Clooney” effect. Her study showed that the more education and money a woman has, the more she wants her man to be even older, wiser and richer like George Clooney. I mean, we all want a date George Clooney, don’t we?

This of course has angered many men, many good men who might be considered to be lower status mates. You could suggest that this trend has given rise to a group of violent men who call themselves “involuntarily celibate” or “incels”.

Male:               “In 2014, Roger murdered six people in a killing spree near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. Before the attack, Roger recorded a video saying he wanted to punish women for rejecting him.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         But what would happen if all the men could make the same amount of money? Who would women choose? While a study like this would be kind of impossible to stage in a human society, monkeys can be researched.

A group of researchers from Germany; Barbara Tiddi and Michael Heistermann, the UK, Brandon Wheeler and Nigeria, Martin Fahy, set out to study resource-based mating systems. That means a mating system where the males defend and protect the resources needed for mating. In other primates, that might mean nesting sites and food. In homo sapiens (that’s us) that means money. Men protect their money from women.

The researchers used a primate cousin of ours, wild capuchin monkeys. You know them as the famous organ grinder monkeys. The studies monkeys were living in the wild in Iguazu National Park in Argentina. The researchers had a question. What if lower ranking males had equal ability to procure and share food with females? Would females prefer a different kind of guy than the standard alpha male? But in human terms, what if a nice guy, trash collector earned the same amount of money as say, a professional athlete?

The researchers manipulated the environment of one community of capuchin monkeys. They limited the access by alpha males to some resources and increased the ability of lower ranking males to procure food and nesting sites. Think bank accounts and nice houses, ladies. What the researchers found is that even though all the males became equally rich, the females still preferred the alpha males to have sex with.

Hmm. Let’s think about this. Certainly this could be because this preference for alpha dudes is hardwired in female DNA (at least in capuchin monkeys) and it may take many generations to evolve out of women. In other words, since capuchin females showed a super strong preference for yummy alpha males in their anthropological past, and even just before the study was mounted, they may lack something that evolutionary psychologists call “behavioral plasticity”.

Changes in ingrained behavior take time, often many generations. But the researchers think there’s another thing at play here too. Another study on this same group of monkeys found that alpha males are the most socially integrated. They are the big man on campus, and when women hang out with them, besides food, they get community wide protection from predators. In other words, don’t mess with the CEO’s wife. Keep her safe and it’ll help you rise up the ranks.

Of course, human beings are different. We have a wide range of mating strategies. Plenty of guys are able to obtain sex and long-term mates by just being a good person. Offering care and commitment.

Male:               A date is not an exchange of goods. It’s an exchange of communication. It’s an exchange of experience between you and another person. It’s not something that you’re trying to say, “I think you’re worth $100 lobster dinner.” It’s, “I think you’re cute. I think you’re cool. Let’s go out and talk and see if there’s anything more to this.” That’s how I’ve always felt myself as far as dating is supposed to actually be.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         So, if making all men rich doesn’t fix the sexual economy, what about making all women rich? Think about it. If women owned the resources, men would have to be nice so they could survive and have sex. And women wouldn’t need to hope for a wedding and an altar for their survival. It’s called a matriarchal society and yep, there are a few on the planet today.

For instance, the Mosuo who live near the border of Tibet. These people live in large family households. Children take the mother’s name and they always remain in their mother’s care. Property is passed down between females. These women have something called “walking marriages”. Women choose their partners by literally walking into a dude’s home when they want to have sex.

In the Nagovisi people of New Guinea, if a couple of just hangs out enough and the man helps the woman in her garden, for all intents and purposes, they’re considered married. All this makes me think is modern western culture becoming more matriarchal? If women can’t get men to commit his time and resources to his offspring, then the village needs to change the rules.

Female:            And I’m someone who is relatively open-minded when it comes to traditional versus nontraditional. I mean traditional is safe, but nontraditional works fine too. But I think all in all, that’s just kind of the way that society is moving where women can adopt and should they choose to have a family, they can do it on their own and because they’re financially more stable, a man isn’t really needed and thank God for sex toys.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         More than 40% of American children are born out of wedlock. That’s been going on for a few decades. And one in four children are being raised by a single mother. If she is to survive, she needs help from the village. Look no further than our current women’s rights initiative, the fight for women’s reproductive rights; equal pay, subsidized childcare, and even the MeToo Movement. They’re all designed to reduce the financial burden of motherhood.

And while you may think that men fear this kind of female power (equal pay free childcare and complete control over their reproductive rights), think again. Could you imagine a world where sex was plentiful and low cost for men and they never had to work? I think some men might like this – “Walking marriage, anyone? I’ve got a garden I need some help with.”

Of course there’s another solution. Men could learn to slow down the pace of the sexual relationship in order to get the benefits of a whole relationship. Remember the man who was last dating during the 1980s when the three date rule was the social norm? Well, now he’s a father of sons in their 20s.

Male:               In today’s hookup culture, I think young men are missing out on the opportunity to get to know somebody and get to know the quirks that really make life fun. And that’s one thing I try to tell my boys. It’s like, “You need to spend time to make a foundation.” So, I think you’re missing out on building a foundation when you’re just looking at a woman, as just a vessel for sex.

Mark Regnerus: We’ve been so socialized today to expect like, “Oh, now what do I have to do if I’m a woman? Like I have to nurture his ego. I have to please him somehow. I have to give back for the investment that he’s doing in this nascent beginning relationship.” And I don’t think she has to do any of those things. He should be the one who’s doing the wooing.

So, it’s not so much that she needs to change. She needs to sort of live into what she has long wanted, which is to be treated well with respect and dignity and security. And if she expects that from him, some men will give it. Not all men, but some men. And she’ll more quickly go through the process of figuring out which men those are because they’re still out there.

Male:               I just feel like when you’re on that app for the sole purpose of sex, that’s all you’re ever going to get out of life. You’re not going to get any kind of love. You’re not going to get any kind of companionship. You’re not going to get any kind of like the little things that make having a relationship actually worth it beyond the sex. Sex is fun, but that’s like 10% of your relationship.

Female:            A relationship life plan? I’d like to say that I do, but I really don’t. I really don’t. I mean, sure, I have relationship ideals, but at the end of the day, I’ve kind of let go of any expectations because I feel like it’s safer to let go of those expectations than it is to kind of be clawing at something that may or may not happen.

Mark Regnerus: We have to kind of reacquire the sort of idea of a cartel among women. We hang together or we all hang separately, right? It’s power in numbers where we can sort of demand better treatment for men.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Human beings have survived because we are amazing problem solvers, and we are constantly solving the problems presented to us by our environment. In our ancient past, those problems could have included a drought that led to a famine. In today’s times, the problem presented to many, many women is that we are in a high supply sexual economy, and there is an oversupply of successful women and an undersupply of what many would consider to be marriageable men.

How are women solving these problems? They’re doing it all kinds of ways. They’re becoming single mothers. And we know that more than 40% of American babies for the last few decades have been born out of wedlock. They’re doing it in same sex relationships. They may be adopting babies, they may be freezing their eggs to expand their fertility window a little bit longer, but some women are solving the problem simply by raising the price of sex with them. That means they’re charging the highest price possible for sex, and that is care and commitment, and men will pressure to obtain sex. They’ll say, “Well, if I don’t get it from you, I’ll get it from somebody else.” I would venture to say that a woman’s response every single time should be, “I don’t think you can get sex with me from somebody else.”

When a guy leaves because he’s not willing to do the work of building an emotional connection with you, then you should count your lucky stars. Because the process of finding one good partner is really a process about eliminating hundreds of them. Love is as much about strategy as luck.

[Song Playing 00:32:26 to 00:32:40]

Thanks for listening to Mating Matters. Up next; Survival of the Gayest! Is gay an identity or a behavior? How do we evolve to have gay people? I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh.

Mating Matters is coproduced with iHeart Media. It is produced, researched, and written by me, Dr. Wendy Walsh, and it is edited and produced by Brooke Peterson. You can follow us on social media at Dr. Wendy Walsh. Please share this podcast with a friend. It’s the only way that people find out about podcasts. So, please tell somebody about it if you liked what you heard. And don’t forget to write a review, it makes a big difference, and it’s really good karma.

Listen to the Next Episode Here!


Mating Matters Podcast “What is Love?”

What is love? It’s the eternal question. Love is an interesting combination of psychology, biology, and sociology. It’s also, our favorite drug. This is Mating Matters.


Listen to the Full Podcast Here!

Art imitates life, and perhaps nobody knows love better than Hollywood. The science of falling in love involves biological, social, and psychological mechanisms.

Hi, I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh. And on this episode of Mating Matters, let’s break down the underpinnings of everybody’s favorite drug; love, using vibrant examples from our favorite movies.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:01:20 to 00:01:28]

That famous scene of Mr. Darcy’s profession of love to Elizabeth Bennet from the movie Pride & Prejudice, is one that makes moviegoers heart swoon. And in this scene, you might think that both Darcy (played by Matthew Macfadyen) and Elizabeth (played by Keira Knightley) are feeling the same deep feelings for each other. Think, again, I guarantee they were having very different experiences of love.

All love affairs, even unrequited ones have a unique recipe made with biological, sociological and psychological ingredients. And no two people experience love the same way. For most people, love feels darn good. For others, love can be terrifying. And still others, love might feel irritating.

No matter how love feels, it’s definitely a bonding mechanism. That’s why according to anthropologists, love evolved in the first place to keep humans together long enough to procreate. And maybe, even long enough to nurture offspring together.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:02:39 to 00:02:50]

From William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, written around 1600 and depicted here in the 1968 movie, to far back as Adam and Eve, human stories, art, music, poems, and movies are riddled with the emotion we call love.

The late Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society explains why.

Robin Williams: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love – these are what we stay alive for.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         No doubt about it. Love is the most effective drug we have. It can control pain, it can make problems disappear. Not to mention, love can enable lovers to stay up all night talking and making love and not feel one bit tired the next day. And I’m not joking. The special cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that fire up in the brain when one falls in love is no different from how a drug interacts with the brain.

This biological mechanism of love has three distinct stages. One, lust. Two, romantic attraction. And three, attachment.

During the initial sexual attraction phase, estrogen and testosterone in both men and women’s bodies rule the roost, making people want to lean in close, touch each other and kiss. Oh, and kissing by the way, helps a woman decide if she’ll sleep with a man.

Did you know she can unconsciously taste his immune system in his saliva? People with different immune systems prime to fight off different sets of diseases, tend to make stronger, fitter offspring. And therefore, they tend to have hotter sex. There’s even a DNA test that can predict hot sex. Check it out. It’s instant

And out of this initial surge of estrogen and testosterone can come romance. Romance is marked by a surge of other kinds of hormones like dopamine, which causes craving and desire. It can also make you giddy and euphoric and norepinephrine. Yeah, that’s the chemical release to calm us down after we experience stress. Love can be very stressful.

Finally, during the attachment stage, oxytocin often called the “cuddle hormone” and vasopressin (one sometimes linked to monogamy) jump into the game, big time. And serotonin decreases, which can make people more obsessive.

This party of hormones and firing of neurotransmitters causes a kind of love delusion. One that often leads to commitment. Johnny Depp explains that delusion well in the film Don Juan Demarco.

Johnny Depp:    “Have you never met a woman that inspires you to love until your every sense is filled with her? You inhale her, you taste her. You see your unborn children in her eyes, and know that your heart has at last found a home. Your life begins with her and without her, it must surely end.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         This lustful delusion phase can be really important if couples end up staying together for a long time. Because it’s during this phase that couples create mutual memories of say, romantic dates, vacations, jewelry shopping. And all of these memories can be conjured up years later by either partner to help rekindle things in their minds when the going gets tough. Because we all know this stage doesn’t last.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:06:43 to 00:06:57]

Remember Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in Kramer vs Kramer? The first big divorce movie. But even though those early hormonal feelings don’t last, it doesn’t mean that love doesn’t last. Love is much more than a biological event. Human beings are complicated people, and we interact within layers of important social systems and we all have individual psychology. Our idea of love and what it is and what it should feel like is different in everybody.

Oh, here’s a fun fact by the way, it takes a person about one to four minutes to decide if they’d like to have sex with someone. Half of that decision is based on body language, about 40% on tone of voice, and less than 7% on what a potential lover actually says. So much for the value of a good pickup line.

Male:               “Hi, I was wondering if you could touch my arm, so I could tell my friends that I’ve been touched by an angel.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         When love scientists talk about the sociology of love, they mean the stuff people put in their dating profiles that indicate if their social circles will be compatible. Education, religion, political affiliation, career choice, even food choices. Are you vegan, vegetarian or paleo? If two people are deeply biologically attracted to each other, but their relationship would clash in day-to-day life, their love won’t last.

Think of it this way. I’ll bet that if you put any two humans alone on a desert island or in a Vegas hotel room, they would eventually fall in love. But if you tried to take that relationship out into the real world, it probably wouldn’t make it.

Remember when Robin Wright, as Jenny rejected Tom Hanks as the lovable Forrest Gump because their lives didn’t match in adulthood?

[Movie Clip Playing 00:08:49 to 00:09:01]

You should know that there are some couples who match entirely on sociology, arranged marriages. And then they let the hormones rise later. That’s still love, and it often lasts a long time.

As if biology and sociology aren’t messy enough, the feeling of love is further complicated by an individual’s psychological attachment style. You see, we all come into the world with a predisposition to attach in certain ways. And then during the first year of life when our brain triples in size, that genetic predisposition is either enlivened or suppressed by how our care givers treat us.

For instance, let’s say a baby was born with a lot of anxiety. If a parent holds, rocks and sooths the baby on demand, that gene might be suppressed. And the baby might grow to believe that the world and lovers can meet their needs. On the other hand, if caregivers were told to let that baby cry it out, that baby might grow up to imagine love as an eternal state of longing.

Our early life attachments become a blueprint for love. Attachment theory is a well-researched psychological area founded by the late British psychoanalyst John Bowlby. He believes that we go out into our adult romantic lives and recreate the feeling of mommy love, even if it was filled with pain.

John Bowlby:    No one wants to think that our mother never wanted and always really rejected them. It’s a very painful, very, very painful situation for anyone to find themselves in. Yet, if it’s true, it’s true. And they are going to be better off in the future if they recognize that that is what did happen.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         That was John Bowlby himself. You can actually purchase the full talk where Dr. Bowlby explains attachment theory at

There are many kinds of attachment styles. Some people fear caregiving and become attracted to people who can’t give care. Others become addicted to longing and become attracted to those who will abandon them. Others smother a lover as a bid to try to keep them near. Still, others, avoid emotional intimacy because it’s just too painful.

In our adult romantic lives, we unconsciously go back to the scene of the crime and try to solve our early life conflicts. Like I said, love is darn complicated. Remember, Cher in Moonstruck? The morning after she slept with her fiancé’s brother.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:11:46 to 00:12:07]

Perhaps my favorite psychological theory of love next to John Bowlby’s attachment theory, of course, is the triangular theory of love proposed by Cornell University’s Robert Sternberg. If you’ve ever studied any psychology, you probably know Sternberg for his world renowned theories on human intelligence. But he’s also turned his scientific lens to love. Coming up with the idea that love has three components. And one, two or all three can be present for people to interpret it as love.

The first he calls intimacy. He doesn’t mean physical intimacy here. He’s talking about emotional connection, vulnerability, intense feelings, honesty. The second component of love according to Sternberg is passion. Now, here’s where physical attraction steps in. Passion is connected to sex drive, lust, and that crazy cocktail of hormones that will make someone do just about anything to be in each other’s presence. The third kind of love in the Sternberg triangle is commitment. This is the intellectual choice to love someone, to make a decision to stay with them and make future long-term plans.

Now, here’s where Sternberg’s theory of love gets really interesting. You can experience various combinations of these three components and still call it love. And your partner, well, he or she might be experiencing a different combination. And this is where things can get prickly. So, here are Sternberg’s six combinations of his triangular theory of love.

The first is infatuation. Passion alone. In this kind of love, there’s no real emotional intimacy and no commitment. If you’ve ever had a serious crush on a celebrity or fallen in love with someone online, you’ve experienced Sternberg’s infatuated love. Likewise, if you have a stand-alone sexual relationship where no one’s talking about their feelings or problems and commitment isn’t present, you’re in infatuated love. This kind of love doesn’t tend to last very long.

The second kind of love that Sternberg describes is empty love. Unhappy marriages fall into this category. What you’ve got is commitment, but not much else. No emotional intimacy, no sexual passion. Couples who stay together for the sake of the children, which according to research on child development isn’t such a bad idea, but these couples fall into empty love.

The third kind of love, oh, it’s a fun one. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to experience sexual passion along with emotional intimacy, you know of Sternberg’s version of romantic love. These kinds of lovers are drawn to each other emotionally and physically, but they may not have a commitment to each other. So, a big time marital affair might fall into this category. This kind of relationship can feel kind of scary and unstable, filled with closeness, excitement, and fear of loss.

But romantic love is often a stepping stone to married life, or in the case of an affair, a divorce. Single partners don’t want to lose this amazing feeling, so they get engaged. A married person in an empty marriage ain’t the emotional support in a romantic love affair needed to leave their union.

Okay, love type number four. What if you have a great emotional connection and are committed to each other but have no sexual passion? Sternberg calls this companionate love. It’s much stronger than a friendship and can be very affectionate. It’s often what long-term marriages become as people age. Companionate love can also be felt by long-term roommates or close family members who live together. For obvious reasons, there is no sexual relationship, but the bond is strong and the two are primary attachment figures.

I had two great aunties who lived together – Rita and Gadelha. One had a daughter. Family folklore said that the baby’s father died in World War II. The two sisters lived together on a farm for 50 years. No one can even remember which sister actually gave birth to the daughter. These two had a strong companionate love.

Love style number five according to Robert Sternberg – pray you never have this one. It’s costly. You can have hot sexual passion and commitment, but no emotional intimacy. Sternberg calls this one fatuous love. It happens to couples who have great sex at the very beginning of their relationship, and then they run to the altar to try to keep those feelings forever. Remember the brief marriage of Kim Kardashian to Kris Humphries? Big wedding. 72 days later, big breakup. And how about the crazy Las Vegas wedding in 2004 of Britney Spears and her childhood friend Jason Alexander. That one lasted a whopping 55 hours. I like to call Sternberg’s fatuous love, “love drunk”.

There is a sixth kind of love that Robert Sternberg talks about in his theory of love, but I’m going to save it for the very end of this podcast, because it’s the one we all dream about.

Besides biology, sociology, and psychology, there’s one other ingredient in the recipe for love; timing. You two could be a perfect physical match, you could look great on paper, and you might both have a secure attachment style. But if one of you hasn’t hit their state of readiness, love will be kind of one sided. Remember, women have the pressure of a fertility window and tend to fall in love faster and desire a commitment.

For instance, you might think that on paper (that is sociologically) a movie star and a humble bookstore owner wouldn’t be a good fit. But if the timing was right for both of them as played by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill, love can still blossom.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:18:38 to 00:19:03]

Men like to have all their ducks in order; education, career, and their social circle has to be coupling up. Weddings like divorces are highly contagious within social circles. And there’s no such thing as a groom’s magazine. They wait till their buddies do it. So, is it worth it to wait it out until your sexual partner hits his or her state of readiness? Usually not. Sadly, because after some time together, all those love hormones start to decline and people are less likely to make a commitment. That may be why couples who’ve lived together instead of getting married are less likely to marry that person. And if they do, they’re more likely to divorce them. Well, that could also be because people with an insecure attachment style, those who don’t have a healthy blueprint for love are more attracted to cohabitation than marriage.

Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire found his moment of readiness with Renee Zellweger when his career fell apart, and he needed a partner.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:20:05 to 00:20:17]

Okay. I promised you I would save the best kind of love for last. Remember Robert Sternberg and his triangular theory of love? Well, the sixth combination of love is the one we all dream about.

Consummate love. Sternberg thought of consummate love as the perfect love because it has all three of his components; emotional intimacy, physical passion and commitment. These unicorn couples somehow continue to have a great sex life decades into their relationship. They often say they can’t imagine themselves happier with anyone else. They have good conflict resolution skills and they just continue to love and respect each other. But Sternberg also warns that maintaining this kind of love is a whole lot harder than finding it. Consummate love involves constant communication, emotional regulation skills, and yes, it involves love.

My favorite definition of the word love, it is a verb. It’s the verb to give. And according to Robert Sternberg, without love, even the greatest love and die.

Many people live their entire lives and never get to experience Sternberg’s idea of consummate love, and that’s okay. It’s a goal, it’s an ideal. And every relationship we have is a lesson in learning. Every single relationship, if it’s a little bit better than the one before, is a successful relationship. I never judge the success of love on duration. I think all relationships are gymnasiums for our minds. We can’t grow alone, we must play out our psychology interacting with others. And that interaction can be kind of prickly sometimes. In fact, the road to intimacy is paved with a series of ruptures followed by repairs. It is in those moments of conflict, of loss, of hurt feelings, when we can be authentic, when we can say, “I’m sorry.” And this is what love is. We’re always learning and growing through love.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Mating Matters. Up next, Sexy Money. How earning money for men is really about earning sex, and why it works the opposite for women. I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh.

Mating Matters is produced in partnership with iHeart media. It is researched, interviewed and written by me, Dr. Wendy Walsh. And it is edited and produced by Brooke Peterson. You know, people don’t learn about podcasts usually by just searching around. They learn about a podcast because somebody who loved that podcast told them about it. So, I encourage you to please subscribe, write a review, and more than anything, hit that share button now. Think of somebody who would like to hear this information as much as you enjoyed it. Thanks for listening. I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh.

Listen to the next episode “Sexy Money” here!


Mating Matters “Dating App-athy”

In this episode of Mating Matters Podcast, Dr. Wendy Walsh talks to a neuroscientist who explains how dating apps can affect the brain. They can create both cognitive overload and a kind of paradox of choice — that is, the more choices people have, the less likely they are to make a choice and stick with it. She also talks to real people about the good, bad and boring ways that dating websites and apps impact us. One woman met her husband, one man got addicted, and a young women says she suffers from “Dating App-athy.”




Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Romance, dating, falling in love. Choosing a romantic partner to share your dinner table, your bed or your entire life is frankly the most important decision a human can ever make.

This is Dr. Wendy Walsh. Welcome to Mating Matters. It’s why we do what we do. In this episode – Dating Apathy. Are dating apps changing the way we relate? This is important because making the wrong decision can be downright dangerous.

Sorry to break it to you, but poor romantic decisions can lead to poverty, physical injury, or even death. And the greater risk lies with women. Did you know that half of murdered women are killed by their intimate partner? Everyday in America, three women are killed by their lover. Yikes!

Fortunately, that doesn’t happen to the vast majority of lovers. But finding a safe, reliable, romantic partner who will keep you out of poverty, stimulate you emotionally and intellectually, and also be physically attractive, well, that’s a tall order. Long before there was the internet and smartphone dating apps, lovers mostly met through a personal introduction or a chance meeting.

In the movie, “Isn’t It Romantic”, Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth’s characters have a chance encounter of their own.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:01:34 to 00:01:39]

But then along came a much more efficient way to meet people – media. First, in the 1980s, it was print media. People took out small personal ads in the back of newspapers and magazines. Remember the Pina Colada song by Rupert Holmes?

[Rupert Holmes’ Song Playing 00:01:53 to 00:2:05]

Yeah, those two philandering lovers found each other again through a personal ad. After personal ads, the Internet came along. In the 1990s movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks launched a silver screen email romance that echoed what so many people were experiencing in the 1990s as their courtship began to grow through technology.

[Movie Clip Playing 00:02:27 to 00:02: 42]

Move over AOL, dating then got fast, real fast. From dating websites to dating apps. From swishes to pings, likes, matches, messaging and yes, ghosting. Millions of people all over the world, dove into online dating. I want you to know that there’s plenty of good about online dating, and there’s a bit of bad too if you don’t know what you’re doing.

First of all, dating apps make it easier to find that special someone. That unicorn, so to speak. But the technology itself is not only changing the way we relate, it could actually be changing our brains. But no matter what your fancy, there is a never ending array of dating websites and apps that appeal to every niche market. From religious people to the polyamorous. From farmers to gay people.

Speaker 2:        I’ve been on and off using a variety of …

Speaker 3:        Zoosk, am I pronouncing that right? Zoosk? Christian Mingle?

Speaker 2:        … so, when I was in college, is when I started using them. It started off with Tinder.

Speaker 3:        So, I’ve used Tinder, I’ve used Bumble. Those are the two that I’ve used the most. I used OKCupid back in the day and PlentyOfFish as well.

Speaker 2:        I guess, so Bumble where you can-

Speaker 4:        I’ve used Tinder, I’ve used Grindr, I’ve used another app called Chappy, which is where you can meet other gay men. And then online, I’ve used Match.

Speaker 2:        … so, I like that for a while. And now, I’m on a dating app called Hinge recently, most recently. Not sure if it’s for me. I think I’m kind of a little bit over dating apps at this point.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Let’s start with the good news. People are indeed meeting and marrying through online connections.

Speaker 5:        So, when I went on Match and I was on Match actually for about 10 days.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         That’s a woman in her 40s with an 11-year-old daughter. She told me she’d just come out of an 18-month relationship. That one had begun as an introduction through friends but had gone sour. So, she decided to try online dating. Yes, she met the perfect guy after only 10 days. Her criteria though was strict. Her perspective mate had to be a Christian, live nearby, and seem like the kind of guy who could be a good stepfather and mix well with her family. To determine that, she brought her mother and daughter to first dates.

Speaker 5:        Because we’re the package. So, I’m not gonna waste my time. If you can’t take us, forget it. So, I wanted him to know what he’s getting into and my mom brought her boyfriend, who happened to know the person I was meeting. And it worked out great. And 45 days later, we actually got engaged. The wedding will be six and a half months away.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Wow! She’s not alone. A 2013 study from researchers at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, found that one third of American marriages now begin as online meetings. And that marriages that began online were slightly less likely to result in a marital breakup. And they were associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction. Of course, I should add this is a self-report Internet study. While the large number of participants, nearly 20,000 is quite impressive, questions remain about how honestly people answer self-report studies, or whether the personality types of people who prefer online dating factor in. Either way, this is promising research.

The other positive news about online dating, is that it’s really good for subgroups who may have a very small likeminded dating pool in their own communities, ethnic and religious minorities, people with disabilities, gender variances, and sexual orientation differences. In fact, dating apps began with a single app called Grindr.

Grindr was designed to help gay men find friends wherever they went. For most gay people, online dating is far more positive than negative.

Speaker 4:        I think mostly positive because it’s, you know, for me, I don’t want to meet people in bars, you know. And it’s particularly, you know, it’s harder in the gay world because you have a safe place to meet people, right? And those environments provide an easy place and it’s an easy way to manage introductions.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         So, that’s the good news. People are actually meeting, mating and committing through online meetings. And online dating is particularly helpful for subgroups because of people who don’t have much dating opportunity, either because they live in small communities or because they’re a minority.

Online dating also saves a whole lot of time. You don’t have to get dressed up. You don’t need to spend money and time in bars and nightclubs, and you can vet people before you waste time on a date. You can do a Google search or even a full background check. In some ways, this makes online dating safer than meeting a random stranger in a dark club.

Now, here’s the bad news, just like a nightclub, dating apps are filled with people looking for long-term relationships, short-term relationships, affairs and polyamorous group fun, and they’re all lumped together. So, it’s kind of “buyer beware”. Asking people what they’re looking for and advertising exactly what you’d like to find is crucial. Though people still like to lie. Oh, and speaking of lying, online dating sadly also hosts a lot of scammers.

Scammers fall into one of two categories. In category one are lonely people, unhappy with their own lives who pretend to be the person they wish they were. And to conceal their fraud, they’re very skilled at providing excuses as to why they can’t meet up in the real world. These are called “catfishes” and there’s a whole documentary and MTV series that shows some pretty shocking reveals. It’s called “Catfish”.

Speaker 6:        A young guy named Dylan contacted me and Max after receiving an anonymous tip claiming his online love, Allie was actually an imposter.

Dylan:               I’m just like dumbfounded, whoa. I don’t even know how they got my number.

Max:                 Once we started digging, we soon discovered that whoever Dylan was talking to, had actually people catfish before.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Then, there are the criminal romance scammers. These people are often part of syndicates in countries like Nigeria and Ghana. They prey on lonely people around the world by getting them to fall in love with them online, and eventually, they ask for money.

Speaker 9:        I talked to him a few times. I mean, we messaged everyday.

Speaker 10:      Johnson says she and Cole engaged in a two-year online relationship, but never met in person. Over the course of their relationship, Johnson says she gave Cole more than a million dollars in increments.

Speaker 9:        At this point, your heart rules your head, and I was doing what my heart wanted me to do.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         In the most egregious cases, romance scammers practice extortion. They record people’s most intimate conversations or even videotape Skype sex and threaten to post it online if the victim doesn’t pay the money.

TV Anchor:        Tonight, a heartbreaking family tragedy. A father from Yonkers is dead and his family believes it’s all because he was sucked into an international romance and money scheme, causing him to lose everything and even steal from relatives.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         That’s the tricky thing about love. It’s like a drug and can make our brains do just about anything to keep it. Now, for most people online dating when used safely, that is with Google searches, real world meetings and the latest invention – use of social media that shows how many friends you actually have in common, all that is a positive experience.

But there’s one other shortcoming to online dating apps. They can become addictive. Justin Garcia is the research director at the Kinsey Institute and Scientific Advisor for

Justin Garcia:    One of the issue seems to be that it’s been what we say is gamified. And that the apps, they feel like a game, and you can swipe through dozens or hundreds of pictures in a few minutes. And that changes the way we’re interacting with potential partners or people that we’re assessing.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Many people like this 40-year-old single father fall prey to the lure of a perfect happy ending.

Speaker 13:      Everyone wants to be wanted and I want people to be wanted. I love the romantic endings. I believe in happy endings, and I might go to my grave with that philosophy. And I think that that’s what the dating sites propose, is that happy ending.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         For this man, scammers weren’t the problem. It was the addictive quality of dating apps that keeps one glued to the app rather than dating in the real world. It’s caused by a delicious rush of the neural hormone dopamine. Every time there’s a match or a new message, promising romantic opportunity, your brain gets a tiny hit. Since dating apps reward the brain at random intervals with varying sizes of rewards, a message from a particularly attractive person might bring more dopamine than an average looking person. The apps act exactly like a slot machine, trapping the brain in addictive systems of rewards.

Just like gambling, dating apps work using classical conditioning. Remember Pavlov and his dog, except the stimulus isn’t a bell and the reward isn’t a food treat. The stimulus with a dating app is a swipe and the reward is a match. Here’s Justin Garcia, again.

Justin Garcia:    It turns out that in those studies, what works best is every so often when you ring that bell, you don’t give a treat to the animal in the test condition; a dog, a rat, a fish. Now, for the dating apps, there’s something similar that’s happening that you get this sort of periodic reward that keeps you hooked. Exactly like you said, it’s like gambling. And that’s a mix of things. Part of that can be the algorithms depending on the company and the app and the site. And part of it, is just sort of random choice, that you’re going through so many dozens or hundreds of options. You’ll occasionally find one that you like and occasionally, will find one that messages you or likes you or you both swipe right.

Speaker 13:      I don’t know, it reminds me of a Las Vegas Casino. There’s no clocks, there’s so much diversion. The further you get into the casino, the harder it is to come on out.

Speaker 3:        You probably get a bit of a high from it knowing it’s a way of seeking validation from other people. You know, “How many times did I swipe right today? How many responses and reciprocation of that did I receive?” If I swiped right, you know, 25 times. I got 13 people that swiped right too. I was like, “Oh man, I’m feeling pretty good about myself.”

Speaker 13:      And at the beginning, it was super fun, just like any normal addiction, I think. And then eventually, it kind of just took over. And so, I would spend time looking at these sites while I was in traffic and there would be just a wash of – I would say, a wash of energy if anybody ever responded. It was fun, it felt good to be acknowledged. But slowly but surely, it felt like it was taking my self-esteem apart.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Besides being addictive, dating apps can also create something psychologists call a “paradox of choice”. The more choices a human being is presented with, the less likely they are to make a choice, and the less happy they feel with the choices they make.

Justin Garcia:    There’s a sense that there is an unlimited number of options. You can go on an app and swipe for an hour especially if it’s somewhere like LA or New York or Miami, with a population density. You could swipe for hours and hours and hours. And that changes the way that we interact with the app. In part, because it changes the way we think about the people on the other side of that app. We think, “Well, if they’re not perfect, there’s another one and there’s another one and there’s another one.” And we often end up chasing these, what Rob Sternberg calls our love stories, right? We’re chasing these ideal notions of, “Well, my partner has to be exactly like this.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And this makes us less happy with our choice.

Justin Garcia:    Some scientists think it’s because we sometimes always have a foot out the door. We always think, “Well, if this isn’t great, there’s another thousand.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Besides being tricked by a paradox of choice, dating apps also create a similar phenomenon that Garcia calls “cognitive overload”.

Justin Garcia:    We have a hard time deciding particularly when to say yes. And in part, that’s when we’ve got such a large menu or so many options. We have a really difficult time making a decision.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Remember the young woman who’s been using dating apps since she was in college? She’s definitely beginning to suffer from what I call “dating apathy”.

Speaker 2:        I mean, even when I’m looking for a movie to watch on Netflix, I get stressed out because I’m like, “Oh God, there’s so many choices. I don’t want to watch anything anymore. I’m done. I’m done.” And then I’m like, I throw down the remote and I’m like, “Let me go do something else.” But I mean, if I was going to blockbuster and I’m like, “Okay, I have to rent one movie, I see all the movies right here in my face, I know where the new selections are, I know where the old movies are,” like, it’s easy. I can go in, I get it, and I’m dedicated to it because I worked a little bit for that movie.

If I’m on an app, I’m just swiping and I’m just like, “It doesn’t matter. So many choices. It doesn’t matter.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Even if you do get a match, next begins a texting marathon.

Speaker 4:        When people send me those endless texts, what I typically do, at some point, you just have to cut it off, right? Because it doesn’t go anywhere and it’s a waste of time that you could spend elsewhere.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Here’s the man who told us he was once addicted to dating apps.

Speaker 13:      Online sites are time bandits. So, once the conversation starts going, I would lose out on my own family time. You know, my own people’s time. My own tribe would lose out time with me even if I was in the room. Even if we were at dinner, I wasn’t. I was on – I’m looking at the site.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Eventually, this man stopped using all dating apps. He even closed most of his social media accounts.

Speaker 13:      I had to come to a moment of self-realization. So, now, I’ve completely taken down my Instagram. I’m in the midst of taking down my Facebook just for business purposes. I don’t want to live digitally at all now. And it’s a wonderful feeling.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And if scammers, addiction and paradox of choice aren’t enough, many first time online daters become rattled by a new dating social trend called “ghosting”.

Speaker 2:        Ghosting is the worst. It is the worst. It’s when you really like somebody and then they just all of a sudden just fall off the face of the earth. It’s like, “What happened to you?” I know one guy, I met him on an app. We really had a connection. We’d facetime, we’d Snapchat, we’d text. We did not meet yet though. So, we were about to meet and I don’t know what happened to him. He just left.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Even though she’s young and accustomed to dating app etiquette, she says she’ll never get used to being ghosted.

Speaker 2:        I mean, it feels like you’ve been rejected, you know, and especially after like putting your effort into somebody. It’s like a slam in the face. Like you’re just like, “What in the world is happening?” And they’ll block your phone number, your Instagram, your Facebook. You will not be able to tell anything about what they’re doing and that’s the worst feeling, because you don’t have answers. And when you don’t have answers, your mind wanders and you’re just thinking like, “Is it me? Am I ugly? Am I annoying? Am I just a terrible person?”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         I know a few things about love. There are plenty of hormones and neurotransmitters involved in the process of love. The early lustful phase is dominated by testosterone and estrogen. But secure attachment is a calmer, cozier drug, ruled by vasopressin and oxytocin.

So, thinking about dating apps, I came up with this theory. I mean, everybody knows that the most unstable stages of love are at the very beginning and the end, and that’s when we crave dopamine and norepinephrine to cope with those feelings of uncertainty. “Does he like me? Are we a couple? Are we breaking up? What’s happening?”

The middle stage is when we securely settle down into companion at love and experience attachment with those yummy bursts of oxytocin and vasopressin. My hypothesis is that dating apps trap people in the beginnings and endings of relationships with sporadic bursts of dopamine, not unlike that slot machine in Vegas. Dating apps train humans to become addicted to new partners as a kind of dopamine addiction. But many never get the payoff of feelings of security that come with oxytocin and vasopressin.

There are many people who get blasts of dopamine through endless online interactions. Likes, matches and messages with people they’ve never met in the real world. Then, they satisfy their cravings for surges in testosterone and estrogen and other hormones through online pornography, hacking their biochemistry with technology.

I pose my theory to the Kinsey Institute’s, Dr. Justin Garcia. That using the app alone and then also the kind of texting relationships, multiple texting relationships that come out of these apps. For many people, that’s enough. It starts to create enough dopamine that they literally don’t need to date.

Justin Garcia:    Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think that’s a piece that no one’s talking about. That there is a number of people that are swiping all day and talking to a bunch of people. They’re sort of getting satiated. They’re sort of getting the, whether it’s the intimate and sexual communication or just the social connections. I think that we’re starting to see a little bit of evidence and you’re ahead of the curve. We don’t have the data yet to say it, but I think you’re right. That’s what everything is starting to indicate.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And there’s something else I think technology is doing to us. I think dating apps can actually change our brains, impacting our reward centers and rewiring how we perceive the world and love. For some, this is the new normal.

Justin Garcia:    It’s a bizarre form of biohacking really. That you can get these different types of social connections and intimate interactions and kind of feel okay. It’s not necessarily fulfilling and maybe what many people want in the long-term, but they can kind of ride it out.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         So, why is it that some people don’t fall victim to this paradox of choice, this addictive quality, this biohack? Maybe it’s how they use the app to avoid the neuro traps. Remember the gay man we spoke with earlier? He says he has great success with the apps and has formed many long term relationships and close friendships.

Speaker 4:        Usually, my objective is when I hear from someone, as quickly as possible, meet them in person because that’s when you know, right? You have to see them in person, so that I don’t really get off on the endless sort of back and forth conversation. I want to, as soon as I sort of vet them and make sure they’re not a serial killer, I want to meet them in person.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And remember the woman who brought her mother and daughter to first dates and met her fiancé after just 10 days online? Here’s her advice to others.

Speaker 5:        A lot of it is luck. A lot of it is, I truly believe a numbers game. But if everyone has the attitude, you’re responsible for your own happiness, there are a lot of people out there who want a relationship. And it’s just, you know, trying to weed out the people that you think may not fit and just go for it and just be safe and meet in a public place and tell your friends where you’re at. Actually, I had two online dates before I met my fiancé, and I was there for 15 minutes. And again, my mom and daughter showed up at the restaurant.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         I would add to her advice, get on the phone quickly, within a few days. If you like what you hear, meet for a casual coffee soon after. If that goes well, then go off the app and stop and focus, and ask your date to do the same.

Speaker 5:        You know, you have to go through and sift through what you’re looking for. But you have to be honest with who you are and what you want, and hopefully find that same person that is on your wavelength.

Speaker 3:        It’s not that you have to commit and get married and be exclusive right away. But if you want to date, you’ve got to psychologically get yourself in the mode to do it. And there’s a whole psychology and neurobiology of that focused attention and thinking about that person and not being distracted.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And if you do feel you’re becoming addicted to the apps, shut them off for a few months. Take a break. That’s what the young man who believes he had become addicted did.

Speaker 13:      Man, the natural version of meeting someone is just so much better. It takes a lot more work, but it’s why it gives it a priceless feeling. Whereas, I just felt dollar store with the online dating sites.

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         And here’s the best news of all about online dating. Not only do one third of American marriages begin online, but research shows that couples who reported that they’d met online also reported greater marital satisfaction. Maybe those who have good relationship skills will always find a good mate no matter where they swipe.

Speaker 5:        My whole life, I’ve been looking for this ideal person, and I was always trying to put a round peg in a square hole trying to make it work, and I kind of gave up. And then I met him and that’s why we’re engaged so quickly, is because when you spend your whole life looking for this type of person you have in your mind and you know how you want to be loved, and you finally find that, you’re not going to waste time and say there’s someone else out there because you know you found it.

Speaker 3:        You just put your best self out there, put yourself in the best profile, put yourself looking as nice as you possibly can, have a smile on your face, have a positive message and then see where it goes from there. I have always gotten a pretty solid response from that.

Speaker 5:        And I called that other person up and said, “I think I found the love of my life.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh:         Thank you for listening to Mating Matters. I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh with my producer Brooke Peterson. In our next episode, what is love for real? The bio, psycho, social aspects of love.