Thursday, October 14, 2010

Matchy Matchy?

This evening, I had to access my Gmail account, which I rarely ever use. And upon logging in, I found 280 profiles of men that eHarmony said would be a good match for me.

Yes, I have an eHarmony account. No, I am not a huge fan of online dating. And until tonight, I had forgotten that even had an active profile.

One week before I left for my European adventure, and one week after my 30th birthday, I decided that I needed to put myself out into the dating world, and a coupon-bargain price for eHarmony seemed like just the ticket. So late that Friday afternoon, I gathered my employees into my office, made them help me answer all of the questions, and within an hour, presto! I was live in the world of online dating, fresh with six “matches of compatibility.”

The next night I met a guy the old-fashioned way: at a party.

It’s the kind of universal karma I love: just when I feel the need to online date, the universe rewards me with not having to.

So we spent a wonderful Labor Day weekend together, and off I went to EuropeTraveling around romantic European locales while high on a new love interest can’t be beat. We texted, we chatted. It was fun and new and exciting. I came home and we had another fabulously wonderful weekend together.

And then we got to know each other a bit more. And turns out, we have very little in common. He is conservative, I am liberal. He is religious, I practice the dharma of “be nice to people.” He likes the suburbs, I live in the city. He’s up early, I sleep in.

But we have fun together, he holds my hand, and he makes me smile. And I kinda like him.

So as I logged on and quickly viewed a couple of the hundreds of Angeleno men who were “compatibility matched” for me by eHarmony – mostly liberal, “Other” religious, marathon runners - it made me wonder, “What really makes a good match for a relationship?” and, more importantly, “Is it better to date someone like you, or can opposites attract?”

Research tends to prove the former.

"People prefer their own kind," says J. Philippe Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. "Extroverts favor extroverts; traditionalists, traditionalists."

And in a recent study, researchers from Cornell University, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan concluded that, “Similarity is the rule and complimentarily is the exception.” They found that, “we are attracted to people who have similar attitudes and values because they validate what we believe, they are more likely to experience the same emotional reactions to the same situation, and they are more likely to react to the same situations in the same ways.”

And although one of the most expansive studies on the topic, performed at the University of Iowa and reported by the American Psychology Association, found that couples who had, “more in common personality-wise (agreeableness, anxiety levels, extroversion), as opposed to attitude-wise (religion, politics), were more likely to be very happy and satisfied with their marriages,” people generally tend to be with those who are “similar in attitudes, religion and values.” 

So where does that leave me? I have never dated someone with such opposing views. But I also think it could make things interesting (and for this, I would be in the majority: a recent article in the journal Evolutionary Psychology found that 85.7 percent of participants claim to want someone who has their opposite traits).

Outside of all of the academia, I think I tend to agree more with marriage and family therapist Isadora Alman’s position that the bigger question should be not “are we compatible?” but, “how good are you at negotiating?” and “how invested are you in always getting your own way?" These questions, she believes, are far better predictors of a happy time together. 

If both parties can respect the others’ views and be okay with the differences - then there is a good chance things could work out. And if not, then it would probably be too much of a challenge.

And I am an optimist - and he’s so very cute, and we do have a couple of other very important things in common, like country music, college football and … other things. So I in for giving it a whirl. And I will be sure to give him the space he needs to watch Fox News in private.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Risky Business

It is raining today and I love it.

I have a large bay window in my office and I am just staring out of it – listening to the raindrops and the busy Barham traffic sloshing through them.

Work seems to distract from my enjoyment of the rain, so instead I am getting caught up on my reading: The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a New York Times article about LinkedIn and my favorite blog, Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist. (For my job, this is considered working, but I always have a hard time justifying it).

I haven’t read Penelope’s blog for a while – I think she took a break from writing over the summer and I’ve been slow to catch up on her new posts. But she is an excellent writer and reading her blog inspires me to want to do the same. I have felt this way throughout my life: when I read something really good, it makes me want to write something really good. Which makes me think that I want to be a writer.

But getting that going often seems like a huge challenge – and counterintuitive to my nature.

Writing is risky. Ideas go from inside your head and out into the world. People read them and may judge you, or not agree with you, or know too much about you. You may spend hours on something that never finds the light of day. You may spend a weekend on something that no one likes. You might miss the window of relevance because you needed to prepare for the staff-wide business development meeting.

Writing also takes a lot of self-discipline. In order to be good at something, one must practice it again and again – and usually on some kind of regular basis. In theory, the idea of a prescribed writing agenda sounds really good to me - but something else usually comes along to throw it off: dinner plans, a much-needed Spin class, The Closer.

So suffice it to say: I am not a huge risk-taker and I have a very hard time practicing self-discipline. But I would really like to capture both of these ideals… as we all know, there is little reward without risk and few results without a little self-discipline.

Penelope has recently written about both of these challenges. In last week's, How to Take Intelligent Risks, she concludes that trying something new isn’t really all that risky since humans are quite adept at positively rationalizing an outcome - even if it’s not the one we expected. And that taking risks comes with only a small emotional cost: others are so concerned about what’s going on with them that they have little time to worry about whether or not you are suceeding.

For a year Penelope also wrote extensively about what makes people happy. Interestingly, having self-discipline tops the list. But its elusiveness can also drive people mad. So her advice is to “find an easy re-entry point” and to give up on perfectionism, “the enemy of self-discipline.” For a Virgo, this line of thinking is also very risky. But this astrological attribute also comes with a gift for making plans and outlining beautiful to-do lists, which for me is a starting point for any project.

Based on circular logic, this all means that writing will help me take risks, realize self-discipline and achieve maximum happiness. Not a bad gig! So with my writing tool box packed with a finely crafted road map, a fantastic skill for rationalizing, and an impeccable to-do list, I will give it a whirl.

And if it doesn’t work out, I will find a really great way to tell you why. And then make a list for how to achieve my next venture.

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