So how do you show someone that you are valuable and challenging without playing games? “Decide the standard that you want for the people around you, and the people that you date, and the people that you fall in love with,” says Hussey, “and then live that standard yourself. Standards make you challenging without having to pretend that you don’t like someone.”
Psychologists have found that the root of preferring high-value, challenging partners is a selfish one—that who we date is a reflection of who we think we are. We are more attracted to people who validate and boost our own self-image.
• Connection. As important as Visual Chemistry, Perceived Value and Perceived Challenge are, it’s this final element that matters most. “If you only have the first three, what you really have is someone you really admire and think is hot,” explains Hussey. “You can really only love someone when you have all four.”
Connection is about shared interests and values—the feeling that you could tell someone everything. This aspect of the formula is where dating sites might be on the right track. Hussey and scientists agree that the major upside to online dating is that the algorithms automatically remove most of the people whom you’re truly unlikely to click with.
The idea that “opposites attract” isn’t really true—we tend to feel more connected to people who have similar interests and values, and thus we tend to feel more attracted to similar people. Striking differences in values, in turn, tend to doom relationships. Dating algorithms focus heavily on similarities, and thus help narrow the field of people to those with the greatest chance at being matches. “Certain dating sites may be able to collect data that allow them to banish from the dating pool people who are likely to be poor relationship partners in general,” says Karney and his colleagues.
But it’s not necessarily the quality of matches that makes online dating work for many—it’s the quantity. The importance of quantity when it comes to dating can’t go understated. “[Online dating] offers unprecedented (and remarkably convenient) levels of access to potential partners, which is especially helpful for singles who might otherwise lack such access,” says Karney and his colleagues.