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Our Puzzling Heart: Piecing Together Our True Desires in Attraction

Updated: Jan 2

Two people represented as puzzle pieces that don't fit. The caption says, "What we want isn't always a good fit.

In the realm of romance, we often believe we know exactly what we want in a partner. Yet, intriguingly, our real-life choices frequently tell a different story. This divergence between our stated preferences and our actual selections in partners offers a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of human attraction and compatibility.

The Paradox of Choice: While we confidently list attributes like intelligence, humor, or attractiveness as desirable traits, research highlighted by Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., Ph.D., reveals a striking inconsistency. Our real-world choices often don't align with these neatly summarized preferences. This paradox suggests that factors beyond our conscious criteria play a significant role in attraction. It raises the question: Are our dating choices driven more by subconscious influences than by our conscious desires?

Understanding Evolutionary Mismatch: Andrew G. Thomas, Ph.D., introduces the concept of 'evolutionary mismatch,' proposing that our ancient psychological mechanisms may not be fully adapted to the modern dating environment. This mismatch might lead us to prioritize certain traits that, while appealing to our superficial or deeper evolutionary-driven needs may not align with our needs for a compatible partner in the modern world.

The Role of Dating Apps: While dating apps offer a convenient way to filter potential partners based on specific traits, they might inadvertently contribute to this mismatch. By focusing on a checklist of qualities that we think we want, we may be eliminating partners that meet the needs that we actually want. We also overlook the subtle, yet powerful, elements of chemistry and connection that are often only felt in person.

Real-World Encounters and Subconscious Preferences: The true test of our preferences often comes in face-to-face encounters. As noted in Neuroscience News, our actual preferences in partners are more accurately revealed through interactions rather than theoretical lists. These real-world experiences can sometimes surprise us, drawing us towards individuals who differ significantly from our initial 'ideal' partner criteria.

Navigating the landscape of love requires a balance between knowing what we think we want and being open to what we might actually need. While having preferences is natural, remaining open to the unexpected can lead to more fulfilling and genuine connections. In the end, the heart's choice might defy our neatly laid plans, leading us to a partner who complements us in ways we never anticipated.

Author: Michael is the CEO of Maka Connect, has a passion for the social sciences, and is committed to making sure we separate science from myth when giving dating advice or designing our singles events, speed dating, and supporting technology.


Campbell, D. (2022, 11 4). What We Think We Like in a Romantic Partner and What We Actually Prefer Don’t Always Match Up. Retrieved from

Lewandowski, G. (2022, 11 8). What Really Matters When Choosing Who to Date. Retrieved from Psychology Today:

Thomas, A. G. (2023, 1 19). Unlocking the Secrets of Mating Using an Evolutionary Lens. Retrieved from Psychology Today:



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