Would You Pick a Mate You Can’t Smell?

Last fall, I had the pleasure of presenting at the ADD Resources Annual conference.   My workshop topic, “ADHD and Marriage” is one that is near and dear to my heart, as I am married to a man with ADHD (which means that I walk into the kitchen and close the bread bag) and we have both worked mightily over the past fourteen years to keep our connection strong.  

Professionally I enjoy working with ADHD people as I have not found a single lazy one out of the bunch: these are folks who think and work twice as hard as the rest of us. 

So after my presentation a woman from the audience comes up to speak to me.  She tells me she is single and trying to find a partner via the internet.   She explains that she doesn’t post her photo on the website because every time she shares her photo, the prospective man ends contact. 

While not conventionally attractive, this woman was also not unattractive either.  Short, solidly built with brown hair and eyes, she had a genuine sweetness about her and was puzzled by her lack of success.   She was not trying to date a hunky model, but other middle aged gentlemen. 

At the time I was at a loss.  Focused as I was on the complexities of people already IN a relationship: task-sharing, mutual respect, communicating appreciation, and healthy conflict.  What could I say to this person asking about internet dating???

What I wish I had said was that internet dating is like going to a restaurant with a stuffed up nose: you can’t really tell what smells good.  On the internet, as long as a person looks good, they will be chosen.  The problem is that there are some mighty good looking jerks (as well as ugly jerks, to be sure) out there, and most sensible people want “whole package” partners: someone good-hearted, smart, loyal, and reasonably attractive. 

Internet dating sites provide written information as well as photos/videos.  Men, being visually based creatures (this is neurologically hard wired and not evidence of shallowness) interpret visual images with undue weight. 

While I am not against internet dating (that would be like being against gravity at this point) I think it creates a short circuit in the male brain around the primary task of dating which is assessing mutual compatibility.  Mutual compatibility includes personal magnetism (aka: charisma), conversational skills, matching core values, sense of humor, life experiences, world view, and the like.  None of these things have to do with looks. 

What does this have to do with mental health?  It’s a paradox, because on the one hand, nobody else can make us happy or unhappy.  And yet our life partners, by virtue of our intimacy (intimacy= to let inside of) with them, hold tremendous influence on our mental health. 

For this reason, I recommend that single people spend more time using all five of their senses to detect compatibility in the real world, and less time viewing and ordering partners on line. 

(By the way, if you are a person with ADHD or married to a person with ADHD I will be teaching a teleseminar on the topic of “ADHD and Relationships” next month through ADD Resources.  You can contact http://add.obrienbusinessgroup.com/ to learn more). 

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