Finding and Keeping the Love of Your Life
Could this be the year you meet your soul mate? Renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD, author of the new book Why Him? Why Her?, has a formula for romance based on mixing the right brain chemistry.
In the spring of 2007, 500 couples who read O participated in an online survey I developed to explore how happy different personality combinations are together. The findings were stunning. More than 70 percent said they would marry the same person again—after an average of 16 years together. That is a supreme achievement.
But what about those of you who haven’t yet found real love? From my studies of genetics and neuroscience I have come to believe that people fall into four broad personality types—each influenced by a different brain chemical: I call them the Explorer, Builder, Director, and Negotiator. When I designed the O survey, I wanted to see which types had married each other and stayed together, and how the mix was playing out in their relationships. Now, with additional data, I can offer scientific guidance about dating depending on which personality you are—especially if you’re looking for chemistry that lasts.
So which love type are you?
Type: The Explorer
Traits: Highly curious, creative, energetic, spontaneous.
How to find your match
Type: The Builder
Traits: Calm, social, popular, and good at managing people, networking, and building family and community.
How to find your match
Type: The Director
Traits: Analytical and logical, straightforward, decisive, tough minded, and focused.
How to find your match
Type: The Negotiator
Traits: Imaginative, intuitive, empathetic, and emotionally expressive, and have good verbal and social skills.
How to find your match
You know the type: Explorers crave adventure and are willing to take risks. Highly curious, creative, energetic, spontaneous, they have many interests—from hiking and spelunking to theater and reading.
Famous examples: John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie.
Under the influence: The Explorer’s behavior is largely affected by the brain chemical dopamine, which is a key player in our experience of pleasure and novelty. Longs for: A playmate.
Bonds well with: Other Explorers.
If you are an Explorer: My advice is to go slowly. Because you’re so impulsive, you can get romantically involved too fast. And because you hate confrontation, you risk bolting from a relationship that could prove fantastic. If you find someone you are genuinely interested in, check your inclination to go out with others, and focus your energy on him or her.
If you’re dating one: Be prepared to live this romance one day at a time. Remain flexible, and know that for your partner, “dullness is a misdemeanor,” as novelist Ethel Wilson astutely put it.
You know the type: Typically conventional, these women and men are honorable and loyal; cautious without being afraid; calm; social; popular; and good at managing people, networking, and building family and community. Drawn to schedules and rules, they are also detail oriented, thorough, conscientious, and dependable.
George Washington, Colin Powell, Tiger Woods, Jennifer Aniston, Queen Elizabeth.
Under the influence:
The defining neurochemical in Builders is serotonin, which modulates moods like aggression, anger, and calm.
Bonds well with:
If you are a Builder:
Don’t let your taste for plans and schedules get in the way of trying new things on a date??? unless you are going out with another Builder. Brag a little (Builders can be too modest) and, despite your love of socialising with the gang, take some time to be alone with your romantic interest. Your tendency to be protective will be appreciated, but make sure you don’t appear controlling.
If you’re dating one:
Remember that Builders like to be concrete and to revel in the details. They’re attracted to others who are orderly and calm, so when you make plans, stick to them. According to my research, Builders are the most likely to seek a lifelong partner.
You know the type: “One ought to hold on to one’s heart; for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head, too.” So wrote Nietzsche, and if you are a Director, you will relate. Directors are analytical and logical, straightforward, decisive, tough minded, focused, and good at rule-based and spatial skills like mechanics, math, and music. They also tend to be ambitious and competitive, as well as emotionally contained, even aloof. Yet these are the men and women who rush into a burning building to save a stranger.
Famous examples: Albert Einstein, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher.
Under the influence: Testosterone (we think of it as the male sex hormone, but women have it too) is especially active in shaping the Director’s personality.
Longs for: A mind mate.
Bonds well with: Negotiators.
If you are a Director: You like to be in control and tend to date with determination, but if you can be patient and let things unfold naturally, it will help you avoid scaring off possible romance. And while you may regard expressing your emotions as a weakness, the other person is likely to take your restraint as a sign that you are cold, secretive, or uninterested. So share your feelings.
If you are dating one: Remember that he or she will respond best if you are logical, accurate, and clear. Don’t criticise yourself (many Directors regard this as pathetic), and if you want to intrigue your partner, pursue topics of substance rather than small talk.
You know the type: Negotiators are imaginative, intuitive, empathetic, and emotionally expressive, and have good verbal and social skills. Most strikingly, these people see the big picture with all the options.
Famous examples: Bill Clinton, Gandhi, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw.
Under the influence: Estrogen (the so-called female sex hormone, though, again, it’s found in both genders) plays an important role in the Negotiator’s character.
Longs for: A soul mate.
Bonds well with: Directors (no wonder Hillary and Bill are still together).
If you are a Negotiator: Watch out for your inclination to be so diplomatic that you appear spineless. And avoid drowning your date in a verbal deluge. If you have met someone you like, don’t overthink the situation, endlessly going over the pros and cons. Ultimately it’s important for you not to settle for anything but a deeply meaningful, authentic relationship.
If you’re dating one: Keep in mind that Negotiators aren’t always direct, so read between the lines. Avoid being competitive with them. And don’t hesitate to talk about yourself: These people love hearing about what you’re thinking and feeling. Above all, they will fall for you if you stimulate their imagination.
The truth is, while certain personalities may be best suited to each other, it doesn’t mean that other matches can’t work. I’ve just completed a study with three fellow scientists on men and women who reported still being madly in love after an average of 21 years of marriage. We found that their brain scans showed high activity in regions associated with romantic passion and attachment—key no matter what personality type you are. So to those who are jaded about finding a mate, clichéd as it may sound, I urge you to keep an open heart. We are wired to find love.
First published at O, The Oprah Magazine