Dating Tips

Biological and Cultural Imperatives

Human nature has provided human beings with a biological imperative to procreate and continue the species—an imperative some people feel more keenly than do others. We also all have a biological drive for skin-to-skin contact. Raylene Phillips (2013), who summarized research on the effect of skin-to-skin contact for newborns, tells us that babies who get enough early skin-to-skin contact have better physical functioning and more optimal brain development, and cry less. Similarly, we have a biological need for eye-to-eye and face-to-face contact. Psychologist Allan Schore (2002) has written extensively about the psychobiological necessity of eye-to-eye, skin-to-skin, and face-to-face contact for adequate brain development and for developing social-emotional skills and abilities. Again, some of us have a stronger need for this close physical contact than do others.

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While nature has a plan for procreation, scientists have yet to identify a natural plan for long-term, committed relationships. This is generally considered a matter of culture, or if not culture, then of social survival. And cultural imperatives change. Thus, we see different reasons for forming long-term relationships in different parts of the world, and we see these reasons evolving over time. For instance, in past centuries, it was more common than it is today for people to marry for the purpose of combining properties and monies, or for social gain.

According to the Pew Research Center (Desilver 2014), love is the reason most (88 percent) of Americans cite these days for getting married. Also high on their list are making a commitment, and companionship (81 percent and 76 percent, respectively). Notably, 70 percent of Americans today say they are in a committed relationship, although only about 50 percent are married. If these statistics tell us anything, it’s this: your desire to date is supported by the culture, albeit equivocally. By that I mean you probably grew up expecting to find someone special and spend the rest of your life with that person, but along the way you received some contradictory messages.

It can be tough if you are feeling under pressure to find a partner but view dependency as a weakness, or if you see marriage as an outdated institution. I don’t think there is a quick solution for this kind of dilemma. Moreover, the solutions vary depending on your situation. If you are new to dating, resolving this issue may be part of your process of separating from your family and clarifying your own values. If you have a same-sex orientation, these issues may dovetail with larger social and political issues. If you are dating after the painful end of a long-term relationship, you may need to resolve feelings specific to that relationship first. In general, though, my suggestion is to allow yourself to temporarily live with any ambiguities related to your search for a partner. Again, hopefully you will be able to clarify these kinds of issues for yourself as you continue to read and to proceed with the dating process.

The Psychobiological Bottom Line

So where does all of what I’ve said so far leave you?

From the psychobiological perspective—and more specifically according to the insights of attachment theory—the bottom line is that most people need to feel closeness and ongoing connection with another human being. That is how we’re hardwired. Yes, we need people, and in particular, we tend to need one special person who can provide a sense of safety and security in the world. That in turn can reduce day-to-day stress, increase self-confidence, and make it easier to venture out and slay all the dragons in the wider environment.

Dating by zodiac sign tips

Some of us regard ourselves as basically “do-it-myself” people. I’m here to make the case that, really, none of us are. And in modern adult life, another person can greatly enrich your life and help you in whatever ways you may fall short if left to go it alone. Here are a few practical examples:

  • Another person can accurately guess, understand, and reflect back to you what you’re going through.
  • Another person can amplify your positive feelings and experiences, and assuage negative feelings and experiences.
  • Another person can play with and (if needed) heal the baby within you.
  • Another person can provide guidance about what to say or do when you’re feeling lost or uncertain.
  • Another person can step in and help when you’re in trouble, emotionally or otherwise.
  • Another person can boost your self-esteem when everything around you threatens to collapse.
  • Another person can push you to be better than you ordinarily would be on your own.
  • Another person can scratch the itch in that unreachable spot on your back (or in your soul).

People need people. You may still want to date without necessarily pair bonding. You may prefer to have lots of friends to satisfy your emotional needs, or to explore alternative forms of relationship. My purpose here is simply to guide you to improve your experience of the dating process and make better, more conscious dating decisions, based on psychobiological principles.