How long does it take for a man to know if he’s attracted to you?

He knows from the moment he sets eyes on you.

In hard numbers, that’s 100 milliseconds.

Researchers at Princeton found that we’re most accurate when it comes to making snap judgements about two traits:

Trustworthiness and attractiveness.[1]

We don’t need a half-hour coffee date to figure out whether we’re attracted to someone. Our gut has its answer at hello.

Given how much work we put into winning over the opposite sex, that’s frustrating. It suggests that, no matter what you say during that coffee date, he’s already made up his mind about you.

But maybe … just maybe … that’s a GOOD thing.

If he’s already decided whether he’s attracted or not, there’s no performance pressure. You can sit back, relax, and let the date unfold as it will. If it seems to be going poorly, you can cut it short with no guilt. You don’t have to try to change his mind.

Research like this brings up interesting questions about how much control we actually have over attraction.

Most of us believe there are a number of practical things we can do to improve our attractiveness. It’s as if there’s an attractiveness scale of 1 to 10, and we can move up on that scale with hard work and effort.

But therapists who work with married couples often see attraction in a very different light. Couples pick each other not because he’s funny or she’s sexy. They pick each other because of lovemaps formed long before they met.

These powerful, subconscious influences explain why men may pass over a seemingly “perfect woman” to marry someone who appears less appealing. The outside world sees a mismatched couple, whereas in fact they’re the perfect fit.

Lovemaps even explain your dating history.

Consider the men you’ve found yourself attracted to over the course of your life. Was your attraction to these men a conscious choice … or was it a compulsion that made no sense? If it felt like something you had no choice over, then that’s a sure sign it was coming from your lovemap.

Lovemaps also explain why the guys you like often end up dating women who aren’t half the woman you are. You can’t understand why he would pick her over you. But then again, you’re only seeing what’s on the surface. You’re not seeing his lovemap.

So what is a lovemap and how can it help us understand the enduring power of first impressions?

The term lovemap was coined by sexologist John Money in the 1980s and later picked up by dating and relationship coaches as a way to explain the great variation in what people find attractive.

Ever noticed how everyone finds different things attractive? What’s attractive to you isn’t the same as what your best friend finds attractive.

That’s because you have a unique set of preferences (AKA lovemap) influenced by your culture, childhood, parenting, early crushes, and many other factors. You don’t choose these preferences consciously; they evolve from life experience.

When you meet a man, your lovemap immediately tells you if he’s a match. You don’t even have to think about it. And the same happens with him.

A man who looks at you and doesn’t feel an immediate pull of attraction isn’t rejecting you. Rather, his lovemap doesn’t recognize you.

That feels a lot different than believing he’s given you a low score on the universal scale of attractiveness!

When it comes to relationships, there is no universal scale of attractiveness. Who we find attractive enough to date and marry is unique to us.

That’s not what we’re told, though. Ever been told that men prefer women who look a certain way (curvaceous, glossy hair, big eyes)? There’s certainly some truth to these notions when it comes to physical desire, but not necessarily love.

And that’s why there’s so much diversity in the actual partners men pick. Men fall in love with stick-thin women, heavy women, older women, and even women who aren’t conventionally attractive at all.

You may have also been told that men find a certain personality type most attractive: happy, fun, and feminine. (Okay, maybe you heard that from me.)

But maybe you have some female friends who are not like that at all. And certain guys just fall for them.

Lovemaps teach us there’s much more going on beneath the surface than we realize.  We can’t know what someone else will find attractive, because we can’t see their lovemap.

It can be valuable to do the inner work in exploring your lovemap, but for now just realize that lovemaps work the way they’re meant to work. They identify partners who are a match.

That match is as much psychological as it is physical.

And when you find yourself comparing yourself to another woman? Let it go. She may seem as if she has it all, but you may be the one his heart recognizes.


[1] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01750.x

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