Human beings select their mates based on a variety of factors, some of which are conscious considerations and others subconscious. Despite a multitude of studies conducted in the area of mate selection in humans, concrete conclusions have yet to be drawn with regards to how people choose their life partners. However, the process of selection can be broken down into five distinct phases. Following is a brief outline of the mate selection process, from first meeting to an official show of commitment.
The Five Phases of Mate Selection and Their Progression
The first phase of mate selection is physical attraction. Studies have shown people decide within the first three seconds of meeting an individual if they are attracted to him or her on a physical level. This physical attraction, if reciprocated, may lead to conversation between the two. Research suggests that people know if they like someone or not within three minutes of talking with them, with body language being a more reliable indicator of mutual interest than the conversation itself.
Infatuation is the second phase. When two people have decided they like each other, this phase can manifest quickly, leaving each overwhelmed with feelings of excitement and anticipation. It is likely to compel the couple to further explore each other's personality and other attributes.
Dating is the third and probably one of the longest phases of the mate selection process. Outings together help to determine if shared interests, common goals, and similar values exist between the couple. Even if vast differences in values or interests are discovered at this point, "chemistry" can keep a couple together. It is usually somewhere within this phase that one or both parties claim to fall in love with the other. It is also during this phase that the differences between men and women's communication styles may cause problems, possibly leading to the end of the relationship.
After a period of dating each other exclusively, one or both parties may either declare or presume a commitment exists between the each other. This is the commitment phase and if voiced, is usually based on compatibility, genuine caring, and thoughts of building a future life together. Yet commitment may merely be presumed to exist based on how long the dating period has gone on. Again, if communication is unclear, the differences between men and women's definition of commitment and how commitment is demonstrated can complicate this phase considerably, with the possibility of the relationship ending.
The final phase of the mate selection process, the official show of commitment, culminates with either a ceremony, i.e. wedding, or simply with the decision to live together under one roof with the intention of fully sharing each other's lives, building a future together and possibly beginning a family.
Communication Styles: The Main Stumbling Block To Achieving Intimacy
It is ironic that despite today's advances in technology that facilitate communication, men and women still have difficulty understanding each other. Different communication styles, which inevitably lead to misinterpretation, often pose barriers between men and women that can stymie the achievement of true intimacy. We can blame socialization, not biology, for this paradox.
Boys are socialized from a young age to not appear "weak" by showing their emotions or by expressing hurt feelings, but to assertively pursue their needs and goals. Girls, on the other hand, are encouraged to express their emotions and to heal through talk, yet to suppress their needs and to not appear too "aggressive". The result is that men have difficulty communicating their true needs in a way that women understand, and may be perplexed as to what women are truly saying in their seemingly constant yet vague discourse. To women, men may seem totally uncommunicative about their feelings, and are likely to misinterpret men's means of communicating their needs.
The mate selection process is complex, but can be divided into five distinct phases. What furthers a couple from one phase to the next is based on their attraction to and compatibility with each other on many different levels. The difference in communication styles between men and women is often a barrier to the achievement of intimacy. While we cannot change how we were socialized as children, we owe it to ourselves and to our mates, be they prospective or current, to transcend our imposed communication styles, to learn to express ourselves clearly and freely, and to listen more attentively. Only then will our relationships progress more smoothly from phase to phase, increasing our chances of reaching the final destination of a truly intimate partnership.