should we make gut decisions on partners

Co-host of popular How To Date podcast, Monique Robin explores the benefits and pitfalls of a ‘gut feeling’ approach to dating. Find out if you should really be trusting your intuition. 

For those of us who are single, the world of online dating has at times made the search for the love of our life such a mindless activity. Literally in thirty seconds flat we can wipe fifty prospective suitors off the face of the earth with a simple swipe to the left!

We get so efficient at culling the list, that it is sometimes hard to discern the basis for which each decision was made. In fact, it begs the question – was there any logical rationale behind our decision in the first place? (On second thoughts, it doesn’t really beg that question because we probably wouldn’t care to know the answer even if there was one – because it’s all just so exhausting!).

Yet ironically, the relative degree of detachment we have to creating the “short list” does set us up to be more invested in the next stage – the illustrious face-to-face date, where we get to actually meet a real-life human being (What? Really? There are real humans behind those two-dimensional dating profiles?)!

So with renewed vigor featuring in our approach to a real date we often approach it with more seriousness and one common question to come from this stage is: should we trust our gut when it comes to making dating decisions?

Sadly, there is no short answer to this question. However, it may be comforting to know that we can trust our gut, provided we are aware of other variables that may be impacting the accuracy of that gut instinct.

Feelings of comfort (and stress) when trusting our gut

Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Psychology at Charles Darwin University, Dr Simon Moss, is a registered psychologist and has published ten books and over ninety papers. When interviewed on the How to Date podcast, Moss suggested that we can only “trust our gut when feeling relaxed and comfortable”. He explained that we “almost have to feel comfortable not being with that person” to be calm enough for that gut feeling to be heard accurately.

Moss points out that when we are stressed, worried or anxious, it can result in “misleading decisions” that tend to come “from our immediate interests and not for our future” betterment.

Negative biases and gut feeling

According to Moss, research suggests that we come to our dates with certain biases that can affect how we perceive a person. For example, “familiarity bias” can create a situation whereby we feel more comfortable – and perhaps even trust more – somebody who lives close to us.

A corollary of this might be that we could dismiss a prospective partner simply due to the lack of familiarity they present due to their geographical locale in relation to ourselves. Similarly, we could invest too much hope in someone who lives close-by merely because it feels comfortable and straight-forward.

Positive biases and gut feeling

Whist it is important to note that certain biases can create challenges in identifying accurate gut instincts in the context of dating, not all biases are bad news. In fact, some biases can actually help us connect better with our gut to find the love of our life.

For example, Moss refers to a concept called the “commitment bias” as a positive bias. In fact, he suggests we could actually consciously adopt this bias to help road-test a relationship. He suggests that after four or five dates, we could propose a short-term period of commitment with that person, whereby we both make a conscious decision to commit to being together for a certain period of time (maybe one… two… three months?) without actually assessing or analysing the relationship.

According to Moss, the reason we would do this is because research shows that when we have committed to something, we tend to look at the positives over the negatives. Therefore, it’s a natural follow-on to suggest that by consciously creating a commitment bias, we are consciously creating an opportunity to find more of the positives in a person.

So, it is fair to say that not all decisions around dating can be cognitively based; we ultimately have to trust our gut with intuitive decisions. However, it is important to be aware of our emotional state at the time of listening to our gut; being able to identify when we are relaxed (good for listening to the gut!) and when we are stressed (not good for listening to the gut!).

Also, to be mindful of any biases that could positively or negatively impact our feelings towards a person. At the end of the day, so long as our gut feeling isn’t over-shadowed by strong, intense and immediate emotions, then we would be remiss not to listen to it!

Monique Robin is a yoga teacher, wellness coach, mother-of-four and the co-host with Dr Amantha Imber of How To Date, a podcast about how to master the messy, complex, and downright bizarre world of dating.