NEWS16 March 2017

Dr Hannah Fry’s top 5 tips on finding and keeping the love of your life

Impact 2017 Leisure & Arts News Trends

UK - Dr Hannah Fry, academic, mathematician and author of ‘The Mathematics of Love’, shared her five top tips for finding love during an entertaining talk on the last day of the MRS annual conference, Impact 2017.


Tip 1 – There’s really no point in having a checklist

Fry cited the work of economist Dr Peter Backus, whose thesis on why he did not have a girlfriend included a checklist to enable him to find one. The strict criteria included where she lived, her age, and her level of higher education. But once all his requirements had been met, Backus’s conclusion was that he had a one-in-285,000 chance of finding love.

“Opening yourself to new possibilities is not something you tend to do when looking for a partner,” Fry said, suggesting that a more open-minded approach would bear more fruit.

She added that in the last 80 years, there has been no evidence that a checklist of criteria can be used to predict long-term compatibility. 

Tip 2 – Beauty isn’t everything

The definition of beauty has long eluded the best minds. In this part of her presentation, Fry introduced a supposedly scientific definition of beauty — the ‘golden ratio’, which has been applied by artists and architects of great renown to create visions of mathematically-rigorous beauty. But the idea that it represents a blueprint for beauty has been derided as unreliable and cod-scientific.

Fry also talked of how the most symmetrical faces are deemed the most attractive. “The reason behind this is that every time as a child you’re ill, your face grows asymmetrically,” she said. “So the idea is that we’re programmed to find symmetrical faces more attractive.”

But the reality is that people’s imperfections are often a deciding factor for a prospective mate. “Actually, we tend to prefer asymmetrical faces as they are seen as more natural," Fry said.

“That’s the thing — when it comes to trying to capture the essence of beauty, despite trying for a long time, scientists have failed to pin down what beauty actually is."

As an adjunct to Tip 2, Fry inserted Tip 2.2, which suggested people who hung around with uglier versions of themselves would become more attractive by comparison. "Beauty isn't everything, but it’s worth having ugly friends," she said.

Tip 3 – Play up to whatever it is that makes you different

Many people on dating sites tend to post pictures of themselves that hide the features they are less than proud of. Fry suggests that this is the wrong approach.

“You should play up to what you think makes you different, even if you think some people will find it unattractive,” she says. “Because the people that fancy you will fancy you anyway.

“If you see someone who you find attractive, you think everyone else will find them attractive and decide they are out of your league,” she said. Conversely, if there is something about someone that you think people might not find attractive, you are more likely to consider them fair game, she added. She also noted that, consequently, the chances are that people who are "generically attractive are getting less attention than you might think".

Tip 4 – Reject everyone during the first 37% of your dating life for the best chance of finding the right one 

“Just imagine you’ve followed the tips [above] and you’ve been a roaring success on the dating scene,” Fry said. “How do you pick the perfect moment to settle down and how many people do you date before you settle down?”

Thankfully, a mathematical theory has been developed for those who want to optimise their chances for finding the best mate for life. “Say you date from when you’re 15 and settle down by the time you’re 35. Maths says that for the first 37% of your dating life you should reject everyone who comes along as serious marriage potential.

“After that window has passed, settle down with the next person who comes along who is better than everyone who came before. It optimises your chance that you end up with ‘the one’.”

But the strategy comes with risks. “Imagine if during the first 37% the perfect person came up. Then you’d have to reject them and everyone after them and you’d die alone.

“The other risk is that everyone you date during the rejection phase is terribly boring. But now imagine that the next person that came along is marginally less dull. The maths says you have to marry them.”

Tip 5 – Communicate honestly and positively for the best chance at success in the long term

The last tip saw Fry cite a study that examined the behaviour of warring couples and identified their ‘negativity thresholds’ – the points at which bad behaviour became unacceptable rather than merely irritating.

“You’d have thought that those with the highest negativity thresholds would be the couples with the best chances of success,” she said. But the opposite is true. “Those with very low negativity thresholds tend to address problems as soon as they arise, rather than bottle up their feelings until they blow up.”