The Fatal Mistake Single People Make, According To Research

Sometimes you need to scratch the surface.

Last updated on Dec 19, 2023

Couple on an adventure together in canoe Getty Images | Unsplash

Have you ever wondered if you've possibly missed opportunities to date someone great simply because they didn't dramatically strike your fancy at first glance?

I'm here to say you've probably missed some wonderful potential partners. And likely, plenty of great people also overlooked you!

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A 2015 New York Times article highlighted the fatal mistake single people make by limiting their love prospects to people who elicit a dramatic, romantic response upon that very first look.


After many years as a personal matchmaker and dating coach, I see firsthand why it's smart to look outside the arena of "It Girls" and "It Guys."

Everyone dating in today's wacky world grew up with the media, and we've all been trained by decades of magazines, billboards, and screens (large and handheld) to go for the type of person who matches the style of "the next big thing".

But how often does someone fall in love at first sight with a person who has that movie star look? Oh, maybe a hundred times a day. But is love at first sight real? And does that kind of attention breed heart, soul, and rock-solid character? Sadly, in my experience, it's rare.


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If you are waiting to fall in love with someone who grabs you visually from the get-go, you're undoubtedly missing lots and lots (and lots) of far better partners than the ones who catch your eye right away. All that attention tends to breed entitlement and narcissism, and really, who needs that?



Recent research delivers a powerful message: Time spent together can and often does impact romantic attraction.


Psychologists at the University of Texas in Austin conducted the study to measure the level of romantic attraction students had for their classmates. More specifically, the researchers measured the change in attraction as the students got to know each other over several months by interacting in a small classroom environment.

The findings? The students, considered at the beginning of the school term to have the most romantic appeal, were not necessarily in the "cream" that rose to the top several months later.

The study revealed that the more time spent together, the greater the disparity between perceptions of who was hot and who was, in the end, not.

Superficiality is common on dating apps.


With these dating tools, the question as to whether someone is a "keeper" or not is a decision made in half a second. I do know couples who've met via Tinder or Hinge, but mostly I see a big waste of that leaves people feeling empty, weary, dissatisfied, and still alone on Friday nights (with their devices, swiping left and right).

I've had the honor and joy of working with The Matchmaking Institute, where Dr. Helen Fisher has shared so much of her wisdom. She's a biological anthropologist, a foremost expert in the Romantic Love and Attraction sciences, hired by as part of the architectural team responsible for creating

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Dr. Helen Fisher knows as much about the biology of love and attraction as anyone alive today, and she conducted a survey that backs up the University of Texas findings.

Dr. Fisher looked closely at what she calls "slow love" — when romantic love develops for two people not at first sight but over time.

As we might expect, the study showed that "slow love" happens more for women than it does for men, but not nearly as dramatic a difference as we might think; 43 percent of women and 33 percent of men reported they had developed a romantic attraction for and have indeed fallen in love with someone whom they had not initially deemed attractive.

Developing a case of "the hots" over time most certainly occurs for today's single love seekers. It's happening more now than ever, as the age at which today's single men and women are coupling up continues to rise. It's a good thing that romantic attraction can and does develop over time — let's face it — for the vast majority of us, as we get older, our looks aren't as likely to turn heads.


It's a smart single person who does less swiping and suspends judgment for a while to allow a person to fully "reveal" themselves.

What qualities and characteristics did Dr. Fisher's survey reveal that make a person ultimately attractive and appealing romantically? The inside stuff — humor, shared interests, and the art of conversation.

In other words, give each other a chance and take the time to get to know each other.

RELATED: What True Love Means, According To A Therapist​

Julie Ferman is a personal matchmaker, consultant, dating coach, media personality, professional speaker, producer of dating industry conferences and events,  and a blogger. She's been a  guest on countless television shows including Good Morning America, The Today Show, Dr. Phil, and Fox News.