Thursday, January 6, 2011

Men Are Romantic Idealists, but a Woman's Tears Turns Men Off

Seeing these two studies on the same day was interesting. I've suspected that men are more romantic than women (I certainly was when I was younger), which likely stems from our limited experience with strong emotions (and a whole lot of other factors), but this article suggests there is evidence for that belief. I wonder how many women would agree?

The second article shows that when a woman cries, her man's testosterone plummets. My guess is that there is something other than reduced aggression as a result of tears, which the authors posit as an explanation. The study said that men also do not experience greater empathy (I wonder how they measure that?), but I am thinking empathy of some form might be the goal of tears - emotional bonding.

Are Men More Romantic Than Women?

Dr. Terri Orbuch - Professor, relationship therapist, author
Posted: January 6, 2011

A girlfriend of mine told me her boyfriend asked her last week which she preferred -- opals or pearls. She said, "Ink cartridges." Her boyfriend was crestfallen when she explained that she'd prefer that he gift wrap a six-month supply of those expensive little ink cartridges for her printer/scanner than slip her a romantic necklace the night before Christmas.

This came as no surprise to me. In my own long-term study of married couples, and from the many studies I've read on romanticism among the genders, it appears that yet another gender myth can be dismantled: Men, typically, are more romantic than women.

When relationship researchers talk about romanticism, it refers to a person's general beliefs about love -- not one's feelings about a specific person and his or her behaviors.

Between you and your partner, who is more romantic? The answer might surprise you. Take this quick true-or-false quiz to learn more about your own level of romanticism.

True / False -- I believe in love at first sight.
True / False -- I fall in love easily, and when I do, I fall hard.
True / False -- I believe there is a perfect soul mate out there somewhere for me.
True / False -- If I don't have passionate feelings for someone right away, chances are s/he's not "the one."
True / False -- No matter what challenges life presents, love can conquer all.
True / False -- When you're truly in love, passion never fades; it can last forever.

Now, count up the number of "true" answers.


  • 1-2: You're a realist. You are probably more interested in a partner who can take a toaster apart or get along with your eccentric parents than one who makes passes at you in public.
  • 3-4: You're a secret dreamer. You may harbor secret fantasies about love and romance, but you're still firmly attached to the idea that a partner is, above all else, a source of security and your anchor in life.
  • 5-6: You're a total romantic. You can list the best on-screen kisses of all time -- because you've watched them over and over! You envision you and your partner madly in love at 90 and still whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears.

Okay, now you know a bit more about your own romantic beliefs. But what about those of your partner? What do you do if you are a lot less -- or more -- romantic than your partner?

My own research and that of others shows that men tend to believe that love should be more passionate than women generally do. It also shows that men fall in love more easily than women. In my long-term study, I was genuinely surprised by the number of men who were smitten with their wives long before their wives even took them seriously. That's a pattern other researchers have found, as well. Women, in general, tend to have more pragmatic views of love.

If you are a man, you may be frustrated by your girlfriend or wife's practical approach to lovemaking and romance. Does she roll over, put on her bathrobe, and start checking her e-calendar moments after you've made love? Does she e-mail you to schedule a "date" after the gym but before her 7 o'clock meeting? Don't take these behaviors personally. She's not dissing you. She's simply compartmentalizing her romantic feelings. This is common among women. If it bothers you, let her know that you'd like to do things your way sometimes. That is, linger in bed in each other's arms listening to jazz. Or spontaneously making love -- at an odd time or in an unusual place -- once in a while.

If you are a woman, you may feel put off by his amorous advances when you're trying to study at night. Or his complaints that you don't seem to care about him anymore. He's not being a big baby -- he's being a guy. For men, frequent shows of physical affection and small endearments, such as holding hands or kissing, are very reassuring. It's fine to be practical about your love relationship, but at least some of the time, let him feel like the two of you are in a movie. Take the time to create a romantic mood or scene for him. You'll both be glad you did.

When two partners are sensitive to each others' attitudes toward romanticism, and make an effort to gain insight into what each other needs and likes, you may discover that both his romanticism and her practical approach to love have their advantages.

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And here is the study on T levels in response to tears.

Women's Tears Turn Men Off


Womens Tears

WASHINGTON — If a crying woman's red nose isn't a big enough turnoff to a man, a surprising experiment found another reason: Tears of sadness may temporarily lower his testosterone level. Those tears send a chemical signal as the man gets close enough to sniff them – even though there's no discernible odor, say researchers from Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science.

It's the first such signal to be found in tears, and it's probably not unique to women's. Theirs just were the first to be studied.

"It's hard to get men to volunteer to cry" in a lab, noted Weizmann neurobiologist Noam Sobel, senior author of the study appearing in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

Emotional tears are chemically different from the reflex tears that form when you get dust in your eye. But biologists have long puzzled over the true function of emotional tears: Are they merely cathartic, or do they have some other physiological role?

Mice can produce a sort of tear that contains a pheromone, an odorless molecule that triggers basic instincts in many animals. So Sobel's team tested whether human tears similarly can convey subliminal chemical signals through the nose. After all, we tend to hug a crying loved one, putting our nose near their tears.

First, some women volunteered to watch a sad movie in the lab and collect their tears in a vial. For a comparison, researchers trickled saline down the women's cheeks and collected those droplets, too.

Healthy young men couldn't smell a difference between the real tears and the sham ones.

Then came a series of tests: The men were given women's photographs to rate. When they sniffed actual tears, they found the women less sexually attractive than when they sniffed saline. And to researchers' surprise, sniffing actual tears didn't make the men empathetic.

Also, saliva tests of testosterone levels found a dip in that hormone after they sniffed tears but not the salt water. Finally, when they sniffed tears and then watched a sad movie inside a brain-scanning MRI machine, the men showed less activity in neural networks associated with sexual arousal.

"We have never looked at tears in this way before," said Dr. Esen Akpek of Johns Hopkins University's Wilmer Eye Institute, who wasn't involved with the new study. "This is really interesting."

The findings make sense, she said, because the glands that secrete tears bear receptors, or docking ports, for sex hormones – a connection most clearly seen with dry eye, which is most common in postmenopausal women.

Why would our tears have evolved a "chemosignal" to function as a sign of sexual disinterest? It's possible that's a proxy for lowering aggression, acknowledged Sobel, who now is trying to identify the molecule doing the work.

For now his findings suggest "the signal is serving to time sexual behavior. It is a signal that allows its user to say, 'Now is not the right time.' I predict there are other signals that say, 'Now it is,'" Sobel said. "This is just one of many chemosignals."

Stay tuned: He's now testing male tears, "as we finally have one good man crier."

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