The great animal debate continues. The online dating stats say that men who have cats in their profiles get fewer messages, but men who have dogs get more. Then there are the people who say men ARE dogs. But I wouldn’t insult dogs like that… heyooo! Just poking fun, we love men and dogs. But most of all, we love looking at what humans and animals can learn from one another.
If you and me ain’t nothin but mammals, is there anything we could learn about love from looking at other animals?
That is precisely the question at the core of the new Discovery+ series, Love in the Jungle. Today Animal behavior specialist and show consultant, Dr. Jennifer Verdolin, will school us on love lessons from the animal kingdom. She’ll tell us why we should trade romantic images of swans for vultures, the real reason that red works in your dating profiles, and so much more.
DATING DISH (2:42)
What to do if a “nice-guy” turns out to be not so nice:
If you think you know what a nice guy is, Reddit has got another thing coming for ya. According to this Newsweek article and Reddit forums, “nice guy” is now a phrase referring to a man who believes acting nice or moral entitles him to sex, romance and affection. This is not a new phenomenon, especially because the article notes how the anonymity of social media allows feelings of rage to come to the surface and be expressed more easily.
You may actually recognize the usual pattern of a Nice Guy, which is as follows: When you first start talking, they’re perfectly nice and give you lots of compliments. Soon after, they make an advance. If or when you decline, they immediately turn on you. They begin name calling, acting dismissive, and saying things like “I didn’t think that you were pretty anyway.”
So here are the clear traits you can look out for in a potential “nice guy.”
- When you meet them, they may act in passive aggressive ways.
- In person, they may be much more withdrawn or express their frustration in a different way.
- They don’t really have emotional intelligence, the ability to express or manage their emotions in an effective manner.
- They don’t accept help or support, or even want to address their emotional challenges.
- They use love bombing to disarm their targets.
- Big changes in emotion, like quickly becoming angry or insulting.
If you end up finding a “nice guy” out in the wild, what should you do? According to this article, they are probably not in the position to really think about their behavior reasonably, so stay polite as you exit. If you become rude with them, they’ll see that they’ve gained emotional control over you, and it may just make them even worse. Also, don’t try to educate them. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to block and report this person for abusive behavior. Damona notes that all dating and social media apps take online abuse very seriously, particularly if people are violating the terms of the app. So don’t be afraid to let the app know that we don’t accept “nice guy” behavior.
Damona takes a moment to talk to the ACTUAL nice guys, and talk about a strategy she developed called the Nice Guy Nine. Since the nice guy is often overlooked (and because she ended up marrying her own nice guy), Damona ended up creating techniques to help these men attract the women they want.
Below are some of the tips from the Nice Guy Nine.
- Get her talking about the things that she loves when you are on your date – maybe her dog or a favorite activity. Talking about these things will bring up positive feelings, she will then associate those positive feelings with you.
- Give her unique compliments. If it’s obvious that she’s gorgeous, she probably has guys complimenting her looks all the time. Go a level deeper. Can you give her a compliment on something that she’s wearing? Or do you notice something unusual about her? Maybe she’s reading a particular book you can comment on? Also, consider complimenting her on a quality that reveals something about what you’re looking for.
- You want good eye contact, but not creepy eye contact. So it’s not staring, but it’s glancing and looking away. A lot of times, actual nice guys tend to avoid eye contact because it feels awkward. But try holding the gaze a little bit longer than you think is comfortable. Usually it’s at that point that the eye contact becomes intriguing.
- Just tell her you like her. We’re all playing it so cool that nobody’s really saying what they want.
- All in all, be open hearted and you’ll be amazed at what meets you back.
Are you an actual nice guy who needs a little help getting any matches? Damona’s FREE Profile Starter Kit will help you completely revolutionize your online dating experience, switch up your profile, and magnetize the dates to you. It’s not going to be free forever, so download yours HERE!
JENNIFER VERDOLIN (13:15)
Dr. Jennifer Verdolin is an internationally known animal behavior scientist, podcast host, and author of “Wild Connection: What animal courtship and mating tells us about human relationships”.
She is also an Associate Professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona
(14:01) Dr. Verdolin’s background:
How does one find a career at the intersection of animal behavioralist and dating show consultant? Dr. Verdolin states that she’s always been able to see the parallels between humans and other species (whether it be a dragonfly or a cardinal). “I study wild animals and all the things that go into their social lives and their love lives… And then there was my own dating life. And I found myself, after I got my PhD and I was single again, going, ‘Okay, why is it that a chicken can make a better choice in a partner than I can?’” So Dr. Verdolin set out on a mission to date like other species, using some of their principles to guide her to a mate, rather than being guided by romantic comedies.
(16:20) Love in the Jungle:
Damona calls Dr. Verdolin’s new Discovery+ show, Love in the Jungle, a mix between Survivor, F**kboy Island and Married at First Sight. Basically, 14 unlucky-in-love singles are thrown into the jungle to mix & mingle and compete in challenges reminiscent of different mating rituals – all while being unable to speak. “We use words so much. We manipulate each other with words and we present an image to each other with our words. And sometimes, you know, we don’t pay attention to other things, because we’re so caught up in the wonderful words. So by taking that away, you’re left with observing how somebody interacts with others. You are left with noticing their body language, you’re left with how creative they can be with what they’re trying to communicate to you. They have to find other ways to show you.”
Dr. Verdolin describes that one of the things that surprised her the most while filming was how much the contestants embraced the philosophy of the show. She addresses one of the challenges on the show, where the women had to cover themselves with pink feathers and dance like a flamingo. “You know, you’re doing [these challenges] in front of potential mates, which is not something we typically have to do. We always make ourselves very comfortable, we dress the way we feel the best, we go places that we feel comfortable with, to activities that we’re confident in. And it’s really unsettling to be vulnerable in that way, super vulnerable.”
(20:08) Define ‘high-quality’:
A time-old concept that has pervaded both our culture and the animal kingdom, is the idea of the Alpha Male. Damona inquires if the Alpha Male mentality is one that we should be looking for or even need anymore?
Take the aforementioned bird, the Cardinal. If you are a male Cardinal, you are judged by female Cardinals on how red you are (and unfortunately, there isn’t a red spray tan salon for cardinals). “But here’s the thing, why do female Cardinals care so much about how red the males are? Well, because they become red through their diet. And so that red is a signal of, ‘I’m a good male. I can find food, I’m going to be a good father, I can provide while you are in the nest.’”
This is what Dr. Verdolin refers to as an honest signal, referring to a visual trait that is hard to cheat. And those honest signals don’t have to be about strength or size. They can be intelligence, they can be sociability, they can be all kinds of traits.
Honest signals work into the the Alpha male/female dynamic, in that they inspire competition. “What we see in humans and other species is intense male-male competition, intense female-female competition, right? Or however you want to mix it up, it doesn’t really matter. There’s always going to be competition for high quality mates, depending on whatever we decide is high quality.”
(20:48) Seeing red:
One of Damona’s classic pieces of advice (that you may have caught on the show before) is to include the color red in your dating profile pictures, since it inspires such a strong biological and emotional connection.
Dr. Verdolin brings up the power of red in an example involving Zebra Finch. For a long time, people who studied birds put different colored bands on their legs to be able to tell them apart. Turns out in this instance, males that got red bands were apparently seen as super sexy to the females. (Female Zebra finches tend to love novel traits). So for some reason, the males that got green bands lost fights with males that had red bands, and females didn’t like them as much.
“We are attuned to different factors, and the thing that I like to bring people’s attention to… is to notice this, pay attention to this. Because you might be drawn to somebody based on that [unique or specific quality]. But that doesn’t make that individual the right partner for you.”
(26:36) Love at first smell:
Let’s talk about the pheromone in the room… how much does smell really play into human attraction, according to Dr. Verdolin? Plainly, she says a huge amount. “I think that we do a disservice to each other by covering our smell… There was actually an experiment done, I don’t remember where it was. But it was basically a speed dating experiment using armpit swabs. You basically went around sniffing jars, and you wrote down what jar or jars you were strongly attracted to. And then if there was a match, you got time with that individual.”
Mate-wise, we get a lot of the information about potential partners from smell. Particularly through something called MHC genes, or major histocompatibility genes, which are our immune function genes. Dr. Verdolin adds, “We are most attracted to individuals that are opposite to us. And why would we be most interested in individuals that have sort of an opposite set of genes? Well, you combine two different sets of immune genes, and you have babies that really have the best of both of their parents when it comes to immune genes.” (AKA, genetic diversity.)
Dr. Verdolin also drops the fact that when women are on birth control, the medication changes their smell preferences. They tend to end up feeling attracted to individuals that are MOST similar to their MHC genes, which can sometimes become a problem when they get off birth control, because they may not be able to stand the smell of their partner.
But with all these natural pheromones floating around, does using scented deodorant or perfume mess up our scent-ses? (See what I did there?) Dr. Versolin thinks so. “Of course, one should have good hygiene. We’re not talking about not bathing for a week so that you’re ripe by the time you go on your date. That’s not what we’re talking about… I feel like there was this push to have us be embarrassed about our smells. And you know, I say bring it back! But again, this is just a piece of information on your genetic compatibility, your sexual compatibility, your kind of attraction compatibility. And that can be great for one night or for, you know, 50 years.”
(34:19) Monogamy or nah:
Similarly to other species, Dr. Verdolin states that we can also be attracted to multiple people at once. Which begs the biological question, are we meant to be monogamous? Dr. Verdolin has seen that in any species, there is variation among the individuals (for example, there are currently over 50 human societies where women have two husbands).
Dr. Verdolin brings up the Bewick’s Swan. “You have some infidelity in some partners, right? So some partners are super faithful, and other partners are not so much. And even like one-sixth, or one-third of the little cygnets, which is what baby swans are called, are not related to the male. It’s the females that usually step out! And so we call that socially monogamous, but not genetically monogamous.” (Hot tip: this Valentine’s Day, try giving your partner a card with Black Vultures on it, who Dr. V says are SUPER monogamous.)
And then there’s the Prairie Dogs, where females mate with on average two plus males. “I study prairie dogs and, you know, I’d see them traipsing all over the place. And I’m like, oh, it was thought it was the males that were doing all of the philandering. And it turned out it was the females that were going out and visiting other males.”
We tend to have these stories about what our relationships are supposed to look like, and that they’re supposed to look that way for everybody. But we’ve changed so much culturally in the past decade and at a really rapid pace. And some people just aren’t as monogamous as other people. Dr. Verdolin’s hot take is that “the problem comes in when we don’t have a society that permits people to say, ‘You know what, I struggle with monogamy.”
(43:53) Tap into your animal intuition:
Intuition plays such a big role in how we suss out people in our own dating lives, so Damona asks Dr. V how intuition shows up for different species. Like, do they have a special spidey sense (maybe literally) for picking up red flags?
Dr. Verdolin returns back to the Cardinal to answer D’s question. “Remember when we started out with the cardinal, right? There’s no female that’s like, ‘Okay, I mean, he has potential to be better. I think if I just work with him, and I show him where the berries are, you know, he’ll become more motivated. He will be more of an ambitious Cardinal.’ We know in our gut, when we have that feeling, we know what feels good and we know what feels bad.”
“But we also have sort of been told that relationships are hard work, right? That everything is hard. And we also have storylines that tell us we will get this wonderful feeling when we first meet somebody, but then they don’t treat us as well as they should. And then we go through all this pain, we break up and then they come back and they’ve had an epiphany about us and they’ve come back to be with us.”
Unlike other species, Dr. V believes that all of this mixed messaging has messed with the way we listen to our intuition… For most species, not listening to their intuition will always have more immediate consequences than when humans ignore their intuition. So let’s take a lesson from Dr. V and the Cardinals and trust our gut more. Because in the end, we lose less time on situations that aren’t right for us, and we will therefore be able to stay positive.
And check out her website for links to her podcast, Wild Connection, and her book, “Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tells Us about Human Relationships.” Check out JenniferVerdolin.com.
DEAR DAMONA (54:06)
- IG Message from Wanda – Hi Damona! I love your podcast and all of your fantastic advice. I DM’ed you a couple of weeks ago about not knowing where to start in the world of online dating, after the end of my 25 year marriage and 9 year permanent separation. Your suggestion was to start out with writing a profile which I did, then I took it one step further and signed up for OK Cupid and Silver Singles since I’m in my 50s. After I downloaded some recent photos and created my profile, my inbox became flooded with messages from local men (and a couple were even patients from the hospital I work at). Well let’s just say the apps became quite overwhelming! I think because I work as a Nurse Manager in the ER at the only hospital in this city, I may have to figure out how to go on dating sites more incognito. I’d appreciate any advice on navigating this, thank you Damona!