Your body has a way of steering you away from people who could be bad for your health. If something’s put you off your date and you’re not really sure what it is, perhaps your second immune system is to blame (or praise). Here’s what you should know about it.
It keeps you safe from germs. Your physiological immune system contains your cells, lymph nodes, and organs that fight infections and germs to keep your body physically healthy. Your behavioral immune system is a bit more complicated. It makes use of sensory impulses so that you can avoid danger and infections in the future.
Yes, it’s a real thing. You react to stimuli throughout the day and don’t even realize it. For example, when you notice your date has dirt under his fingernails or he keeps sneezing all over the table and you get the urge to run, that’s an immune reaction. What’s happening is that you’re not only finding his behavior gross but your behavioral immune system is telling you that you risk getting infections from this guy who seems to be a walking virus.
Germs influence dating. In a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin journal, researchers conducted an interesting experiment. Hundreds of people between the ages of 18 and 35 were asked to go on dates, either in a normal, in-person scenario or an online speed-dating setting. Before the dates began, the people had to fill out a survey so researchers could see how conscious they were about disease and germs. After the dates, they had to rate if they’d date the people with whom they’d interacted. When daters were more worried about possible infection from germs, they were seen as less friendly. They also had less romantic interest in their dates.
We’re dating unconsciously. Most interesting of all, the study results found that we’re driven by our conscious and unconscious selves during dates. There are factors that we don’t even think about, such as our response to germs, which are helping us make dating decisions and changing the way we interact with others. We might not even realize that we’re less friendly to guys our immune systems are warning us about!
It’s more than just physical signs of germs. It’s not just that you’ll be repelled by a guy who coughs without covering his mouth or doesn’t wash his hair often enough. Sometimes, your body can pick up signs of germs without you even realizing it so obviously. Remember that we can’t see microorganisms that are all around us, but there are lots of things that can tell us the person has a risk of pathogens. These could include someone who just smells funny, has cuts on his hands, or just makes you not want to get up close and personal with him even though he’s hot.
It gets even more interesting. The researchers found that the results of the study were not as a result of personality traits or attachment styles. They were about germs in and of themselves. So, this shows that sometimes in social interactions, our need to belong is weighed against avoidance motivation that’s connected to the human need to protect ourselves against disease. Basically, we’re choosing ourselves over our potential partners, which is how it should be!
Don’t blame your immune system. You might think that your immune system is messing up your love life, but bear this in mind: other studies have found just how much your immune system wants the best for you. In fact, your perfect match might already be ingrained into your DNA.
Your immune system is your wingman. In a study that was published in the Nature journal, it was found that everyone has their own human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex that’s found in the immune system. Why this is important is that it basically helps your body to know the difference between its health cells and any bacteria it should fight to keep you healthy and disease-free. HLA also plays a role in your dating life by choosing your mates.
Opposites attract! In the study, when researchers studied 254 couples and their patterns of attraction, they found that partners who had different HLA complexes in their immune systems had greater attraction for each other as well as more desire to have children together when compared to partners who had more similar HLA structures. It just goes to show how opposites attract! So, when you’re interested in a guy who’s really not your type, maybe your HLA is actually choosing him on your behalf.
Trust yourself. What you can take away from immune system research is that maybe there’s something liberating about dating after all. Maybe, instead of stressing so much about finding the perfect guy, you can trust your body’s instincts to take you to the person it thinks is right for you.
Don’t beat yourself up. It’s also good to let these studies remind you that you don’t have to beat yourself up when you choose not to go on a second date with someone who seems great on paper and who all your friends like. Your immune system might not tell you what’s wrong with the person in a clear way (which would be awesome), but hey, it could be saving you from a toxic date who could put your health at risk.
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