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For Love Factually, Laura Mucha has interviewed hundreds of strangers, from the ages of 8 to 95 in more than 40 countries, asking them to share their most personal stories, feelings and insights about love. An excerpt:

‘I have love in my life. I met her at work. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting it. She was the one that chased me: she knew she wanted to be with me almost the moment she saw me, so she was quite bold. She didn’t say anything at first, but after about a month, she approached me. ’I met Jorge, a gardener, in rural Spain. He was a shy man but agreed to give me five minutes of his time (and no more) to talk about love.

‘When we started going out, I was quite reserved and didn’t throw myself into it, but she did. After three or four years, I realised that I wanted to be with her long term. Before that, we didn’t really cultivate our relationship. She was going through a divorce and she had a small child, so we had to wait for some time before we could focus on our relationship. We were also trying to get to know each other, find a place to live. It was complicated.

‘Now we’ve been together for 20 years and it has been absolutely marvellous. Of course we have had our ups and downs, like all couples –we fight, we argue. The whole world does it. But most of the time our relationship is very good.

‘I’m very happy. I’m not interested in other women. What I want is what I have –I don’t need anything else. We are completely transparent with each other, there is no deception, we always say it as it is. I told her back then and I tell her now: if she hadn’t found me, I don’t think I would ever have settled down. I am very lucky.’

I told her back then and I tell her now: if she hadn’t found me, I don’t think I would ever have settled down. I am very lucky.

I hardly met any women who’d done the chasing, nor did I meet many men who’d been chased. As someone who had done the chasing myself (that’s how I got together with my now husband), I was keen to know whether Jorge and his wife were outliers or not. Was he really that ‘lucky’ to meet a woman who was prepared to pursue him? As soon as I delved into the research, I realised he was –it’s almost always men who make the first move.

Was he really that ‘lucky’ to meet a woman who was prepared to pursue him? As soon as I delved into the research, I realised he was –it’s almost always men who make the first move.

In a 2016 study of single people in the US, only 13 per cent of women had asked a man for his number and only 29 per cent had initiated the first kiss. (Which is odd –why were more than twice as many women brave enough to physically move in for a kiss than ask for a phone number – surely being rejected when you’re trying to lean in and lunge is more embarrassing?) Meanwhile, in an online dating study of more than 8,000 men and 6,000 women, sociologist Derek Kreager and colleagues found that women were four times less likely to make the first contact than men.

Perhaps women expect men to do the asking, perhaps they believe it’s better to play hard to get, or perhaps it’s just not ‘what one does’. I suspect fear of rejection plays a role, but that doesn’t stop men –and the evidence suggests they’re far more likely to be rejected than women.

In a classic study, male and female students approached strangers of the opposite sex and said, ‘I have been noticing you around campus. I find you to be very attractive. ’They then asked one of three questions: ‘Would you go out with me tonight?’, ‘Would you come over to my apartment tonight?’ or ‘Would you go to bed with me tonight?’

I suspect fear of rejection plays a role, but that doesn’t stop men –and the evidence suggests they’re far more likely to be rejected than women.

Half the men (and women) said yes to the first request, but when it came to being invited to their apartment or to stay the night, every single female said no …and a massive 69 per cent of men said yes. What’s more, the attractiveness of the person doing the asking had no impact on the response.

Of the men who said no, many apologised or gave explanations, like ‘I’m sorry, I’m married ’or ‘I can’t tonight, but tomorrow would be fine. ’The females, on the other hand, gave no excuses. Instead, they were appalled, saying things like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding? ’and ‘What’s wrong with you?’

Yet, if more women were to pluck up the courage, perhaps they would be pleasantly surprised by the results. In a recent singles study of more than 5,500 people in the US, 95 per cent of men surveyed were pro women lunging or asking for their phone number, and 94 per cent were pleased when a woman was the first to call after a (good) first date. Meanwhile, Kreager and his colleagues found that women who made the first move ended up connecting with people who were more desirable compared with those who waited for people to get in touch with them.

Excerpted from Love Factually: The Science of Who, How and Why We Love by Laura Mucha with permission from Bloomsbury, 499 INR| 368 pp

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