Science has proven that girls — and boys — really do just want to have fun. (Photo: Getty Images)
Similar values, physical attraction, an emotional connection — there are some factors that are non-negotiable when it comes to choosing the person you spend the rest of your life with. But a new study from the University of Zurich suggests that — while that’s all well and good — men and women alike also look for a slew of other traits in a person, including a partner who’s playful.
Researchers asked 327 young adults to look over a list of 16 characteristics and deem them desirable or not in a future long-term partner. Some frontrunners: friendliness, intelligence, humor, and a “fun tendency.” But not too far after these favorites, came playfulness. To women, playfulness can indicate a low level of aggression in men and to men, it can signal vitality in women, theorized Garry Chick, Ph.D., from Pennsylvania State University.
“We all have an inner child in us,” says Patti Feinstein, a Chicago-based matchmaker and dating coach. “Children are natural flirts, but socially we are taught to suppress that — to not cross the boundaries, to not touch people.” But if they taught dating in schools, they’d try to undo these social stigmas — and teach people how to get back in touch with that kid within.
So how can you do that sans a class? The easiest way is to change the date. “First dates fail because people are afraid to do activities — it seems cheap,” says Feinstein, who adds that both sexes can become caught up in the materialistic, how-nice-of-a-restaurant-can-he-afford, types of issues that come with a standard dinner and a movie date.
But going to an arcade, playing on the swings, or skating and not worrying about falling — things you would have done as a kid — help bring your natural bonding styles out, she says. Suggest a date like this and you’ll come across as fun, low-key, and — well — playful. “It’s this kind of thing that make the other person think, ‘they are flirting with me.’ It’s innocent and it works every time.”
And always try to cross the physical boundaries a little bit, says Feinstein. The boy pulling the little girl’s pigtails on the playground — while misplaced —is actually flirting, she says. The grown-up (far more effective) version: picking something off of someone’s shirt, joking teasingly with a hand on the other person’s arm, or holding hands.
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