These days (and really, all the days), my perfect date entails watching Netflix in bed after dinner at our favorite Mexican place. Stupidly full of tortillas and margaritas, I want nothing more than to sink my body into pillows and the comfortable memory foam mattress my fiancée and I bought at IKEA (which was also a really fun date). According to science, I probably wouldn’t be able to find true love on The Bachelorette; luckily, I’m not vying for a relationship by jumping off skyscrapers and out of planes.
On Monday night’s Bachelorette, Andi and Marcus plunged down a tall building in the name of love. It was thrilling. It was entertaining. It was cheesy. It was successful. Why the success? Psychologically speaking, performing exhilarating activities that make you feel like you might die can create a bond between you and your partner. Diana Kirschner, a psychologist and CEO of Lovein90Days, suggests, “What happens is that adrenaline is released that mimics the feelings of falling in love.” FALLING in love?! Get it?
Furthermore, when we’re scared, yet are able to look into someone’s eyes or have them physically present, this increases the release of oxytocin, a bonding hormone. So, being adventurous and doing dangerous things together will kind of make you feel like a damsel in distress (so-to-speak) and psychologically this, sort of, turns us on.
Think about it. If you love roller-coasters, you ride them because they’re exciting. They make your heart race. You’re maybe a little bit scared, but this fear is exhilarating. You ride your crazy million-loop coaster at Six Flags, and afterward, you feel like an unstoppable goddess. These are the same chemicals that are created when you do something wild with your partner as well: both of you will experience an explosion of dopamine (how dirty does that sound?).
Although it’s super great that many couples enjoy risk-taking activities (my biggest risk is boogie boarding, but hey), fear can trick you into feeling all the feelings — including not-so authentic love and attraction. A 1974 study by Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron had a woman stand at the end of a sketchy bridge and a non-sketchy bridge: the study showed that the men who chose crossing the sketchy bridge were depicted as more attractive to the woman. Perhaps this just proves that we prefer risk-takers, but it also can suggest that we are turned on by danger and those who seek danger. And this doesn’t always lead to a promising relationship. But sometimes it does, and sometimes it helps form a really robust bond with your SO, if your relationship is just beginning, or if you two have hit a rut. Unsure of how you feel about this? Start slow and visit the state fair together; go on the swings ride and split and fried Twinkie. Feel all the butterflies.
Of course, simulated dying isn’t the only way to find love, and one should never pressure themselves or be pressured into a scary situation (ahem, Andi!) just because it’s scientifically sexy. Or, if you and your significant other just love skydiving and mountain-climbing, then go on with your reckless selves. Just be sure to wear helmets and make room for some quiet nights in with pizza. Because those are really good, too.