Guys are often accused of being Neanderthals. But recent research suggests that women are just as prone to primitive impulses. And that can make forging a connection tougher than reinventing the wheel, says Dr Vinita Mehta, a clinical psychologist and the author of Paleo Love, a new book that explores how our Stone Age genes can affect modern relationships. Mehta says the vestiges of the really, really old days will cause trouble for you unless you understand the ancestral elements in a woman’s wiring. Heed our guide to these primal instincts and send your rivals the way of the dinosaurs.
1. She’s Hot for Handymen
Innovators were prehistoric pants men. “Creativity has been essential to human courtship for half a million years,” says psychologist Dr Geoffrey Miller, author of The Mating Mind. “It means you’re able to develop solutions for survival and social problems.”
Do this: give her a custom-made gift and you’ll be the man for her clan. Psychologist Dr Ty Tashiro, author of The Science of Happily Ever After, suggests checking her Pinterest account – it may be a window into what she wants. Nothing Pinteresting? “Great creative ideas can be a matter of applying your skill in one area to another area,” says Tashiro. So if you’re known for your epic fantasy footy spreadsheets, come up with one for her Bachelorette bracket.
2. She Likes You Abrasive
On your face, that is. Many leading men – Clooney, Hamm, Farrell – share an aversion to close shaving. That could be key to their sex appeal, according to a study in the journal Evolution & Human Behaviour, which reports that women find heavy stubble to be the most attractive kind of facial hair.
Do this: if you tend to go clean-shaven, give it a rest for as long as a week, suggests grooming writer Sandra Nygaard. Use an electric razor to clean any uneven patches, but don’t go overboard. “Sharp lines will betray the effortless vibe you’re going for,” says Nygaard. Sideburns that aren’t too bushy can help fill out the look, but make sure they don’t extend past the midpoint of your ear.
3. She Marks Her Territory
Jealousy was a useful tool for Stone Age women to prevent their mate from sharing scarce resources with other females, says Mehta. And the evolutionary drive remains: jealous women are more likely than men to spy on their partner via Facebook, according to University of Toronto researchers.
Do this: make her feel like the chosen one, says sociologist Dr Jenn Gunsaullus. Depending on her style, that could mean surprising her with a small gift occasionally or just blocking off 30 minutes to listen – actually listen – while she vents about her idiot boss, says Gunsaullus. “When women feel special, jealousy tends to fall off and relationships improve.”
4. She Wants Actions, Not Words
Scepticism runs deep in the female DNA, says Mehta. If prehistoric females weren’t picky about new men, they could end up as cave-dwelling single mums. A speed-dating study at the University of Texas found that women still react coolly to male interest in order to encourage greater effort.
Do this: actually follow through, says Gunsaullus. “Women always tell me how foolish they feel when guys flake,” she says. “It’s shocking how often it happens.” So when you commit to a date, show you mean it, Gunsaullus says. For instance, text her midweek with a link to the trailer for the movie you said you’d take her to see. You’ll confirm the date’s still on while building excitement.
5. She Prefers to Look Up
Height in men is associated with good health and good genes, says Mehta; these traits were especially important back when health was difficult to maintain. Plus, big guys would win fights. These days, we’re (mostly) too civilised for fisticuffs, but female attraction to tall guys still lingers.
Do this: height-challenged? It’s okay. You have something our ancient forebears didn’t: style. “Go with narrow ties, narrower lapels and tailored clothes,” says style writer John Ortved. “Use vertical stripes, if any – never horizontal.” Or wear a single colour, creating one long line. “It’s an optical illusion,” Ortved says, “but that’s all we short guys have to go on: trickery