Sniffing Out Your Soulmate


Sometimes on my couch, in quite voices, people will tell me they've fallen out of love with their husband or wife and say things like, "I'm not sure I was ever in love with him or her...there's just no connection." I've often asked myself, Well what do you do with that? What does it mean?

As marriage therapists, we coach couples to get beyond the marital myths and realize that happiness is a state of being; that no one is perfect and that very few couples stay in love 100% of their marriage. It's the journey that counts and making love for a life time is work and this work can give us more rewards than we ever thought possible.

I still believe this, but I also wonder at the mystery of love and attraction and if there's something beyond our "trying really hard" that makes us more compatible.

I'm reading this great book by Tara Parker-Pope called For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. It's a fascinating read. She cites a study called the "sweaty t-shirt studies" demonstrating that women actually sniff out men who are more genetically compatible. Apparently, we've evolved so that a better genetic mate for us is one with very different genes, perhaps to prevent in-breeding and promote healthier offspring. By and large, women prefer the smell of the "sweaty t-shirt" worn by a man with very different genes than her own. This is without knowing anything about the man who wore the t-shirt. Even more fascinating is that women who are on birth control pills choose poorly. They almost always pick a t-shirt in which the genetic match is too similar. This is because the pill tricks the body into thinking it's already pregnant and therefore she doesn't need a mate.

Men, for their part, can't sniff out the genes but do pick up women (or tip them more at strip clubs so studies show) when they're ovulating vs. when they're on they are menstruating. Evolutionarily speaking, the goal is to find women to

Crazy, I know, but it makes me wonder: Do all these bad matches exist out there because of the pill and bad timing? Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but doing this work for as long as I have, sometimes I just can't figure how some people have kept their relationship together for as long as they have. Maybe there's some genetic underpinning that we're just not aware of. Maybe it's other universal mysteries that make some people more compatible than others.

I don't know. In the meantime, I'll keep selling what I believe; that marriage can be a gift even when it's hard. And..I'll wonder too at the mystery of it all.