There’s a lot we can learn about love from the birds and the bees — and the chickens, monkeys and squirrels that we share the Earth with.
So says Jennifer Verdolin, an animal behavior expert and the author of the new book “Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships.” The author says that her own experiences in the dating world inspired her to start writing.
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“I thought, ‘how is it that I am an expert in animal behavior, yet I’m making all of these mistakes?” she asks. “We have this cultural idea of what dating and romance is, but if we just had a little awareness, we can make choices that are healthy.”
Verdolin shares some of the most important things she's learned about relationships through her work.
Rejection isn’t personal
It’s a myth that all creatures in the animal kingdom find partners easily. “I didn’t take rejection well,” says Verdolin. “But it really wasn’t personal, this was just not the right person for me. Looking at animals and how easily they were rejected, I started to become really focused.”
She began asking, ‘Is this a good match for me?’
Monogamy isn’t necessarily natural
Not every animal mates for life. Squirrels, for example, have several short-term partners over the course of their lifetimes. The nature of their courtship process, says Verdolin, reflects this. “The choices are often made based on physical appearance,” she notes.
Don’t deliberately mislead potential partners
One of the most important animal behaviors singles can emulate is honesty, says Verdolin. People often exaggerate on first dates. “It’s common to say ‘sure I love shooting pool’ even when you don’t,” notes Verdolin. “Animals don’t really do this. They don’t deceive.”
This also is true when it comes to sex. Animals who aren’t looking for a commitment always make that clear, early on.
It’s ok to be choosy
It sounds funny, but Verdolin says she encourages daters to think like chickens when looking for a longterm partner. Women are often criticized for being “too picky” when it comes to dating, but if Verdolin has learned anything it’s that being particular is a good thing. “Hens are very picky when it comes to choosing a mate and that happens with a lot of birds.”
The reason chickens and other birds are so careful about who they share their lives with is because they usually mate for life, says Verdolin. Albatrosses, the large birds that live in the Pacific, often stay with their mates for decades, but their courtships can take years.
“If you are going to have a relationship that’s going to last 50 years, you should be picky,” Verdolin says. “These are not quick decisions.”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.