When searching for a mate, most of us carry around a list of criteria or qualities that we tell ourselves we're looking for. A brief perusal of any Internet dating site yields many such lists: "A sense of humor, a sense of adventure, and good teeth" says one. "Owns his own business, likes to travel, and works out," says another. Curiously, however, we often end up with mates who seem to lack many if not most of the qualities we said we wanted. Why is that?
One reason may be that people don't come custom-order and we must all inevitably make compromises if we don't want to end up alone. On the other hand, many "mate" choices people make are more than just a little surprising given the criteria they claimed to have been using. In some cases, it's as if their shopping list was completely tossed aside.
This is often exactly what happens. As with everything else, our conscious minds play second fiddle to our unconscious desires. That is to say, we may think we know what we want in a mate, but the real qualities we find attractive the real reasons for the choice we ultimately make—are often quite different from what we tell ourselves they are.
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