By Carol Gorga Williams
Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. -- A No. 5 hottie will never win a 10.
Men have a more romantic view of love.
Prolonged kissing can lessen allergy symptoms. Believe it or not, love is a science, and Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. researches it, teaches it and writes about it -- from his vantage point as head of the psychology department at Monmouth University here.
"It's always good to know the science behind it so you can make luck (in love) more likely," he told his students Wednesday in his Intimate Relations course.
You could call him "The Love Doctor," but he wouldn't like that as much as "The Doctor Who Loves Science."
Lewandowski is co-founder of ScienceofRelationships.com, a website named after the book he co-authored. He and his colleagues from around the country seek to dispense the most reputable social science research to answer questions about love, relationships, break-ups and infidelity.
They also conduct their own research. He has a Close Relationships Laboratory on campus where seven undergraduates help conduct and analyze relationship data.
"With college students, some of them are looking for the short-term hookup, so to speak," Lewandowski said. "But not as many as you would think.
"That is a number that gets blown out of proportion. College students start off this class with the best of intentions. The message I get in that class is to make sure you are choosing your relationship partners wisely and not just in physical dimensions," he said. "I try to teach them how important that physical attraction stuff really isn't. It is other things."
Spoiler alert: Hard-to-get is not a good strategy for relationships, Lewandowski said.
"Your relationship becomes a game you are playing. Game playing in a relationship is not good. The less drama the better for high-quality, long-term relationships."
Through the years, Lewandowski has found the secret to a happy marriage is less about sex and more about intangibles like trust, respect, friendship and loyalty.
"Sex -- it is not one of the most important things for an intimate relationship. ... All this other stuff is more important," research tells us, he said. "If you put the sexual intimacy thing first, you prioritize it too much."
Don't muck it up with sex too soon, particularly if you decide to live together, a phenomena he describes as "sliding instead of deciding" about a relationship.
Research shows that those who live together before marriage have higher divorce rates unless they live together with a firm commitment, such as an engagement to marry, he said.
Lewandowski considers himself a serious scientist who finds a way to present complex material in an engaging way.
Consider his research into the family structures in "Twilight."
Hint: the vampires were the emotionally healthy ones.
Relationship research is relatively new. The sexual revolution of the 1960s changed a lot of roles and pre-marital sex became the norm.
Lewandowski does not focus strictly on heterosexual relationships. He says the research shows that same-sex marriages can be just as long and happy if partners respect each other.
Prevailing research sees no fundamental way in which same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships differ.
"The Internet is littered with so much bad information about relationships, the science doesn't get out there," he said.
"We are actually scientists, and we do the research ourselves. It is a stereotype that scientists are boring and dull. We think we break that mold a little bit."
Lewandowski is the author of "The Sustainable Marriage Quiz," which uses his particular area of research -- the idea that relationships should lead to more "self expansion" -- to demonstrate whether a relationship can last over the long haul.
The quiz asks the taker to rate whether his or her partner helps them learn new things, enjoy new experiences or enhance the way they see themselves. Those are ways in which relationships can keep growing instead of growing stale.
Choosing a mate is the start, and social science has a formula for it: desirability equals physical attractiveness multiplied by the probability of acceptance.
"Say you are a 5 (in level of hotness) and you want to go after a 9 or 10. This (formula) will get you every time," he explains to his students.
"What are they going to say to you, these 9s or 10s? Nothing. They won't even talk to you. Or they will give you a number, but it won't be their number."
Lewandowski practices what he preaches -- if in more subtle ways.
His wife, Colleen, also was a psychology major in college and a social worker afterward.
They had common interests and what he hopes has been a happy marriage for 11 years, a relationship that also produced daughter Avery.
"I am very fortunate to have a a fantastic partner," he said.
During disputes or disagreements, "it is never that kind of thing where I start lecturing. I know the behaviors to avoid and the techniques to use. It helps to avoid problems," Lewandowski said. "It is so much a part of who I am I probably use it more than I realize."
He has a passion for science and for helping people get the right information about everything from romance to love: why women who wear red can generate provocative feelings in men and whether the reverse is true. (It is, Lewandowski said.)
"It turns out that men are more emotional," Lewandowski said.
"Research shows they are more romanticized. For guys, love conquers all. For women, they are much more practical: You can be in love, but you also need to have a job."
He said it is a running joke in the department that about half the students in his class who begin the semester in relationships end up out of them by the time of final exams.
Lewandowski's research also focuses on the positive aspects of break-ups -- how getting out of a bad relationship can enhance your life and self-esteem.
"This course will break up a bad relationship, but that is a good thing," Lewandowski said. "If you are in a good relationship, you have nothing to fear from this course."