An Academic Guide to Love & Romance – Happy Valentine’s Day!

This post originally appeared on the Guardian Higher Education Network.

Whether you find yourself alone this Valentine’s Day, or you just need some top tips on pleasing your partner, our guide to love is sure to help. So put down your pen, back away from the UCLA Loneliness Scale, and read on.

If you do happen to find yourself alone, there are some reasons to be thankful. A study of 5,000 American adults found that you are still better off alone than in a dysfunctional relationship. Those in strained and unsupportive relationships were significantly more likely to develop depression compared with singletons.

Be careful though, unhealthy relationships are easy to fall into once you have been alone for a while, and research confirms that people settle for less due to a fear of being lonely. Best not to start dating during your PhD then, as this is likely the loneliest you will ever feel.

When the search for love commences, a tool created by Ben Schmidt could help. Intended to analyse gendered use of words in reviews on Rate My Professor, Schmidt’s nifty app can also narrow down your field of search for a potential mate. For example, a search for “cute” will show that the language department is the place to go, regardless of your sexual preference, while if it is intelligence you seek, philosophy and political science is where you shall find it. If you aren’t a fan of elbow patches and tweed, best steer clear of the music school.

Once you are partnered up, get into the sack as often as possible. More sex means fewer colds, not to mention that it is just plain good exercise​. There is a vast sexology literature that can be drawn on to improve your love life.

For those interested in the female orgasm, I give you the only piece of advice you will ever need, probably: ensure that the woman is wearing socks. In one study, only half of the women were able to reach orgasm, but this jumped to 80% upon the provision of socks. Warm and cosy feet calm the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, the brain regions responsible for anxiety and fear.

Even if you do find a mate and manage to live happily ever after in a blissful bubble of heteronormativity, love might still get you in the end. Being in a relationship is the most common cause of weight gain (according to research reported by the Daily Mail. I’ll say no more), and the medical literature is replete with cases of Broken Heart Syndrome. A 70 year-old woman with no prior heart problems collapsed in hospital after being informed that her husband of 45 years had died. While this is the stuff of urban legend, the jury is still out on the causal link.

The academic Twittersphere has been particularly amusing, if a little cynical, as Valentine’s Day approaches. The hashtag how to ruin a date with an academic in five words has academics pitching in with pithy comments on how not to wine and dine them:

Others have used the occasion to have a dig at the broken model of academic publishing:

#ScienceValentines is a little more warm and fuzzy, if asteroids and cold fusion are your cup of tea:

However, the romantic side of scientists apparently only extends so far, as Guardian blogger Dean Burnett demonstrates:

Best of luck in all your romantic and academic endeavours. Tweet me @AcademiaObscura and let us know how you fare. If this guide hasn’t helped you, then lock the doors, crack open a bottle of wine, and spend the evening writing that latest paper by candlelight. So romantic.