The love negotiation


Ah yes, Valentine’s is coming and love is in the air. But what exactly is that indefinable thing? Well, scientists can tell you. And they suck all the fun out of it as they do.

”Conceptualized couple formation”

“Couple formation is often conceptualized as a competitive, two-sided matching process in which individuals implicitly trade their assets for those of a mate, trying to find the most desirable partner and most rewarding relationship that they can get given their own assets,” explains University of Notre Dame sociologist Elizabeth McClintock says. “This market metaphor has primarily been applied to marriage markets and focused on the exchange of income or status for other desired resources such as physical attractiveness, but it is easily extended to explain partner selection in the young adult premarital dating market as well.”

One big negotiation

McClintock studies the effects of physical attractiveness on young adults’ sexual and romantic outcomes (number of partners, relationship status, timing of sexual intercourse) while revealing to us gender differences in preferences. And in doing so, she has reduced us to opportunists. Her new study shows that good looks may be exchanged for status and financial resources as well as control over relationship outcomes, like sex.

What the pretty girls do

Interestingly, she found that very physically attractive women are more likely to form exclusive relationships than to form purely sexual ones. They also don’t have sex during the first week of dating the partner. The thought is that the pretty girl uses her pretty currency in the man market to control outcomes within the relationship. The number of sex partners a woman has decreases with increased degrees in prettiness. The prettiest girls have only one sex partner at a time. And weight, of course, plays a role. Thinner women have fewer partners so weight is considered a dimension of pretty.

But there are two more important factors

The driving factors in attraction have to do with similar education, race, religion and physical attractiveness. Once those factors come into play, the myth of an exchange of beauty for wealth is debunked. “The vast majority of couples select partners who are similar to themselves in both status and in attractiveness,” McClintock claims. Reassuringly. Maybe.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, University of Notre Dame


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