How Happy You Are With Your Mate Depends on the Rest of the Dating Pool

Well, big duh.

Relationship satisfaction depends on the mating pool, according to a new study, as reported by newswise.com.

Relationship satisfaction and the energy devoted to keeping a partner are dependent on how the partner compares with other potential mates, a finding that relates to evolution’s stronghold on modern relationship psychology, according to a study at The University of Texas at Austin.

 UT Austin psychology researcher Daniel Conroy-Beam and his collaborators developed a method to test how mate preferences influence behavior and emotions in relationships in the study “What predicts romantic relationship satisfaction and mate retention intensity: mate preference fulfillment or mate value discrepancies?” he writes in Evolution & Human Behavior.

Who hasn't been there?  You want to go to the prom but the only guy you think will ask you is kind of a big jerk.  But you'll go with him, anyway.  And then he doesn't ask you!  This happened to me.

“Few decisions impact fitness more than mate selection, so natural selection has endowed us with a set of powerfully motivating mate preferences,” Conroy-Beam says. “We demonstrate that mate preferences continue to shape our feelings and behaviors within relationships in at least two key ways: by interacting with nuanced emotional systems such as how happy we are with our partner and by influencing how much or little effort we devote to keeping them.”

For the study, researchers simulated a mating pool from 119 men and 140 women who had been in relationships for an average of 7½ years, each rating the importance of 27 traits in an ideal mate and the extent to which they felt each trait described both their actual partner and themselves. Researchers then  calculated each of the participants’ and their partners’ mate value, or desirability within the mating pool as determined by the group’s average ideal preferences.

The study discovered that satisfaction was not reliably dependent on how a partner compared with a person’s idea of the perfect mate, but rather whether others in the mating pool better matched a person’s ideal preferences.


Those with partners more desirable than themselves were satisfied whether or not their partners matched their ideal preferences. But, participants with partners less desirable than themselves were happy with their relationship only if their partner fulfilled their ideal preferences better than most other potential mates in the group, Conroy-Beam said.

“Satisfaction and happiness are not as clear cut as we think they are,” Conroy-Beam said. “We do not need ideal partners for relationship bliss. Instead, satisfaction appears to come, in part, from getting the best partner available to us.”

Even though I've been happily married for over 20 years, I still smart about that prom.  





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