Often, women looking to settle down with Mr. Right have to make some sort of compromise. Generally, there’s Mr. Stable, and Mr. Sexy, and you just can’t have both. Many women end up choosing Mr. Stable (perhaps the economy comes into play here?) and wind up wondering if they’ve made the right choice. Well, at least for part of the month, they wonder if they’ve made the right choice.
A new study by UCLA shows that women who mate for stability become more distant during times of peak fertility, meaning that, just before ovulation, these women tend to become more critical of their mates, finding more faults in him than normal. However, this attitude doesn’t last. The study shows that this spurt of distant and critical behavior comes and goes with the changes in a her cycle and has no effect on long-term relationship success.
Women who marry Mr. Sexy, however, tend to become closer to their mates during times of peak fertility.
According to the study, women are less likely to “feel close” to their mates during times of high fertility and more likely to criticize and find faults with them than women who are with more sexually desirable men.
“A woman evaluates her relationship differently at different times in her cycle, and her evaluation seems to be colored by how sexually attractive she perceives her partner to be,” said Martie Haselton, a professor of psychology and communication studies at UCLA. Haselton is senior author of the study that centers on women’s behaviors toward her mate during times of peak fertility.
Although women who chose Mr. Stable may not feel as attracted to them during ovulation, their “not-so-happy feelings towards their relationships come and go, and don’t actually affect the seriousness of a committed relationship,” the study asserts.
Christina Larson, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in social psychology, explained: “Even when these women are feeling less positive about their relationship, they don’t want to end it.”
While previous studies have shown that women’s level of attraction to her mate during the ups and downs of her monthly cycle have been done before, none have shown the effects this has on a relationship’s function. “A lot of research has shown that women’s preferences change over the course of the cycle, but this is the first time that these changes have been shown to have implications for relationship functioning,” Larson said.
Researchers surveyed women at two different points in their cycle: At high fertility, just before ovulation, and at low fertility. Each woman was asked about the quality of her romantic relationship. The researchers found no significant change across the board in regards to a woman’s perceived level of commitment to their relationship.
But an exercise that required the women to rate how close they felt to their men yielded “dramatic results,” the study shows. As women involved with less sexually attractive men moved from their least fertile to most fertile period, their closeness scores dropped one point on a seven-point scale. Women partnered with the most sexually attractive men, on the other hand, experienced the opposite effect. As these women moved from their least to most fertile period, their closeness scores rose by a point. Women with more stable, less attractive partners were also more likely to be critical and blame their men for shortcomings during times of high fertility.
“Women with the really good, stable guy felt more distant at high-fertility periods than low-fertility periods,” Haselton said. “That isn’t the case with women who were mated to particularly sexually attractive men. The closeness of their relationships got a boost just prior to ovulation.”
There is a theory behind this:
“Since our female ancestors couldn’t directly examine a potential partner’s genetic makeup, they had to base their decisions on a physical manifestations of the presence of good genes and the absence of genetic mutations, which might include masculine features such as a deep voice, masculine face, dominant behavior and sexy looks.
“It is possible that we evolved to feel drawn to these visible markers because, at least in the part, they proved to be indicators of good genes. Ancestral women who were attracted to these feauture could have produced offspring who were more successful in attracting mates and producing progeny.”
Haselton explained that in the reproductive arena, “women probably evolved to desire men who could contribute both quality care and good genes.” She noted, “The problem is that there is a limited number of potential mates who are high in both. So many women are forced to make trade-offs.”
They concluded: “We don’t know if men are picking up on this behavior, but if they are, it must be confusing for them.”