Singles are often told they’re too picky when it comes to looking for a mate. Next time you hear that, you might point out that you’re just trying to avoid a bad match. And, as a new study points out, picking a bad mate can be worse than passing up a good one.
A study of relationship deal-breakers, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month, noted that “natural selection has punished mating mistakes more harshly (i.e. death, disease, infertility) than it has rewarded quality mating choices (i.e. living incrementally longer, having incrementally healthier offspring).”
The researchers, led by Peter K. Jonason of the University of Western Sydney, looked at six surveys of relationship deal-breakers and found, among other things, that women have more deal-breakers than men, since they’re the ones who have the potential to bear children with their prospective mates. “Women are likely to be more selective about their relationship partners to avoid costly impregnation by low-quality mates,” the study notes, so women “should perceive more — or have lower tolerance for — dealbreakers in potential mates.”
In one of the surveys included in this study, 5,541 participants (single Americans ages 21 to over 76) were asked: When considering a committed relationship with someone, which of the following would be deal-breakers to you? Respondents could select as many traits as they wanted from a list of 17 potential deal-breakers, including things such as: lazy; too needy; too quiet; talks too much; bad sex.
For nearly every deal-breaker, women were more likely to say the trait was a problem. The top five deal-breakers, for both sexes were: disheveled or unclean appearance; lazy; too needy; lacks a sense of humor; and lives more than three hours away from me. At the bottom of the list, as least likely to be deal-breakers, were: had kids; too athletic; not athletic.
Men rated a few deal-breakers — having kids, living too far away, talks too much, and a low sex drive — more commonly than women did. This “may reflect men’s greater concerns about resource investment in partners (and their families) and men’s somewhat higher interest in casual sex,” the researchers found.
In contrast, women were more likely to consider as deal-breakers partners who lacked self-confidence, were too lazy, and those who spent too much time watching television or playing video games. In another survey covered in this study, women were more likely to report bad sex as a deal-breaker; and for both genders, bad in bed was deemed a deal-breaker in short-term relationships but not long-term ones.
Overall, the researchers found deal-breakers to be smart and useful: “It is likely that dealbreakers function as efficient, cost-sensitive cognitive mechanisms designed to cull inappropriate potential partners, allowing mating preferences to operate within a reduced target of desirable mates.”
So go ahead and dump that lazy dude who’s clinging to you and your sofa. It might propel him to try harder next time.