One study found that people are more likely to settle down and continue with their relationships, even if they are not ideal, rather than being left alone because they are too selective.
According to a new article published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, research suggests that humans are more predisposed to initiate, build and maintain romantic relationships. Instead of being overly demanding, people seem to have a tendency to push the relationships they have, even when things aren’t going well.
According to professor Samantha Joel, author of the article, “When people are faced with a relational fork in the road, the path that leads to a long-term relationship seems easier than the path that leads to singleness.”
Joel and his co-author Geoff MacDonald reviewed the scientific literature on forming and maintaining romantic relationships. They observed that people are not particularly selective when it comes to choosing a partner. For example, a large speed dating study revealed that participants said yes to an average of 40% of their dating options. The research also found that people tend to overestimate their willingness to reject potential partners who have expressed an interest in them, even if they have some undesirable traits.
Participants in a speed dating study said yes to an average of 40% of their options
Falling in love isn’t especially rare either. On the contrary, people tend to quickly get attached to their partners. In a classic 1995 study, single college students were recruited and their relationships observed over the course of a semester. 33% of participants fell in love over a 12-week period.
It’s also much harder than we think to decide to leave an established relationship, even when the relationship is abusive. People often experience guilt and other negative emotions when they make the decision to break up with their partner. “This results in intermittent relationships, in which a relationship is dissolved and renewed, often repeatedly,” the researchers note.
The main argument of the work is that, as a rule, people want to end a long-term relationship and avoid being alone, and this guides our decisions about how we start and maintain relationships.
According to the authors themselves, there are variations and limitations that can change these general results. For example, it is likely that very physically attractive people can afford to be more demanding of their romantic partners, and even that women are more demanding than men. Also keep in mind that in cultures other than the Western world, families tend to play a larger role in mate selection.