Superstars in the relationship science field recently published new research on the importance of dealbreakers in romantic relationships. Relationship Dealbreakers: Traits People Avoid in Potential Mates by Jonason, Garcia, Webster, Li and Fisher (2015) revealed that dealbreakers vary minimally between sexes, and much more between short-term vs. long-term mating strategies. The research comprises six studies and over 6,500 single Americans.
Not surprisingly, dealbreakers were associated with:
Undesirable personality traits.
Unhealthy lifestyles in sexual, romantic, and friendship contexts.
But the key third ingredient is sociosexuality:
Divergent mating strategies in sexual and romantic contexts.
Specifically, the researchers found that dealbreakers were:
Stronger in long-term (vs. short-term) relationship contexts.
Stronger in women (vs. men) in short-term contexts.
Stronger in people with higher mate value.
Weaker in people with less-restricted mating strategies.
Some observers have suggested that women are pickiest for ONSs, but this is not the case. We have evolved to be particular about both aspects of selecting a mate: genetics and the potential for effective parenting. The notion that women want cads for flings and dads for life is a spurious myth perp’d by self-identified “dads” who can’t get a date.
It will come as a surprise to no one that women are pickier when it comes to casual sex than men are.
Likewise it stands to reason that those with the highest mate value are the most selective. One way I’ve seen this strategy go awry, however, is when a person hews to standards appropriate for only the most attractive of their sex. (This is quickly self-correcting as long as the person is able to accept responsibility rather than blame all members of the opposite sex for lacking taste and judgment. ???? )
Historically, most of the research in this area has focused on the traits people want most in a mate. This study looked at the traits people most want to avoid:
“Consistent with prospect and error management theories, people weighed dealbreakers more negatively than they weighed dealmakers positively; this effect was stronger for women (vs. men) and people in committed relationships.”
Again, we see that women are choosier, in keeping with their higher risk/cost associated with sex. The researchers use the example of health: The benefit of avoiding unhealthy mates is greater than the benefit in approaching healthy ones. In general, “losses loom larger than gains.” Dealbreakers trigger avoidance or even disgust in us, while positive traits trigger the milder “approach mechanism.”
This is why I focus so strongly on filtering out unsuitable people. The key to mating success is largely a matter of avoiding wasting time and emotional energy on bad candidates.
Short-term vs. Long-term Dealbreakers
The effect of sociosexuality on dealbreakers was studied using undergraduates. The dealbreakers for casual sex largely boil down to safety and whether the person is going to be a good lay. As you can see, those employing a long-term mating strategy are on the lookout for red flags that would make an extended relationship bad news. They use a much wider range of mating criteria.
Top 10 Dealbreakers for Long-Term Relationships
This study was the largest of the six, with over 5K subjects. Here are the results, broken down by sex:
Women’s top 3 dealbreakers:
Wow, that conjures up a very unattractive package! I dated a guy like this once. He was a DJ for a rock station, which I thought was cool. Fortunately, the coolness wore off rapidly enough that I never had sex with him. ????
Men’s top 3 dealbreakers:
Men’s dealbreakers are the same, though not quite as strongly felt:
Other Interesting Comparisons Between the Sexes
Women are less tolerant of bad sex, but men are more concerned with low sex drive.
“There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”
Neither sex is particularly concerned with athleticism one way or the other.
Both sexes highly value a good sense of humor.
Women are turned off by a lot of video game playing.
It’s better to be too quiet than too talkative.
Half of women and a third of men are totally turned off by a lack of self-confidence.
Do these findings match your own preferences?
Are you surprised by how similar the sexes are?
What do you think about unrestricted/short-term mating types having fewer dealbreakers within the context of casual sex?
FYI, I’ll be traveling for the next four days but will try to check in.