Women prefer stable men but really do miss the sexy ones
A woman who picks Mr. Stable over Mr. Sexy often struggles unconsciously with her decision later in life, according to a new study by UCLA researchers.
At their most fertile period, these women are less likely to feel close to their mates and more likely to find fault with them than women mated to more sexually desirable men, the research revealed.
"A woman evaluates her relationship differently at different times in her cycle, and her evaluation seems to be coloured by how sexually attractive she perceives her partner to be," the Daily Mail quoted Martie Haselton, a professor of psychology and communication studies at UCLA and senior author of the study, as saying.
However, the negative feelings appear fleeting, and they don't seem to affect a woman's long-term commitment to her romantic relationship, the study found.
"Even when these women are feeling less positive about their relationship, they don't want to end it," said Christina Larson, the study's lead author and a doctoral candidate in social psychology at UCLA.
Through a series of high-profile studies, Haselton's lab has revealed changes that take place in women's behaviour during ovulation.
Possibly to increase the odds of attracting suitable mating partners, these behaviours include a tendency to dress up and to speak in a higher-pitched, more feminine voice and - in a potential inbreeding-avoidance mechanism - to refrain from contact with male kin.
In addition, the lab has found that women whose mates are less sexy and masculine tend to be more attracted to other men during the few fertile days leading up to ovulation.
"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.
She and Haselton began the study by pinpointing the ovulation cycles of 41 undergraduate women involved in long-term heterosexual relationships.
As women mated to 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 mated to the most sexually attractive men, meanwhile, experienced the opposite effect. As these women moved from their least to most fertile period, their closeness scores rose by a point.
In another test, the researchers also found that women mated to the less sexually attractive men were significantly more likely to find fault with their partners and, again, feel less close to their partners during the high-fertility period than the low-fertility period.
Women who rated their mates as more sexually attractive, meanwhile, did not exhibit these changes and instead reported being more satisfied with their relationship at high fertility than at low fertility.
The researchers believe the findings shed light on a suite of conflicting behaviours that stem from mating strategies that might have provided an evolutionary benefit to women's female ancestors of long ago but today probably serve no other purpose than to stir the domestic pot.
The findings are scheduled to appear in the November issue of the peer-reviewed journal Hormones and Behaviour.