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02 November 2012
You are more than your hormones, this much is self-evident. Human beings have evolved beyond being organisms dictated by the biochemistry that drives reproduction and feeding. Yet it is facile to deny that certain hormonal and biochemical drivers of behaviour remain in place. Sure, they interact with a higher level of cerebral function but these more fundamental forces are certainly there. In women for instance, it has been shown that certain parts of their menstrual cycle, due to the hormonal fluctuations that go with them, impact behaviour. Research has shown that women tend to dress more elaborately and to speak in a higher voice at the most fertile part of their cycle. Now a new study has shown that they also feel differently about their partner at their fertile times depending on the reasons they chose that partner in the first place.
In this study researchers asked women who were in long-term heterosexual relationships to rate the sexual attractiveness of their partner and then answer questions like, “How desirable do you think women find your partner as a short-term mate or casual sex partner compared to other men.” In addition the women were asked questions designed to establish how stable and viable as a long term mate they felt their partner to be.
Having done these surveys the women then took part in further questioning at two different parts of their cycles: just before ovulation (high fertility) and then at a low fertility phase.
The results showed first of all that women’s commitment to a relationship and their satisfaction with the relationship did not change across their cycle. However, there were some interesting findings.
Women who were with men that they regarded as stable but less sexually attractive felt a 14 per cent drop in the feelings of closeness to their husband at their most fertile times. On the other hand, women who had paired with men because they were attractive reported a 14 per cent increase in their feelings of closeness. These feelings were measured by a seven point scale.
To see if these results would stand up to scrutiny the researchers performed the experiment again with a different group of women. This time they added questions to see how women rated characteristics in their partner like being moody, childish, emotional, thoughtless, and critical. Again, women showed the same pattern of closeness variations. Additionally, women who mated less sexually attractive but more stable men were more likely to find fault with their partners when they were fertile (rating them as moody, childish, etc). On the other hand women who rated their partners as more sexually attractive reported more satisfaction with their partner when they were ovulating.
The researchers say this may point to an area of conflict for women. While attractiveness points to good genetics for breeding (to put it bluntly) there is also immense value in having a partner who will provide and help care for children. Whether fault-finding and loss of closeness translates into relationship problems remains to be established but if there are regular troughs in your relationship you might want to look at when they occur. Although gentlemen, you may not want to know the answer if it means your partner finds you stable but not so attractive. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.