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How to remain faithful in a relationship


Couple holding hands

Credit: iStock

You only have to look at divorce statistics to see how difficult it is to stay committed to a romantic relationship. Yet 67 per cent of marriages don’t end in divorce so how do those relationships last? It’s not as though the two of you enter a monastery together and cloister yourself from the rest of the world. The majority of relationships last faithfully despite the inevitable temptations that present themselves and a new piece of research has highlighted one of the psychological tricks that allows this to happen.

The study involved heterosexual university students who were shown images of an opposite sex person who would be their lab partner. Each subject read the profile of their new partner which included their relationship status. The subjects then were asked to match the photo of their new lab partner with one of several other images choosing the one most like them. Those other images had previously been categorised as attractive, less attractive, and more attractive. So effectively the subjects were rating the attractiveness of their new lab partner without explicitly knowing it.

Unconsciously misperceiving and underrating attractive people who may represent a threat to the relationship helps resist the temptation to pursue them.

The results showed that people in a relationship when shown a lab partner who had been labelled as “single” consistently rated them as less attractive than they actually were. By contrast when people in a relationship thought the new partner was in a relationship they rated them as more attractive than was actually the case.

The researchers say that unconsciously misperceiving and underrating attractive people who may represent a threat to the relationship helps resist the temptation to pursue them.

In a further study the researchers added an element of asking the subjects how satisfied they were with their own partners. Those who were satisfied with their own partners showed the same results as in the first study, seeing others as less attractive than they actually are. However, when subjects were not satisfied with their relationship their results became the same as single people indicating that the protective block to others’ attractiveness had disappeared.

So if someone in a happy relationship just doesn’t seem to know you are alive, don’t take it personally, this is one occasion when it really is them.



 

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.