Study identifies top turn-off factors for romantic relationships

A survey of American college students reveals that apathy and rudeness are the biggest turn-offs when evaluating people as potential long-term partners. In the context of short-term mating, the most repulsive factors were roughness and clinginess. The new study is published in Personality and individual differences.

People consider many different characteristics when choosing a sexual or romantic partner. Some of these factors are more important than others, but some are also deal breakers, factors that completely disqualify someone as a potential partner. The authors of this study identified 49 such offenders mentioned in the studies and tried to classify them into categories.

These categories were unattractiveness, unhealthy lifestyles, undesirable personality traits, different religious beliefs, limited social status, different mating psychologies, and different relationship goals. However, they recognized that other studies have also attempted to create classifications of relationship offenders and have produced mixed results.

The researchers believe that a good classification of relationship offenders should group them into a smaller number of categories, but also focus on characteristics that impose costs on people, such as creating threats to their sexual health (e.g., sexually transmitted diseases sexually), relationship (eg infidelity) or that create personal problems (eg insecurity).

They also expect deal breakers to be different depending on whether a person is looking for a long-term or short-term mate, depending on the value of the mate, but also on gender and age.

The researchers reanalyzed data from a sample of 285 university students in the Southwestern United States collected for a previous study. Of the entire sample, 115 of the participants were male, 95% were heterosexual, and half of the participants reported being in a committed relationship. 61% are European American.

Participants completed assessments of their value as a partner (Mate Value Inventory, MVI) and their sexual strategies (Sociosexual Orientation Index, SOI). Participants were then given a list of 49 traits of potential partners that had been identified as deal breakers in previous studies. They were asked to rate each trait on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how much it would be a hindrance in a short-term and long-term relationship. They were instructed that deal breakers are “bits of information you learn about a person that may cause you to lose interest in that potential partner.”

Analysis of participants’ responses showed that, based on statistical criteria, relationship breakers can be grouped into six categories: rude, addicted, clingy, promiscuous, apathetic, and unmotivated.

In the context of long-term mating, both men and women rated Apathetic as the biggest offender, followed by Rude, then Clingy, Passionate, Unmotivated and Indiscriminate. Males rated all dealbreaker groups except Gross as greater dealbreakers in the long-term than in the short-term mating context. The difference in scores for the two mating contexts was for Apathetic and Unmotivated. Gross was considered equally repulsive to both short-term and long-term mating. Women gave similar ratings, except for Promiscuity, which they found equally off-putting in both dating contexts.

Older women viewed Gross and Unmotivated as slightly greater deal breakers than younger women. Women with higher partner value were more repulsed by rudeness in the context of short-term mating, and this relationship was more intense than for men. In a long-term context, women with higher mating value were more repelled by characteristics from the Clinging and Apathetic categories.

“Our reanalysis yielded six deal breaker factors (i.e., rude, biased, clingy, indiscriminate, apathetic, and unmotivated) with excellent fit and measurement invariance across gender and relationship contexts,” the researchers concluded. “Consistent with existing research in other cultures, the biggest deal breakers are apathy (i.e., lack of parenting ability) and rudeness (i.e., posing pathogenic threats) in the long term, and rudeness and clinginess (i.e. .ie hindering the reproductive efforts of the non-parenting partner) in the short term.”

“As expected, age was weakly and positively associated with offenders, but only for females but not for males. Also, as expected, openness to casual sex was associated with lower ratings of deal breakers, an effect that was more pronounced in short-term than long-term contexts (except for Clingy), and partner value was positively associated with deal breakers in both mating contexts. “

The study contributes to the body of knowledge about sexual behavior. However, it has limitations that must be considered. It should be noted that the results are based on the responses of a relatively small sample of students. Age differences between participants were limited and results may not be the same in other populations. In addition, the study was based on self-reports. It is possible that participants differed in their interpretations of deal breakers or were unable to accurately estimate how much deal breakers would affect them in a real-life situation.

The study, Six ‘Red Flags’ in Relationships: From Dangerous to Cruel and Apathetic to Unmotivated, was authored by Zsofia Csajbok, Kaitlyn P. White and Peter K. Jonason.

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