Why do men and women get together

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Posted October 1, Reviewed by Jessica Schrader. When it comes to the behavior of men and women in relationships, almost everyone has an opinion—and usually, it's about how the sexes are different. But what does the research tell us about how men and women really behave in romantic relationships?

Often, that they're more alike than we think, and that our common assumptions are wrong. Since most romance novels and romantic comedies are pitched to female audiences, this may be hard to believe as I detailed in an earlier postmen actually have a more romantic outlook on love than women do. This myth is based on a kernel of truth: Many studies have shown that when men and women are asked which characteristics they prefer in a mate, men rate physical appearance as more important than women do.

In one seminal study, men and women ranked a series of characteristics for potential mates. So both genders ranked it highly, but not at the top. But this data only speaks to what men and women claim they are looking for. What does research say about the people that men and women actually choose to date?

In a classic study on interpersonal attractioncollege students were randomly matched with blind dates, and for both men and women, physical attractiveness was the main characteristic that predicted whether or not someone was interested in a second date. Prior to their speed-dates, the students rated how important different characteristics would be in making their selections, and the expected gender differences emerged, with women rating physical attractiveness as less important than men.

But when the researchers examined who participants actually chose during the event, the gender difference disappeared: Both men and women preferred physically attractive partners, with no gender difference in how much looks influenced their choices. So, both men and women claim to value attractiveness, and men do value it more—but not a lot more—and examination of actual dating choices suggests that both genders are equally enamored by looks. Much early research on gender differences in mating actually supports this myth. But research has shown that one-night stands are actually the least common type of casual sex.

These encounters are most likely to take place in the context of casual dating relationships, friendships, or hook-ups with exes. This myth is often perpetuated by the popular media. The truth is that sex differences in most areas are relatively small, and there is much more variation between individual people than there is between genders.

And most gender differences in personality are a lot smaller than gender differences in height. There is, in fact, a great deal of similarity in what men and women want from relationships: Both men and women rate kindness, an exciting personality, and intelligence as the three most important characteristics in a partner, for example. Focusing only on gender differences when dealing with our partners tends to oversimplify things and exaggerate the truth, leading to Why do men and women get togethernot moreunderstanding of one another.

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Most research suggests that men and women do not differ ificantly in their responses to relationship conflict. The more a demander pushes an issue, the more a withdrawer retreats, only causing the demander to become more intent on discussing the issue, and creating a vicious cycle that leaves both partners frustrated.

But even this exception may have more to do with power dynamics than gender differences. In some studies, couples have been asked to discuss an issue in their relationship. Sometimes, they've been asked to discuss something the woman wants to change; other times they are asked to do the reverse.

When the issue under discussion is a change the woman wants, the woman is likely to take the demander role; when the issue is one that the man wants to change, the roles reverse, 20 or we see the pattern only when the issue is something the woman wants to change.

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So, why the consistent gender difference in research? The person who wants change is typically the person who has less power in the relationship, while his or her partner is motivated to simply maintain the status quo. In our society, men have traditionally had more power in relationships than women, so women often found themselves as the ones pressing for change.

This dynamic is changing, of course. But even when power is not uneven, women are choosing to press issues because they want changes, not because they handle conflict differently than men.

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When people think of a domestic violence victim, most immediately visualize a woman. And it is true that the injuries suffered by female domestic violence victims tend to be more serious than those suffered by male victims, and that the abuses inflicted by men are likely to be more frequent and severe. Nonetheless, males are also frequently the victims of domestic violence. Some are flat out wrong, but even if there is a kernel of truth to them, they tend to exaggerate that truth, and are not constructive in dealing with the unique individuals with whom we have relationships.

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Development of the 'Romantic Beliefs Scale' and examination of the effects of gender and gender-role orientation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6 4 Measuring passionate love in intimate relationships. Journal of Adolescence, 9 4 The normal bar: The surprising secrets of happy couples and what they reveal about creating a new normal in your relationship. Gender differences in effects of physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research paradigms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59 Preferences in human mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50 Importance of physical attractiveness in dating behavior.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4 5 Sex differences in mate preferences revisited: Do people know what they initially desire in a romantic partner?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology94 2 Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers.

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The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Overview of sexual practices and attitudes within relational contexts. Harvey, A. Wenzel, S. Sprecher Eds. Truth and consequences: Using the bogus pipeline to examine sex differences in self-reported sexuality. The Journal of Sex Research, 40 Perceived propose personality characteristics and gender differences in acceptance of casual sex offers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, An event-level analysis of the sexual characteristics and composition among adults ages 18 to from a national probability sample in the United States.

Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7 Suppl 5 Do alcohol and marijuana use decrease the probability of condom use for college women? Journal of Sex Research, 51, The gender of sexuality. Intimate relationships 6 th ed. A meta-analytic interpretation of intimate and non-intimate interpersonal conflict. Allen, R. Preiss, B. Burrell Eds. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Personal Relationships, 9 Costanzo Eds. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Demand-withdraw communication in marital interaction: Tetss of interpersonal contingency and gender role hypotheses. Journal of Marriage and the Family58, Sex differences in physically aggressive acts between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 7, Differences in female and male victims and perpetrators of partner violence with respect to WEB scores.

Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23 8 The differential effects of intimate terrorism and situational couple violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Journal of Why do men and women get together Issues, 26 Domestic violence: The male perspective. Is violence in black families increasing? A comparison of and national survey rates. Journal of Marriage and Family, 51 The controversy over domestic violence by women: A methodological, theoretical, and sociology of science analysis.

Oskamp Eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Help-seeking among male victims of partner abuse: men's hard times. Journal of Community Psychology, 38, Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph. Gwendolyn Seidman Ph. Close Encounters. Key points Surprising research shows that men may actually be the more romantic gender. Contrary to stereotype, women are interested in casual sex, but under a much narrower set of circumstances than men are. Despite some gender differences, the personalities and conflict styles of men and women are pretty similar.

References 1 Sprecher, S. About the Author. Online: Web at Albright CollegeTwitter. Read Next.

Why do men and women get together

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