Women immerse themselves in their romantic relationships, while men place their best friendships and romantic partners on an equal but distant footing.
These are the findings by Dr Anna Machin and Professor Robin Dunbar from the University of Oxford presented today, Thursday 11 April 2013, at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Harrogate.
A total of 341 people took part in online psychological research forum where they answered questions regarding the maintenance, role and value of their best friend and romantic partnerships.
Women saw the maintenance of their romantic partnerships as a team sport, involving equal input from both partners with shared goals and beliefs being the key to success. Further, their happiness and contentment were intimately bound up in both their best friendships and romantic partnerships.
In contrast, men were found to exist at a greater distance from both of their closest relationships. When asked to score themselves against their best friends and romantic partners on a range of attributes their responses indicated that, consciously or not, they continued to act as though they were members of the dating market despite being in committed relationships.
Women preferred cooperation not competition with their best friends. They also scored their partner consistently higher than themselves, seemingly placing their partner on a pedestal.
However, both sexes reported emotional extremes within their romantic partnerships, the effects of which appear to be buffered by their relationship with their best friend. For both sexes this relationship is a vital source of comfort, stability and understanding, a refuge from the sometimes choppy waters of the romantic relationship.
Dr Machin concluded that: "Our research shows that successful relationships are much more essential to women's well-being than men's. Men seem to keep their relationships at arm's length with one eye on the dating market. It seems that regardless of our culture of monogamy and commitment the biological imperative still operates, to a greater or lesser degree, for men. The war of the sexes is still alive and kicking within our relationships."
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