Why are satisfying romantic relationships difficult to maintain?



My research utilizes dyadic, longitudinal, and experimental methods to examine differences in how people pursue their relationships, how relationships develop over time, and why some relationships come to an end.


Individual Differences and their Implications for Relationships


One core pillar of my research examines how relationship outcomes--like satisfaction and the likelihood of breakup--are associated with people's traits. For example, I have found that people's motivations to pursue casual sex (i.e., their sociosexuality) predicts long-term marital satisfaction and dissolution. Moreover, even how people make every-day decisions (i.e., their tendencies to maximize vs. satisfice) play a role in how much their partners' traits (e.g., physical attractiveness) are associated with relationship well-being.

Environmental Mismatches for Relationships


Some novel features of the modern environment are mismatched to the evolved psychological processes that underlie relationship initiation and maintenance. A second pillar of my research thus examines how such novelties may disrupt core relationship processes. In particular, I am interested in how hormonal contraceptives alter partner preferences, sexual strategies, and relationship maintenance mechanisms. For example, I have found that men whose partners use hormonal contraceptives are less likely to respond to perceived relationship threats (e.g., low partner commitment) with functional mate-guarding behaviors. In addition, I am interested in how people manage the threat of the increased availability of alternative partners and romantic rivals that is characteristic of today's interconnected society.