Why Relationships Fail, According To Science

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Whether your glass is half empty or half full, we all focus on the negatives when we’re looking for “the one,” according to a recent study.

When deciding whether to get into a serious relationship with someone else, people often talk in terms of “deal-breakers.” It could be an unwanted personality trait, their social status, their beliefs, etc. It turns out people don't always look for the best in people, at least when it comes to prospective partners. According to psychologists from five universities, people evaluating mate potential tend to focus on relationship deal-breakers – the negative traits of a person – as opposed to the positive.

The study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, looked at what over 6,500 people seek in sexual, romantic, and friendship contexts, as well as which values they feel are most important.

Of course, the affairs of the heart are a very subjective thing. For example, one person might deem impulsivity as a positive trait, while others might see it as a negative. According to the researchers, the top deal-breakers were unattractiveness, unhealthy lifestyle, undesirable personality traits, differing religious beliefs, limited social status, and differing relationship goals.

Their findings showed that people evaluating potential relationships tend to focus more on a person's negative characteristics than their positive ones. So much so, that a few negative traits could override many positive traits. They additionally found that women place greater emphasis on these deal-breakers in general.

In a statement, Gregory Webster, one of the study’s authors from the University of Florida, said: “We have a general tendency to attend more closely to negative information than we do to positive information.”

“Things that can harm are generally more important [to pay attention to] than things that can help you,” he added.

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