Date or mate?

Does what you look for in a spouse or date differ? What about in a same-sex friend versus a cross-sex friend? This results from this study suggest, yes!

But how do we know this? 700 students (59% women, 41% men) were asked about their personal preferences for one of the following:

Spouse

Dating partner

Casual sex partner

Same-sex friend

Opposite-sex friend

Then, participants were asked to rank their preferences of the following personality traits from 1 (not at all attractive) to 9 (extremely attractive):

Physical attractiveness

Intelligence

Ambition

Warmth and kindness

Money or earning potential

Expressiveness and openness

Social status

Sense of humor

Exciting personality

Similar background

Similar interests/leisure activities

Complementary personal characteristics

What should make us feel warm and gooey inside is that regardless of the type of relationship, people reported that they wanted the following: warmth, kindness, expressiveness, openness, and sense of humour.

But when we start to do some comparisons, this is where we see some cool differences:

Casual sex partner versus date/mate

–       warmth, kindness, expressiveness, openness, sense of humour is desired for either. Why? People likely viewing casual sex partner as a potential long-term mate so they don’t differentiate too much.

–       When it comes to a casual sex partner, participants reported a preference for the person to be physically attractive and sexually experienced vs date/spouse

–       Here’s the bad news: it was less important for a casual sex partner to be intelligent or warm

–       Moral of the story: people will settle when it comes to casual dates (a pattern not seen when examining potential dates or longer-term mates)

Romantic/sexual partner versus friend

–       Compared to a friend, people wanted dates, spouses, casual sex partners to score high on extrinsic attributes – things like social status and  physical appearance. Guess the people you date say something about yourself.

–       People also desired that their romantic/sexual partners had humour, expressiveness, and warmth. Apparently, we care more about what our dating partners have vs our friends (which makes sense. Unless you’re sleeping with your friends).

Same-sex friend vs opposite sex friend

–      When it comes to our opposite-sex friends, we desire higher levels of physical attractiveness, intrinsic characteristics (warmth, kindness), and social status.

–       But why, you ask? People unconsciously (or consciously) recognize that reproduction is possible with a cross-sex friend so we still want our opposite-sex friends to have good mate traits. We likely view the friendship as stepping stone to romantic relationship.

So…when someone asks you to be their cross-sex friend, feel good about your physical attractiveness, warmth, kindness, and social status.

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