Summary: While both long and short term relationships might start in similar matters, a lack of genuine attraction causes short term relationships to plateau quickly, a new study reports.
Source: UC Davis.
Long-term and short-term relationships are obviously different from each other. Some people are the type you’d want to marry; others are good primarily for the sex.
At least, that’s how conventional wisdom goes. But new research out of the University of California, Davis, suggests that — at first — long-term and short-term relationships may look more or less identical.
When you survey the complete time course of a short-term and long-term relationship — from the moment you meet someone until the moment the relationship is over for good — it takes a while for the differences in short-term and long-term relationships to emerge.
“Long-term and short-term trajectories typically pull apart after you’ve known someone for weeks or months,” said Paul Eastwick, an associate professor of psychology at UC Davis who is the lead author on a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
“In the beginning, there is no strong evidence that people can tell whether a given relationship will be long-term and serious or short-term and casual.”
More than 800 people surveyed
Eastwick and his co-authors surveyed more than 800 people from a wide range of ages. They used a state-of-the-art “relationship reconstruction” survey in which people reproduce the events and experiences they had in their prior real-life short-term and long-term relationships.
Importantly, Eastwick and his colleagues asked the participants to reconstruct these relationships from the very beginning. This procedure differs from the standard “relationship science” approach, which starts studying people once they are already in a dating relationship.
“Some of the most interesting moments in these relationships happen after you meet the person face-to-face, but before anything sexual has happened,” Eastwick added. “You wonder ‘is this going somewhere?’ or ‘How much am I into this person?’ It is somewhere around this point that short-term and long-term relationships start to diverge, and historically, we have very little data on this particular period of time.”
The researchers found that romantic interest rises at the same rate in both short-term and long-term relationships. But at some point, romantic interest tends to plateau and decline in short-term relationships, while in long-term relationships, it continues to ascend and reaches a higher peak.
What is the moment when the two trajectories start to diverge? On average, it happens at about the time that the relationship starts to become sexual.
“People would hook up with some partners for the first time and think ‘wow, this is pretty good.’ People tried to turn those experiences into long-term relationships,” said Eastwick. “Others sparked more of a ‘meh’ reaction. Those were the short-term ones.”
The study offers a new twist on the distinction between the stable, long-term partner and the exciting, short-term partner. In real life, people may end up in short-term relationships when they are “just a little” attracted to the other person — enough to keep having sex, but maybe not for very long. Long-term relationships may be the ones that start especially exciting and sexy and grow into something stable and lasting.
About this neuroscience research article
Source: Karen Nikos-Rose – UC Davis Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com. Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research: Open access research for “What do short-term and long-term relationships look like? Building the relationship coordination and strategic timing (ReCAST) model” by Eastwick, Paul W., Keneski, Elizabeth, Morgan, Taylor A., McDonald, Meagan A., and Huang, Sabrina A. in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Published May 2018. doi:10.1037/2Fxge0000428
Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]UC Davis “Long-Term and Short-Term Relationships Initially Indistinguishable.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 27 May 2018. <https://neurosciencenews.com/personal-relationships-9152/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]UC Davis (2018, May 27). Long-Term and Short-Term Relationships Initially Indistinguishable. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved May 27, 2018 from https://neurosciencenews.com/personal-relationships-9152/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]UC Davis “Long-Term and Short-Term Relationships Initially Indistinguishable.” https://neurosciencenews.com/personal-relationships-9152/ (accessed May 27, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
What do short-term and long-term relationships look like? Building the relationship coordination and strategic timing (ReCAST) model
Close relationships research has examined committed couples (e.g., dating relationships, marriages) using intensive methods that plot relationship development over time. But a substantial proportion of people’s real-life sexual experiences take place (a) before committed relationships become “official” and (b) in short-term relationships; methods that document the time course of relationships have rarely been applied to these contexts. We adapted a classic relationship trajectory-plotting technique to generate the first empirical comparisons between the features of people’s real-life short-term and long-term relationships across their entire timespan. Five studies compared long-term and short-term relationships in terms of the timing of relationship milestones (e.g., flirting, first sexual intercourse) and the occurrence/intensity of important relationship experiences (e.g., romantic interest, strong sexual desire, attachment). As romantic interest was rising and partners were becoming acquainted, long-term and short-term relationships were indistinguishable. Eventually, romantic interest in short-term relationships plateaued and declined while romantic interest in long-term relationships continued to rise, ultimately reaching a higher peak. As relationships progressed, participants evidenced more features characteristic of the attachment-behavioral system (e.g., attachment, caregiving) in long-term than short-term relationships but similar levels of other features (e.g., sexual desire, self-promotion, intrasexual competition). These data inform a new synthesis of close relationships and evolutionary psychological perspectives called the Relationship Coordination and Strategic Timing (ReCAST) model. ReCAST depicts short-term and long-term relationships as partially overlapping trajectories (rather than relationships initiated with distinct strategies) that differ in their progression along a normative relationship development sequence.