The "Backup Boyfriend" Test

Here's the Plan B Proclivity Scale, including scoring key. See how you stack up.

Posted Feb 13, 2019

This guest post was primarily written by Nicole Wedberg, M.A.

Dana Tentis
Source: Dana Tentis

Ever heard of a romantic backup plan? Maybe you’ve never labeled it as such before, but I’d bet money you’d recognize this type of situation if you saw it. In my previous Backup Boyfriend post, I used Jim and Pam from The Office as a popular example. As a quick recap: Pam and Roy were engaged, but Pam maintained a close friendship with Jim all the while. Ultimately, Pam and Jim end up together and live happily ever after. He was sort of her “backup plan” while she was unhappily committed to Roy. (Searching #backupboyfriend and #backupplan on Instagram is a real treat.)

Partner Insurance as a Mating Strategy

For my master's thesis, I decided to put some actual numbers to this pattern and see how it stacks up. Utilizing an evolutionarily informed perspective, I researched the idea of Partner Insurance among heterosexual women in committed relationships as a potential mating strategy. To summarize, I found that roughly 20% of women in committed relationships will explicitly report having what they consider to be a Mr. Plan B in their back pocket—an insurance plan for their love life. Predictors of this behavior included low relationship satisfaction, high sociosexual orientation, narcissistic and Machiavellian personality traits, and being younger in age (Wedberg, 2016).

Take the Plan B Proclivity Scale

Presented in full below is the scale that we designed specifically to measure Partner Insurance for this study—we’ve named it the Plan B Proclivity (PBP) Scale. The PBP scale is a continuous scale that measures the extent to which heterosexual women in committed relationships actually consider their closest platonic male friend a romantic backup plan. There is also a dichotomous YES/NO item at the end that allows women to broadly answer whether they have Partner Insurance for their love lives We added this distinction because it’s entirely possible that a woman could score low in PBP with her closest platonic male friend, but still have Partner Insurance with someone else. That said, we actually found that those who mark “YES” to having Partner Insurance score significantly higher in PBP than those who mark “NO.” In essence, we found that this scale does in fact measure what it was intended to—a proclivity to have a backup boyfriend.

Completing the survey takes only a few minutes. Originally, we limited our sample to women who have been in a committed relationship for at least six months, but feel free to give it a whirl below no matter your situation.


Think of one specific heterosexual male friend (excluding relatives) in your life, separate from your significant other, with whom you are most close. Please keep this person in mind for the following questions. Using the following 1-5 scale, please rate each of the following items as they pertain to you.

Strongly Disagree: 1

Somewhat Disagree: 2

Neither Agree/Disagree: 3

Somewhat Agree: 4

Strongly Agree: 5

  1. I communicate with this person regularly.
  2. I text with this person at least three days a week.
  3. I discuss personal things with this person.
  4. I meet up with this person at least once a month for lunch or coffee (etc.) when my significant other is not present.
  5. I often ask this person to do favors for me.  
  6. I dislike this person’s taste in girlfriends or potential partners.
  7. I am fairly sure that, if given the chance, this person would want to date me.
  8. This person has asked me out on at least one occasion.
  9. This person has confessed romantic feelings for me.
  10. My significant other does not know about this person.
  11. I turn to this person in times of need.    
  12. I consider this person to be a Plan B or back-up romantic partner if my current relationship should ever end.  
  • Separate from anything else, would you say that, in your life, you have a heterosexual male friend that you consider to be a “Plan B?”   YES/NO

Scoring and Data

Now that you’ve completed the scale, it’s time to score yourself. Simply add up your score from items 1-12. In the original study, the mean for the PBP scale across groups was 30.8 (SD = 9.67). Generally speaking, if you score less than 30, you’re lower than average in Plan B Proclivity. If your score is 21 or less, then your score is more than one standard deviation below the mean on this attribute. On the other hand, if you score above 30, then you’re more likely than average to have a Plan B boyfriend. And if your score is above 40, you’re more than a standard deviation above the mean, suggesting that you really have a strong proclivity toward having a backup boyfriend!

 Glenn Geher - used with permission
Nicole (Wedberg) Delaney
Source: Glenn Geher - used with permission

Bottom Line

This is a relatively new scale, and this pattern is relatively un-researched with only a few studies and smaller sample sizes. When it comes to partner insurance for one's love life, there’s a lot more research to be done and it may well be that results would vary widely across sexes as well. Moreover, while the data here show that having Partner Insurance may well be another female mating strategy, the next step would be to find out if it’s an effective one. Something longitudinal to measure how frequently the Pams of the world end up with the Jims of the world would help to inform this pattern even more.

This post is based on Nicole Wedberg's Master's thesis, which was successfully defended in the Psychology Department at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2016.


Wedberg, N. A. (2016). Partner Insurance: Women May Have a Backup Partner as a Mating Strategy. Thesis submitted in partial completion of the MA degree in psycohlogy, State University of New York at New Paltz.