Women’s Feelings Change Based on Partner Sexual Desirability

Ovulatory fluctuations prompt different feelings of closeness and satisfaction.

Posted Jun 03, 2020

Dainis Graveris/Unsplash
Source: Dainis Graveris/Unsplash

Our feelings toward our romantic partners are certainly not static, but women’s feelings toward their male partners change in predictable ways across their menstrual cycles. Furthermore, women’s feelings may change in different ways, depending upon whether they find their partners more or less sexually desirable.

Researchers Larson, Haselton, Gildersleeve, and Pillsworth (2013) surveyed 108 heterosexual women in committed relationships at two times during their menstrual cycles. All women participated during a high-fertility portion of their menstrual cycle (verified through an ovulation test) and during a low-fertility portion of their menstrual cycle (these sessions were counterbalanced for order across the sample). Most of the participants self-identified as Asian, followed by Hispanic, Caucasian, and African American. Many women indicated multiple ethnic backgrounds. All women rated their partners’ sexual desirability, their feelings of closeness with their partners, their relationship satisfaction, their commitment to their partners, and their perceptions of their partners’ faults and positive qualities. The researchers found that women’s feelings of closeness, relationship satisfaction, and partner faults changed across their menstrual cycles in different ways depending on women’s assessments of their partners’ sexual desirability.

Feelings of Closeness

Women who rated their partners as less sexually desirable (both in their own assessment as well as how they thought other women would rate their mates) evaluated their relationships as less close at the high-fertility session relative to the low-fertility session. Conversely, women who rated their partners as more sexually desirable assessed their relationships as closer at high-fertility sessions relative to low-fertility sessions.

Relationship Satisfaction

Women who rated their partners as less sexually desirable evaluated their relationship satisfaction similarly at both the high-fertility and the low-fertility sessions. However, women who found their partners more sexually desirable showed increased relationship satisfaction at high-fertility sessions relative to low-fertility sessions.

Faults

Women who rated their partners as less sexually desirable evaluated their partners as having more faults at the high-fertility session rather than the low-fertility session. However, women who rated their partners as more sexually desirable evaluated their partners' faults similarly at the high-fertility and the low-fertility sessions.

Hormonal changes across the ovulatory cycle seem to prompt changes in women’s perceptions of their relationship quality, depending in large part on the sexual desirability of their male partners. Larson et al. conclude that women may be “raising their standards for sexual desirability” during periods of high fertility. They further suggest that fertile women with less desirable partners may be more strongly attracted to men other than their primary partners at peak fertility (although feelings of commitment in the current study were not impacted by women’s menstrual cycles or by perceptions of men’s sexual desirability). Future research should explore whether similar changes in relationship quality are exhibited across the menstrual cycle for women in same-sex partnerships.

References

Larson, C. M., Haselton, M. G., Gildersleeve, K. A., & Pillsworth, E. G. (2013). Changes in women's feelings about their romantic relationships across the ovulatory cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 63(1), 128-135. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0018506X12002486