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3 Research-Based Reasons to Take a Chance on Love

What prevents you from exploring a new romantic connection?

Andres Hernandez/Unsplash
Source: Andres Hernandez/Unsplash

What holds you back from exploring a new romantic connection? Is it that your new partner doesn’t match your ideals, or is it your continued feelings for an ex or your fear of rejection? Consider these research-based reasons to abandon your fears and take a chance on love.

The Imperfect Partner

Very few real romantic relationships involve ideal partners. A new potential mate may not match the personality characteristics you desired or the physical ideal you envisioned. But should you let that mismatch derail a new potential relationship? Research suggests that even if a potential partner lacks the traits which we consider to be most important, it may not matter as long as we feel a spark upon meeting in person (Eastwick et al., 2011). And when our partners don’t match our hypothetical priorities, we tend to change our preferences. We downgrade the importance of the positive traits which our partners do not possess and upgrade the importance of the positive traits our current partners do possess (Fletcher et al., 2000). Furthermore, regardless of physical attractiveness, the more we get to know, admire, and respect our partners, the more our attraction to them increases (Kniffin and Wilson, 2004). There may be some mate characteristics on which you may not want to compromise, however.

Persistent Feelings for Your Ex

Are your lingering feelings for an ex-partner preventing you from making a new romantic connection? As we endure a long-lasting pandemic which may inspire feelings of social isolation, we may find ourselves more likely to feel nostalgic (especially sexually nostalgic) for past relationship partners (Muise et al., 2020). However, continued positive feelings toward an ex-partner may lead to increased feelings of distress and unhappiness as well as an increased desire to reunite with the ex (Imhoff and Banse, 2011). These feelings can also impair our ability to begin or to deepen a new relationship. Research suggests that one of the best ways to alleviate distress following a break-up is to find a new partner (Imhoff and Banse, 2011). Individuals who are able to move on from their feelings for their exes not only feel less distress, they revel in their new partners and relationships.

Your Biggest Relationship Regret

Our strongest regrets may be those related to our romantic relationships (Beike, Markman, & Karadogan, 2008; Morrison & Roese, 2011, as cited by Joel et al., 2019). Although we may think that the sting of rejection might be worse than a missed opportunity, when individuals recalled regrettable events related to romantic relationships, they were most likely to recall romantic inaction—missed opportunities such as being attracted to someone and not disclosing those feelings. Individuals were much less likely to regret romantic action, such as disclosing an attraction which was not reciprocated, or entering a relationship which didn’t work out over the long-term (Joel et al., 2019). One reason that individuals may regret missed opportunities more than failed attempts is that a relationship normally provides long-term benefits while a romantic rejection may produce only short-term negative consequences (Joel et al., 2019). The authors state that “the perceived consequences and anticipated regret associated with missed romantic opportunities may motivate people to pursue attractive potential partners in the face of rejection.”

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Eastwick, P. W., Finkel, E. J., & Eagly, A. H. (2011). When and why do ideal partner preferences affect the process of initiating and maintaining romantic relationships? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(5), 1012–1032. doi:10.1037/a0024062

Fletcher, G. O., Simpson, J. A., & Thomas, G. (2000). Ideals, perceptions, and evaluations in early relationship development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(6), 933–940. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.79.6.933

Imhoff, R., & Banse, R. (2011). Implicit and explicit attitudes toward ex-partners differentially predict breakup adjustment. Personal Relationships, 18(3), 427–438. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01308.x

Joel, S., Plaks, J. E., & MacDonald, G. (2019). Nothing ventured, nothing gained: People anticipate more regret from missed romantic opportunities than from rejection. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(1), 305-336.

Kniffin, K. M., & Wilson, D. (2004). The effect of nonphysical traits on the perception of physical attractiveness: Three naturalistic studies. Evolution and Human Behavior, 25(2), 88–101. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(04)00006-6

Muise, A., Kim, J. J., Debrot, A., Impett, E. A., & MacDonald, G. (2020). Sexual nostalgia as a response to unmet sexual and relational needs: The role of attachment avoidance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167220907468.