June 17, 2018

It can be hard to know what makes someone want to really commit to someone else for the long haul — and what makes them seem like fun for just the night.

People react to each other in unpredictable ways when it comes to love, and as it turns out, our environments may be the reason why. New research from Swansea University looked at how different environmental and circumstantial changes affected our preferences for short- or long-term relationships and found that an abundance of wealth increases the desire for a short-term relationships rather than longer ones.

In real life (instead of an experiment), it's not as straightforward as seeing a bunch of diamonds and wanting to have a fling. Instead, the research suggests that repeated exposure over time — if we keep getting cues about a certain type of environment or circumstances — could change the type of mate that we look for.

"Our findings suggest that we may have evolved a psychological 'organ' which tracks the environment and calibrates our relationship desires accordingly," Dr. Andrew G. Thomas, who led the research, tells Bustle. "How the presence of this mechanism affects our real-life mating behavior is likely to depend on how sensitive it is. It’s unlikely that showing your partner pictures of jewelry and fast cars will cause them to become promiscuous. If our mate preferences were that fragile, then enduring relationships wouldn’t exist. However, if someone were to be exposed to strong and persistent cues that their environment has changed in some way (e.g. following a job promotion, or during an economic recession), then that might cause them to change the type of relationship they want."

But It's Not All About The Money, Money, Money

Before we start stereotyping here an important thing to consider is that money wasn't the only factor that influenced our desire for a short or long-term relationship. When participants were given environments that suggested young children were around, they were more likely to pick long-term partners. But dangerous situations were an interesting case — although for the most part they made people go for longer relationships, some of the women in the study showed an increase in short-term partner preferences after being shown dangerous environments. So there are a lot of different factors at play affecting how we view our relationships.

It makes total sense that our environment would change the kind of relationship that we want, especially because, historically, there's a good reason for it. And, it happens in such varied, complex ways that you may not even notice it happening. So if you've got an urge to settle down or an itch for a fling and you're not sure why, there may be some clues in your environment.



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