Have you ever wondered what type of person tries to steal someone else’s romantic partner? A study published in the Journal of Sex Research explores the personality traits that are associated with mate poaching.
Mate poaching is a term used to describe when an individual tries to pursue someone who is already in a committed, monogamous relationship. This is a common trope throughout TV and movies, but it plays out frequently in real life as well, with around 70% of both men and women reporting that someone had tried to poach them before.
The relationship between personality and poaching has been studied before, with extraversion and psychopathy predicting poaching attempts. This study sought to better understand poaching behavior through both actor and partner’s personality traits.
For their study, Igor Kardum and colleagues utilized 187 Caucasian, heterosexual couples from Croatia to serve as their sample. All couples were married, living together, or dating exclusively and relationship length ranged from 6 months to 18 years. Participants were administered paper-and-pencil questionnaires inside their own homes by research assistants. They completed measures on personality traits, including the Big Five and the dark triad, for both themselves and their partners. Participants also completed a short-term poaching survey.
Results showed that low conscientiousness and high Machiavellianism are traits associated with poaching attempts for men. This is consistent with ideas that Machiavellian individuals are manipulative and self-interested.
For successful poaching, women displayed high levels of extraversion, openness, and psychopathy, while men showed high rates of psychopathy and low levels of agreeableness. This shows gender differences in traits needed to steal someone else’s mate, which reflects the differences in sexual strategy and mate value.
“Higher psychopathy and Machiavellianism, especially in men, proved to be the most important predictors of poaching experiences in both men and women. Contrary to our expectation, from the personality traits analyzed, narcissism did not demonstrate any consistent actor or partner effect on mate poaching experiences,” the researchers said.
For partner effects, men’s personality traits mattered more to women than women’s did for men in this context. Men with low agreeableness and high neuroticism affected women’s perception of being the target of poaching. Interestingly, the same traits that make men successful at poaching may make men vulnerable to having their partner stolen from them.
This study took steps into better understanding mate poaching behavior and how personality contributes to it. Despite this, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that the sample was completely white, heterosexual, and from Croatia. Future research should include a more diverse sample. Additionally, the cross-sectional nature of the study does not allow us to draw causal inferences from the results.
The study, “Predicting Mate Poaching Experiences from Personality Traits Using a Dyadic Analysis“, was authored by Igor Kardum, Jasna Hudek-Knezevic, Karolina Marijanović, and Todd K. Shackelford