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Many Men Tend to Keep Relationships at Arm’s Length

Many Men Tend to Keep Relationships at Arm's LengthFor women, happiness and contentment is intimately bound up in both their romantic partnerships and best friendships.  

In contrast, men remain at a greater distance from both of their closest relationships, according to researchers from the University of Oxford.

“Our research shows that successful relationships are much more essential to women’s well-being than men’s.

“Men seem to keep their relationships at arm’s length with one eye on the dating market. It seems that regardless of our culture of monogamy and commitment the biological imperative still operates, to a greater or lesser degree, for men. The war of the sexes is still alive and kicking within our relationships,” said study author Anna Machin, Ph.D.

For the study, a total of 341 people participated in an online psychological research forum where they answered questions regarding the maintenance, role and value of their best friend and romantic partnerships.

Women considered the maintenance of their romantic partnerships as a team sport, involving equal input from both partners, with shared goals and beliefs being the key to success.

Her happiness was closely tied to the quality of both her best friendships and romantic partnerships.

On the other hand, men were found to keep themselves at a greater distance from both of their closest relationships.

When asked to score themselves against their best friends and romantic partners on a variety of attributes, their responses showed that, consciously or not, they continued to act as though they were members of the dating market even if they were in a committed relationship.

Women desired cooperation — not competition — with their best friends. They also rated their partner consistently higher than themselves, seemingly placing their partner on a pedestal.

Both men and women reported emotional extremes within their romantic partnerships, the effects of which appear to be buffered by their relationship with their best friend. For both sexes, a strong friendship was an important source of comfort, stability and understanding — a place of refuge from the sometimes choppy waters of the romantic relationship.

These findings were presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Harrogate, England.

Source:  British Psychological Society



Many Men Tend to Keep Relationships at Arm’s Length

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Many Men Tend to Keep Relationships at Arm’s Length. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 17, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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