Just like every liar has a “tell,” most people have a preferred way of showing others that they are part of a couple and that their partner is “taken.” Researchers call these “mate retention behaviors,” as they reflect actions we take to show others – and our partner – that they are off-limits to rivals.
Buss (1988) developed a scale, the Mate Retention to measure just how frequently people use particular actions to encourage their partners to stay with them as well as encourage others to stay away from their partner. Not surprisingly, the value a person places on their mate – and their own estimations of their value as a mate – affects the type and frequency of “turf guarding” behaviors that they do.
Good Behaviors versus Bad Behaviors
So, who’s more likely to use strategies that benefit their partners? It’s the people who have higher values, themselves, as mates. As might be expected, we try to positively influence partners we feel have high mate value to stay, but those who are high in mate value themselves also tend to use strategies that benefit their mates (Salkicevic et al., 2014).
Conversely, people with lower levels of mate value are more likely to use hurtful methods of mate retention. This choice is similar to times when a person with low self-esteem uses bullying to try and cement their status. Rather than standing on their merits as a human being, they result to punitive and hurtful tactics to prove their worth, although the effect is often the exact opposite of what they intended. In fact, the greater the attachment anxiety a person feels, the more likely they are to use the hurtful methods of mate retention and the less relationship satisfaction that this couple will experience over time.
11 Dangerous “Claim Staking” Moves that will Drive Away your Partner
- Vigilance. Checking up on where your partner is when they’re not with you.
- Concealment of Partner. Making sure that rivals don’t have easy access to your partner.
- Monopolization of Time. Keeping your partner’s free time booked to be with you as much as possible.
- Jealousy induction. Intentionally engaging with other potential partners just to incite jealousy in your partner.
- Punishing your Partner for Engaging in Behaviors you Find Suspect. Creating a scene when your partner is chatting with a potential rival to you.
- Emotional Manipulation. Threatening to behave in an undesired way if your partner doesn’t’ acquiesce to your desires, such as threatening to harm yourself if your partner leaves you.
- Commitment Manipulation. Demanding that your partner commit to you on your terms.
- Derogation of Competitors. Picking out the flaws that potential rivals have to ensure that your partner recognizes that you are more desirable than other women.
- Derogation of your Partner. Putting down your partner in front of potential rivals to ensure that your partner’s value isn’t appreciated.
- Intentional, Calculated Flirtatious Behavior. Flirting with someone who is not your partner when you know your partner will be able to see or find out what you are doing.
- Acting out Against Rivals. This can range from verbally challenging a rival to actively slapping or shoving a rival who is clearly attempting to attract, tempt, or seduce your mate.
Eight Potentially Effective Methods for Winning and Keeping your Partner’s Heart
- Resource Display. Giving gifts to your partner, or providing opportunities such as tickets to events, holidays, and so on.
- Intimacy Inducements. Communicating your appreciation for your partner in an intimate way such as through long gazes, making yourself available to your partner, and engaging in sexual activities that you know please your partner.
- Appearance Enhancement. Making an effort to look good for your partner – whether this involves particular clothing, weight loss, make-up, or acts such as “hair flipping,” that may be done unconsciously and work as a method of drawing attention from a potential partner.
- Love and Care. Communicating to your partner in the language of love that your partner speaks and intentionally engaging in behaviors that show how much you care.
- Submission and Debasement. Being willing – sometimes too much so – to do what your partner would like to do and to take a secondary role in the relationships. Being flexible and agreeing to go along with your partner’s wishes can be a good thing, denigrating yourself and acting in a sycophantic manner are not.
- Verbal Possession. Telling others just how close you and your partner’s relationship is and sharing your “taken” status with others.
- Physical Possession. Physically “claiming” your partner by holding your partner’s hand, linking arms, or engaging in PDAs.
- Possessive Ornamentation. Giving a partner gifts to wear, such as jewelry, expensive clothing, pricey accessories that mark your partner as “yours.”
While everyone wants to feel cherished by their partner, be aware that partners who choose to engage in cost-inflicting behaviors to keep you to themselves are also more likely to engage in abusive behaviors. Love shouldn’t hurt and if your partner is exhibiting behaviors that reflect insecurity, over possessiveness, and control, the relationship may need to be re-examined through a clear and objective perspective.
Mate retention strategies that rely on manipulation and control don’t reflect the type of commitment and relationship that suggests a happy ending down the road.