When it comes to making up after a row, it turns out, men and women value different methods.
If a man wants to make up with his girlfriend after an argument, he should dedicate quality time and shed a few tears while asking for forgiveness. However, these are not the best ways for a woman to make up with her boyfriend; men consider a kind gesture or receiving sexual favours as the best form of apology.
This was revealed in a study led by T. Joel Wade of Bucknell University in the US. Overall, it was found that showing emotional commitment is the best way of reconciling a conflict between romantic partners, but that there are systematic differences in how men and women prefer this to be put into practice.
The study was done in two parts. Participants were first asked via an online questionnaire to nominate specific actions that men and women engage in to reconcile with their partners after a fight. These were then grouped by the researchers into 21 categories of possible reconciliation behaviours. The options given by the participants in Study 1 were then given to an additional group of men and women to ascertain which methods were preferred (most effective).
It was found that men, compared to women, rated a partner doing nice gestures and giving sex/sexual favours as more effective. According to Wade, these findings are consistent with previous studies that showed that men prefer a partner who is sexually accessible.
"Women may thereby use sexual favours as a way to reconcile with their male partner," said Wade. "Doing so may communicate to their male partner that they are still sexually accessible and as such do not want to end the relationship."
It was further found that women held it in high regard when a partner spent time with them after a conflict, apologized and even cried to show their remorse.
"Women may rate spending time together more highly because this behavior signals a partner's willingness to invest effort and limited resources (e.g. time) into their romantic pair-bond," explained Wade. "Such actions by a man may signal the likelihood of a potentially high parental investment which women prefer."
Women also rated crying and apologizing as more effective methods of resolving conflict than men did. According to Wade this might be because women view male partners who do so as being in touch with their emotions, without being feminine. Tears are seen as an honest signal of grief about a rocky relationship.
The findings are published in Springer's journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.