There’s an undeniable surge of satisfaction that comes from “poaching” a romantic partner. Successfully coaxing someone to end a relationship in order to begin one with you is certainly ego-boosting.
If that describes your experience—well, enjoy that high while you can. Chances are good there is trouble ahead.
In three studies, “individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied, and less invested in their relationships,” reports a research team led by psychologist Joshua Foster of the University of South Alabama.
Those who reported they had been poached from another partner began the study with lower levels of commitment to their current mate, "and in general these functioning differences grew wider as the study progressed."
“They also paid more attention to romantic alternatives, perceived their alternatives to be of higher quality, and engaged in higher rates of infidelity.”
Being poached by your current partner, the researchers conclude, is both fairly common (10 to 30 percent of study participants reported their relationship began that way), and “a reliable predictor of poor relationship functioning.”
The first of their studies, described in the Journal of Research in Personality, featured 84 young people (mean age 19), all in romantic relationships. They completed a series of questionnaires once every three weeks for a nine-week period.
They responded to statements such as “I feel satisfied with our relationship” and “Our relationship makes me very happy” on a one-to-eight scale (do not agree at all to agree completely). They were also asked whether they were keeping an eye out for other potential partners, and whether they engaged in any type of flirting.
The key result: Those who reported they had been poached from another partner began the study with lower levels of commitment to their current mate, “and in general these functioning differences grew wider as the study progressed.”
Another study featured 219 young people (with a mean age of 20), all in romantic relationships. They filled out the same questionnaires, along with others measuring their personality traits.
The researchers found that “individuals who were successfully mate poached by their current partners tend to be socially passive, not particularly nice to others, careless and irresponsible, and narcissistic.”
They sound like real catches, don’t they? And then there’s this tidbit: “They also tend to desire and engage in sexual behavior outside of the confines of committed relationships.”
Clearly, it’s all too easy to go from poacher to poached. And that will leave egg on your face.