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Mate Poaching Is Often Driven by Perceived Partner Superiority

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Mate poaching, the practice of attempting to attract someone who is already in a relationship, is a complex behaviour influenced by various psychological and social factors. It is a phenomenon that has been studied extensively by researchers, shedding light on the underlying motivations, personality traits, and impacts involved.

Understanding mate poaching

The phenomenon of mate poaching is not just about unrequited love or casual affairs; it often involves calculated moves by individuals who see a specific advantage in a partner already in a relationship. Various studies suggest that individuals who engage in mate poaching frequently perceive the poached partner as having desirable qualities that are either lacking in their current partner or are generally hard to find. These perceived qualities could range from physical attractiveness to personality traits, social status, or financial resources.

Mate poaching can take different forms, from overt flirtatious behaviour to more subtle emotional manipulation tactics. In some cases, the poacher may deliberately create situations that foster emotional intimacy or sow seeds of doubt in the existing relationship. The motivations behind mate poaching can also vary, from a genuine desire for a romantic connection to a more opportunistic or even predatory pursuit of personal gain.

Psychological traits of mate poachers

Psychological research has identified certain traits that are more prevalent in individuals who are likely to engage in mate-poaching. Traits such as higher levels of narcissism, a propensity for risk-taking, lower levels of empathy, and a tendency towards manipulative behaviour seem to be significant. A 2010 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that individuals who score high on measures of dark triad traits (narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy) are more likely to attempt mate poaching.

It’s important to note that these traits exist on a spectrum, and not everyone who engages in mate poaching possesses these traits to an extreme degree. However, the correlation between these personality characteristics and mate-poaching behaviour is notable and can’t be ignored. Understanding these traits helps researchers and mental health professionals predict and understand mate poaching better, potentially leading to healthier relationship dynamics and interventions.

Impact on relationships

The impact of mate poaching on relationships can be profound and far-reaching. Not only does it affect the individuals directly involved, but it also has ripple effects on the surrounding social network, such as friends, family members, and colleagues. Trust issues, decreased relationship satisfaction, increased conflict, and emotional distress are common outcomes for the original relationships when mate poaching occurs.

Furthermore, research indicates that relationships formed from mate poaching are not necessarily more successful or stable in the long run. such relationships may suffer from trust deficits, communication issues, and a shaky foundation, given the manner in which they began. There is often a lingering suspicion that the partner who engaged in mate poaching might be tempted to repeat the behaviour if a more attractive option presents itself.

Mate poaching can also have legal implications in some cases, particularly if the behaviour crosses the line into harassment, stalking, or other forms of emotional or psychological abuse.




Marcus Reid is a freelance journalist with a keen interest in social psychology and relationship dynamics.

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