LEWISBURG, Pa. — Breaking up may be hard to do, but making up is not always so easy for couples either. That may be because men and women differ on the types of gestures necessary to smooth things over after a spat.
A new study finds that when it comes to resolving a conflict with significant others, women prefer emotional bonding, improved communication, or tears from their partner, while men can be easily swayed with gifts, nice gestures, and perhaps not surprisingly, makeup sex.
Researchers at Bucknell University conducted two different surveys to determine the ways that people in relationships prefer to reconcile with their partners and how they felt about various makeup gestures.
In the first survey, 38 women and 36 men between the ages of 18 and 54 were recruited from Facebook groups and from an introductory psychology course at a U.S. university. The individuals were polled on demographic data and then asked to write down five ways that people they knew in relationships had made up with their partners after a fight.
Of the 220 responses, the researchers found that women most often indicated that besides apologizing, more communication and affection were keys to making up, along with receiving a gift or sexual favors. For men, receiving gifts, nice gestures, makeup sex, spending more time together, and improving communication were among the top responses.
Men indicated gifts and nice gestures as makeup measures more often than women, and women wrote stronger communication and greater affection more than men did.
“Women may thereby use sexual favors as a way to reconcile with their male partner,” says lead researcher T. Joel Wade in a press release. “Doing so may communicate to their male partner that they are still sexually accessible and as such do not want to end the relationship.”
The second survey involved 41 men and 123 women between the ages 18 and 61 who were also recruited from a college’s introductory psychology course. None of the individuals had also participated in the first survey. About half were in relationships at the time of the survey.
Participants were shown the most common responses from the first study and asked to rate how effective they thought each tactic would be for making up with their partner in their current or a future relationship. This survey showed that communication, apologizing, forgiving one’s partner, spending time together, and compromising were the strongest choices for participants.
More men still found giving gifts and having makeup sex to be a viable tactic significantly more often than women did, while women rated spending time with their partner, crying, and apologizing as more effective methods than men.
“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,” says Wade. “Such actions by a man may signal the likelihood of a potentially high parental investment which women prefer.”
Of course, one other tactic could go a long way for men who want to win back a woman’s heart: crying.
“Women may view male partners who cry after conflict as men who are in touch with their emotions. Prior research shows that men who cry are viewed positively, and as in touch with their emotions, but not feminine,” the authors write.
The study was published this week in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.