Why is it that, when we bring a hot guy home to our family, our typically warm-natured mother and sister turn ice cold?
We may think that we live in a time where we can choose our own partners, but the reality is, our family is influencing our choices. Whether they realize it or not, they're fighting to pick our perfect partner—or what they consider to be perfect.
According to past research performed by Norwegian psychologists Robert Biegler and Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, your mother is a lot more like Lady Capulet than you could ever imagine. She'd much rather have you marry Paris over Romeo because he comes from a good family. Which is why, unsurprisingly, they call this the "Juliet effect."
In order to see if this effect carried over between sisters, the researchers asked female students and their sisters to rank 133 different characteristics that described the perfect partner for themselves or their sister.
"For the most part, women choose the same ideal partner characteristics for themselves as for their sister. The qualities of faithfulness, loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness and reliability score highest when women are asked who would make an ideal partner," said Biegler in a press release.
But there were definitely some clear differences. "The women perceived characteristics like being understanding, empathic, responsible, helpful, sensible and kind as more important for their sister's partner than for their own," he explained.
In general, woman thought it more important that a partner was agreeable than sexy, but would rather have a sexy spouse than a sexy brother-in-law. Spouses should be charming, humorous, and sexually satisfying while brothers-in-law should be sensible and know how to set limits.
Let me just sum this up for you in a very scientific manner: You bring the hunk home, claiming he's the love of your life. Your mom suggests a more practical option. Your sister agrees with her. But they'd both rather have a hunk for themselves. Maybe even your hunk.
So, why the sibling rivalry?
The researchers say it all comes down to genetics. We share 50 percent of our genes with our full siblings. Because our goal in life, evolutionarily speaking, is to pass our genes on to the next generation, what our siblings do with the genes we share becomes our business. But we only care about the genes she passes on half as much as we do our own.
This is relevant for judging the importance of a partner’s sexiness because sexiness is thought to be an indicator of good genes. If we pair up with someone attractive, we're giving those good genes to our offspring, thus upping their chance of survival. But a sexy spouse has a much better ring to it than a sexy sibling-in-law.
The same logic can be used to explain parent-offspring conflict over mate choice. We also share 50 percent of our genes with our parents, so they'd obviously prefer sensible over sexy sons- and daughters-in-law. An agreeable average Joe benefits the family a whole lot more than a disagreeable heartthrob.
So, though you may think that your mom's the only one meddling in your love life, it's really a whole family affair. Keep your handsome hubby close, 'cause your sister might swoop in at any moment. Don't take it personally, though: it's just evolution.