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How to Protect your Love from Falling Prey to the Alternate Partner Trap?

Romantic alternatives are potential partners with whom one keeps in touch with the prospect of starting a future relationship. Alternative can be understood as a ‘relationship insurance’. It is no surprise that over-engagement with online friends and pursuing alternative partners can threaten the primary romantic relationship.

What Came First, Chicken or Egg?

Here is the dilemma of the ‘chicken and egg’. It is possible that dating partners believe that they have a better quality of alternatives available online, than their present partner, they spend excessive time online pursuing those alternatives. This leads to an addiction to online presence also called social media addiction. Dating partners are usually living separately and have less barriers that restrain them from quitting their relationship (e.g., children, finances, emotional investments). Therefore, they have more time to spend online, which gives them greater exposure to their friends’ profiles fooling them in believing that their available alternatives are better in quality than their present partner.

Research Question explored

In a study, Abbasi and colleagues examined whether relationship status (committed versus dating) is a predictor of relationship satisfaction, quality of online romantic alternatives, online infidelity behaviors, social media addiction, and the total number of social media accounts?

Difference Between Dating Partners and Committed Partners

Study results revealed that there is a significant difference in the way committed and dating partners evaluate the quality of their potential alternative partners (disguised as ‘friends’) and level of social media addiction. Dating partners, when compared to committed partners, reported a better quality of alternatives and also reported higher social media addiction scores, despite not reporting a significant difference in their relationship satisfaction, social media infidelity behaviors, or the total number of social media accounts.

Interestingly, dating partners report significantly more sexual alternatives than committed partners. Nevertheless, the number of potential committed alternatives was not significantly different between dating and committed partners. Essentially, committed partners are equally prone to considering some of their online friends as alternatives.

Take Home Message

Partners should avoid exposing themselves to potential alternatives’ profiles. If partners feel that they are getting attracted to someone, it is best to unfriend them. If that is not an option, mute notification from those profiles so their posts do not show on your daily feed.

For Further Reading

Abbasi, I. S. (2018). Falling prey to online romantic alternatives: Evaluating social media alternative partners in committed versus dating relationships. Social Science Computer Review, 37(6), 723-733. doi:10.1177/0894439318793947 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0894439318793947

About the Author: Dr. Irum Abbasi is a post-doctoral researcher. Her research focuses on unraveling different ways in which social media shapes and influences various types of relationships, ranging from personal connections to professional networks.

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