Mate switching, unfortunately is a common practice. People exit and switch romantic relationships like they exit and switch out their clothing. There is no true loyalty in romantic relationships today. If a person can cheat their way out of a relationship, then the person will cheat and will do so to the detriment of the other partner.
They will ignore the common consequences to pursue their own ideals about the next partner they want to entertain, never mind the fact that they are currently in relationship with someone. Their current relationship status does not matter. All that matters for a person interested in mate switching is that they have the option to switch and that at any time their mate preference becomes available, they will pursue that option and mate switch.
There are common reasons why partners may mate switch. The reasons may be obvious given the complex nature of romantic relationships; some reasons may be new to your understanding about relationship-making. For example, some partners may grow sexually bored with each other. This is an obvious reason because people do not always enter relationships by having conversation. They have sex first and hope everything else will work out. They burn out with sex and then realize that they do not have anything to talk about. Therefore, the relationship ends because it didn’t consist of substance in the first place.
Another obvious reason might involve personal conflicts. As much as people love to say that they do not want to fight, people love their conflicts! They love the arguing, chaos, and drama that envelops the relationship. They do not know how to talk to each other or communicate their ideas without yelling. Their communication style is simply to raise their voice so they can be heard. When they get their chance to speak, they really do not have anything substantial to say, so they return to raising their voices.
Maybe they saw this communication style between their parents. The parent who backed down made it possible for the other parent to get his or her way. That was success for that parent. If yelling loud enough to get a parent to back down was considered success to that parent who “won,” and the child saw this dynamic played out, then he or she might adopt this same strategy for the romantic relationships he or she encounters. If the parent who did all the yelling got his or her way and also left the other parent by mate switching, i.e., getting someone else, then the child would definitely find the strategy of changing mates effective, especially with using the communication style of yelling.
Finances always play a contributing factor in the temporary separation and/or permanent termination of romantic relationships. One person may be sound in financial management and another person might struggle to live and pay their bills. Bringing those two partners together under one roof and integrating finances into the romantic relationship might be fine in the beginning because the relationship is new and sex-filled.
Neither partner is paying attention to the fact that one of them is bad with money. It isn’t until they get emotionally, psychologically, and sexually sober that they both realize there is a problem with money management. For the financially sound partner, the money management issue must be resolved, and this person usually provides a deadline or a firm expectation. If the financial issue is not resolved, the person is likely to exit the relationship through mate switching.
Mate switching is a very important phenomenon that affects individuals and families and society in general. If you have so many people changing mates, it affects cultural, political, and economic dynamics. People jumping from one relationship to the next will influence how their kids view the world and relationships. Mate switching has devastating consequences. It is better to ask questions early in the relationship than to go at the relationship nonchalantly with a carpe diem style of emotional management, hoping for the best.
This article introduces the concept of mate switching and provides a scenario target in exploring the “come up woman” as an example of a partner who must endure mate switching when her partner decides to discard her for a new person.
Partners who mate switch are not surprised by their own attitudes and strategies. Sometimes these are people who have developed the skill of mate switching, looking for that one person they believe fits them in all areas of their lives and who can bring the ultimate relationship satisfaction. They have been essentially holding out hope for the one!
The article explores the concept, provides some useful resources, and offers a writing opportunity to resolve issues in misunderstanding about relationship-making and how mate switching affects the relationship development process. Rebounding and/or rebound relationships is briefly referenced within this article.
Some of the content within this article derives wholly from the book titled Toxic Encounters: Why People Pursue Rebound Relationships, available on Amazon. The content has been reformatted to fit the purpose of this article, which is to introduce the concept of mate switching.
You can find this topic fully explored in Chapter Five of the book. The section on mate switching includes a case study that focuses on assortative mating, which is defined as different dating market values applied to a person who might be considered high interest, low interest, or no interest. With this category of mating, people tend to mate with people similar to themselves, such as high value people mate with high value people or something as simple as tall people mating only with tall people. Click the link for more information.
The content within this article is subject to fair use.
What is mate switching?
Mate switching is a short-term mating strategy. It is defined as leaving one mating relationship and re-mating with another partner. People create many reasons to justify leaving one partner for another. Some of these reasons are validated with cheating.
To cheat is to exit the relationship. Once you decide to cheat on your partner, you are already suggesting to the person that you want out! You may not say these words, and people usually do not voice their desire because they want to keep the relationship at arm’s length. They still want to maintain the convenience of the core relationship because of the unpredictability associated with the affair partner.
Contrary to what people think about cheating, it is a form of mate switching, and it is precipitated by a desire to exit. Cheating is just one of many forms of mate switching. Those forms are discussed within the next sections.
What are the costs of mate switching?
The costs of mate switching are always based on the initial reasons why someone chooses this option. The person can feel like he or she is in the right even if there is no true justification for the decision. The following circumstances can prompt a mate switch:
- Unanticipated costs associated with staying with one mate
- Changes in mate value of either partner
- Arrival of a new mate or potential mate
Partners often mate switch when they feel there is a value discrepancy in their current partners. The mate switching hypothesis is based on activities that lead to adopting a “walk away strategy” from the romantic relationship. Mate switching in romantic relationships includes one or more of the following strategies:
- Monitor their current mating relationship for both benefits and costs.
- Evaluate alternative potential mates while mated.
- Circumvent the guarding tactics from a current mate.
- Engage in extra-pair infidelity.
- Deploy exit strategies.
- Switch to a new partner.
Monitoring, evaluating, and switching to a new partner are all time-consuming activities that suggest intent to leave. People who feel secure and satisfied in their relationships do not feel the need to seek happiness elsewhere.
The fact that one of the partners thinks engaging in extra-pair infidelity will resolve the unhappiness factor is a sign that there is no desire to remain in the core relationship, which makes it feasible to deploy exit strategies. Mate switching begins in the mind and in the heart before it is followed up with action.
Mate switching is also perpetuated with emotions. With rebound relationships, for example, a romantic partner will adopt an emotional exit strategy and switch to a new partner but will retain the right to continue the physical aspect of the rebound relationship at-will along with the core/new relationship.
The partner will monitor and evaluate both relationships, consider potential mates, and discard if necessary or especially when one of the relationships begins to be challenging. It is the “dating rotation” that people have adopted today to keep from developing a long-term relationship with just one partner.
Mate switching also allows people to increase their mate value. Even the affair partner who forms the basis upon which a core partner decides to leave the core relationship is somewhat advanced socially, economically, and financially when that partner has social standing. Even if the way in which two people get together is considered haphazardly and morally wrong, mate value increases as a result of mate switching. The costs may outweigh the benefits for the core partner, but the benefits outweigh the costs for the affair partner.
When People Mate Switch
People mate switch during different seasons in their lives. Mate switching can be convenient or inconvenient for reasons people only justify as important for them. Men and women base their mate switching on a variety of factors.
For example, mate switching allows men to create and maintain multiple short-term mating relationships such as sexual affairs, low commitment relationships, and one-night stands. Mate switching allows women to assess current partners’ mate value and exit when the partners are not meeting certain criteria, usually benefit-provisioning. Mate switching, however, may result in loss of social support, damage to reputation, and revenge porn.
If you cheat on your current mate, it will affect relationships within the family unit. Mate switching could inevitably result in loss of mate value. Withdrawal of financial support is usually a consequence of mate switching.
Women often need to monitor their partner’s mate value to track the progression of the relationship and to determine when to continue investing or begin disinvesting. Women will usually explore potential alternative mates when their partners fail to provide.
Women will always monitor their own mate value if they increase in status through their own efforts, if they suddenly inherit resources, or if they become attracted to a potential alternative.
When people mate switch is predicated oftentimes on the emotional feasibility of the relationship, but as noted, people will mate switch if it becomes financially inconvenient to remain in the relationship.
The Backup Mate Hypothesis
Both men and women cultivate backup mates. It is a major contributing factor that decides when people mate switch. It also provides the answer to why people mate switch when they are in highly satisfying relationships.
The backup mate hypothesis is useful for people experiencing high relationship satisfaction. Women and men report having backup mates and would actively use cost-inflicting behaviors to prevent partner defection. Men and women perceive cultivating back up mates differently.
Women would be more upset if their backup mate began dating someone else or even fell in love with someone else, the irony being that it is okay for one partner in a relationship to cultivate a backup mate and expect the other partner to remain faithful and loyal. Women would try to prevent their backup mate from pursuing and/or marrying someone else. When breakups do occur, they usually end up in re-mating with a new mate.
People who break up with partners without transitioning to a new partner are forced to enter the mating market. Rushing too soon into a relationship may come off as desperate leading to poor mate choice. Baggage is likely a prerequisite for a new breakup. Rebounding is part of the re-mating process, albeit useful for some as a short-term mating strategy.
The mate switching hypothesis has its advantages and disadvantages. Partners usually mate switch based upon resources as well as “good genes” in terms of parental investment. However, mate switching may not always be necessary or may not be a necessary option. Mate switching is the ultimate backup plan for reasons already explored within this article.
Sample Scenario: The Come Up Woman
The come up woman is replaceable. There is no other way to put it. The come up woman is subject to fall under mate switching when it suits her partner. This woman will invest time, money, heart, body, spirit, and mind into a romantic relationship with a partner she deems is eligible for relationship and with whom she can see herself pursuing a long-term relationship. In fact, most come up women are married. Their partners have married them with the requirement of undying loyalty, i.e., the ultimate ride or die.
The come up woman never envisions, however, the emotional, financial, and physical discard. While she can “see” herself long-term with her partner, she is blinded by her ego that she can keep him once he gets back on his financial and emotional feet and then subsequently abandons and rejects the relationship. The come up woman, although extremely capable, conscientious, and intellectual, she really does not have vision for the relationship other than maintaining it with the hope that her partner does not leave.
In other words, I think the come up woman gets a sense about her partner that he is the type to leave and that there is no guarantee that she can keep him even with all her efforts. However, she does not envision him framing her as a person he can leave. It never dawns on her that he framed her for abandonment and emotional eviction from the very start of the relationship. This means that he never planned on staying in the relationship. He just needed a place to stay, a few bucks in his pocket, some sex, some food, and some brief companionship, maybe even a mother!
But staying in relationship with the come up woman was not something he planned to do. In fact, it was the ultimate goal to label her as a come up woman, endure the relationship for however long he could, go back and find that person he really wanted to love and impress, cheat on the come up woman, and then ultimately leave that relationship to marry the woman he has been wanting secretly from the first time he met that person. Unbeknownst to the come up woman, she did not know “her man” was really somebody else’s man. She did not know that she was dealing with a person with a divided heart.
The come up woman is nobody to play with, however, but she is a person who has been rejected the greater part of her life, in and out of relationships, likely scapegoated within the family dynamic, and probably suffered under childhood sexual trauma. Some of these experiences have encouraged emotional sleeping and psychological wanderings. It is only when she realizes that she has been, indeed, a come up woman, that she realizes it is time for change. Otherwise, if she does not pursue change, she will always be the one with whom men mate switch and leave.
Questions for Thought and Discussion
Based upon this discussion, what are some of the exit strategies you have deployed in previous romantic relationships? What were some of the reasons you used to justify the exit? Would you use those same strategies today? Add your comments below.
 Buss, Goetz, Duntley, Asao, & Conroy-Beam, 2017.
 Duntley & Buss, 2007.
 Duntley & Buss, 2007.
Thank you for reading.
Regina Y. Favors, Owner/Operator
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Buss, D. M., Goetz, C., Duntley, J. D., Asao, K., & Conroy-Beam, D. (2017). The mate switching hypothesis. Psychology and Individual Differences, 104, 143-149. Retrieved from http://carigoetz.com/docs/PAID_MateSwitchingHypothesis.pdf
Additional link: https://labs.la.utexas.edu/buss/files/2013/02/The-Mate-Switching-Hypothesis-FINAL-PUBLISHED-2017.pdf
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