Comb through the scientific literature on dating and relationships, and you’ll find a hundred “what women want” studies. Not so common: research on the stuff that turns women off. A team from the US, Australia, and Singapore hoped to fill that gap, and their new paper on relationship “dealbreakers” is eye opening.
“Taking on a bad partner may be costlier than foregoing a good partner,” says Peter Jonason, Ph.D., and colleagues in their Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin review. That’s especially true for the ladies, who may end up stuck carrying the child of a deadbeat if they’re not careful when choosing a mate. For that reason, women tend to weigh “dealbreakers” more heavily than “dealmakers,” the research shows.
While’s there’s some overlap, the stuff that will kill your chances in short-term hookup contexts is different from those deal breakers women rank highest when it comes to long-term relationships.
Here are the big takeaways from Jonason’s research. Avoid these deal breakers, and you’ll remove many of the obstacles standing between you and your girl.
HYGIENE TRUMPS LOOKS
While a pretty face will help you out in both short- and long-term relationship contexts, women consider poor hygiene and unhealthy habits bigger deal breakers than whether a guy’s a stud, the research data show. Post Instagram pics of your workouts, ditch cigarettes, and focus on looking neat and put-together in public. Do that, and you’re checking lots of her boxes, the study suggests.
WORK HARD—OR AT LEAST ACT LIKE YOU DO
Compared to being bad at sex, looking disheveled, or lacking confidence, a higher percentage of women rated “laziness” as a deal breaker. When you’re chatting her up, talk about your work, hobbies, and sports you play—stuff that shows you’re busy and active. Skip topics like your favorite TV shows or gaming habit. Both may signal laziness, and both also ranked high on her list of turn-offs, the study authors say.
Or, at the very least, don’t smell bad. The authors say unseemly body odors—bad breath, filthy hair, etc.—are a sign of poor health and hygiene. Especially in short-term dating and hook-up contexts, smelling bad falls behind only STDs on the list of her biggest negatives.
BEDROOM PERFORMANCE MATTERS, BUT NOT THAT MUCH
Short-term relationships tend to be “more explicitly sexual,” as opposed to emotional, the authors say. But even among short-term daters, whether you’re good or bad in bed ranked below poor hygiene, smelliness, laziness, neediness, and a poor sense of humor in terms of her most common turn-offs.
CONTROL YOUR TEMPER
When it comes to long-term relationships, “anger issues” or abusive behaviors ranked as the top deal breaker. Anger issues were also in the top five in short-term situations—ahead of both your bedroom ability and looks. If you lose your shit over poor restaurant service, or the way some dude looks at your date, you can probably kiss your chances of scoring goodbye.
WOMEN GET PICKIER AS THEY AGE
The older a woman gets, the more “dealbreakers” she tends to have. Of course, you’re more likely to have your act together at 40 than you did at 20. But if you’re getting up there in years and haven’t been able to lock down the girl of your dreams, it might be time to reassess your style and grooming habits—and try to adopt some of the other traits mentioned here—before your next date.