Are men or women more likely to confess love first in romantic relationships? And how do men and women feel when their partners say “I love you”? An evolutionary–economics perspective contends that women and men incur different potential costs and gain different potential benefits from confessing love. Across 6 studies testing current and former romantic relationships, we found that although people think that women are the first to confess love and feel happier when they receive such confessions, it is actually men who confess love first and feel happier when receiving confessions. Consistent with predictions from our model, additional studies have shown that men’s and women’s reactions to love confessions differ in important ways depending on whether the couple has engaged in sexual activity. These studies have demonstrated that saying and hearing “I love you” has different meanings depending on who is doing the confessing and when the confession is being made. Beyond romantic relationships, an evolutionary– economics perspective suggests that displays of commitment in other types of relationships—and reactions to these displays—will be influenced by specific, functional biases.
Published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011.