Mate Poaching: The Love Story You Don't Want to Hear

1 in 5 couples met by stealing someone else's sweetheart.
When Jen and her beau Darren exchanged nuptial vows in a picturesque church, their romantic wedding was attended by all their loved ones and friends. Save for one: Jen's former best friend, who also used to be the groom's girlfriend, that is, until she lured him away. This may sound like a love triangle right out of a soap opera, but the truth is up to one in five couples met under similar circumstances known as 'mate poaching'.

According to one study, as many as 20 percent of long-term relationships begin with mate poaching, or the involvement with someone who is already in a relationship. This figure is steady across age groups and among couples who are married or dating, and prevalent in all parts of the world, according to psychologists who polled some 16,000 individuals in 53 countries as part of the International Sexuality Description Project. And 57 percent men and 35 percent women across ten world regions admitted they had engaged in an attempt at sweetheart-stealing.

Single women are more interested in "taken" men

That men seek multiple partners is probably not so surprising, since men tend to cheat more in general. But now there's research evidence that single women are particularly drawn to other women's partners, according to a report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by social psychologists Melissa Burkley and Jessica Parker of Oklahoma State University: When a man was described as unattached, 59 percent of single women were interested in pursuing him. But when the same man was described as being in a committed relationship, that number jumped to 90 percent.

The big question is why men are more appealing when they are unavailable. It is likely that when a guy is already taken, he's perceived as a 'hot commodity' having desirable qualities. (Why else would another woman want him?) "An attached man has demonstrated his ability to commit and in some ways his qualities have already been 'pre-screened' by another woman," Parker believes.

"All the good men are taken." It's a complaint you have probably heard one time too often. But here's some food for thought: Are the single ladies out there saying that because they subconsciously believe "all the taken men are good?"

A question of morality

Of course, it is never right to steal your friend's partner (or anyone else's, for that matter). Even if their relationship is clearly not working out, at least wait until they end it before getting involved. If a guy cheats on his loving girlfriend to hook up with you, you really have to wonder about his character.

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