If you've ever wondered, Why do my parents hate my boyfriend?, you aren't alone. Most of us have questioned our family's seemingly irrational dislike of our chosen partner at some point or another. And, as it turns out, there's apparently more to this dating phenomenon than a passing clash in personal chemistry. According to a new study out of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's Department of Psychology, it all boils down to a conflict they've dubbed the "Juliet Effect" — and that conflict comes down to genetics.
Let's say you've got the hots for a prospective partner or are head-over-heels for your significant other, yet your mom is trying everything in her power to put the kabosh on your romance (hence your wondering, Why do my parents hate my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner?). The pseudo-good news is that your mom's vendetta against your lover likely has little to do with your actual relationship with that person, according to Norwegian University's Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair and Associate Professor Robert Biegler. Rather, it's a matter of genetics and mathematics ... of playing the odds. You might have your heart set on an artsy knockout who makes a living selling mixed-media paintings out of a tiny studio in Soho, but your mother wants you to settle down with someone "stable" and "respectable." Who among us hasn't heard that line before?
Enter the Juliet Effect, named so by Kennair and Biegler after Shakespeare's Juliet and her mother, Lady Capulet. As you well remember, Lady Capulet was passionately opposed to Juliet's, well, passion for Romeo. Heartthrob though he may have been, he belonged to the Capulet's rival family, the Montagues. The reason why, say the researchers, still plays out much the same today — and they've recently discovered that it also extends to the way sisters view each other's prospective partners.
"For their own partners, women focus on an attractive appearance that suggests good health and an ability to pass on their genes," they explain in the study. "At the same time, they prioritize qualities in their sister's partner that can provide direct benefits for the whole family. This is consistent with our previous studies where we compared mothers' and daughters' choices." So, essentially, all women, no matter how we identify or what our orientation may be, are drawn to people we think are dreamy. It is a trait we prioritize for ourselves during the initial attraction phase. However, while our mothers and sisters likewise want that for themselves, they prioritize other traits above it when it comes to their daughter and sister, respectively.
So in response to that age old question, "Why do my parents hate my boyfriend or girlfriend?", the answer seems to be because your ma doesn't believe said boyfriend or girlfriend presents the best possible opportunity for spreading your shared genetic material. "The ideal partner for your sister or your daughter can't drain resources from you and decrease the chance that your own genes can be passed on. Preferably he should directly increase your own chances. This can be achieved in part if your sister or daughter makes big gains by choosing a particular partner, and is able to spread your shared genes much more effectively," explain the professors. Eesh, this study is getting bleaker by the moment, eh?
What's more, your mother or sister might not like your significant other because they subconsciously desire him or her for themselves. If you land the proverbial dreamboat who happens to have both good looks and good character in spades and your mom or sister still don't approve, well, their innermost genetic programming may be urging them to veer you away to keep said dreamboat available for them. This doesn't mean they are actively trying to steal your honey; it simply means they are hardwired to look out for their own genetic interests first and foremost.
Which, for the record, is basically the reason you might prefer a total looker over your mom's more "dependable" pick. While she sees certain qualities as equating to a partner who is more likely to carry on the family gene pool, those same qualities might not carry the same weight with you unless they are accompanied by physical attractiveness. "The underlying truth remains: passing on your genes is the priority. The primary consideration is to find a partner who can give you attractive children who survive," says Kennair. "They need to be attractive enough to pass on their genes to the next generation to the greatest extent possible."
How lovely! So just remember the next time you get in an argument with your mom or sis over your current lover to give them a break because A) your interests may be largely superficial and B) they're just trying to make sure you find a dude who won't be a total drain on the entire family's lineage. Well, either that, or they unwittingly covet your SO's impeccable genes for themselves. Have fun sitting around the dinner table at your next big family gathering with this knowledge fresh on your brain.
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