Romantic Alternatives

Falling Prey to Online Romantic Alternatives?

Romantic alternatives are potential partners with whom one keeps in touch with the prospect of starting a future relationship. Alternative can be understood as a ‘relationship insurance’. It is no surprise that over-engagement with online friends and pursuing alternative partners can threaten the primary romantic relationship.

Research Question

Is relationship status (committed versus dating) a predictor of relationship satisfaction, quality of online romantic alternatives, online infidelity behaviors, social media addiction, and the total number of social media accounts?

Research revealed that there is a significant difference in the way committed and dating partners evaluate the quality of their potential alternative partners (disguised as ‘friends’) and level of social media addiction. Dating partners, when compared to committed partners, reported a better quality of alternatives and also reported higher social media addiction scores, despite not reporting a significant difference in their relationship satisfaction, social media infidelity behaviors, or the total number of social media accounts.

Here is the dilemma of the ‘chicken and egg problem’. It is possible that because dating partners believe that they have a better quality of alternatives available online, than their present partner, they spend excessive time online pursuing those alternatives resulting in social media addiction. And it is also plausible that dating partners have less barriers that restrain them from quitting their relationship (e.g., children, finances, emotional investments), they spend excessive time online, which gives them a greater exposure to their friends’ profiles causing them to believe that their available alternatives are better in quality than their present partner. Interestingly, dating partners reported significantly more sexual alternatives than committed partners. Nevertheless, the number of potential committed alternatives was not significantly different between dating and committed partners. Essentially, committed partners are equally prone to considering some of their online friends as committed alternatives. Therefore, avoiding exposure to potential alternatives’ profiles can protect partners from relationship problems. Abbasi, I. S. (2018). Falling prey to online romantic alternatives: Evaluating social media alternative partners in committed versus dating relationships. Social Science Computer Review, 37(6), 723-733. doi:10.1177/0894439318793947 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0894439318793947

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About author

Dr. Abbasi founded mindfulrelation.com as a ‘go-to-website’ where couples can learn ways to avoid harmful online behaviors and improve the quality of their relationship. In her research, Dr. Abbasi examined how social media use is linked with romantic relationship problems, mental health, personality, and mood.
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