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Nay Says: What Do Short-term And Long-term Relationships Look Like?

Psychologists Paul W. Eastwick, Elizabeth Keneski, Taylor A. Morgan, Megan A. McDonald, and Sabrina A. Huang compare the trajectory and experiences of short-term and long-term relationships.


Eastwick and colleagues conducted multiple studies to unpack this subject, while predominately using the Relationship Coordination and Strategic Timing (ReCAST) Model. The ReCAST Model is essentially a retelling of several relationship developmental stages for an individual in their current or past relationship, incorporating evolutionary, psychological, and intimate components. And several participants were asked about both their short-term and long-term relationships (within-subjects) or just their short-term or long-term relationships (between-subjects).


Through a combination of mate-seeking and mate-retention, people behave and are internally driven differently for short-term and long-term relationships, but the results suggest that short-term and long-term are not as distinctive as many people may think.


Short-term and long-term relationships appear on average to garner similar interest and experiences during the early parts of the relationship. As time goes on, short-term relationships appear to stabilize and then decline, while long-term relationships generally continue to grow and increase. The investigators point out that this finding may also explain how it can be difficult for people to determine whether they are in a short-term or long-term relationship, because the early experiences and interests are similar.


Eastwick and colleagues dive deep into explaining more of the findings and literature that supports their results, but here a few important things to takeaway:


· Dating, socializing in group settings, introducing to friends, flirting, expressing interest, sexual behaviors, and one-on-one togetherness are some of the examples of similar experiences in both short-term and long-term relationships

· Desire to care for partner was greater in long-term than short-term

· Desire to self-protect was greater in short-term than long-term

· Attachment principles appears to be a huge identifier for long-term relationships as opposed to short-term relationships.


The psychologists mention that as a relationship becomes more sexual, essentially more signs begin to surface on whether the relationship is short-term or long-term.



Nay Says

This investigation was thoroughly executed. Looking at both between and within subjects provides more insight on the motivations and experiences of the participants in the experiments. The concept of ReCAST is intriguing and likely the most effective method in understanding the nuances and perspectives on different type of relationships that people experience. Though the investigators mention how ReCAST cannot really pick up short-term relationships that are very short, such as mere hours, the information and data that can be obtained seem to be sufficient enough to support their conclusions.


It is becoming clearer that short-term and long-term relationships are not as clearly defined and distinct as past researchers and society have claimed. The idea that one can be in a relationship that is unmarked or not specifically classified makes sense, if the early parts of the relationship trend similarly. Also, the fact that people tend to form short-term relationships significantly more so with a friend than a stranger, may provide some credence to those early interpersonal experiences.


And it makes sense that attachment-behavioral systems appear to be the most vivid difference in long-term and short-term relationships. How people ultimately view and treat their partner, and vice versa, illuminates the trajectory of what is to be expected. A replication of the psychologists’ methodology could provide more awareness to people and set a new standard on how professionals characterize relationships.


For more information: http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fxge0000428


Eastwick, P. W., Keneski, E., Morgan, T. A., McDonald, M. A., & Huang, S. A. (2018). What do short-term and long-term relationships look like? Building the relationship coordination and strategic timing (ReCAST) model. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(5), 747. doi: 10.1037/xge0000428

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