The Real Reason You’re Unlucky in Love, According to Science

That stereotypical break-up line (you know the one: “It’s not you, it’s me”) may not actually be true.

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Photo by Libertad Leal Photography/Getty Images

When figuring out whether a new relationship will work, people tend to focus on a potential partner’s negative traits—even if he or she actually has many positive qualities, according to researched published late last year in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin but making the rounds now. In fact, just one or two negative qualities can be enough justification to stop seeing that person.

“We have a general tendency to attend more closely to negative information than we do to positive information,” Gregory Webster, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida, said in a statement released Monday.​

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Florida, Western Sydney University, Indiana University, Singapore Management University, and Rutgers University, examined information from six independent studies to determine the top relationship deal breakers and the effect they have on the formation of romantic relationships. The top deal breakers, in no particular order, were unattractiveness, unhealthy lifestyle, undesirable personality traits, differing religious beliefs, limited social status, differing mating strategies, and differing relationship goals.

Interestingly, the findings show that women and people in committed relationships are generally more sensitive to deal breakers than other segments of the population. Friendships, on the other hand, are not as strongly affected by negative traits. But some deal breakers, like dishonesty, are universally avoided.

“Things that can harm are generally more important [to pay attention to] than things that can help you,” Webster said. But it’s important to note that what’s considered a deal breaker for some may be a deal maker for others. For example, some individuals may be attracted to an impulsive person—others will prefer someone more predictable.