The study of how intimate relationships vary over time, published in the Scientific Reports journal, found that women are more likely to call their spouse than any other person. Men tend to call their partners most often for the first seven years of their relationship, and then focus on their friends.
Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University et al reached these findings by analysing texts and mobile phone calls of roughly 3.2 million mobile phone users. They were given access to the age and gender of each mobile phone user, and analysed over 3 billion calls and half a billion text messages over a seven-month period.
They described the person the phone user called the most as their “best friend”, which for women was usually a male of a similar age, who became their best friend at approximately age 20 and remained so for an average of 15 years. For men, however, their best friend was usually a female of a similar age, found over ten years later in life and remained their best friend for just 7 years. The researchers suggested that this was because pair-bonding is much more important to women than men. Dunbar added, “It’s the first really strong evidence that romantic relationships are driven by women. Human societies are moving back to matriarchy.”
Additionally, the study showed that after women’s daughters become old enough to have children, their main focus moves from their spouse to their children and grandchildren. This usually happens when the woman is aged between 35-45.
“What seems to happen is that women push the ‘old man’ out to become their second best friend, and he gets called much less often and all her attention is focussed on her daughters just at the point at which you are likely to see grandchildren arriving,” Dunbar explained. However, it could also be assumed that as their daughters move away from home and begin starting their own families, women have more time at home alone with their partners and therefore have less of a reason to call them frequently.
“The pendulum between the two sexes is swinging back towards women,” Dunbar claims. “At root the important relationships are those between women and not those between men. Men’s relationships are too casual. They often function at a high level in a political sense, of course; but at the end of the day, the structure of society is driven by women, which is exactly what we see in primates.”
Many anthropologists argue that human societies are patriarchal, but Dunbar argues that that is only in agricultural societies. In post-industrial society, women appear to be much more of a driving force in maintaining relationships and therefore maintaining a strong society.
“If you look at hunter-gatherers and you look at modern humans in modern post-industrial societies, we are much more matriarchal. It’s almost as if the pendulum between the two sexes, power-wise, is swinging (back) as we move away from agriculture toward a knowledge-based economy.”
Do you agree with these findings? Are women the driving force in relationships? Or would you say men are the leaders of romance? Let us know your thoughts below, and find out more about the study by visiting the Scientific Reports website.