According to study, which is published in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, men may not see their flirtations with an attractive woman as threatening to the relationship while women do.
Researchers found that women protect their relationship more when an attractive man enters the picture but men look more negatively at their partner after they've met an available, attractive woman.
Lead author of the study, John E. Lydon, PhD, of McGill University in Montreal said that men can learn to resist temptation when trained to think that flirting with an attractive woman could destroy their relationship.
To reach the conclusions, the scientists conducted seven laboratory experiments using 724 heterosexual men and women to see how college-aged men and women in serious relationships react when another attractive person enters the mix.
In one study, 71 unsuspecting male participants were individually introduced to an attractive woman. Roughly half the men met a "single" woman who flirted with them. The other half met an "unavailable" woman, who simply ignored them.
Immediately after this interaction, the men filled out a questionnaire in which they were asked how they would react if their "romantic partner" had done something that irritated them, such as lying about the reason for canceling a date or revealing an embarrassing tidbit about them.
Men who met the attractive "available" woman were 12 percent less likely to forgive their significant others.
In contrast, 58 women were put in a similar situation. These women, who met an "available" good-looking man, were 17.5 percent more likely to forgive their partners' bad behavior.
Using virtual reality scenarios in the last experiment, the researchers wanted to see if 40 men could learn not to flirt when mingling with attractive women if they formed a plan or strategy beforehand.
The researchers prompted half the male subjects in this experiment to visualize being approached by an attractive woman. They were then instructed to write down a strategy to protect their relationship.
These men were more likely to distance themselves from an attractive woman in the subsequent virtual reality scenarios.
Lydon says women, on the other hand, don't need to be trained to withhold any reactions when approached by attractive men.