Why We Poach
But what makes the difference between having ancestral poaching instincts and acting on them? "Many people are attracted to the opportunity for challenge," says Arthur Aron, PhD, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. "Studies show that we are more attracted to people when we overcome obstacles to get them than when we don't."
Interestingly, though, poachers tend to rank low on ambition, according to Schmitt. His speculation: they like the quick-fix challenge of landing a relationship, not the real challenge of keeping one. "If they had real ambition, they'd find their own relationship," he says.
But not all poachers seek challenge just to play games or rack up points. For some the urge is more nuanced and deeper-seated. "My dad was a cheater," says Connie, 30, of Greenwich, Connecticut, who poached her husband as well as a boyfriend before him (no physical cheating occurred, just flirting until the guy left his current girlfriend to start something with her). "I always wonder if that contributed to my being a poacher. Having been left for greener pastures -- he left my mom, but it still felt like rejection to me -- did I set out to prove that I was worth leaving someone for?"
Some poaching is also less sinister than it sounds because, let's face it, life does not always have perfect timing. Sometimes people meet The One while they're with Not The One, and there's nothing to blame but pure chance.
Olivia, 37, met Alan, 38, 10 years ago through mutual work friends in San Francisco. "I didn't mean to fall in love with him, honestly. He was not my type. I just knew I wanted to hang out with him and be friends because the moment I met him I thought he was amazing," she recalls. "The crush totally sneaked up on me." Then came an angry phone call from Alan's about-to-be-ex-girlfriend ("My boyfriend's had a crush on you for a year!"), and not long after that, a marriage proposal from Alan.