Comment: Does relationship disharmony (and/or too frequent masturbation) initiate neuroendocrine shifts, such that current partners seem less appealing…and new partners more alluring? Given that most species are promiscuous, this may be a conserved mechanism to increase offspring’s genetic diversity. Maybe it is sometimes “dialed down” in pair bonders (like humans) if they engage in attachment cues regularly (and don’t overdo the masturbation?), thus keeping scent appealing and bonds strong.

Physiology & Behavior

Volume 207, 1 August 2019, Pages 179-184

Mehmet K.Mahmut IlonaCroyb


•An intact olfactory ability is vital for perception of and response to chemical signals from potential and current partners.
•Congenital anosmia is associated poorer relationship outcomes, highlighting the importance an intact olfactory ability.
•In relationship initiation, body odors may help humans select genetically and sexually compatible mates.
•A partner’s body odor may help maintain a relationship by providing comfort and increased preference due to familiarity.
•Disliking a partner’s body odor may signal a reduction in compatibility and facilitate the determination of relationship.


The aim of this review is to present direct and indirect lines of converging evidence that highlight the many ways our body odors and sense of smell may influence the three broad stages of romantic relationships; initiation, maintenance and breakdown. This emerging area of study requires a multidisciplinary empirical approach. Here we survey research findings that taken together, suggest that body odor perception moderates mate choice, provides a source of comfort in existing relationships and may signal the breakdown of a relationship through disgust processes. In terms of olfactory ability, having a good sense of smell may facilitate identifying a healthy mate, enhance sexual experiences, relationship security and ensure empathic responsivity, predictors of relationship longevity. We therefore conclude that olfaction plays an important – yet understudied – role in romantic relationships.