Attractiveness Mismatch Can Affect Relationship Longevity

Most people get married thinking they will be with their spouses for the rest of their lives, but there’s always the possibility of divorce. It’s important to evaluate your relationship before you walk down the aisle to make sure you’re truly compatible.

One issue many people don’t think about is when one partner is more attractive than the other. Research shows that couples who are mismatched when it comes to physical attractiveness are more likely to split up, according to Madeleine Fugère, a professor of Social Psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.

In other words, if your wife is really beautiful and you’re not equally as good looking, it could lead to divorce.

Previous research has revealed that couples who are evenly matched with their looks—they’re both somewhat attractive, very attractive, or not attractive—are more likely to stay together versus couples who have dissimilar attractiveness levels.

Many people intuitively choose partners who match their own level of attractiveness, subconsciously believing it will lead to a more successful relationship.

Fugère and her colleagues examined how women perceived their level of physical attractiveness and how they perceived their partner’s level of attractiveness. The women also revealed their levels of commitment and flirting and their thoughts about splitting up with their partners.

Most women reported their partners were equally as attractive or slightly more so, “potentially exhibiting ‘partner enhancement’ or ‘positive illusions’.” Women who believed they were more attractive reported being less devoted and were more interested in finding more appealing partners. More attractive women also flirted more with other men and were more likely to think about breaking up with their current partners.

Other research suggests relationships with different levels of attractiveness may not last as long because the less attractive partner may have problems with jealousy.

So why do women date men who are not as attractive as them? Fugère and her team believe a partner’s intelligence, wealth and wit may play a part. Also, people in new relationships tend to see positive traits, and women may not focus on dissimilar levels of attractiveness until later on. Still, some people have an “insecure attachment style,” which makes them unhappy to be single so they’d rather have a relationship with a less attractive partner than be alone.

There is one exception, Fugère notes. If a couple starts dating soon after they meet, they are more likely to be the same level of attractiveness, while couples who have known each other a while before they date are less likely to be matched physically. Those who have long friendships before dating may consider physical attractiveness less vital.


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