Science Says Attractive Women and Rich Men Are the Recipe For a Happy Marriage
But it depends on your personality.
According to Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, all of us have a “mate value”—a numerical rating that determines how desirable we are to other people. While it’s the sum of a variety of traits, one’s mate value is largely determined by physical appearance for women and resources for men. Choosing the person we want to spend our lives with in such a clinical way is unromantic, to say the least. But according to a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, having a very conventionally attractive wife or a rich husband could lead to a happier marriage.
For the study, Florida State University (FSU) researchers studied 113 heterosexual newlywed couples in north Texas and 120 newlywed couples in north Florida over a period of three years. They found that “men who had attractive (vs. unattractive) wives were more satisfied at the start of their marriages” and “women who had high (vs. low) status husbands experienced less steep declines in satisfaction over time.”
Before you bring out the pitchforks, let’s look at the finer print. The researchers noted that the results only apply to “maximizers”—people who make decisions based on what they feel will yield the best possible outcome later on. But there are also plenty of “satisficers”—whose decisions are determined by more modest criteria—in the world. In the study, satisficers’ levels of satisfaction were not impacted by how physically attractive their wife was or how much money their husbands made in any significant way.
“Maximizing people are constantly trying to obtain the very best outcomes in life,” Juliana French, a psychology professor at FSU and lead author of this study, said in a press release. “For example, which is the best ice cream flavor? Which is the best song on the radio right now? In the context of romantic relationships, maximizers are those who seek the best possible partner and who, over the course of their relationships, continue to compare their partners to other potential partners.”
Simply put, maximizers go into a mall to buy socks and need to check every single store before deciding which pair is the best option, instead of just picking up whatever’s on sale or a longtime favorite brand. If that’s your approach to making life choices, then it would make sense that choosing a partner with a high mate value would lead to greater marital satisfaction—at least in the beginning. But you should find solace in the fact that not everyone is like that.
And, for what it’s worth, psychologists say that maximizers tend to experience lower levels of happiness and self-esteem than satisficers overall. They also tend to have more feelings of regret over their decision when a so-called “better” option comes along.
And for more proof that not everyone only cares about appearance, wealth, or status, check out Science Says Women Aren’t Interested in Flashy Men.
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