New research on what heterosexual people consider “desirable” and “essential” in a mate has uncovered some interesting results — and they don’t exactly make us look great.
Among other findings, 80 percent of men say they want a woman with a “slender” body, while nearly 70 percent of women say they want a man who has made or will make a lot of money.
The discoveries were part of new research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, which was based on two large national studies of what people look for in a long-term partner. The studies surveyed nearly 28,000 people ages 18 to 75.
Researchers discovered that attractiveness was important to men and women when choosing a partner, along with income. But there were some gender differences:
- 80 percent of men want a partner with a slender body (vs. 58 percent of women)
- 92 percent of men say it’s “desirable” or “essential” that their partner is good-looking (vs. 84 percent of women)
- 97 percent of women want a mate with a steady income (vs. 74 percent of men)
- 69 percent of women want a partner who has made or will make a lot of money (vs. 47 percent of men)
- 46 percent of women say it’s very important that their partner make at least as much money as they do (vs. 24 percent of men)
- 61 percent of women want a partner with a successful career (vs. 33 percent of men)
Researchers also discovered that wealthier men and people who were more satisfied with their own appearance had a stronger preference for a mate who is good-looking and slender.
Study co-author David Frederick, an assistant professor in health psychology at Chapman University, tells Yahoo Health that he was surprised at how much more men cared about looks in a long-term partner and women cared about finances.
But are we really that shallow? Kind of, says clinical psychologist Suzana E. Flores, author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives.
“We’ve become increasingly superficial and are functioning on what society tells us we should be looking for,” she tells Yahoo Health.
Flores points out that men used to prefer women who were curvier and more robust, which was once seen as a sign of wealth and opulence and could have been an indicator of fertility. Now slender is considered more of the ideal, and there is less of a societal emphasis on child-rearing. Consequently, mate preferences changed.
The emphasis from women on having a mate who is rich and successful seems surprising, given that women now earn more college degrees than men, and nearly 40 percent of wives outearn their husbands, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
But Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona tells Yahoo Health that it’s simply innate. “For women, who do the childbearing, it’s more likely that their genetic material will survive if their offspring survive and flourish, so it makes sense for women to be more invested in men [who] can ensure the futures and well-being of their offspring.”
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Of course, just because someone says they prefer certain traits in a mate doesn’t mean they actually base their decision on them. “When emotions come into play, actions and choices can stray very far from preferences and general desires,” Cilona says.
But Flores says it depends on a person’s self-esteem and security: Those who are more easily swayed by others are more likely to choose a mate based on superficial reasons; those who have a greater sense of self are more likely to marry for happiness, no matter what their preference may be.
While the results are a little disturbing, Cilona says there are often cultural, societal, and biological influences behind them: “There is usually more to these issues than may seem apparent at first glance.”
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