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Good-looking people ‘more likely to divorce’

Good-looking people are more likely to have shorter relationships and get divorced, a new study suggests.

Although such people are naturally going to attract romantic interest from people other than their partners, researchers from Harvard University found that they are more likely to reciprocate that interest than their less attractive peers.

Previous research has established that when people are in romantic relationships, they tend to develop a “protective bias” which makes them see other people as less attractive. Harvard Psychology Lecturer Christine Ma-Kellams wanted to test if good-looking people lacked this tendency.

In order to do so, her team asked more than 130 people how attracted they were to a good-looking person of the opposite sex in a photograph. Half of the participants were in exclusive romantic relationships at the time of the test. Researchers also assessed the attractiveness of those being surveyed. Those who were better-looking more readily admitted their attraction to the person in the photograph but this was only the case if they were already in a relationship.

The team conducted another experiment to see if this translated to divorce rates. They rated the attractiveness of 238 men who graduated high school in the 1970s using the photos from their yearbooks. Then the researchers analysed their marital history over the following 30 years using public records. Ma-Kellams noted that those who were seen as more attractive had shorter marriages and were more likely to be divorced than those who ranked lower on looks.

She warned that “being physically attractive is not without its liabilities” as her research appears to show that it “makes one’s relationship more vulnerable to threats”.

The full study was published in the academic journal Personal Relationships.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Ned says:

    “Such people are naturally going to attract romantic interest from people other than their partners… [and] they are more likely to reciprocate that interest than their less attractive peers….”

    — It could also be that those who are more physically attractive simply don’t feel that the normal rules of “fidelity” apply to them. One of the implicit assumptions behind that being, that with their physical attractiveness, they can always find another partner…. And fairly frequently do.

    So, as usual, it is all about power.

    • LR says:

      Especially with me since I’m considered good-looking. It’s easy for me to attract attention from others when I’m in a relationship. It’s usually good-looking women that have higher divorce and domestic violence rates. Good looks can cost marriages.

  2. Elena says:

    So perhaps this is why those whose looks are better after cosmetic surgery are divorced or should soon be divorced!

  3. Chris Reid says:

    This was a very interesting article. However a divorce comes about, it is important to find a lawyer that suits you and be prepared.

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