Relationships are stronger when the man is less attractive than the woman, a new study suggests.
Researchers from Florida State University (FSU) and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, surveyed 113 newlywed couples in their 20s. Each pair had been married less than four months at the time of the study.
Full body photographs were taken of the participants and sent to two teams of evaluators to determine how good looking they were on a scale of one to ten. One team focused on facial attractiveness and the other examined body desirability.
The newlyweds were also given a questionnaire about their health and happiness. Its particular focus was on the participants’ willingness to stay in shape and diet. They were asked if they agreed with statements such as “I’m terrified of gaining weight”.
The researchers found that wives with husbands who had scored lower on the attractiveness scale were more satisfied with their lives and relationships. The husbands in these cases were reportedly more likely to make an effort with gestures such as gifts or housework.
Co-author Tania Reynolds is a doctoral student at FSU. She explained that men “seemed to be basically more committed, more invested in pleasing their wives when they felt that they were getting a pretty good deal”.
By contrast, having a good looking husband “may have negative consequences for wives, especially if those wives are not particularly attractive” she said. Reynolds arrived at this after she found that women who married very attractive men were much more likely to be worried about their own weight and appearance.
One way to combat this issue is for husbands “to be very reaffirming” and reminding their wives that they were “beautiful” and that they were loved “at any weight or body type”, she suggested.
The study was published in the academic journal Body Image.