It’s a tale as old as time. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.
But here to crush your dreams of a lifelong romance that looks beyond mere vanities and into the very depths of your soul are a bunch of scientists who discovered women are happier with less attractive men.
Frustratingly, their findings kind of give credence to the ridiculous idea of punching above your weight – because there just aren’t enough phrases that equate romance to boxing.
A study by Florida State University has found that heterosexual relationships tend to be more successful when the female is the more attractive one.
To complete the study, the couples agreed to be rated on their attractiveness by boffins from Southern Methodist University and Florida State University, and were given a questionnaire to fill in, which explored their desire to remain fit and sexy.
The study examined 113 exclusively newlywed couples in their 20s, who live near Dallas and had been married less than four months, thus rendering the findings completely unrepresentative of anyone not befitting that description.
But Researcher Tania Reynolds said the study has wider implications:
The results reveal that having a physically attractive husband may have negative consequences for wives, especially if those wives are not particularly attractive.
It might be helpful to identify women at risk of developing more extreme weight-loss behaviours, which have been linked to other forms of psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life.
Worryingly, the study, published in the journal Body Image, found these ‘social factors’ had a negative impact on a woman’s dieting habits and ‘disorder eating’, advancing preexisting research done in the Meltzer lab.
In other words, women with less attractive husbands felt less need to diet all the time, which apparently made them much happier in their relationship, reports Florida State University News.
In a world where up to 70 million people suffer from an eating disorder, according to the US’ National Eating Disorder Association, these findings are particularly scary.
Contrarily, men weren’t as pressured to diet as a consequence of their partner’s looks:
In contrast, men’s dieting motivations were not significantly associated with their own and their partners’ attractiveness.
The husbands seemed to be basically more committed, more invested in pleasing their wives when they felt that they were getting a pretty good deal.
While both men and women are subjected to damaging beauty ideals from all angles in the appearance-driven 21st century, perhaps the findings show women are particularly vulnerable to real life comparisons, and fears over ‘falling short of their partners’ expectations’.
Reynolds made a suggestion as to how couples can combat those negative feelings:
One way to help these women is for partners to be very reaffirming, reminding them, ‘You’re beautiful. I love you at any weight or body type’.
Or perhaps focusing on the ways they are a good romantic partner outside of attractiveness and emphasising those strengths: ‘I really value you because you’re a kind, smart and supportive partner.’
If we understand how women’s relationships affect their decision to diet and the social predictors for developing unhealthy eating behaviours then we will be better able to help them.
So while it’s all ‘fun and games’ to say someone’s punching, not all is fair in love and war.