Can people having different levels of attractiveness really fall in love with each other? How do we select life partners and does physical appearance play a major role in the choices that we make?
How do We Choose a Partner for a Serious Relationship?
Many theories try to explain how we make one of the most important decisions in our lives – how to choose a marriage or serious relationship partner. They fall in two main categories – evolutionary theory and social role theory.
Some important differences exist between these two attraction theories. According to evolutionary theories, people choose a partner on the basis of characteristics that increase the chance of survival and reproduction. According to this theory, women instinctively know that they’ll need support during pregnancy and raising their children. In addition, the “biological clock” of women is ticking. This is why they choose a partner in a specific way. Men, on the other hand, will be predisposed to look for a younger woman that’s deemed more fertile.
The second theory explains attraction in a different way. According to social role theory, social processes are the ones that guide decision making. The roles that men and women play in society are the ones that determine the selection of one partner or another. This is why many men tend to look for youthfulness and beauty while women are inclined to go for partners that have a nice job and financial stability.
So, how does physical appearance fit in those two theories?
The evolutionary theory will suggest that attractive individuals are looking for attractive partners, as well. Physical appearance is sub-consciously linked to other qualities and superiority over less attractive “representatives of the species.”
According to the social role theory, men are more likely to look for an attractive partner than women. For ladies, the physical appearance will generally be less important than other characteristics of the potential partner. Though the two theories provide a quite simplified explanation, they can be used to explain why certain people tend to end up together. Chances are that you’ve already seen an example of each in the people that you know.
Factors that Determine Attractiveness
Ok, attractiveness is important and we can all agree about the validity of the claim. Isn’t attractiveness, however, subjective? Can we say that what one person finds attractive will also appeal to somebody else? Of course not! Certain components, however, determine how attractive we’re going to find a potential partner:
- Physical appearance: as superficial as it may seem, physical appearance affects heavily the manner in which we view others. We all judge the appearance of others and this is nothing but normal. When it comes to one of the most important choices in our lives, physical appearance does have a significant impact.
- Similarity: similarity in interests, physical appearance, goals in live and even social status can help us determine one partner as more attractive than another. Explained in simple terms, people are more drawn to individuals that have a similar lifestyle, similar goals and similar accomplishments.
- Proximity: you’ve definitely experienced at least one instance in which the more you saw someone, the more attracted to them you became. This is known as proximity. Spending quality time together and getting to learn more about each other can change the original opinion you had about the person.
- We like those who like us: having someone flirting with you, showing you attention and demonstrating a potential interest can result in you responding to these feelings. Today, the situation is a bit more complex due to insecurities and mixed messages but reciprocity still plays a role in attraction.
All of the information presented so far should lead to the conclusion that people are mostly looking for partners that are equally attractive. There still isn’t an explanation about why some very attractive individuals choose non-attractive (according to social standards) partners.
One interesting study found out that couples in which the husband was less attractive than the wife were a lot happier and more capable of dealing with problems than couples being equally attractive. This was so because the husbands tended to be more cooperative and willing to work on marriage issues than men deemed more handsome.
The researchers also found out that the attractiveness of the women in these couples wasn’t a determining factor for the ability to solve problems and build a stable marriage.
Another interesting study found out that many men looking for a serious relationship weren’t that concerned about choosing the most attractive woman. The attractiveness of a woman was a leading factor for a casual fling. In fact, when being asked to look at the pictures of women and determine which ladies would be better partners and mothers, most of the men pointed at the photographs deemed as less socially attractive. The men said that these women would probably be more reliable, more trustworthy and better partners.
So, what does all of this information mean? The rules of attraction are incredibly complicated. Some people want a partner that looks like Mister Olympia. Others are looking for someone charismatic and funny. Some value money and status. Others need support, understanding and kindness. One thing is certain, however, confidence is essential for attracting the right mate. People that tend to be more confident, even if they don’t have all of the standard physical attractiveness features, will be much more successful than their peers when it comes to discovering that special someone.
By Couples Clinic