We already knew that husbands prefer wife’s physical attractiveness and derive satisfaction in it. The interesting part of this study is that a wife’s physical attractiveness also affects her marital satisfaction.
For several decades, researchers across numerous disciplines have assumed that partner physical attractiveness should play a stronger role in shaping men’s romantic relationships than it plays in shaping women’s romantic relationships (e.g., Buss, 1989; Buss & Kenrick, 1998; Feingold, 1990, 1992; Grammer et al., 2007; Greenlees & McGrew, 1994; Sprecher et al., 1994). …
Results were consistent with evolutionary perspectives. Whereas husbands were more satisfied at the beginning of the marriage and remained that way over the first four years of marriage to the extent that they had a more attractive wife, wives were no more or less satisfied initially or over time to the extent that they had a more attractive husband. Most importantly, the significant effect of wives’ attractiveness on husbands’ satisfaction was significantly stronger than the non-significant effect of husbands’ attractiveness on wives’ satisfaction, indicating that partner physical attractiveness played a larger role in predicting husbands’ marital satisfaction than it did in predicting wives’ marital satisfaction.
In other words, contrary to the conclusion that people do not know something as fundamental about themselves as what they want in a partner, the sex-differentiated preference for an attractive partner that men and women have stated in a robust literature spanning more than 20 years (e.g., Buss, 1989; Buss & Barnes, 1986; Eastwick & Finkel, 2008; Eastwick et al., 2011; Furnham, 2009; Howard et al., 1987; Hudson & Henze, 1969; Li et al., 2002; Li & Kenrick, 2006; Sprecher, 1989) affects their long-term relationships after all.
Men and women are different, and these differences have far reaching effects on relationships.
The authors propose two potential reasons why this may be the case:
Notably, wives in the current studies remained more satisfied over the first four years of marriage to the extent that they themselves were more attractive. One possible explanation for this finding is that more attractive women are healthier and more resistant to illness (Hume & Montgomerie, 2001) and thus less prone to additional stressors that may negatively influence satisfaction over time (Burman & Margolin, 1992; Neff & Karney, 2004, 2007). Another possible explanation is that because husbands of more attractive women are more satisfied initially and stay more satisfied over time, they may treat those attractive wives better and thus those attractive women may be happier over time (see McNulty, Neff, & Karney, 2008). Future research may benefit by better understanding why attractive wives remain more satisfied with their relationship over time.
The two are:
- Staying physically attractive has health benefits (presumably over being overweight or obese) which is true.
- Husbands with more physically attractive wives treat them better (which is generally objectively true).
In reference to the second one, both men and women treat those they find attractive better than those they find unattractive. This is a bias that spans across all of culture not just in relationships. Men and women who are attractive find that others are more willing to treat them politely and gratefully, are more willing to do things for them, and are more willing to give the benefit of the doubt in both public and private. First impressions are strong.
We could go back to the Scripture that ‘man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart’ which acknowledges that humans tend to have biases for appearances. Everyone knows this is true, and it is true that we should seek to eliminate this bias from our thinking. But we are still human and we do this unconsciously much of the time.
Wives should be advised to make this bias work for them rather than against them to stay physically attractive for the health benefits and benefits for her husband and herself. Husbands should be wise in choosing a wife that will want to put effort into maintaining her physical appearance.