Does Physical Attractiveness Make A Happy Marriage?

Posted on December 30, 2013



If you are happy in your marriage and have absolutely no idea why, just keep doing whatever you are doing and limit your questions to “What would you like for dinner, dear?/What’s for dinner, dear?” But, if you want an answer, you might benefit from reading the following:

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has presented new study conducted by psychologist Andrea Meltzer. Meltzer has tracked over 450 newlywed couples during the course of their first four years of marriage and posed the following question: Does a good-looking spouse lead to a more satisfying union?

“Couples were first rated by ‘objective,’ independent researchers, and then asked up to eight times over the first four years of marriage to rate their satisfaction.”

Maybe Life in the Boomer Lane is missing something, but, like sprinters who lace their shoes together at the starting line, these statements seems fraught with problems. The first is that, aside from several laws of physics, there is little on the planet that is “objective.” And good looks just might be the top of the heap. Why wouldn’t any newlywed rate his or her partner as physically attractive? The first few years of marriage generally involve people whose faces have not yet turned into heated Silly Putty. Doesn’t it take longer than four years to realize you are married to someone whose face has now been consumed by their neck and whose nose is either much larger than was originally presented or has now started to sprout acres of nose hair?

And, in a statement guaranteed to put even the most alert readers into a stupor, Meltzer and her team write, “The significant effect of wives’ attractiveness on husbands’ satisfaction was significantly stronger than the nonsignificant 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.”

This is an actual quote. The above paragraph is of note for several reasons. One is that the word “satisfaction” was used four times and the words “significant” and “attractiveness” were used three times. The second is that the average human could meet someone, develop a meaningful relationship with them, and marry them in less time than it would take to read this one-sentence paragraph. LBL, always a closet English teacher, will now simplify the above paragraph and do so without odious repetition of words:

Men care about looks more than women do.

This finding might be shocking to a lot of women who have been living in an FLDS compound for most of their lives. For the rest of us, our main response will be more along the lines of “Gosh, I hope my tax dollars didn’t go to fund this study.”

Another finding was that the attractive wives reported higher levels of satisfaction, all because having a happy hubby made them happier too.

So now we have a pre-1960’s loop going: Man marries attractive woman and is happy. Said attractive woman is happy because man is happy. Attractive woman doesn’t care if husband looks like Quasimoto on a bad hair day. She is happy solely because husband is happy.

Allow LBL, because this is her blog and she is in charge, to take this a bit further. This study would have us believe that women are happy solely because their spouses are happy. Are we to toss Gloria Steinem, Fear of Flying, and the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment on the same pile as our bras that would no longer fit us now anyway? Have we learned nothing in the past 40 years, except how to properly blow dry our hair?

As LBL pretty much cleaned out her refrigerator during the recent holiday festivities, she is forced to calm herself down without food and to continue: A study conducted in 2008 at the Relationship Institute at UCLA reached a similar finding. Researchers theorized that men who felt they “lucked out” by marrying attractive wives were happier and more likely to care about their wives’ needs — and in turn, the good-looking wives were happier in the relationship as well. The researchers attributed this to the concept that the self-reported happier husbands led to a happier marriage as a whole.

In addition, this study found that husbands who considered themselves more attractive than their spouses were less likely to support them emotionally. “The study found that in couples with more attractive husbands the partners were less supportive of each other, and that such negatives relationships often used phrases such as ‘This is your problem, you deal with it.’”

“The husband who’s less physically attractive than his wife is getting something more than maybe he can expect to get. He’s getting something better than he’s providing at that level. So he’s going to work hard to maintain that relationship.”

LBL would be happy to devote more brain cells to a further intellectual analysis of all of this research, but she feels that it is far easier to simply check back with these couples in 20 or 30 years. In fact, she doesn’t know why the research even bothered with couples in their first few years of marriage. Aren’t all young people hot and attractive? Doesn’t misery take years to marinate and fester? Doesn’t nose hair sprout only after all is lost anyway?

LBL now invites each of you to look in the mirror, asses your looks and the status of your own relationships, and draw your own conclusions. If you have been married longer than 20 years, do this in private, without involving your partner in any way. Those of you who count length of marriage in decades rather than years have learned that inviting a spouse’s opinion about anything should be avoided at all cost. That, over looks, would seem to be the ticket to a happy union.