I’ll Go on A Diet if You Give Me Your Wallet: What People Really Want in A Partner When Dating

Posted on September 30, 2015

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No matter how many times Life in the Boomer Lane (or anyone else) writes about the characteristics people look for in relationships, those actually looking for relationships will read it. LBL is starting to think that, in the category of “hope springs eternal,” humans believe that if enough studies are done, one’s odious characteristics might eventually become seen as desirable to the opposite sex. Unfortunately for these people, chronic unemployment, inability to tie one’s shoes, and face pustules continue to be downers in most relationship choices.

The latest research to throw their Jockey shorts and bras into the ring is Chapman University. Twenty-eight thousand people, aged 18-75 answered a questionnaire about heterosexual mate preferences. As with any research, researchers found that one long-held belief was supported: People with desirable traits have a stronger “bargaining hand” and can be more selective when choosing romantic partners. But researchers also found that other commonly held mating beliefs were not borne out.

Now we get to the heart of what you have been waiting to read, trying to be patient while LBL takes her own time trying to be clever: The studies examined how heterosexual mate preferences differed according to a person’s gender, age, personal income, education and appearance satisfaction.

LBL will now pause and give singles out there a chance to stop reading any further and instead, find a blog post about someone’s lovely day at a flower market. For those who are now partnered, she asks you to consider the following: Would you be as screwed as you believe yourself to be if you were to dump your perfectly good mate and venture out into the alternate universe of singles dating?

Back to the research. “We looked at the extent to which attractiveness and resources are ‘desirable’ versus ‘essential’ to men and women when they are looking for a long-term partner,” said David Frederick, Ph.D., a co-author on the study. “We’ve known for a long time that men care more about attractiveness in a long term partner, and women care more about resources.

Researchers found that gender was by far the strongest predictor of what people want in a long-term mate: it was more important than age, income, education, or confidence in appearance.

(A clarification: If you have been able to tear yourself away from the news about the European immigrant crisis, or from the announcement of Taylor Swift becoming engaged, you may be aware of the recently-discovered fluid nature of “gender identity” In this current age. It’s as though Ben and Jerry were in the lab, creating all kinds of yummy gender identities available to folks.  So that last statement doesn’t mean that people look for specific gender identities.  It means that although men have stronger preferences for a ‘good looking’ and ‘slender’ partner, men and women care equally about having a partner who is specifically attractive to them.)

For those of you who like lists, LBL will now make a list of the research findings.

  1. Wealthier men and people who were more confident in their appearance had stronger preferences for a good-looking partner
  2. Older men and women placed less importance on looks and income traits when seeking a long-term partner
  3. People with desirable traits are in a position to be more selective about what they look for in mate. The mating market metaphor can be extended to include a distinction between partner “necessities” (what people find essential in a partner) and partner “luxuries” (what people would prefer to have in a partner, but could live without).

For those of you who prefer categories to lists, here are some of the findings broken down by category:

Gender Differences

  • it was ‘desirable/essential’ that their potential partner was good-looking (M 92 percent vs. W 84 percent),
  • had a slender body (M 80 percent vs. W 58 percent),
  • had a steady income (M 74 percent vs. W 97 percent),
  • and made/will make a lot of money (M 47 percent vs. W 69 percent).

There were also gender differences in whether it was ‘very important/a must have’ that their partner made at least as much money as they do (M 24 percent vs. W 46 percent) and had a successful career (M 33 percent vs. W 61 percent), but not in whether their partner was physically attractive to them (M 40 percent vs. W 42 percent).

Confidence in Physical Attractiveness People who reported greater satisfaction with their own appearance did not have stronger preferences for a partner who is physically attractive to them, but they did report stronger preferences for partners who are good looking and slender — this was true for both men and women.

Income  People with higher incomes (both men and women) had stronger preferences for partners who are good looking. Men with higher incomes showed stronger preferences for women with slender bodies. Wealthier women had stronger preferences for men who had a steady income or made lots of money.

Education Men with more education had stronger preferences for female partners who are good looking and slender. However for both men and women, education level was not related to preferences for steady income or making a lot of money.

Age Older people of both sexes had weaker preferences for a partner they find physically attractive, who make as much money as they do, and who has a successful career.

For those readers who prefer charts, graphs, and photos to clarify, you are out of luck.  LBL has enough of a problem just inserting some random photo/illustration at the top of each post. She doesn’t care enough to provide you with any technological prowess. Just imagine whatever you want to.

So concludes the research, with one additional item. A spokesperson for Heterosexual Folks Over Age 75 had the following to say: “We weren’t included in the study, either because nobody cares what we find attractive in a relationship or because we, ourselves, don’t give a shit. We have lived too long to waste our time reading about research and would much prefer posts about flower shows.”


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