If you’re reading this, there’s a strong chance you fall into one of the following categories. Perhaps you’re harbouring suspicions that you’re secretly regarded as ‘less than attractive’. Alternatively, you may be someone who thinks they’re more attractive than they actually are, with plans to tag a long-suffering mate in here.
Nothing wrong with any of those things, to be honest, although you may well find yourself identifying with option number three: ‘not arsed either way’. But if the first category feels more like you, don’t worry! Good news may be at hand.
A Florida State University study has found that marriages and relationships (heterosexual ones, presumably) are more likely to be successful if the woman is more… well, ‘aesthetically gifted’ than her partner.
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.