It’s hardly a secret that physical attraction plays a role in the way we choose to partner up romantically. As crucial as it is to share a sense of humor, basic values, and common interests with a potential significant other, we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t also important for that special someone to make us go at least a little weak at the knees. We’re only human, right?
Imagine our surprise then, when we learned that, according to a new study from researchers at Harvard University, University of La Verne, and Santa Clara University, it is often the most attractive people who struggle to maintain long-term relationships. This new information, which was published in the journal Personal Relationships earlier this year, is based on four individual studies conducted by the research team.
In the first study, two women were asked to code photos of men from high school yearbooks (from the ’70s and ’80s, no less!) based on their facial attractiveness. Researchers then used Ancestry to track down the marital history for the men in the photos to determine the success of their serious relationships in the ensuing three decades. The men who’d been rated most attractive were also most likely to have been divorced or to have shorter marriages.
Next, the study got a bit more Hollywood. The women were asked to rate the attractiveness of top male and female celebrities (selected based on IMDb and Forbes rankings). Again, the so-called “best-looking” of the bunch were also least likely to have sustained long-term romantic relationships.
The third and fourth portions of the study sought to get further inside the mind of a “good-looking” person. Previous research about relationships has uncovered something called a “protective bias,” which is essentially a defense mechanism that helps us shield our relationships by changing the way we see other potential partners, making us less attracted to them. Researchers wanted to find out if attractive people experience protective bias to the same degree as less attractive people.
According to the results of the final studies, people in committed relationships who consider themselves good-looking are more likely to admit attraction to others (and not their significant others!) than those who consider themselves less good-looking, particularly when they are not fully happy with their current partner. The implication here is that there may be a correlation between someone’s good looks and a wandering eye, which certainly may explain why the first and second studies demonstrated that attractive people are more likely to call it quits in long-term relationships.
There are certainly limits to this research. Asking any one person to “code” subjects’ attractiveness assumes that beauty can be standardized and made objective… and we all know that’s not the case. Additionally, the fact that the first two studies define “relationship success” only by marriage ignores the many long-term couples who have yet to marry — or who may choose to never marry!
Still, the idea that good looks can limit someone’s ability to stay faithful to a single partner gives us some things to reflect on. We should never let our own high opinions of our physical appearance get in the way of giving bae the singular attention they deserve. That protective bias is there for a reason! And if a super good-looking crush is acting like they’re not quite ready to commit? Take it as a sign that their attractiveness may also be a liability in building a long-term bond with you. On to the next!
Have you found that more attractive people struggle with longer-term relationships? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)