True love may be blind, but attractiveness is usually at least somewhat of a factor for most people when it comes to choosing a mate (Let’s ask Kourtney Kardashian — she did just sign up for Bumble!). For most, thanks to a theory known as “assortative mating,” your partner’s attractiveness level is far more likely to match your own than it is to exceed it or fall below it.

Fueled by theories of competition which state that while people would like to “date up,” competition keeps their partners closer to their own attractiveness range, and others which say that people simply enjoy sameness in a partner, this particular “mating pattern” is the norm.


Now, a newer theory is emerging to explain the types of couples that don’t fit into this category, and no, it has nothing to do with where you live (although the folks at Travel + Leisure might be inclined to disagree). The journal Psychological Science conducted a study which found that the one thing that might influence someone to date someone less attractive than themselves was the length of time they knew the person.

The study, which polled 167 heterosexual couples on the length of time they’d known one another and also had a third party rank each partner’s attractiveness, found that the couples that seemed to be the most mismatched, so to speak, were those who had known each other for the longest. For those who had recently met (within a month) and started dating, the traditional assortative theory rang true, but for those who were friends first or had known each other for 9+ months prior to becoming a couple, the correlation between their attractiveness became almost nonexistent. Researchers attributed this to the fact that when people get to know each other on a deeper level, surface level attributes weren’t quite so important, as other factors began to play into desirability.


While neither similar nor dissimilar attractive levels in a relationship appeared to affect the happiness of the couples or relationship satisfaction overall (a variation from previous studies that suggested it might), the study’s researchers did say that the “mixed” couple model seemed to be on a decline, due to societal and technological advancements. In other words, less people are meeting organically through like-minded activities/through school and truly getting to know one another than are meeting online or in bars and leading with their first impressions.

The bottom line is this: The more you get to know someone, the more likely you are to see their true colors. A novel concept, indeed!

What do you think of this new theory? Tell us over @BritandCo!

(h/t Chicago Tribune, photos via Getty)