Dallas, Tex. (CBS HOUSTON) — The physical attractiveness of one’s spouse plays a major role in marital satisfaction for men, while women’s happiness in their marriage was not affected by their husband’s looks.
A study of more than 450 newlywed couples over the course of four years found that men with physically attractive wives remained much more satisfied in their marriage than men who did not. However, the attractiveness of a woman’s husband played no part in the satisfaction that women felt from their marriage.
The study, recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, first rated each member of the couples by “objective,” independent researchers, and then asked up to eight times over the first four years of marriage to rate their satisfaction.
The study strengthened support that there is a gender gap for how much physical attractiveness corresponds to (self-reported) marriage happiness.
Husbands with attractive wives in all four independent, longitudinal studies analyzed were more satisfied than their wives at the beginning of each marriage. As the marriage progressed, the husbands with the attractive wives remained more satisfied, and the attractive wives in these couples also reported being more satisfied.
“Whereas husbands were more satisfied at the beginning of the marriage and remained more satisfied over the next 4 years to the extent that they had an attractive wife, wives were no more or less satisfied initially or over the next 4 years to the extent that they had an attractive husband,” wrote researcher Andrea Meltzer, of Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences.
“Most importantly, a direct test indicated that partner physical attractiveness played a larger role in predicting husbands’ satisfaction than predicting wives’ satisfaction,” reported the researchers.
The researchers attributed this to the concept that the self-reported happier husbands led to a happier marriage as a whole.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology revealed that women who chose less attractive husbands have more positive marriages, which the researchers suspected was as a result that men place a greater value on beauty, while women have more interest in having supportive, positive husbands.
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.”
Men were found to be more “sensitive” to women’s attractiveness, and lead researcher James McNulty of the University of Tennessee suggested that women tended to mirror the level of support they were receiving from their husbands.
“The husband who’s less physically attractive than his wife is getting something more than maybe he can expect to get,” McNulty told LiveScience. “He’s getting something better than he’s providing at that level. So he’s going to work hard to maintain that relationship.”