The Most Attractive Traits in Long-Term Partners

Two of the largest national studies of mate preferences both confirm and challenge commonly held beliefs. Find out more.

Two of the largest national studies of mate preferences both confirm and challenge commonly held beliefs.

The research into which characteristics people find desirable or essential in a long-term partner was conducted by researchers at Chapman University in California. It was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The surveys of almost 28,000 heterosexual participants ranging in age from 18 to 75 years support one long-held belief: “People with desirable traits have a stronger ‘bargaining hand’ and can be more selective when choosing romantic partners,” according to a news release.

While scientists have long known that men care more about attractiveness in a long-term partner and women care more about resources, these surveys also examined whether preferences vary depending on other characteristics such as age, income and educational attainment.

Study co-author David Frederick, who teaches psychology at Chapman, states:

“We 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.

“We found 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.”

Specific findings include that men and women differed on whether it was “desirable/essential” that their potential partner:

  • Was good-looking (important to more men).
  • Had a slender body (important to more men).
  • Had a steady income (important to more women).
  • Made/will make a lot of money (important to more women.)

Genders also differed on whether it was “very important/a must have” that their partner:

  • Made at least as much money as they do (important to more women).
  • Had a successful career (important to more women).

Good looks were even more important to men who were wealthier and to people who were more confident in their own appearance. Good looks and income were traits that held less importance for older people.

Do you agree that people with more desirable characteristics have a stronger “bargaining hand” when looking for a romantic partner? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

Stacy Johnson

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