What we’re looking for in a potential partner changes according to our life situation and those with desirable traits really do have a stronger bargaining hand, according to one of the biggest studies on the mating game in which 28,000 heterosexual people in the US between the ages of 18 and 75 chimed in.
“We looked at the extent to which attractiveness and resources are “desirable” versus “essential” to men and women when they are looking for a long-term partner,” says co-author David Frederick, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University.
What you find desirable in someone depends first and foremost on your gender, according to the study, more so than your age, income, education or self-confidence.
While men have stronger preferences for slender, good-looking women overall, wealthier men and highly confident people prioritized looks more than women and older men. Men and women put equal emphasis on how “specifically attractive their partner is to them,” (40 and 42 percent, respectively).
In the mating game, there are traits people consider essential and traits they would like to find in a partner, but could live without – a sort of luxury trait.
As for looks, 92 percent of men said it’s essential for them to find a good looking woman, while only 84 percent of women reported good looks being essential in a potential suitor.
Being with a woman with a slender frame was essential to 80 percent of men, yet only 58 percent of women said the same for their male potentials.
A steady income was an important partner trait for 74 percent of men and 97 percent of women, according to the study, and partner earnings potential was essential to 47 percent of men and 69 percent of women.
Only 24 percent of men said it was “a must” that their partner earned as much as they do, yet 46 percent of women said the same for their potential suitors.
Regardless of gender, those most satisfied with their own physical appearance did not express stronger desires for a partner who is physically attractive to them, yet they reported stronger preferences for a partner who is good looking and slender.
Regardless of gender, those with higher incomes were partial to having good-looking mates, and high-earning men expressed strong desires for women with slender bodies.
Wealthier women were partial to men who steadily earned their keep, or made lots of money.
Highly educated men preferred good-looking, slender women, yet the level of education was not related to partiality for making money.
The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.