Good-Looking People Have a Fascinating Problem
Who knew beauty could be such a liability? Check out the findings from this latest research
Could being ridiculously good-looking mean you face specific challenges in your romantic relationships? Yes, according to a report published in Personal Relationships, which says being a looker isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be — at least when it comes to love.
Researchers at Harvard University found that beauty is a kind of “relationship liability.” And while we can come up with dozens of reasons why being attractive has it’s advantages, it looks like it also comes with one major disadvantage, at least if you want to be monogamous: Attractive people are likelier to have a wandering eye.
Christine Ma-Kellams and her colleagues at Harvard University asked women to judge the attractiveness of men pictured in their high school yearbook while discreetly assessing the participants’ own physical attractiveness.
They then accessed Ancestry.com to find the men’s marriage and divorce data for the 30 years after the photos were taken — and the men who were judged as more attractive were likelier to have shorter relationships and end up getting divorced.
They didn’t act on those feelings; they simply judged men as good-looking in photos.
The results revealed that “more attractive” participants tended to rate the person in the photo as more physically appealing than the less attractive participants, but only if they were in a committed relationship. In other words, attractive participants who were partnered up actually seemed to show more interest in those photos than those who were single — especially if they were feeling disconnected from their partner.
While the findings seem a little unsettling at first, when you think about it, it makes sense that good-looking people are likely to attract interest from would-be partners. As for coupled-up people having a wandering eye, maybe that’s just what happens when you’ve been in a relationship for awhile — after all, they didn’t act on those feelings; they simply judged men as good-looking in photos.
And it’s no surprise that the ones who weren’t feeling so great about their own relationships would have heightened fantasies about good-looking people in photos.
The one major caveat to all this — other than the fact that it was a heteronormative study, which is important to note — is that attractiveness is one of the most subjective things around. The fact that the researchers themselves rated the female participants raises questions in itself.
There’s simply no objective scale for rating how good-looking people are — and that’s what makes attraction, lust and relationships so interesting.
This article originally appeared in SheKnows and is used by permission. Sara Lindberg is a wife, mother of two, secondary school counselor, and writer.