Waldinger described some of the secrets to happiness revealed by the study in a recent TED talk
Waldinger described some of the secrets to happiness revealed by the study in a recent TED talk

What men and women look for in an ideal partner

We have unique preferences, but there are also things we have in common

Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 03 December 2015 12:51
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What do you look for in a relationship? Perhaps you’d like someone to make you laugh, or a person who could cook you an amazing three-course meal.

Each of us thinks we have specific ideals and desires when it comes to choosing a long-term partner. But many studies have shown that there are factors that all of us look for, and ones where men and women differ according to preference.

A research associate at Binghampton University suggested that women have evolved to “invest far more in a relationship than a man, and so are better at… selecting a new partner”.

That same need to choose a good “mate” also makes women very "selective" about who they date.

A study by Shackelford, Schmitt, and Buss in 2005 used data from a survey of 4,499 men and 5,310 women from 37 cultures located on six continents and five islands, with an average age of 22-23 years. The results showed that preferences can be aligned on certain “trade-offs” seen in four different “dimensions”, seen below:

Love vs. Status/Resources – People make psychological trade-offs to either seek out a partner who is ambitious, with good financial prospects and high status, or who is loving and attracted to them.

Dependable/Stable vs. Looks/Health – A person looks for a lover who is primarily either stable and mature, or good looking and healthy.

Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Children – Individuals pick a mate who is either more highly educated and intelligent, or more oriented toward desiring a home and children.

Sociability vs. Similar Religion – People seem to either focus on finding a partner who has a sociable and pleasing disposition overall, or someone who has a similar religious background.

Shakelford’s research highlights how men and women often differ on how they choose between different aspects of a person’s appearance, personality, education and dependability.

Men were found to regularly seek a loving partner who is physically attractive and healthy, while women tended to opt for a partner with status and resources, as well as someone who was educated, dependable and intelligent. The researchers found no difference between the sexes when it came to preference for sociability or matching religion.

The results suggest that, while we desire a unique combination of traits and characteristics in the person we choose to spend our lives with, it could be helpful to keep the most basic criteria in mind from the beginning, and then decide on the more specific attractive qualities.

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