Overall, wives and husbands behaved more positively when the woman was better looking.
The finding “seems very reasonable,” said Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences and Sloan School of Management. “Men are very sensitive to women’s attractiveness. Women seem to be sensitive to men’s height and salary,” said Ariely, who was not involved in the recent study.
In couples with more attractive husbands, both partners were less supportive of one another. McNulty suggests wives mirror, in some ways, the level of support they get from 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.”
Men who are more attractive than their partners would theoretically have access to partners who are more attractive than their current spouses, McNulty said. The “grass could be greener” mentality could make these men less satisfied and less committed to maintain the marriage.
Physical attractiveness of husbands is not as important to women, the researchers suggest. Rather, wives are looking for supportive husbands, they say.
So it seems the mismatch in looks is actually a perfect match. “Equitable is unlikely to mean the same on every dimension,” Ariely said during a telephone interview. “It just means that overall two people make sense together.”