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Wives with masculine husbands are more satisfied at peak fertility, study finds

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Wives with masculine husbands report being more satisfied with their marriage during the fertile part of their cycle, according to a study published in the April issue of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

“Prior research suggests that women demonstrate ovulatory shifts in their mate preferences in the context of short-term relationships. Given that such shifts are likely evolved, it follows that women may continue to experience shifting preferences when they enter long-term relationships,” Andrea L. Meltzer, the psychologist who conducted the study, explained to PsyPost.

“Thus, the aim of the current study was to examine the interactive effects of women’s fertility and their partner’s masculinity (a trait that women prefer near ovulation in the short-term mating contexts) in the context of long-term relationships—specifically, marriage.”

For the study, 70 first-married newlywed couples completed a questionnaire every evening for 14 days. The questionnaire assessed the wives’ daily conception risk as well as their daily marital satisfaction. For husbands, the questionnaire assessed their behavioral masculinity. More specifically, the men were asked the extent to which they were dominant, powerful, masculine, and assertive each day.

Meltzer found a link between wives’ daily marital satisfaction, wives’ daily changes in conception risk, and their husbands’ behavioral masculinity.

Women with husbands who reported higher behavioral masculinity were more satisfied with their relationships at peak fertility compared to the less-fertile phases of their menstrual cycles. But women with husbands who reported less behavioral masculinity demonstrated no such shifts in satisfaction. For these wives, the level of satisfaction remained relatively steady.

“Men’s masculinity can benefit heterosexual women in the context of long-term relationships,” Meltzer explained. “In this study, wives who were married to relatively more (versus less) masculine husbands reported higher marital satisfaction near ovulation compared to less fertile phases of their ovulatory cycle. We know that women’s mate preferences for short-term partners shift across their cycle, but this study demonstrates that women’s short-term mating strategies (e.g., preference for masculine men) impact even their most long-term relationships — their marriages.”

Previous research had found that women tend to be more attracted to men with more masculine physical characteristics at peak fertility. The new findings indicate that women’s shifting preference for masculinity extends to behaviors as well.

“One caveat is that this study was conducted with newlywed couples. Thus, it is unclear whether the results generalize to other populations of long-term couples such as dating couples or couples who have been married for longer periods of time. Another caveat is that husbands’ reported on their own behavioral masculinity. Because self-reported masculinity may be subject to self-report bias, future research should consider using more objective measures of men’s masculinity,” Meltzer told PsyPost.

“Although this research demonstrated that women can benefit from having relatively more masculine long-term partners, there may be costs associated with such partners. I think this is an important issue that future research should address.”

The study was titled: “Wives With Masculine Husbands Report Increased Marital Satisfaction Near Peak Fertility“.

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