Study: Mismatches in attractiveness lead to resistance to mate guarding

Women who view themselves as more attractive than their partner are more likely to resist mate guarding behaviors, according to research published in Personality and Individual Differences.

“We have recently written a book, The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships. As we researched the material for this book, we reviewed research on matching in physical attractiveness,” said study author Madeleine A. Fugère, a professor of social psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.

“My colleague, Dr. Alita Cousins, had recently collected some data from couples, including women’s estimates of their own and their partner’s physical attractiveness. We decided to explore that data to examine whether variables like commitment and resistance to mate guarding might be related to matching (or mismatching) in physical attractiveness.”

The study of 692 women in romantic relationships found that most women perceived themselves as having a similar level of physical attractiveness as their male partners.

However, the women who perceived themselves as more attractive than their male partners tended to show less interest in their current romantic relationships.

“Previous research suggests that having positive illusions about our partners can be beneficial for relationships. Our research suggests that the reverse is also true, seeing your partner less positively may be detrimental to long-term relationships,” Fugère told PsyPost.

“We found that women who rated themselves as more attractive than their partners were less committed to their current relationships, they thought more about breaking up with their partners, and they found the idea of alternative partners more appealing. These women were also more likely to resist men’s mate guarding, tactics used by men to keep a partner faithful or to keep a partner in the relationship.”

When women perceived themselves as more attractive, they were more likely to agree with statement such as “I wouldn’t let my partner put his arm around me in public” and “I have erased messages/comments other people have made to me via computer so my partner does not find them.” Though they reported putting up more resistance, they did not report more mate guarding behaviors from their partners compared to the other women.

But the research has some limitations.

“This research is correlational, so we can’t definitively say that mismatching in physical attractiveness causes less commitment or more resistance to mate guarding,” Fugère explained.

“Also, because this research was conducted with only women as participants, future research should explore men’s perceptions of mismatched physical attractiveness and relationship outcomes. Furthermore, our sample was predominantly Caucasian and heterosexual, so future research should attempt to replicate these results in more diverse samples.”

The study, “(Mis)matching in physical attractiveness and women’s resistance to mate guarding“, was authored by Madeleine A. Fugère, Alita J. Cousins, and Stephanie A. MacLaren.

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