I once had a friend in high school who told me girls can like boys who are uglier than them, but a boy will NEVER be able to like a girl who is uglier than him.
She said she had read it in a study.
Obviously, I retorted by listing all of the couples in our class in which the guy was significantly better-looking than the girl.
Admittedly, there weren't as many of those as there were couples where the girl was more attractive. But there were definitely a few guys who were "dating down" in the looks department.
I never found the magazine article she SWORE she read about the study in, so I just chalked it up to some stupid, fake theory.
But, clearly, the fact that I still remember this whole convo years and years later means there was something about it that stuck with me.
And, new research suggests that, for the most part, what she was saying is true.
Psychologist Joshua Oltmanns, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, recently teamed up with some colleagues over at Villanova University and Florida State University to look into how attractiveness plays into the dynamics of a relationship.
For the study, he recruited 73 heterosexual couples to fill out what's called the "Mate Retention Inventory." Don't worry, guys. I didn't know what that was, either.
The Mate Retention Inventory is a questionnaire that measures how frequently a person does different things in an attempt to keep their relationship stable.
Some of these things are actions we take to ensure that our partners aren't going to leave us for someone new (i.e. buying them gifts, sending them sweet messages, or regularly checking in to see what they're up to).
Others are behaviors we use to ward off potential creeps who may be looking to steal our SO from us (such as protectively putting your arm around your partner while you're out, or telling your friends about how in love you and your bae are).
In addition to making couples fill out these questionnaires, Oltmanns also had 12 volunteers rate the physical attractiveness of these twosomes so he could factor in how attractiveness impacted their mate retention behavior.
The researchers found that people with more attractive partners were the ones performing more mate-retaining behaviors.
No surprise there.
The interesting thing that reminded me of my conversation with that high school friend was this: Oltmanns found that when a person not only viewed their partner as attractive, but more attractive than themselves, they went to extra lengths to make sure they kept them around.
Given these results, it's also pretty safe to assume that, if your partner doesn't think you're better-looking than them, you're probably not going to be showered with as much love and attention.
That's because he or she won't feel like they're necessarily in jeopardy of losing you.
So, that sucks.
If you're still skeptical of these findings, ANOTHER study recently published in the Journal of Personality also confirms the same: People who perceive their mates as more attractive as them display higher mate retention behaviors than those who think they're hotter than their SO.
I guess all I'm really getting from this is, if you're looking to get showered in love and attention, maybe date down...
Citations: ♪ When You're in Love With a Beautiful Woman… ♫ (Psychology Today), Mate Value Discrepancy and Mate Retention Behaviors of Self and Partner (Journal of Personality), Dissimilarity in physical attractiveness within romantic dyads and mate retention behaviors (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships)