Is this why Brangelina really broke up? According to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships, physical attractiveness is not a predictor for relationship longevity. In fact, it may lead to more dissolutions.
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Researchers from Harvard University, the University of La Verne and Santa Clara University examined four different studies: Study 1 examined high school yearbook pictures of attractive people, Study 2 did the same with high-profile celebrities, Study 3 looked at the link between attractive partners and how their looks affected their likelihood to seek out a more attractive alternative partner, and Study 4 extended that examination to include relationship satisfaction.
In Study 1, it was determined that those who were rated as attractive had shorter relationships and were more likely to divorce. For Study 2, a list of high-profile celebrities was culled from combining IMDB’s top 20 actors over the last 20 years and Forbes‘s 100 most powerful people. By cross referencing their marriages and divorces, it was determined that the most attractive celebrities were married for less time and were more likely to divorce.
Studies 3 and 4 looked at how being attractive (whether it was one party or both) threatened the relationship. In both cases, researchers found that good-looking people were more interested in alternative attractive partners, especially if they were unsatisfied in their current relationship.
“These studies suggest that attractive people appear to be more interested in attractive alternative relationship partners, which is generally not conducive to the maintenance of an existing relationship,” says Christine Ma-Kellams, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at University of La Verne. “I think one take away is that physical attractiveness can be a liability and may not be the best predictor of longevity.”
In other words, just because a couple is beautiful, it doesn’t mean they’re destined for relationship success. Just ask any Hollywood divorce lawyer.
But this is not a blanket attitude shared by all attractive people, says Nicole McCance, a psychologist and relationship expert.
“This behaviour pertains to a certain type person who knows they’re beautiful, and is self-focused because of that,” she said.
Those people tend to have an inflated sense of entitlement and confidence because they’re accustomed to getting certain things — whether it’s an invitation to cut to the front of the line or expensive freebies — and it’s an attitude that can extend to romantic relationships.
“There’s a sense that they are desired and that desire is plentiful, so they may not work as hard at the relationship,” McCance said. “Whereas with people who don’t perceive themselves as attractive, I often hear, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to find someone else.’ Beautiful people don’t have that fear.”
Although she says that physical attraction is important at the beginning of the courting phase of relationships, after a few dates of getting to know one another, there’s considerably less weight placed on it.
“The traits that do well in relationships are being thoughtful, being communicative and being affectionate, and none of those have to do with appearance,” she said. “Generally, being attractive doesn’t make that much of a difference.”