It seems like some of the best women we know – smart, successful, ambitious – are often the ones who struggle to find a great partner. Why is that?
If given the opportunity, what would you change about yourself? I think it’s safe to say that most people, if face to face with a genie who could grant them any wish, would ask that their physical attractiveness be bumped up a few notches and that they would be more quantifiably intelligent and accomplished.
We Value Beauty and Intelligence
From the time we’re very young, it’s clear that we tend to place great significance on attractiveness and intelligence, without necessarily realizing our internal bias. In school, we’re taught that book smarts and motivation are the most important ingredients to success in life. We’re all well aware that our teacher’s favorite students are those with the highest test scores, the Ivy League-bound overachievers.
Most people, if given the choice, would increase their attractiveness and intelligence.
Attractiveness isn’t any different. Once we get to high school, we vote for our homecoming king and queen, most often a couple whose physical appeal far outweighs their personal attributes.
With much of our worth being based on such traits, we might assume that all a woman really needs to easily find a husband are smarts and good looks. But is that the truth?
Accomplishment Can Actually Make Partnering Up Harder
More than any generation before, young women today are encouraged to become hyper-career-focused businesswomen. And with far more women in the workforce, motherhood has lost much of its significance, instead being regarded as patriarchal and outdated. Of course, with our society’s strong idolization of success, it’s easy to think an accomplished woman would have her fair share of suitors lining up to date her. But it’s actually the opposite.
Hypergamy is the practice of marrying someone whose status is greater than our own.
Ultra-successful women may have a difficult time finding a mate due to our tendency as women to date men whose accomplishments either match ours or outweigh them – or in a more scientific term, because of something called hypergamy, the practice of marrying someone whose status (socially, financially, etc.) is greater than our own. In short, the majority of women don’t want to date men who aren’t more successful than they are.
It’s in Our Biology To Want a Man Who’s More Successful
Although we might come to the conclusion that women in times past were hypergamous because they weren’t encouraged to make their own money, we’re actually hardwired to seek out partners by whom we’ll feel taken care of, someone who has the ability to protect us and provide for our eventual offspring, even if we’re not consciously thinking of having children anytime soon. As a woman becomes more prosperous on her own, the men she’ll consider as possible mates will naturally dwindle.
Being Attractive on Top of That Limits Her Options Even More
While many believe women to be more willing than men to “date down” when it comes to looks, this is usually only possible if she finds him attractive in another sense – most often, his money, career, or status (thanks to good ole hypergamy).
One study found women to consider 80% of men to be below-average physical attractiveness.
But since a highly successful career woman will struggle to find a man with greater achievements, physical attraction could become more important to her. And considering the fact that one study found women to consider 80% of men to be below-average physical attractiveness, this leaves accomplished women with very few romantic options up at the top.
So does this mean women are being too picky?
Maybe Some of Our Standards Are Superfluous
We all have a “must-have” checklist for potential mates. Most women would like a man who’s tall, conventionally attractive, smart, successful, physically fit, and funny. It’s not wrong to want these things, but focusing too closely on our checklist can often blind us to the people around us. A man’s worth is not found only in his success, status, or looks; maybe the perfect partner doesn’t look exactly as we imagined, but he supports us better than we hoped.
Most of us think a good-looking, successful woman must have it all, but that’s not necessarily the case. Even those who we’d assume have it all face their fair share of issues with romantic relationships.