Women Are Happier When Their Man Is Less Attractive Than They Are, Study Says

Happy wife, happy life? More like hot wife, happy life.

By Andrea Mew5 min read
Pexels/Michael koneckiy

Scenario: You’re dolling up for date night. Your playlist? Immaculate. Your attention to detail as you painstakingly perform each step in your makeup and hair routine? Immaculate. Your outfit, from head to toe? Immaculate. You’re on cloud nine…until your boyfriend shows up, manscaped so intricately that his hairline could cut the atmosphere like a knife and his skin looks plumper, more moisturized than yours ever has after a full spa day – hydra-facial and all.

Okay, so maybe your life doesn’t read like a Wattpad fanfic, but let’s be real. If this sort of thing happened to you, you’d probably feel bummed out that your man outshines your own beauty. After all, women spend roughly $300 more than men on beautification each year, and that’s not factoring in how younger generations even admit they overspend on beauty products. This phenomenon isn’t just pseudoscientific hearsay – women are happier when their man is less attractive than they are, and there are plenty of reasons why. 

What Happens When He’s “Beauty” and She’s the "Beast”?

In 2017, Maxim writer Zeynep Yenisey covered a study out of Florida State University that suggested the best combination for a happy marriage is a hot wife and a not-so-hot husband. Researchers studied newlyweds to determine if their respective attractiveness played any role in the overall happiness in their relationship. Women whose husbands were attractive were actually more likely to constantly be dieting in order to look better, and because of this, one of the researchers gathered that disordered eating could have origins in social pressure.

On the flip side, men’s excessive dieting motivations typically aren’t dependent on if they’ve got a bangin’ hot girlfriend or wife. They usually spawn from health scares or physique goals to match up with buff bodies they see on social media. While a woman might crash diet her way into anorexic tendencies for the male gaze, men might turn to performance-enhancing drugs to achieve physiques that would impress their peers – not their partners. 

But don’t get it twisted. Women aren’t necessarily looking for ugly men; women would just prefer to be the trophy wife instead of constantly trying to match up to their trophy husband. Whether it's due to social norms that humans developed over the years or something more deeply ingrained in our brains, research suggests that both wives and husbands are happier when the woman is better looking. When the husband is more attractive than the wife, both spouses tend to be less supportive of each other, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. One of the researchers surmised, “Men are very sensitive to women's attractiveness. Women seem to be sensitive to men's height and salary.”

The matching hypothesis argues people are more likely to couple up with someone who is their equal in terms of social desirability.

Further psychological research backs this social norm up. The matching hypothesis, derived from social psychologist Elaine Hatfield’s work, argues people are more likely to couple up with someone who is their equal in terms of social desirability. What’s more, there’s a higher chance their relationship will succeed. But, while this may seem like it strictly refers to physical attractiveness, the matching hypothesis also accounts for differences in beauty; for example, a woman’s beauty matches a man’s wealth.

We tend to date “in our league,” but leagues go beyond looks. Status and wealth also play important factors. Knowing that, you can understand why, if a woman feels poorly about her looks, she may imagine (whether wrongfully or not) that her man is less attracted to her, resulting in a less emotionally and sexually satisfying relationship.

“Wondering Why the F*ck He Put a Ring on Me” and More

In a story published in the New York Post titled “My husband is much more attractive than I am and I’m jealous,” a woman named Hannah expresses her woes as her husband “is like a fine wine, he gets better with age.” According to Hannah, she was happy to have a hot husband, but as time went on, this dichotomy between the two felt “soul-destroying.”

Her husband, Tom, would get more attention from other women, but while Hannah didn’t question his faithfulness, she said her diminishing beauty, in contrast with Tom’s attractiveness, had led her to become resentful of him. 

Hannah isn’t alone. In 2022, a man wrote in to Slate’s Dear Prudence column to seek advice about his relationship. He said that while he loves his girlfriend (also named Hannah, but unless there’s some greater conspiracy here that’s just a big coincidence) and is sexually and romantically attracted to her, she’s got a quirky look while he’s considered “classically handsome.”

The anonymous man said that when they go to restaurants together and the server asks how they’ll pay the bill, Hannah would “joke” with him that people think they’re brother and sister, that he’s her gay best friend, or that she’s “not hot enough” for him.

“I’ve tried to tell her that some servers always ask this, and it has nothing to do with the relative attractiveness of a couple, but she clearly doesn’t buy it,” he explained. “I also feel a bit like a liar, because while I’ve actually only dated two girls before Hannah, both of them were more classically good-looking, and I don’t remember this happening then, at least not nearly as much.”

You can find people uncomfortable with these types of scenarios all over internet forums, where they’re much more likely to get candid behind the safety of their keyboards and screens.

“Boyfriend is better-looking, more personable, and much more experienced than me,” wrote one Reddit user on r/TwoXChromosomes. “How can I learn to be less insecure?”

In r/Marriage, one user (whose account is now deleted) wrote how she didn’t feel like she could measure up to her man, explaining that, “We will be out in public, and men will hit on him and mention how he looks like an actor, or women will stare when we're out and flirt with him while we're checking out at the store and it's like I'm not ever there! Like I'm invisible, and their attention, men and women, goes to him. I can't remember the last time someone flirted with me or complimented me, but they do with him all the time over me.”

Only one in six American women in romantic relationships believe they’re more attractive than their man.

A 25-year-old woman married to a 24-year-old man confessed in r/offmychest how she never realized how much more attractive her husband is than her, leading to sadness. “I’m a chubby 4’11 chick, and it got me too wondering why the f*ck he put a ring on me,” she admitted. Thankfully, her husband reportedly told her that no matter what she looks like, she would still be the same person he fell in love with. But, despite his reassurances, this woman said she wonders how many people judge her when they go out in public together.

Several of these same types of stories are easily found on r/AskWomenOver30, because, as we know, women tend to age worse than men. “My husband is becoming more attractive than me, feeling self conscious,” confessed one user on the subreddit. “I’m really happy for him and I obviously benefit from it too haha but I can’t help feeling self conscious about it in general because I feel like he’s now out of my league when before we were always equal.”

Only one in six American women in romantic relationships believe they’re more attractive than their man, and just a little over half say the two of them sit on equal playing fields, according to a study by YouGov. Interestingly enough, the same study found that women are 10 times more likely than men to want a taller partner, which I suppose explains where our priorities are at.

Females Are Outdone by “Flowerboys”

I don’t know if you’ve also noticed, but men are getting progressively prettier as the years go by. Recently, I mused on my Substack about the loss of the “Harrison Fords” of Hollywood – attractive male celebrities who actually looked like normal men, from Cary Grant to Paul Newman to Omar Sharif and more. Today, male celebrities might increase their musculature to beefcake levels like a Henry Cavill or Chris Hemsworth, but their faces are just so pretty. They’re manscaped. They’ve probably got a longer skincare routine than you do. 

They may have undergone subtle (or somewhat noticeable) plastic surgeries and cosmetic procedures like rhinoplasties, chin and jawline shaping or implants, upper facelifts or browlifts, upper blepharoplasties, lip and cheek filler, and Botox. In fact, men use a lot more Botox than you may think – recent data suggests that nearly 1.4 million men got Botox in 2022 and over 500,000 had dermal fillers placed. Over 300,000 got eyelid surgery, nearly 240,000 got rhinoplasties, and over 120,000 had fat grafting done to their faces.

Male beautification is certainly on the rise. One industry where this is most apparent to me is the K-pop industry. I’ve seen my fair share of pretty men in K-pop groups over the years, but the standards for male idols today are straight-up feminine. When I was first introduced to K-pop back around 2008, more traditionally masculine men like Taeyang, Kangta, Junsu, and Yunho were some of the hottest on the scene. Square jawlines, relatively small eyes, thick brow ridges, and – unless there was a specific concept the producers were going for – shorter, masculine haircuts.

Today, objectively beautiful men with exceedingly feminine features and demeanors like Felix from Stray Kids are top idols, even making international stardom and receiving recognition from Vogue

I mean, how would you feel as a woman if he was what you had to compete with? I can’t prove whether or not Felix has undergone plastic surgery to achieve that v-shaped jawline, catlike brow shape, and perfectly plump lips, but that look is certainly becoming a more popular request for plastic surgeons and cosmetic injectors. In South Korea, the phenomenon is known as “flowerboys,” but here it's “soft masculinity” or the “soft boy aesthetic.” 

I’m all for men leaning into their sensitive side, getting vulnerable, and bucking norms that don’t suit them, but weak men could be making for a weaker society. Encourage the men in your life to take care of their appearance and tidy up their living spaces, but don’t emasculate them. Like yin and yang, women and men are each other’s best complements – and the same seems to apply to beauty standards.

Closing Thoughts

Without a doubt, there are countless successful relationships where a less attractive woman is perfectly happy with her much more attractive man. But generally speaking, this doesn’t appear to be the case across the board. Now, all this isn’t to say that women should vindictively ice out attractive men and only pursue relationships with less attractive ones so their spotlight isn’t stolen. We women want to be attracted to our man! But attraction goes beyond physical appearance, and the best relationships are rooted in solid friendship, mutual devotion, shared values, and other non-visible relationship dynamics.

Beauty can take on many different looks, but no matter the nuance, it’s a special part of the feminine experience. You’re not shallow or vain for wanting to feel beautiful and for your effort to be recognized. Attention to your physical appearance speaks volumes for your confidence and even physical health.

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