The sweet smell of success may be the kiss of death for men who hope to get hitched, according to psychologists. When it comes to marriage material, women are wary of good-looking high-fliers, and are drawn to less successful men instead, they claim.
The subtle shift in women’s preferences emerged during psychological tests at the University of Central Lancashire. The researchers behind the studies believe women may subconsciously steer clear of attractive, high-status men because they fear they are either more likely to be unfaithful or will devote too little time to the relationship and future family.
To test the influence of a man’s status on his marriage potential, Simon Chu and his colleagues created fictional personal ads, accompanied by pictures of men previously ranked as either unattractive, moderately attractive or very attractive.
The adverts included common phrases from lonely hearts columns and information about the men’s careers, using Office of National Statistics criteria to assign jobs of high, medium or low status. The highest status jobs included company directors and architects, medium status jobs included teachers and travel agents, while waiters and postmen were among the lowest status jobs.
The adverts were shown to classes of 186 women who were asked to rank the men according to their appeal as a long-term partner. While better looking men fared better than uglier ones, the most successful and handsome men did not come out tops. Instead, women ranked them as low as the poorest men, preferring instead men with more modest jobs. The psychologists believe the women may see good-looking, successful men as too good to be true.
“Given a choice between the attractive males, there does appear to be a rather subtle preference on the part of the females for males of a lesser status and likelihood of infidelity or desertion,” the researchers write in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. “Females may be slightly adjusting their preferences away from males who are potentially more likely to cheat.”
An alternative explanation, they add, is that high-fliers might be viewed as less willing to put effort into a relationship and family. “Having a partner who is able to spend time raising children is clearly an advantage,” they say.