TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Seeking out a “trophy” wife or a rich husband may seem like old-fashioned goals that society is pushing away from, but they actually might not be such bad ambitions after all for some people. A new study finds that having an attractive wife or high-status husband may make a marriage stronger for people who put stock in making the best decision.
Researchers from Florida State University surveyed the marital satisfaction among people considered “maximizers,” that is, those who constantly look to make the best possible choice when it comes to decisions. It’s a characteristic that holds true even for the most trivial decisions, such as which menu items to choose at a restaurant or which pair of shoes to purchase.
“In the context of romantic relationships, maximizers are those who seek the best possible partner and who, over the course of their relationships, continue to compare their partners to other potential partners,” explains lead author Juliana French in a release by the Society for Personality and Social Pscyhology.
For the study, French and her research team recruited 233 heterosexual newlywed couples from Texas and Florida. Participants were surveyed on their marital satisfaction, social status, and decision-making tendencies. Photographs of each spouse were also submitted to researchers, who coded each based on level of physical attractiveness.
The authors determined that maximizing men with attractive wives were more satisfied at the start of their marriages compared to maximizers with less attractive wives. Similarly, maximizing women married to highly successful men maintained higher levels of satisfaction in their marriage over time, versus maximizing women with lower-status hubbies.
Still, satisficing men and women — those who aren’t so selective — were found to show similar levels of contentment whether or not a partner was attractive or successful. The findings may also explain other potential characteristics among maximizers, such as taking their time on choosing a life partner.
“We might find that maximizers take relationships slower than satisficers,” says French. “For example, maximizers might take longer to decide to be exclusive with someone, to move in together, to get married, to have children together, and so on.”
The study is published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.