What do women want? Here’s what a massive study of single ladies reveals

GÖTTINGEN, Germany — What do women consider when imagining their ideal partner? Do these preferences change with age? Researchers from the University of Göttingen examined the intricate relationship between age and personal preferences among single women, finding that while most of their preferences remain consistent throughout the years, certain preferences shift as women grow older.

To explore the question of whether love has age boundaries, researchers collaborated with the female health app CLUE and conducted an online survey involving over 20,000 single women between 18 and 67 years-old in nearly 150 countries. The study went beyond heterosexual women and included bisexual and lesbian participants, groups often overlooked in psychological research.

Respondents had to rate the importance of various attributes, such as attractiveness, kindness, financial security, and educational background. They were also asked to specify the age range they would accept in a romantic partner.

Couple sharing spaghetti on date
Couple on a date (© Jacob Lund – stock.adobe.com)

The results revealed several key insights:

1. Consistent Partner Preferences: Most partner preferences, including the desire for a kind and supportive partner, remained important regardless of a woman’s age.

2. Confidence and Assertiveness: Being older displayed an association with a preference for confident and assertive partners. This suggests that older women may prioritize these qualities more than their younger counterparts.

3. Acceptance of Age Range: As women grew older, they were more open to the idea of a partner being younger than themselves. This flexibility in age preferences increased with age.

4. Parenting Intentions: The importance of the ideal partner wanting to be or become a father remained consistently high until the age of 28, after which it gradually decreased. This finding challenges conventional notions about the timing of such preferences, which were expected to decline later in life, around ages 40 to 50.

5. Variation by Sexual Orientation: The study also revealed differences in partner preferences based on sexual orientation, suggesting varying attitudes toward having children among different groups.

“What was particularly interesting for us is that for heterosexual women up to the age of 28, the importance of the ideal partner wanting to be or become a father remained equally high, but decreased thereafter,” explains study first author Laura Botzet, of Göttingen University’s Department of Biological Personality Psychology, in a university release.

The comprehensive study highlights that while many partner preferences remain stable throughout a woman’s life, age does play a role in shaping certain aspects of what she seeks in an ideal partner. These insights challenge conventional ideas about the relationship between age and women’s expectations for their romantic relationships.

“Love, it turns out, is not entirely ageless; it’s nuanced. A woman’s age is related to certain aspects of her desired partner, such as the preference for partners with stronger parenting intentions or the ideal age of a partner,” concludes Botzet. “These insights are exciting because they challenge conventional notions of how age is linked to the way women picture the partner of their dreams.”

The study is published in the journal Human Nature.

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