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Attractive People Have Shorter Marriages

New research finds beautiful people have a tougher time holding onto their romantic relationships.

By Tom Jacobs


(Photo: Keystone/ Getty Image Archive)

Beautiful people enjoy a variety of advantages, from better grades in high school to higher incomes as adults. But newly published research reports they can also claim an undesirable distinction: On average, they have shorter marriages, and are more likely to get divorced.

“Being physically attractive is not without its liabilities,” a research team led by University of La Verne psychologist Christine Ma-Kellams writes in the journal Personal Relationships. “Being more physically attractive makes one’s relationship more vulnerable to threats.”

The researchers conducted four studies to provide evidence of this dynamic, and determine why it occurs. The first examined the marital histories of 238 men who graduated in the late 1970s from one of two demographically distinct high schools: one in rural Ohio, the other in San Jose, California.

The guys’ physical attractiveness was rated using their high school yearbook photographs; their marriages and divorces were taken from state records covering the next 30 years.

“Those rated as higher in physical attractiveness experienced shorter marriages, and were more likely to be divorced,” the researchers report.

A second study examined the first marriages of 130 high-profile actors, actresses, and other celebrities. As in the first study, two coders used photos to rate their attractiveness on a scale of one to 10. “Those rated as more physically attractive were married for shorter periods of time,” they write.

Two additional studies examined possible reasons for these findings. One found “physical attractiveness serves as a relational liability insofar as it promotes perceived interest in alternative partners, and is linked with a lower likelihood of derogating attractive alternatives.”

The final one found pretty people who are less than satisfied with their romantic relationship are “more interested in extra-relationship alternatives” than their less-comely counterparts.

Why is that? Though the study does not provide an answer, it seems logical that this interest is related to attractive people’s high confidence in their own desirability. Why go through the difficult process of working out relationship problems when other possibilities beckon?

So — spoiler alert! — perhaps it’s just as well that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone drift apart from each other in the final act of La La Land. That marriage never would have lasted.