Most mates aren’t a perfect match

U. SHEFFIELD (UK) — When it comes to a partner’s preference for body shape and size, there’s often a big gap between real versus ideal.

New research from the University of Sheffield and the University of Montpellier in France finds that our actual partners are of a different height, weight, and body mass index than those we would ideally choose. Details are reported this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

The discrepancies between real mates and fantasies were often larger for women than for men, the study shows.

Most men would rather have female partners much slimmer than they really have. Most women are not satisfied, either, but contrary to men, while some would like slimmer mates, others prefer bigger ones.

Human mating preferences are increasingly being studied to understand what shapes our complex reproductive behavior. While previous studies have separately investigated ideal mate choice and actual pairing, this study was specifically conducted to compare them.

The researchers gathered data from one hundred heterosexual couples living in Montpellier, south of France. To measure preferences for body morphology, they used software which allowed the participant to easily modify the body shape of their ideal silhouette on a computer screen.

The researchers then compared ideal silhouettes obtained with the actual characteristics of the partners.

For the three morphological traits studied—height, weight, and body mass—men’s mating preferences were less different from their actual partner’s characteristics than females’ ones.

As the authors remark, the lower dissatisfaction observed for men in this study may be restricted to some physical traits, and results could be different for other traits such as personality, political opinion, or sense of humor that are also important in partner choice.

“Whether males or females win the battle of mate choice, it is likely for any trait, what we prefer and what we get, differs quite significantly,” says Alexandre Courtiol from the University of Sheffield. “This is because our ideals are usually rare or unavailable and also because both sexes express preferences while biological optimum can differ between them.”

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