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How important are looks in a relationship?

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How important are looks in a relationship?

At first glance, it may seem obvious that physical attraction and looks are hugely important in romantic relationships. After all, we are visually oriented beings and looks are often what initially draws us to someone.

However, upon deeper examination, the role of looks in building and maintaining long-term, fulfilling relationships proves to be more complex than a simple matter of physical attraction.

In this article, we will explore what research tells us about how looks factor into relationships and examine other potentially more important qualities.

Physical attraction matters initially but fades over time

Numerous studies have shown that physical attractiveness plays an important role in our initial judgments and decisions about potential romantic partners. We are more likely to notice, approach and perceive people as likeable and dateable if we find them physically attractive.

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder to some degree, with characteristics like facial symmetry, clear skin, and toned bodies tending to increase perceptions of attractiveness on average.

However, research also shows that our feelings of physical attraction tend to fade significantly over time as we get to know our partners on deeper levels.

One landmark 1995 study of married couples found that while husbands rated their wives as less physically attractive over time, their overall marital satisfaction did not decline as physical attraction faded.

In fact, dimensions like intimacy, commitment and understanding grew in importance the longer couples were together. It appears that while raw physical attraction serves an important biological purpose in capturing our initial interest, it alone does not sustain long-term bond formation between partners.

As the neurological and psychological rewards of bonding, commitment, trust and companionship take over, our perspectives tend to shift from a emphasis on physical attributes to prioritizing non-physical qualities.

Personality traits may matter more for relationship longevity

So if looks are not the be-all and end-all in relationships, what factors do help foster durable bonds? Research indicates personality traits may play a more important role.

Studies have highlighted traits like kindness, empathy, emotional stability, humor, and shared interests and values as being strongly linked to relationship satisfaction and longevity.

For example, one comprehensive longitudinal study found that couples who scored high on traits like cooperation and stability were significantly less likely to divorce over a 40 year period compared to partners lower on those traits, even after controlling for other variables.

Additionally, positive traits like gratitude and forgiveness have been directly associated with greater marital well-being. Cultivating a caring, compassionate dynamic appears vital for maintaining long-term intimacy between partners.

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This is not to say physical attraction plays no role – initial chemistry remains significant. However, it suggests that while looks may bring us together initially, it is personality fit and emotional connection that truly stand the test of time in relationships.

A kind, caring nature can mitigate less-than-ideal physical chemistry to a large degree for relationship quality.

Inner qualities shine through over time

So in essence, while looks give that all-important first impression, it is our inner qualities like virtue, character strength and emotional intimacy that truly determine satisfaction and success over the long haul of a romantic relationship.

Repeated scientific studies show that couples’ outward appearances tend to fall lower on their lists of what they value most about their partners the longer they are together.

When we observe couples who have stayed happily married or partnered for decades, they often remark it was that indescribable “something” beyond physical attributes that made their relationship work.

Qualities like friendship, partnership, empathy, humor, shared goals and handling adversity together. Our outward shell and physical features are temporary, but our inner virtues have the potential to deepen connections and bring fulfillment for life if cultivated.

Over the months and years of being with someone, our partners get to know us on the deepest level through not just our looks, but how we treat them and others during both easy and difficult times.

They see our character revealed through small acts of kindness, willingness to understand another’s perspective, and choices made when we think no one else is watching. It is through this authentic seeing of one another that true intimacy is built.

Health, character and virtue become long term aphrodisiacs

Interestingly, some research has also found that traits prized for relationships like empathy, humor, and emotional maturity are also qualities overtime that continue to be perceived as physically attractive and boost sexual connection.

Things like sharing domestic responsibilities, expressing care through acts of service, maintaining an optimistic mindset, and prioritizing health tend to strengthen not just bonds but arousal as well.

Taking care of oneself both physically and mentally to be the best partner possible while supporting one’s loved one in kind works to solidify long-lasting attraction on multiple levels beyond mere outward appearance.

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Inner qualities shine through and become a far greater aphrodisiac and love potion than fleeting physical attributes alone ever could.

While we all age and our looks fade, the impact our character, virtue and personality have had through the years lives on through vibrant, life-long memories and a profound emotional closeness that transcends superficial evaluations.

Those intangible inner traits are what nurture profound care, respect and desire between partners who have truly known each other for who they are, inside and out, through many seasons of life.

Shared values, commitment and intimacy are keys

What it seems to truly boil down to is this: While initial attraction allows relationships to spark, it is shared values, commitment to each other’s well-being and cultivating intimacy – emotional and otherwise – that determine whether connections last and thrive.

Looks may draw partners together at the outset, but it is who we are within – our virtues, personalities, how we show up for each other daily through all types of experiences – that attest as to whether relationships endure.

Authentic intimacy is built through acts of service, understanding different perspectives, handling disagreements respectfully, treasuring each other’s dreams, and just enjoying each other’s company – among many other little things.

How couples support each other when the going gets tough, how they resolve conflicts, express affection and work as a team are what cause bonds to deepen over time. The depth and longevity of these inner connections far surpass any fleeting physical appearance.

What resonates most is partners feeling truly known and accepted for who they are inside by someone who is fully committed to their well-being.

This allows relationships to withstand external changes as well as inevitable hardships – so long as everyday virtues like empathy, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, compassion and respect are consistently cultivated within. Love, it seems, grows best when watered by virtue.

In conclusion

In summary, while physical attraction plays an undeniable role in how relationships first begin, research establishes that looks alone do not determine the quality or longevity of partnerships over the long haul.

Much more influential are traits like compassion, empathy, emotional intimacy, shared values and overall personality fit between partners.

Our outer appearance may draw others in, but it is our character – how we treat our loved ones each and every day through our words and actions – that truly impacts the depth of intimacy within a relationship. Inner virtues have far greater potential to nurture profound, lifelong bonds compared to fleeting physical attributes.

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Physical attributes serve an important biological purpose initially, but over time as love deepens, we mature to value our partners for who they are within far more than what is only skin deep.

True, fulfilling relationships are built on virtues like kindness, honesty, commitment to growth and prioritizing each other’s well-being – not transitory appearances alone. When it comes to developing relationships that stand the test of time, looks matter far less than who we strive to become for ourselves and our loved ones each day.

FAQs

What is the most attractive personality trait?

Research has shown traits like empathy, kindness, emotional stability and humor tend to be among the most attractive. They communicate good character qualities and ability to form deep bonds through understanding others and bringing lightness to relationships.

Does physical attraction matter at all long term?

While physical attraction fades in importance over time, most experts agree it still plays some role even in long-term relationships. Maintaining physical intimacy through acts like kissing, hugging and expressing desire for your partner can help bolster emotional bonds. Overall health and fitness also tend to contribute to long-term well-being and attraction on multiple levels.

How much does looks bias impact initial judgments?

Studies show our initial evaluations of strangers are impacted significantly by looks. Attractive people are often perceived more positively in traits totally unrelated to appearance like intelligence or skill. However, over time as we get to know others more holistically, these biases tend to fade and inner qualities shine more clearly.

Can lack of physical attraction be overcome?

While a certain baseline level of physical/sexual chemistry is important, lack of ideal attraction can be mitigated by other strong relationship qualities according to research. Finding small physical attributes about our partners to appreciate can also help recalibrate initial attraction levels. Commitment to prioritizing overall well-being as a team is key.

How do you keep attraction alive long term?

Little acts of affection, sharing experiences, maintaining personal health/hygiene, treating each other with kindness and respect daily, expressing gratitude, engaging in discussions/activities together, humor, intimacy, quality time spent bonding are all ways research finds keeps attraction vibrant over the long haul beyond mere physical aspects.

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