What Women Want in a Man They Date

When men seek out a woman for a long-term mate, the No. 1 quality they desire is physical attractiveness, while women are willing to trade a man's looks for his status and resources.

That's the word from University of Missouri-Columbia researchers, who wondered whether a woman's socioeconomic status and other factors, such as education, play a role in the trade-offs they make when choosing potential mates. Led by psychology professor David Geary, the team focused on the trade-offs low-income women make when choosing potential long-term and short-term mates. They examined if these trade-offs correlated with family background, life history development, personality or current circumstances, such as income.

The study: The researchers interviewed 460 women with an average income of less than $10,000 per year. Each woman completed a mate preference survey and surveys that assessed family background, life history, conscientiousness, sexual motives, self-ratings and current circumstances. The participants distributed 100 points across six traits of potential long-term and short-term mates, including looks, money, status, commitment, intelligence and kindness.

The results: The findings show that the most preferred characteristic in a long-term mate is commitment, followed by kindness, intelligence and looks. For short-term mates, the most preferred characteristic is looks, followed by money and kindness. The women who focused more on a short-term mate's money were less educated, more likely to require government financial assistance and had more children.

"For the women in the study, a long-term mate's status was not as important as is found in more affluent samples, perhaps because few potential mates with status are available, and a significant subset of the women assessed in the study appeared to view short-term mating relationships as a means to secure money and not 'good genes,'" Geary said in a news release announcing the study findings.

Among more affluent women, the No. 1 concern is finding a man who has a steady job and pays his bills on time, according to a different survey of 1,002 adults commissioned by Fair Isaac Corp., the company that generates the FICO scores used to rate personal creditworthiness. The Los Angeles Times reports that while men seek a woman with a great sense of humor who is a good kisser, women seek a man who is financially responsible. "And they say money can't buy you love," Judy Martindale, a financial planner in San Luis Obispo, Calif., told the Times. "It's sort of a sad commentary."

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