Study: Our Real Partners Don't Always Live Up To Our "Ideals"

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A study has found that people's "ideal" partners often differ from their actual partners, at least physically. So maybe we all settle — but there's also another way to interpret this research.


According to BJS of ScienceBlog, researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of Montpellier gave a hundred straight French couples the opportunity to use a computer program to engineer the silhouette of their ideal partner. Then the researchers compared these silhouettes with the height, weight, and body mass of the subjects' actual partners. They found that men's ideals were generally thinner than their real-life mates. Women, though, displayed a greater difference between ideal partner and actual partner — and while some preferred silhouettes smaller than their real dudes, others wanted them bigger.

Obviously the people we end up dating aren't always our physical ideals in every way — writes BJS, "our ideals are usually rare or unavailable." So perhaps the study participants were settling for their current mates because they couldn't land Gisele Bundchen or Brad Pitt. However, there is another way to look at the data. Maybe what people think they want — or what they say they want in studies — isn't exactly what they want in real life. We are pretty strictly trained to think that thinner women are beautiful, so it's possible that men express this preference in part because they're supposed to — but then deviate from it in their actual lives.

We can also become attracted to people who don't fit our "ideals," especially if we think they're cool — and BJS notes that the study didn't address "traits such as personality, political opinion or sense of humor." The fact that women's ideals differed more widely from their actual mates might be support for the old stereotype that women care more about personality than looks — or it might mean women are more dishonest than men about what kind of bodies actually turn them on. Whatever the case, the study seems to indicate that what we describe as "ideal" doesn't bear all that much relation to what we get in real life — and unless all these couples were sexless and miserable, that's probably fine.

Study Shows Real Partners Are No Match For Ideal Mate [ScienceBlog]

Image via maryp/



I've dated all kinds of boys. I've dated boys who were 5'5 and boys were were 6'4". I've dated boys who were overweight, boys who were football players and boys who look like stick figures. I've dated blonde-haired blue eyed boys, Mexican boys, Indian boys, Korean boys. I've dated boys with curly hair and boys with straight hair. I've dated boys who were older than me and boys who were younger than me.

Hell, even when you get to personality, I've dated boys who were hilarious and boys who were deathly serious.

I liked all of these boys lots. That's why I dated them.

Right now my ideal is my current boyfriend, but I think that's only because I love him the most. I don't know what I would draw if asked to draw my ideal boyfriend.

Oh, one other thing: It's possible that these people saw their ladies/men through lovegoggles. It's possible that they didn't even notice that their partner was different from their "ideal" and, thus, didn't feel like they were "settling".