- New research may have determined what women want once and for all.
- The study from the menstrual cycle tracking app Clue, in collaboration with MyONE Condoms and researchers from the University of Göttingen, may have given us clarity on what women look for in a relationship.
- “Kindness” was the most important trait, with nearly 90% of women thinking it was a top priority.
- Attractiveness was important, but it came secondary to personality traits like “supportiveness” and “intelligence.”
- “This is the human brain unconsciously prioritizing what matters, and noticing physical ‘imperfections’ less,” said lead researcher Virginia J. Vitzthum. “Intrinsic goodness, and shared values, these are what drive real romance.”
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
What do you look for in a partner? It seems like an easy question, but if you’re asked to break down exactly what it is that attracts you to someone else, you might struggle to put your finger on it.
There’s also the pressures of compromise and the paradox of choice waiting in the wings to keep you mentally adding up and subtracting what characteristics are really the most important to you.
New research from the menstrual cycle tracking app Clue, in collaboration with MyONE Condoms and researchers from the University of Göttingen, may have given us a bit more clarity on what women really want.
Researchers analyzed the answers from 68,000 people in 180 countries. Overall, they found personality comes out on top, with 88.9% of women considering “kindness” a very important trait in a partner. Close behind were “supportiveness” and “intelligence,” which were chosen by 86.5% and 72.3% of women, respectively.
Even though so much of our dating lives seem to depend on looking good for potential suitors, attractiveness traits came secondary to personality. For example, only 22.3% of women thought an “attractive body” was very important.
An attractive face, ambition, assertiveness, and financial security all came secondary to whether or not someone was kind and considerate.
Virginia J. Vitzthum, senior scientist at the Kinsey Institute and Clue’s lead researcher on the project, said kindness is “like gravity” — “essential but little-noticed until it’s gone.”
“Given today’s emphasis on looks and wealth, it may surprise you that kindness is a top desirable trait across the world,” she said.
“But kindness is key to the human capacity for forming the long-term social bonds so essential to our evolution. Without those bonds, and kindness to help us get through the inevitable rough patches, we wouldn’t have survived and flourished.”
Vitzthum told INSIDER that the findings about physical attractiveness could help improve people’s confidence when seeking out a new relationship.
“While it’s fun and nice to feel gorgeous and sexy (and there’s nothing wrong with that) the mistake is in thinking these are the most important things,” she said.
“When people realize that what matters to a romantic partner is who they are emotionally and intellectually … undoubtedly this will help them to be more confident about themselves as a person.”
She said it’s common to not particularly notice someone’s looks until you get to know them and you realize how thoughtful and caring they are. In these cases “we often end up seeing them as really attractive,” she said.
“This is the human brain unconsciously prioritizing what matters, and noticing physical ‘imperfections’ less,” she added.
The vast majority of people in the world get married, and that’s not because everyone is gorgeous, Vitzthum said. Rather, people look for partners that share similar values and aspirations about their life and future.
“Intrinsic goodness, and shared values, these are what drive real romance,” she said.
Both gay and straight women said an attractive smile and nice eyes were the most important physical features a partner can have.
Straight women chose an average-sized penis next (not a large one), followed by short hair, large hands, an attractive back, muscular arms, and facial hair. Gay women chose average breasts as the next important feature, followed by average buttocks, attractive back, and long hair.
Only 2.5% of women globally preferred a “very muscular” body type in a long-term partner, with “average” body-types being the most popular, with 44.8% of women choosing it. “Fit and athletic” body-types came in second place with 34.8% of the vote.
But whatever your body type or hand size, it’s important to remember there is a match out there for everyone. And it never hurts to flash a smile.
“In this era of unprecedented connectivity, we as a species have greater opportunity than ever before to meet others with whom we feel that uniquely human romantic connection,” said Clue’s CEO Ida Tin.
“This study … is wonderfully demonstrative of the diversity in people’s romantic tastes; as well as further proof that compassion and kindness is the great unifier.”