Is beauty wrecking your love life?

SANDY SMITH
Last updated 12:46 28/09/2012
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Beauty

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Everyone thinks beautiful people have it all but what if your dazzling good looks are really a burden, ruining your chances of a lasting relationship or marriage?

Physically attractive people enjoy greater success in the workplace earning more than their plainer counterparts, writes economist Daniel Hamermesh in his book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful but in the relationship stakes physical beauty might not be such a blessing.

Beauty can be a social handicap according to US psychologist Dr Shauna Springer, a relationship and lifestyle researcher and author of Marriage, for Equals: The Successful Joint (Ad)Ventures of Well-Educated Couples.

Springer looks at the spectacularly high failure rate of marriages in Hollywood for clues that beauty can spell disaster for relationships. Who can forget the 72 day marriage fiasco between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (her second marriage), or Jennifer Aniston's less than five year marriage to Brad Pitt followed by endless relationship troubles before her recent engagement to Justin Theroux?

There are a number of obstacles to marriage or long-lasting relationships for the impossibly attractive, according to Springer (and the infamous Samantha Brick may well agree). "Those who are physically beautiful may need to be especially cautious in assessing the character of any potential life partners" she tells Life & Style.

"Beautiful people may tend to attract people who are more likely to treat a person as a possession, people who seek to display external signs of success to make up for a rather rotten core self" and "a beautiful person might be more likely to attract someone who seeks shallow sexual-economic transactions instead of a loving, respectful relationship."

Possessing extremely good looks may also bring psychological challenges. Some people might assume that a beautiful person is arrogant and unapproachable she says. Beautiful people are also "more likely to have a 'spoiled child' element in their personalities - and an expectation that their wishes will be granted with little opposition, resulting in an acute coping crisis, an adult tantrum, when their desires are not met.

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Related to this, self-absorption and narcissism may also be occupational hazards of the beautiful life. Those with these character traits and behaviours may inspire lust in their partner's eyes, but reflections of love and respect will be much more elusive. While they may desire to have a loving relationship with their partners, they lack the foundation of good character to achieve this."

Beauty can also bring insecurity says Springer. "Like a person who is flush with material wealth, those who have great beauty often struggle with questions about why people seek them out and what people are really after when they form relationships with them.

They often ask themselves whether their friends are true friends or whether they are attaching themselves - by way of an entourage - because of their obvious physical beauty."

So says Springer, while "beauty alone will probably not ruin a person's chances of having a good marriage" - after all, it is possible to be beautiful on the inside and out - "it is beauty in combination with other character deficits that is more likely to produce this result."

Clinical psychologist Jo Lamble agrees there are drawbacks to being extremely good-looking. "Most people believe that beautiful people have it easy" she says, "but that's not always the case. Being beautiful does have its downsides when it comes to relationships."

"Some men are drawn to 'trophy wives' to boost their own feelings of self-worth as if to say: 'Look what I can get! I must be pretty special.'

This shallow reason for choosing a partner is flawed because over time, they may need to trade up by seeking a younger, more beautiful partner to continue the facade of success. And in the meantime, they may not fully respect their beautiful partner, because they are only giving value to their physical beauty, not the person underneath."

Lamble goes on to say the most attractive amongst us are under constant pressure to stay looking good. "Beautiful people can wonder whether others want to be with them for their beauty alone.

Beautiful women can feel the pressure to look beautiful all the time in case their partner no longer loves them if they not wearing makeup or gorgeous clothes. They can fear putting on weight or growing old and so they can sometimes resort to drastic dieting or plastic surgery to keep the fear at bay."

Perhaps it's time to be thankful you don't look like Angelina Jolie. Her forthcoming marriage to Brad Pitt might not last - and in the meantime you can take heart from a study that suggests beauty is not just skin deep. Researchers found that judgements about physical attractiveness are strongly influenced by non-physical factors.

In a rowing team study, team mates of a fellow crew member who was perceived to be a 'slacker' who did not pull his weight, was uniformly rated as physically ugly and another team member with an excellent work ethic was uniformly rated as physically attractive.

The difference in perceived physical attractiveness did not exist for raters who knew nothing about the contributions of the two men to the team.

"Any assumptions that people make about beautiful people are likely to get corrected over time with sufficient exposure to an individual's character," explains Springer.  And the researcher's top beauty tip? "If you want to enhance your physical attractiveness, become a valuable social partner."

-Sydney Morning Herald

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