Women With This Type Of Face Are Less Likely To Be Seen As 'Wife Material'

Photo: ian dooley on Unsplash
woman with pouty pink lips behind a wall

Do you have what people might describe as a "feminine face" — meaning one with features such as a small jawbone, full cheeks, big eyes, and big lips?

If so, we've got what might be some unexpected news about the way men think of you as having short- or long-term relationship potential.

As it turns out, men may view you as just a quick fling, rather than as someone with long-term relationship potential — at least, according to the results of research published in the British Journal of Psychology.

What makes a woman's face most attractive to men looking for marriage or a long-term relationship?

Over the course of three studies, the researchers determined that women with stereotypically feminine features — signs of higher estrogen, health, and youth — are most attractive to men who are either seeking only a short fling or who already have a partner.

And when it comes to getting down on one knee and offering a lady the real deal, men "may actually prefer less attractive/feminine womens."

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During the first phase of this research, led by Anthony C. Little from the University of Stirling and Benedict Jones from the University of Glasgow, several hundred male participants were shown composite pictures of female faces.

The participants were asked "to make judgements based on either short or long-term relationships by the message ‘alter the face until you think it is closest to the appearance you would find attractive for a short [or long] term relationship.'"

Interestingly, men who were already in relationships had an even higher preference for short-term flings with more feminine-faced women.

"When a man has secured a mate, the potential cost of being discovered may increase his choosiness regarding short-term partners relative to unpartnered men, who can better increase their short-term mating success by relaxing their standards," wrote the study authors.

It seems that men are constantly engaged in a highly Machiavellian love game, trying to avoid being cheated on while also trying not to be "discovered" cheating themselves.

So what gives? Why don't these men want to marry women who, from a biological point of view, have a higher chance of reproductive success?

According to the researchers, many men are under the impression that attractive women are more likely to be unfaithful, particularly if their current partner is less than a looker.

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"Our study suggests that one of the reasons men like feminine [faces] more for short-term relationships is that they are seen as less likely to be faithful and more likely to be promiscuous," Little told YourTango.

"It follows that, perhaps, feminine women may increase their attractiveness as long-term partners by giving off signals that they are likely to be faithful to a particular man."

Tough luck, attractive women. Turns out you have to work harder if you want long-term commitment.

What Little told us sounds like a tricky evolutionary balancing act of "Don't Want To Be Cheated On" vs. "Do Want Hot Arm Candy."

"I think the answer lies in a balance of your own and your partner's attractiveness," Little explained. "It is probably true that by lowering standards, it is possible to get a partner who is most likely to be faithful. But people do not want to lower their standards too much.

Of course, individuals may vary in how they balance their choices.

"It should be noted that studies have shown a similar preference in heterosexual women, who generally prefer a studlier man for a fling, but a nerdier one to settle down with, following the same logic of viewing the less-attractive men as more reliable.

Little was also kind enough to give us a few examples of this theory at work in the celebrity world.

The theory does hold up when it comes to the rom-com career of Jen Aniston:

"Jennifer Aniston has a more angular face shape and thinner lips, making her more masculine than Angelina Jolie by comparison. In some ways this seems consistent with Jennifer Aniston's roles in romantic comedies — not being as extremely feminine as other actresses or models, both men and women may see her as more believable as a long-term love interest."

But this thinking kind of comes crashing down when we think about Brangelina: Brad left relatively masculine-faced Jen for Angelina Jolie's large eyes, round face, and gigantic lips, after all.

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Monica Green is a New York-based writer who has contributed to Good Housekeeping, The Knot, and Bustle, among others.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on March 13, 2015 and was updated with the latest information.