Psychological Self-Help

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more than men (Allgeier & Wiederman, 1991). Science doesn't yet
know why the sexes--almost universally--have these particular
preferences. Why should men want attractive women more than
women want attractive men? Is it because men are more sexually
obsessed than women? Is the valuing of attractive women and
successful men simply an arbitrary, readily changeable cultural
definition of what is "good?" Could there be evolutionary-
sociobiological forces at work, reflecting the fact that men could
spread more of their genes (produced by the millions every day) by
mating with many healthy (pretty) women and women could
propagate their very limited genes best by attracting a strong,
devoted, capable mate? Regardless of the source, today, whether we
like it or not, looking good is a major asset for women and having a
promising future increases a man's appeal. See discussion of gender
roles in chapter 9. 
Looks have always been valued, but in recent decades, physical
attractiveness of the partner has become even more important to both
sexes. Men may admit their interest more openly, however. Men talk
about being "leg men," "breast men," etc. and some women admit to
being interested in "nice buns," "hairy legs," "broad shoulders," etc. No
doubt body build influences who we seek out as well as how we feel
about our own attractiveness. About 28% of single males consider
themselves attractive; they are among the more socially active and
assertive. Only about 13% of single females consider themselves to be
pretty (Harper's, 1985). Interestingly, good looking women are happy
with their social lives, but they tend to be less socially skilled and less
assertive than other women (perhaps because very attractive people
are sometimes resented and rejected by their own sex). Nevertheless,
other people generally expect beautiful people to be poised, sociable,
strong, interesting, happy and successful, thus, scaring off the
insecure. In reality, many attractive people are shy and insecure
themselves. Also, research shows that good looks in one's youth has
little to do with middle-aged happiness or marital satisfaction (Brehm,
We are also likely to pursue a potential lover who is similar to us,
i.e. likes attract. This includes family background, education, age,
religion, personality (dominance, nurturance, mood), attitudes
(opinions, beliefs), and physical attractiveness. Sharon Brehm
suggests that we think Mr. or Ms. Right is just like us, only just a little
better! Some writers (Brothers, 1984) believe that we should seek a
mate who is, in some ways, our psychological opposite, e.g. if we are
tense and shy, we should select a secure and outgoing partner; if we
are a big spender, select a saver; if impulsive, select a careful, logical,
controlled partner and so on. Certainly one partner can sometimes
compensate for the other's weaknesses or extremes but it surely isn't
always best to select our psychological opposite. Two highly controlling
people wouldn't relate well. We need to be similar on some traits and
different on others, but we don't yet know what mix is best. Eva
Klohnen, at the University of Iowa, is researching the possibility that
we are attracted to people with characteristics we like in ourselves and
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