Many believe that our looks are what matter most in attracting the love of a potential partner. Yes, physical attraction is what people desire in a loved one. However, desirable personality traits are what matter most.
According to the surveys of heterosexual and homosexual partners, appearance and sexiness are only in the middle of the preferred characteristics of a partner. On the other hand, such personality traits as extraversion, intelligence, and agreeableness are higher than physical attraction as the qualities that women and men in different-sex and same-sex couples look for in a partner.
As co-founder of the dating app So Syncd, Jess Alderson says, we do prefer personality over looks. For example, in the sample of more than 1,000 users, almost 90% preferred certain personality traits over looks.
Why Agreeableness Is Desired for Love
Agreeableness is among the indicators of someone’s interpersonal skills. It characterizes how compassionate and caring people are. This personal quality plays an important role for both men and women in their initial preference for a date’s desirability. This trait is also a strong predictor of current and future relationship satisfaction and durability. For men as well as for women, physical attractiveness comes together with agreeableness in their desire for a love relationship. “Agreeableness is kind of a necessity,” says Greg Webster, a psychology professor at the University of Florida. In relationships, agreeableness, combined with other attractive traits, can bring the best out of people. See more about this research here.
The factor of similarity also plays a role. We feel attracted to others who share values similar to ours.
How does it work in the case of agreeableness? More agreeable people tend to see others as kind and friendly, finding them similar. This is why we match with people who have personalities similar to our own.
Why Similarity and Familiarity Matter for Love
We tend to look for similar and familiar others in our pursuit of love, not only in agreeableness but also in other personality traits, such as openness to a new experience and conscientiousness.
Partners with high similarity in the personality traits of conscientiousness and openness to a new experience are better in their ability to solve problems and manage daily tasks.
Similarity and familiarity are important in many other things (Berscheid & Reis, 1998; Orbuch & Sprecher, 2003). We also find attractive the other person who is physically and genetically similar to us, how close they live geographically to us, whether we belong to the same social groups, and whether we approve of their friends.
Why Some Differences Are Attractive for a Relationship
Despite the importance of similarities and familiarities in traits, personality differences might also be appealing for love.
Partners with complementary traits match well with each other, according to the observations of Jess Alderson, a co-founder of the dating app So Syncd.
“It makes sense that we’ve evolved to be attracted to people who at least have a certain amount of differences to ourselves. We make a stronger team and would be more likely to survive. But again, you need that kind of intimacy that draws you together.”
“We pair couples who have just enough similarities to form a strong connection, and then just enough differences to create that spark of excitement,” says Alderson.
“If you are too similar, it can be a little bit boring. And then if you’re too different, it can just not be that fun on a daily basis.”
It turns out that similarity and equality between partners are not necessarily the best things for a good relationship. And the dominance quality of one partner can be a good thing for love.
For example, social psychologists Angela Bryan, Greg Webster, and Amanda Mahaffey looked at socially, physically, and financially dominant people and the effect agreeableness had on their appeal (Bryan, Webster, & Mahaffey, 2011).
Researchers found that social, physical, and financial types of dominance are attractive to others. Each can provide a kind of protection or access to basic needs, like food and shelter, through to more desirable needs, like lavish lifestyles.
Yet, dominance traits can be used for good and bad:
“We can think of dominance as being turned inward towards a relationship or as being focused outward away from the relationship. What people want are partners who are socially, physically, or financially dominant, but not necessarily towards their partner,”says Webster.
When dominance is mediated by agreeableness, it is a combination of qualities appealing to interpersonal attraction. “It’s one thing if you’re able to dominate other people, but are you willing to share those resources with your romantic partner?” For attractive partners, agreeableness accentuates the benefits of other personal qualities.