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Study: What qualities make you an ideal romantic partner?

January 14th, 2014 by

Science news


The below findings are from a 2014 psychology study titled Gender Differences: What We Seek in Romantic and Sexual Partners. You can read the full study while that link still works (let me know if it goes dead).

Note: Unless otherwise noted, these findings apply to both women and men.

1. For sexual partners, we look for shallow qualities.

What’s interesting is that these are the qualities that we worry about in ourselves. Am I attractive enough? Do I have any sex appeal at all? Am I boring? To find love, I need a perfect face, a smokin-hot body, and the unfailingly-cool personality of a rockstar/astronaut/movie star. That’s what you think you need. But that’s not what you actually need to find love; that’s what you need to find sex.

2. For serious relationships, we look for deeper qualities.

Who do you want to spend several years with? Probably somebody with the above qualities, with loyalty as the most important quality. A few notes about these…

Mutual love is a flawed answer choice. What do you want in an ideal partner? “To be in love with them and have them love me back.” Well, yeah, duh. That’s not a personal characteristic that you’re looking for; it’s an outcome. So forget this one; it should have been excluded from the study (IMHO).

Loyalty may seem like an obvious priority: If you’re going to be in a relationship, of course you want someone who’s faithful, otherwise none of the other qualities really matter. But maybe our desire for loyalty extends beyond simple monogamy. What other behaviors might make a person convey loyalty?

Kindness is the most actionable item on this list. Being kind isn’t “being nice.” It doesn’t mean being sweet and passive. Kindness is thoughtfully alleviating people’s pain, with effort and words. The good news is that you can always get better at this, and that you’re naturally pretty good at it if you let yourself be. Your physical appearance may hit a maximum, but you can always let out more of your natural kind nature. And according to this study, that will pay off for you, romantically.

Note: I’m assuming that physical attractiveness is still something we seek in romantic partners, but that people don’t place as much importance on it for relationships because it’s a given. For a relationship, “pretty” is the easy part.

3. Men care more about previous sexual partners

If you’re a guy and you get hung up on your partner’s sexual history a lot, that’s not (only) because you’re waiting till marriage to have sex; most guys place a lot of importance on their partner’s previous sexual relationships whether they’re waiting or not.

Here’s something to keep in mind: According to this study, if you meet a girl you like, she will likely (according to this study) care about your sexual past less than you will care about hers. How unfair is that?

4.  Some of the qualities we stress about don’t matter much

Age doesn’t matter much, and neither does social status. You’ve probably heard before that social status is attractive, and there’s some truth to that. But, attractive is not the same thing as important.

Author: Mike

Mike handles all of the programming and design work for Although he still writes the occasional article, he spends most of his time these days creating new site features and keeping everything organized. Mike is web software developer by day, and is in school to become a psychologist. In his free time Mike enjoys running, biking, and movies.

13 Responses to “Study: What qualities make you an ideal romantic partner?”

  1. anonymous says:

    hey nice article. BUT there is just one thing that really struck me that I need to comment on: The part about how men care more about past sexual partners than women do and “if you meet a girl you like she will care less about your sexual past than you care about hers.”

    Well, as a woman who is WTM, I can affirm that that is simply NOT true. While it may be true for some women, it’s definitely not true for me. I think the degree to which a person cares about their mate’s sexual past does not have to do with whether they are a man or a woman, but it’s more of an individual preference.

    As for myself, I definitely care a lot about my potential boyfriend/husband’s sexual past. Of course if I did meet a guy that was really exceptional who happened to make a stupid mistake, I could find a way to move past it (though it would be very difficult), because we must all be realistic and forgiving. Also, I could really only accept it if it had only been with one girl and was in the context of a serious long term relationship, anything other than that doesn’t sit right with my, sorry! Basically, the fact that my love interest had been intimate with another woman before me would bother me a lot, just has much as it would bother a man! Women can be just as jealous as men in this respect trust me!

    Ideally I would like my partner to be a virgin WTM just as I am, just because well I think it is only fair, and I could get along best with someone who has the same values as me and that is a very important value to me in my life. Of course there are some who do not care as much about this and that is okay, because we can all have our own personal preferences.

    The main issue I have with that comment in the article is that it promotes stereotypes, in particular one stereotype that I really hate about the “good” virgin girl and the more experienced “bad” boy.

    Our society clearly has placed a great emphasis on female virginity and expects high standards from females, while for men we have been more lax with this rule and have just let things slide with the mentality “boys will be boys.” Notice the word slut only refers to a woman, while there is no male equivalent of the word, but there really should be because a lot of men do act really “slutty.” Come on!

    I think it’s time we stop relaxing the rules for men and hold the same standards we hold for women for men as well!

    Men, if you value virginity in your future wife, then you must uphold this standard for yourself as well. You yourself (man or woman) should be like the person you desire to marry- it’s only fair!

    Hopefully, if you have made mistakes which you regret and then meet a really nice virgin girl that you like, hopefully she will be forgiving and move on.

    BUT do NOT take it for granted that she will be forgiving just because she is a WOMAN. The best choice would be to make a firm commitment to waiting until marriage BEFORE you fall, so you will not have to worry about this issue.

  2. nickey nick says:

    True what you have commented there, but what if life throws your you ulitimate partner who have imagined for years. He has a notoriously sexual past but now he regrets it all ,very repentant and when he choose to become celibate is when he met you? Would you still stick to your stand about wanting a virgin?

  3. Jenn says:

    I’d have to say I largely agree with all of the points in this piece, except one: when it comes to age, I definitely think age is important. Not if there are only a few years’ difference between two people. Then it doesn’t matter much who is older or younger. But if there is a significant gap (say, 10 years or more), it can often make a huge difference in a couple’s compatibility. I’m a 33 year old woman who is looking for a stable marriage partner. Am I going to have success finding that with a 23 year old guy, who is fresh out of college and ready to sow his wild oats? No. Or how about the 43 year old divorcee with three kids who has already done the marriage and kids thing and now just wants to play around after being miserable for so long? Not a match. I’m not saying there aren’t guys my age who fit into both of those types; I just think my chances of finding a compatible match are higher with someone my own age.

  4. Google@MissChristiLuv says:


  5. Sunday says:

    I think we should also pay attention to what youths are saying about premarital sex.
    There is a book regarding premarital sex that was written by a youth, “EFFECTS OF PREMARITAL SEX (WHY AND HOW YOU SHOULD FLEE FROM IT) check it out on The youth’s name is Sunday Moshood.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can only speak for me. For me, I want someone who I am attracted to. At least somewhat. I need to feel attracted, AND attractive, to him. I’ve been abused, and it took me along time to realize that not all men are bad. However, part of what I ended up with was feeling the NEED to be able to imagine myself with the person. I think that’s what being attracted to someone is. So, I need that. However, on the other hand, if they are not Faithful (spiritually and to me), and kind, amongst other things… then their looks don’t even count. What I mean is this. I might find a guy to be extremely attractive, with every specific detail that I enjoy looking at, but if nonsensical gibberish comes out of his mouth, it’s over. If I’m just kind of attracted to them, but then they bring out their intellect, quirky/weird self, and bring in the big guns to the conversation (and can explain things to me when I don’t understand, and like me to do the same), then they become even MORE attractive to me. Maybe I’m shallow, but I do care about looks SOME. I’d say they probably count for 50%… it’s just a matter of what the other 50% consists of… are they intelligent, passionate/yet open-minded, compassionate, faithful, and patient? Or, are they just there… with nothing to say, or anything bring, to the world, ignorant, uncaring of others around them, etc?

    Age is only somewhat important to me. I do have an age group that I tend to gravitate towards, but there has been one or two times when I have been pulled out of that idea because someone seemed just that cool as to make an exception to see what might happen.

  7. Elle says:

    @ nickey nick, imagine if that partner was a woman and your potential partner, what would you do? Women are less likely to voice their concern about a man’s sexual past because they’ll be laughed at and deemed “too demanding”, but trust that a large part of us judge men the same way they judge women sexually. One reason why many women don’t mind dating men who are waiting is because we feel safer with them emotionally. Women who date jerks are either jerks themselves or believe “all men are like this so why bother having standards”, but they secretly despise those men hence the high rates of divorce. At some point they lose respect and break up.

  8. Sam says:

    This is pretty good. The one section says “Men care more about previous sexual partners”.

    The way I see it, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone, especially between time when they were young and once they become adults, changes. Everyone changes. Everyone learns and develops. Some of the greatest women (and I’m sure men as well) may have some form of sexual history with another person.

    The question though, how they have adapted to their past experiences. Are they the kind of person who continues to go out and sleep around, who feel as though sex isn’t sacred or isn’t something particularly special but rather just a good time?

    Or is this the kind of person who was young and experimenting (as we all do and have), and is now older, more wise and with a different perspective on things?

    If this man/woman became celibate for you and for your relationship, it should speak volumes about their character. And true love is something very personal. It isn’t something physical like whether you have had sex or not. It is about personality. Loyalty, kindness, compassion etc.

    Only a heartless man/woman would reject a compassionate, loyal and caring prospective partner on the basis of her having a historic sexual encounter.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why does having sex with somebody you love a mistake? I don’t believe it is, in any context. But hey that’s just me. Totally envious of people who share one partner their whole life. Well…. Ok thats a lie… Part of me is envious because there’s no love as strong as your first… And part of me is sad for them. How can you relate to 99% of the population if you never experience heartbreak? It’s a powerful thing. Terrible to go trough but it makes you look at life in a Verg different way. Now you know what all of these songs you listen too are actually about! And if I may be more shallow for a moment… It would suck to not know what great sex is… And I’m sorry but if a virgin merrys a virgin, you will never know. I’m just gonna leave it at that. To each his own and God Bless!

  10. Mikko Lopez says:

    In a religious context, it matters. (I refer to this context, okay? Not everyone is religious, and that’s not evil.)

    Additionally, not every young person experiments sexually. It’s just liberal and secular media that keeps propagating the idea that “everybody is doing it.”

    Many people still value genuine relationships—those that do not revolve merely on sex.

  11. Mikko Lopez says:

    It depends on the person, himself, whether or not he can truly forgive a potential partner’s sexual past. So just because a person knows in his heart that he can’t fully love someone who’s been with so, so many others, that automatically means that he is cruel and heartless?

    Some people can forgive certain things. Some people can’t.
    The one with the past can look for a more forgiving person.
    The one who’s waiting can look for someone else who waited, or choose the possibility of happiness with someone with a sexual past he can forgive.

    In short: case-by-case basis, bro.
    (By “he,” I mean both genders.)

  12. Delilah says:

    Please try to keep your articles more subjective. While I agree with most of the content herein, the use of the first-person pronoun and interjection of the opinions of the author detracts from the article’s purpose and intent. The title says “study”, not “opinion”.

  13. Elliot says:

    Women who are waiting till marriage to lose their virginity also only want guys who are waiting to lose their virginity. You cannot be unequally yoked. Any man or woman smart enough to wait till marriage should only marry someone who is waiting till marriage. Anything less is stupid. Say no to peer pressure. Stop silly double standards.

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