Supportive spouses Mc Nulty's team assessed 82 couples who had married within the previous six months and had been together for nearly three years prior to tying the knot.
Participants were on average in their early to mid-20s.
Researchers videotaped as each spouse discussed with their partner a personal problem for 10 minutes.
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"A negative husband would've said, ' This is your problem, you deal with it,'" Mc Nulty said, "versus ' Hey, I'm here for you; what do you want me to do? '" A group of trained "coders" rated the facial attractiveness of each spouse on a scale from 1 to 10, with the perfect 10 representing the ultimate babe.
About a third of the couples had a more attractive wife, a third a more attractive husband and the remaining partners showed matching looks.
Trophy wives Overall, wives and husbands behaved more positively when the woman was better looking.
Past research has shown that individuals with comparable stunning looks are attracted to each other and once they hook up they report greater relationship satisfaction.
These studies, however, are mainly based on new couples, showing that absolute beauty is important in the earliest stages of couple-hood, said lead researcher James Mc Nulty of the University of Tennessee.
But the role of physical attractiveness in well-established partnerships, such as marriage, is somewhat of a mystery.
The new study, published in the February issue of the , reveals looks continue to matter beyond that initial attraction, though in a different way.
Women seeking a lifelong mate might do well to choose the guy a notch below them in the looks category.
New research reveals couples in which the wife is better looking than her husband are more positive and supportive than other match-ups.