Watching the Anthony Weiner scandal unfold, it was hard not to wonder how a smart, accomplished, beautiful woman like Huma Abedin got herself involved with a guy like Weiner.
After all, the New York Congressman was dishonest to Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a messy, public way -- confessing to sexting and sending lewd photos to a young coed after lying about it for 10 days -- after less than a year of marriage. It's probably not what a newlywed would expect, especially one who's pregnant with their first child.
But, sexting sexcapades aside, the 46-year-old Weiner, whether you find him handsome or not, is a fit, intelligent, passionate, promising politician with a six-figure income who had a reputation of a ladies' man and was even named a Cosmo eligible bachelor -- the kind of man that many, many women are drawn to.
And that's where Abedin and other smart, beautiful, accomplished women often make their mistake. The more financially independent women become, the more they prefer good-looking men. But they don't just want their partners to be hotties; they want them to be masculine, physically fit, loving, educated, a few years older and making the big bucks. Oh, and they also have to really want to be a hubby and daddy.
That's a tall order.
And, evidently, it's working against us. Attractive men don't make the best husbands, according to researchers. Guys who are rated as the most masculine -- a billboard for a man's good genes -- tend to have more testosterone, and men with higher testosterone levels are 43 percent more likely to get divorced than men with normal levels, 31 percent more likely to split because of marital problems and 38 percent more likely to cheat. In other words, they may be better cads than dads.
We'd be smarter if we sought out guys who are uglier than we are because researchers have found that couples in which the woman is hotter than the guy are happier than if the situation is reversed. And since quite a few women have been telling Weiner how "hot" he is, it's clear that neither Abedin nor Weiner got that memo.
Of course, hottie women can also "optimize their looks to find other partners if she's unhappy," says Rob Burriss, a professor at England's University of Chester. Hello, Weiner? And Abedin, 35 -- one of Time magazine's "40 under 40" young stars in politics -- was considered a catch when Weiner started pursuing her a few years ago.
But who can blame her? She, like so many women -- and men -- pick a mate based on pretty predictable factors, dating back to caveman days when all we were trying to do was survive and keep our species going, according to physical anthropologist and Why Him? Why Her? author Helen Fisher, who has been studying human courtship for decades. We're drawn to guys like Weiner because they have good genes we can pass on to our kids. The downside is that we take a huge risk on whether he's going to be sexually faithful to us.
At the same time, who can blame the women who flirted with Weiner and who commented on how "hot" he is; women are more attracted to guys in relationships because they have "proven they can commit," says Ian Kerner, a sex and relationship therapist, and author (She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman). It's likely that we'll see more male poaching in the future -- "research shows that in societies where women are economically powerful, the more sexually and socially aggressive they are," says Fisher.
Regardless of whom we pick -- handsome or ugly -- chances are we're going to be struggling sometime in our fourth year of marriage, Fisher notes. Her research of divorce statistics from 62 countries, dating to 1947, indicates that the seven-year itch is really a four-year itch -- about the time it takes to raise a baby past toddlerhood. "To me, it clearly suggested that divorce might not be a cultural malaise, but an aspect of our inherited mating behavior," she says.
So, now that Abedin evidently has Weiner's good genes, she can either stick it out another few years or split from Weiner now, before their unborn baby will have memories of the divorce, and while she's still young and attractive enough to snag another mate.
This time, perhaps she should go ugly.
This post originally cited Satoshi Kanazawa's 2008 blog post on how attractive men don't make good husbands, but has been updated to reference Faceresearch.org's 2010 study, among others, instead. - Vicki Larson
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