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Faye Flam

Don’t Settle for a Perfectionist. They’ll Never Settle for You.

Researchers have some dating advice for “maximizers” who can’t stop comparison shopping.

When people are surveyed about the traits they value in potential mates, kindness, humor and intelligence come up before looks or money.

When people are surveyed about the traits they value in potential mates, kindness, humor and intelligence come up before looks or money.

Photographer: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

A recent psychology study caught my eye because the interpretation seemed bizarre, and possibly misguided. The study involved a survey of several hundred newlywed heterosexual couples, which included a test to see if they were so-called maximizers, who can’t settle for anything but the perfect choice, or satisficers, who can, as the word implies, be satisfied with something that suffices.

And lo and behold, the satisficers were pretty happy with their spouses, but the maximizers were only happy, for the time being, if they had attractive wives (as judged by the researchers) or rich husbands. The way the researchers seemed to be interpreting their result, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, was that male maximizers should marry beautiful women, and female ones should marry rich men.