Check out the findings of a survey of married couples -- including that 40 percent of respondents think their spouse has selective listening, and less than half feel their spouse is supportive of their goals and dreams (ouch) -- and you'll find this little nugget:
Fifty-seven percent of married men think their wives are sexy, but only 38 percent of married women think their husbands are sexy.
Sure, time has its way with all of us, but still, why such a difference between the two results? Why do so many more men than women feel their spouse is sexy?
Clearly it's not because men are kinder, or gentler, or more forgiving of imperfection. (Read the last sentence out loud, starting with "men," and then try not to laugh at how silly it sounds.)
And clearly it's not because women are harsher critics. (If that were the case my wife would never have married me in the first place. Yours might not have married you, either. And Tom in accounting, well, Tom would still be flying solo at Star Wars conventions.)
My theory? Once married, men don't put the same effort into staying attractive to their wives that women do.
So I decided to test my theory and conduct an informal survey: I asked men and women at three different gyms, in three different cities, for the reason they work out.
I started out saying, "Excuse me. Can I ask why you're working out?" After getting responses like "What -- are you trying to say I'm fat?" and "Ooooh, so I'm not working out hard enough to suit you?" I realized I should provide more background. Eventually I settled on saying, "I'm doing a survey for an article about the reasons people work out. Can you tell me why you exercise?" (Clearly formulating survey questions doesn't come naturally to me.)
Here are the results.
The top answers from married men:
- "I'm trying to get [stronger/in better shape]."
- "I'm training for a [marathon/triathlon/some kind of event]."
- "Well, you see I have this [high cholesterol/heart/joint/back/whatever] issue and that means I have to..." (Note to self: Don't ever ask men follow-up questions about their health, because when you do, they will talk forever.)
The top answers from married women:
- "I want to look better [slimmer/trimmer/more toned]."
- "I want to look good for my husband."
- "It burns off stress after work that I don't want to take home with me."
- "You're not getting ready to hit on me, are you?" (Second note to self: It seems constantly on-the-make guys have ruined the prospects for casual conversations with women for the rest of us.)
Scientific? Absolutely not. Nonetheless, the results are telling. The men in my survey work out for mainly intrinsic reasons (not that there's anything wrong with that). They want to accomplish a personal goal. They want to deal with, or try to avoid, health problems.
The women in my survey work out to accomplish personal goals, but their motivations for working out sometimes go beyond personal achievement or satisfaction. Many want to be seen as attractive, often with a specific person in mind.
You could argue that intrinsic motivation trumps partially extrinsic motivation, but not in this case. We should all want our spouses to like the way we look. We should all want to be attractive not just on the inside, but on the outside as well.
Whether you're a man or a woman, early on in your relationship your spouse liked how you look. Your spouse enjoyed finding you attractive. (It's fun to look at your significant other and think, "Wow.") Why wouldn't you want that to continue to be the case? Why should your spouse need to be "mature enough" to look past your outside and focus on the beauty inside?
Instead of having to choose between the lobster and the cracked crab, why can't your spouse have both?
(Think about it this way. If you're a guy, when was the last time you decided to wear something because your wife thinks you look good wearing it? Maybe some of you can remember a time. Many of you can't. "Many" includes me. We tend to dress for ourselves, or for professional reasons. Yet our wives often dress with us in mind. Shouldn't we at least occasionally return the favor?)
So do this. Man or woman, take a look in the mirror. If you aren't happy with what you see, your spouse probably isn't happy about how you look, either. If you could stand to lose a few pounds and get in better shape, do something about it.
You'll be glad.
The person you married, the person who still cares about how you look -- regardless of how long you've been married -- will be glad.
You both win.
Can't beat that.