3 Reasons You May Think Your Partner is More Attractive Than They Are

Malinda Fusco


Photo by frameworks2014 Adobe Stock

It was a week into dating a Tinder match that I hyped him up to my friends.

“He’s an 11 out of 10,” I gushed, and I meant it.

His hair? A gorgeous supermodel swoop in place of bangs.

His lips? So soft.

His skin? Nicer than mine. His arms? God, don’t even get me started.

Plus, he was funny, smart, and incredibly well-read. I was dating the perfect person. Or, so I thought.

Everyone thinks their partner is attractive in some way, especially in the beginning. Looking back, after that relationship ended and the rose-tinted glasses slid off my face, he was just average. Cute but not carved-from-marble gorgeous.

So why had I thought so before?

We all do this to some degree, and it’s okay. There are three perfectly reasonable explanations for our tendency to idolize our partner’s attractiveness . . . so take your pick of which to blame. After all, they all have to do with science!

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is actually truer than you may think. Here are the three reasons why this might occur.

1. Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)

New relationships provide plenty of growth for yourself, each other, and your nerves! This happens in the stereotypical honeymoon phase of the relationship. You know the one, heck we all know the one. The honeymoon phase is notorious for that beautiful high of love and euphoria. There’s a reason love is compared to drugs after all. All of that intense attraction (yes physical attraction and lust included) is thought to be caused by a spike in NGF. Basically, your brain produces more of a protein that helps the development and durability of neurons. Better neurons? More euphoria. Hence, your beau may seem more perfect than they actually are.

2. Positive Illusions

All the lovey-dovey feelings don’t necessarily end after the honeymoon stage. Nay, nay. Positive illusions keep people in a happy little rose-tinted world. Positive illusions are idealizations of our partners. People will tend to idealize their partner, hyping up the positive traits, and downplaying the negative ones. A 13-year study shows that positive illusions provide high relationship satisfaction and a relationship that is more likely to stand the test of time. Well, no kidding, right? If you think you’ve married Mr. Right, you’re way more likely to have fewer conflicts and stay with him longer. This is another reason that beauty could truly be in the eye of the beholder.

3. A Desire to Self-Congratulate

Thinking your partner is a god walking among us makes you feel better about yourself too. Don’t feel bad, you’re only human and we all like to feel good about our choices. According to Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at Hertfordshire University:

“Most people are optimists — they have a notion that the world is much rosier than it is. They like to think they have an attractive partner because it makes them feel better.”

Thinking your partner is hotter than they are is like a good pat on the back. This is why people will try to hype up their partner (and therefore their choice to be with that person).

The Takeaway

If your friends give you skeptical looks when you gush about your partner, know that you’re probably under the influence of NGF, positive illusions, or a very human desire to feel good about yourself. And that’s okay. Really, it is. In reality, your partner is probably not as hot as you think. But who cares what anyone else thinks? If you’re happy, then by all means keep the rose-tinted glasses firmly on and enjoy your happiness.

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