A charming personality, good health, social and financial status, and the addition of superficial features, such as a full head of hair, are some of the common personal traits both men and women look for in a long-term partner. However, there are certain personal traits that may predict whether couples are more likely to tie the knot or live-in without subsequent marriage. According to a recent study in the journal Social Science Research, a partner’s personality, level of attractiveness, and grooming are all significant personal traits when making decisions about marriage and other serious romantic relationships.

It remains no mystery that a person’s personality plays an important role in whether they are more likely to get married or cohabitate without the intent of marriage. One of the biggest determining factors of taking a relationship to the next level is how people deal with conflict. "Can they tolerate difference of opinion?” Dr. Fran Walfish, child, couple, and family psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, Calif., told Medical Daily. “Can they tolerate listening without interruption?" If a partner is able to tolerate their significant other’s point of view without interrupting them, says Walfish, that is a key element of maturity — important to the relationship.

While the importance of personality is more commonly understand, a team of researchers at the University of Miami, sought to investigate the importance of three personal traits — physical attractiveness, personality, and grooming in its influence of entering a cohabitating or marital relationship. A sample of over 9,000 respondents who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were analyzed during the study period, or about eight years. The interviewers rated the personal characteristics of respondents, and then asked them questions about marriage and cohabitation. The participants were between 24 to 34 years old when asked about romantic agreements in the latter part of the study.

The findings revealed the participants considered a multitude of personal characteristics when looking for a long-term partner. Over 50 percent of the married respondents and those in cohabitating relationships that ended in marriage, were rated as above average in physical attractiveness, Examiner reported. In comparison, over 45 percent of participants in a cohabitating relationship without subsequent marriage, and 44 percent in neither marriage nor cohabitation were rated above average on the attractiveness scale.

A closer look at the data shows women who partake in above average grooming are less likely to cohabit without subsequent marriage, whereas men with above average looks tend to be more likely to cohabitate, without subsequent marriage. Although there’s an apparent disparity between the sexes, Walfish believes there is also a parallel — self-esteem. “Women who spend more time grooming and on their appearance bit of a higher self-esteem, higher expectation from their partner,” she said. These women are more likely to have explored the option of marriage at the get-go either through verbal communication or non-verbal language, such as posture, tone, and how quickly or slowly she participates in sexual activity.

Similar to women, above-average attractive men may have a bit of an inflated self-esteem or ego, but they know they can get a woman with or without the full commitment of marriage. These are the women who will “accept crumbs instead of a slice of pie,” Walfish said. Hence why the disparity, but yet parallel finding between both sexes.

Surprising to the researchers, they found men who had an above average personality had the strongest correlation with the greater probability of getting married, unlike their above average physical attractive counterparts. "Thus, we have the somewhat curious finding that men with above average looks tend to be more likely to cohabit, while men with above average personalities tend to be more likely to marry (but less likely to cohabit)," according to the news release.

Once personality is involved in selecting a long-term partner, it broadens the scope of the relationship. Personality allows for other personal traits such as heart, intellect, compassion, and humor to unfold like a peeling onion, or a rose, Walfish said. “People with above average personalities care about the human being as a total person rather than a physical object of external beauty, and that's a positive,” she said.

Although something as superficial as physical attractiveness predicted the likelihood of marriage, or cohabitation in the study population, these findings could be applied to a much wider and diverse population, according to Walfish. She believes in our culture, external appearance is nourished and nurtured. It is only after physical appearance, the first magnet of attraction, that personality, character, morals, ethics, and values are discovered and uncovered. Walfish’s best advice for those who are single and in relationships: “We are all imperfect, flawed human beings. The key to finding the best fit is finding people with shared values, and shared flaws, like in a good puzzle.”

Source: French MT, Homer JF, Popovici I, and Robins PK. Personal traits, cohabitation, and marriage. Social Science Research. 2014.