Although personality characteristics figure prominently in what people want in a mate, little is known about precisely which personality characteristics are most important, whether men and women differ in their personality preferences, whether individual women or men differ in what they want, and whether individuals actually get what they want. To explore these issues, two parallel studies were conducted, one using a sample of dating couples (N = 118) and one using a sample of married couples (N = 216). The five-factor model, operationalized in adjectival form, was used to assess personality characteristics via three data sources-self--report, partner report, and independent interviewer reports. Participants evaluated on a parallel 40-item instrument their preferences for the ideal personality characteristics of their mates. Results were consistent across both studies. Women expressed a greater preference than men for a wide array of socially desirable personality traits. Individuals differed in which characteristics they desired, preferring mates who were similar to themselves and actually obtaining mates who embodied what they desired. Finally, the personality characteristics of one's partner significantly predicted marital and sexual dissatisfaction, most notably when the partner was lower on Agreeableness, Emotional Stability, and Intellect-Openness than desired.
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