PNAS2014-12-02 7:16 PM

The association between discontinuing hormonal contraceptives and wives’ marital satisfactiondepends on husbands’ facial attractiveness

Abstract

How are hormonal contraceptives (HCs) related to marital well-being? Some work suggests HCs suppress biological processes associated with women’s preferences for partner qualities reflective of genetic fitness, qualities that may be summarized by facial attractiveness. Given that realizing such interpersonal preferences positively predicts relationship satisfaction, any changes in women’s preferences associated with changes in their HC use may interact with partner facial attractiveness to predict women’s relationship satisfaction. We tested this possibility using two longitudinal studies of 118 newlywed couples. Trained observers objectively rated husbands’ facial attractiveness in both studies. In study 1, wives reported their marital satisfaction every 6 mo for 4 y and then reported the history of their HC use for their relationship. In study 2, wives reported whether they were using HCs when they met their husbands and then their marital satisfaction and HC use every 4 mo for up to three waves. In both studies, and in an analysis that combined the data from both studies, wives who were using HCs when they formed their relationship with their husband were less satisfied with their marriage when they discontinued HCs if their husband had a relatively less attractive face, but more satisfied if their husband had a relatively more attractive face. Beginning HCs demonstrated no consistent associations with marital satisfaction. Incongruency between HC use at relationship formation and current HC use was negatively associated with sexual satisfaction, regardless of husbands’ facial attractiveness. These findings suggest that HC use may have unintended implications for women’s close relationships.


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