BERLIN — The conventional wisdom goes that beautiful women have a difficult time finding mates because, among other reasons, there aren’t enough good-looking men to go around. And yet, it turns out that looks are not nearly as important in the game of love as is generally assumed.

Fairy tales and myths tell us that beauty is the trump card in finding love, that a beautiful princess has untold numbers of admirers. And if women’s magazines are to be believed, women need amazing perfume, regular workouts, great body lotion, the occasional whole-body peel, well-shaved private parts, an impeccable manicure, perfect make-up, and of course a fashionable hairstyle.

But the longer I work as a consultant to singles, the clearer it becomes to me that the importance of looks in the search for a partner has been dramatically overstated. Despite cosmetic industry hype, the fact is that all the efforts made to look more beautiful are pretty much a waste of time. And yet I also see what huge pressure women feel to measure up.

About 90% of women question whether they are beautiful, and many have internalized an image of themselves as a sort of ugly duckling. This is true of all ages and education levels, and of women with both average looks and who are by any objective measure beautiful.

But just how much do looks really play in the search for love?

People generally choose partners who are roughly their aesthetic equals, and plenty of studies confirm this. Because most people have average looks, it is easier for them to find partners than it is for good-looking or extremely good-looking people, for whom the pool is smaller. 

The very beautiful woman rarely meets her male equivalent because there are very few of them. And othe admirers she attracts are often the wrong type. Many of these men are not interested in her mind (“she’s so smart!”) or who she is (“are we suited to each other?”) but rather are attracted to her because of her looks (“wow, she’s seriously gorgeous!”).

Because so many women have internalized the myth of the beautiful admired woman, they often don’t understand their failure in love. I speak from experience with a client who looked like a top model but was all alone. She told me how seldom men were interested in her.

That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve spoken to many men about this, and the result is pretty unanimous: They generally can’t see themselves with a woman who has it way over them in the looks department. Men want to feel on an equal footing, so beautiful women are often written off.

What would I advise the exceptionally beautiful woman to do when looking for a partner? For one thing, to be very active in her search, particularly on the Internet. For another: The more attractive she is, the more she should expand her search radius. It’s not enough to look where you live. One attractive German TV talk show host expanded her search to Paris — a successful idea, as it turned out.

The whole aura

Looking for a partner is not a beauty contest. Some “lookers” are boring and colorless when you meet them. Others are the embodiment, the picture, of joie de vivre. When it comes to a connection between one person and another it’s the whole aura of the other that counts.

Facial expressions, gestures, voice, posture, what people say and — often far more important — how they say it are all part of this overall essence. A person’s attractiveness are dictated by all these elements, of which looks are only one of many criteria.

The aura somebody projects is directly related to how satisfied they are with their life. So far more important than a stunning dress or hairdo is, for example, whether a woman is really happy with her life. If she enjoys her work. If she has good friends. If she projects confidence and a fundamental satisfaction with her lot.

Being satisfied with one’s life, inner peace, serenity — these are what really matter when looking for a partner.