In the grand scheme of things, height compatibility might not seem like the most important thing in a relationship. However height is often a key feature in what we judge to make a person 'attractive', and men and women alike are often turned off by a large disparity in height. Because of this, men and women tend to have ideas about what is the ideal height and the ideal height difference between them and their perfect partner.
This is especially apparent in people who markedly above or below average height.
A recent study by evolutionary psychologist Gert Stulp from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has attempted to finally put a number on what the ideal height difference is men and women and what the 'perfect' height is for men and women. In classic fashion, it seems men and women certainly do not agree on what constitutes the perfect gap.
The woman's ideal
Women it seems like to be quite far away from their perfect man, as the 'ideal' gap for women turned out to be an astonishing 8 inches. This means the average 5ft 6" American woman would most perfectly suit a man who was 6ft 2". This aligns quite well with what women on average termed to be their ideal height, a cool 6ft 3". It seems the dream of a 'tall, dark and handsome man' is not just a stereotype: it is what women actually want. This is even more startling considering that 6ft 3" is a whole 6 inches taller than the average
The man's ideal
Men also put their ideal woman's height at taller than average, but at the less extreme 5ft 9". The key difference is that men prefer to be much closer to their female partner, and only desire a small 3 inch difference in height. Interestingly, men are also generally less bothered than women about reversing the typical gender height roles. The women surveyed on average were more likely than the men to be unhappy with the woman in the relationship being taller. On average however, men still wanted to be the taller partner in a relationship.
So what does it matter?
The research was commissioned primarily to investigate how men and women feel about height differences, especially when the traditional roles are reversed. While most researchers tend to explain our 'man-taller' preference through evolutionary imperatives, some anthropologists are forwarding a different idea. Height massively factors into what we describe as masculine and feminine, and therefore extremely tall girls and extremely short guys present a challenge to the way we traditionally categorise what is masculine and feminine. This is also represented statistically in the fact that over 90% of couples are in 'male-taller' relationships.
The information hopefully might help us reexamine just why we seem to find small men and tall women 'unattractive' in our culture, and perhaps even start working on changing how we perceive height. Heightism exists in all facets of society, as we innately react differently to people of different heights. However hopefully one day we will be able to recognise these reactions and base our opinions of people's worth instead of their size.