A new study says that concentrating on your partners' physical attractiveness may make you less happy in relationships.
The study also found that magazines and movies that portray people as sex objects can cause you to see your partner in that light, though not yourself, reports Live Science.
Self-objectification - when a person is obsessively concerned about how he or she looks - has been shown to affect women's self-image, school performance and life happiness. But this quality hasn't been studied much in the context of romantic relationships.
Partner-objectification, where that focus is placed on a partner's physical qualities over everything else, hasn't been studied at all in this context.
"If you have these kinds of thoughts and beliefs about your partner, it might be a block that stops you from having that intimacy, which is important in relationships," said study researcher Eileen Zurbriggen of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
For her study, Zurbriggen polled 159 sophomores at her university. The students were asked to fill out a survey on their romantic relationships (current or previous), their media consumption and their feelings of objectification.
Objectification was measured by how strongly the students agreed or disagreed with statements such as: "I rarely think about how I/my partner looks"; "I rarely compare how I/my partner looks with how others look"; and "I often worry about whether the clothes I'm/my partner is wearing make me/them look good."
The men showed higher levels of partner-objectification than the women, but both reported similar levels of self-objectification, in contrast to previous studies.
Women are traditionally believed to be more self-objectifying.
Based on the participants' responses, Zurbriggen found that the greater their consumption of objectifying media of all kinds, the more likely they were to focus on their partner's looks.
Zurbriggen found that partner-objectification lowered relationship satisfaction, as well as men's sexual satisfaction.
This could be because concentrating on your partner's attractiveness tends to make you less concerned with your partner as a whole, leading to a less satisfying relationship and decreased intimacy, she said.