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Why Is Height Still Such a Big Deal In Relationships? Would You Date a Shorter Man?

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At 5’10”, Nicole Kidman is about 2.5 inches taller than husband Keith Urban. (Photo: Zimbio)

Even in a city as diverse as New York, spotting a couple where the man is shorter than the woman is rare enough that I can’t help but notice them. Now I know why such pairings seem like the unicorn of relationships. According to a recent The Atlantic article, most heterosexual couples seek out partner arrangements that reinforce conventional height differences between men and women.

As the sociologist Philip Cohen found from analyzing survey data, only 3.8 percent of marriages in the U.S. involve a wife who is taller than her husband. While it’s true that women, on average, are shorter than men, Cohen went on to create a randomized distribution and found that if peopled paired up by chance—and not preference—7.8 percent of couples would have a taller wife. This means that a disproportionate number of married couples self-select so that the man is roughly six inches taller than the woman—and, it’s worth noting, that husbands who exceed their wife’s height by nine inches or more are also uncommon. 

Bloggers have seized upon Cohen’s findings as an opportunity to discuss, some of modern day society’s, err, shortcomings (bad pun, I know). As Jezebel writes, “Why does having a dude be six inches taller feel so romantically right?…Are men more hung up on it, or women? Either way, it’s because we’re still hung up on old notions of femininity and masculinity, and what they mean. In other words, men are bigger and stronger, and women are smaller and more petite, and we’d prefer our romantic relationships reflect that.” 

A quick look at my own relationship history confirms the prevailing tradition. Then again, I stand a proud five-feet-one-and-three-quarters when I’m not slouching, so a guy doesn’t have to reach Tom Brady proportions to be taller than me. The real question is: would I date a shorter man (assuming he was cute, smart, a fabulous cook, and could quote Shakespearean sonnets from memory)? Though I’d love to say yes, part of me thinks I would hesitate, if only for a second.

What do you think? Do you consider height when you’re sizing up a potential mate?

—Mai

If you’re looking for a temporary height boost, check out our guide on how to walk comfortably in high heels

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