Desired Characteristics of Spouses and Best Friends: Do They Differ by Sex and/or Gender?


  • Mary Riege Laner,

    1. Is an assistant professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1994. A statistician and experimental social psychologist, she teaches statistics, research methods, and social psychology. Her current research interests include romantic love and sexual attraction, mate selection preferences, seduction strategies, and sexual harassment, and she approaches these areas from both a social psychological and an evolutionary perspective.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • J. Neil Russell

    1. Is a health statistician in the Division of Health Interview Statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His research interests are in the sociology of health and disability as well as courtship and marriage.
    Search for more papers by this author


In view of the salutary effects that having one's spouse as one's best friend are said to impart (G. R. Lee 1988; Schwartz 1994), we investigated the relationship between desired characteristics of a best friend and of a spouse. Consistent with earlier scholarship in this area, we found that desired characteristics overlap considerably for those two roles. We also found that men's and women's selection of characteristics are highly similar and that having a current same-sex or cross-sex best friend did not modify the characteristics chosen for either best friends or spouses. We discuss these findings in terms of the trend toward nontraditional gender role identities and expectations in close relationships.