Women who consider themselves very attractive want it all - devoted and good looking partners with pots of money and great parenting skills.
But move down the looks scale and they pare down expectations - settling for the best they can get, according to a new study that for the first time links women's attractiveness to their expectations of a mate.
Findings of the study, by Florida Atlantic University researchers, have been published in the latest issue of the journal Evolutionary Psychology.
Earlier studies have argued that while women looking for long-term partners seek a good provider for their children, those seeking short-term flings gravitate toward physical attractiveness that may be passed down to children.
The new study debunks this idea, saying that women ideally want partners who have all the characteristics they desire, but they will calibrate their expectations based on their own desirability.
"When reviewing the qualities they desire in romantic partners, women gauge what they can get based on what they got," lead author David Buss said.
"And women who are considered physically attractive maintain high standards for prospective partners across a variety of characteristics."
The researchers identified four categories of characteristics women seek in a partner: good genes, reflected in desirable physical traits; resources (financial); the desire to have children and good parenting skills; and loyalty and devotion.
Most women attempt to secure the best combination of the qualities they desire from the same man, but the researchers said a small portion of women who do not find a partner with all the qualities may trade some characteristics for others.
Although women's selectivity across categories reflected how attractive they appeared to other people, the researchers found the characteristics men desired in a partner did not vary based on their own physical attractiveness.