I Am Not Physically Attracted to My Boyfriend. Can We Possibly Have a Future Together?

Hi Evan, I am in a very tricky situation and don’t know what to do, I found your web site and your advice are great. I hope you will answer my question, I need your precious advice too. I met a man online a few months ago, and, to make a long story short, we met, we are a great match intellectually/emotionally. I am concerned sometimes he is too attached to me and the way he started to make long term plans with me quite soon, but this isn’t a real problem.

The real problem is that I don’t find him attractive. He is not ugly but I don’t like his features and overall appearance. Physically, I find he is not a “match” for me and I am not proud of being so shallow. I don’t know what to do because other than that he is just perfect and I like him very much, he makes me feel very good. But I am not sure if I should be making plans with a man I don’t feel much attraction for. I decided to tell him the truth about my feelings and he said he will take all the steps necessary to improve himself physically as he doesn’t want to lose me. I am torn. Is he really the man of my life if physically I don’t like him the way he is?

Thanks you so much for your help. Mia

Making a life-long decision based on attraction is like getting a tattoo with someone’s name on your back and breaking up four months later

Mia, I can’t answer your question, because NOBODY can answer your question. Attraction is the big X Factor in any relationship. When you have it, you don’t think twice about it. When you don’t have it, it’s hard to overcome. Which would seem to indicate that you should break up with your boyfriend. Not so fast. I’ve put a lot of thought into the pros and cons of how much you should weigh the lack of physical attraction in a relationship. I urge you to consider this before taking any rash steps.

Reasons for Staying Together Despite a Lack of Physical Attraction

Ask most long-term married couples about the relative importance of sex in their lives, they will generally say things like “It’s the dessert, not the main course”. And it’s true. It’s just hard to consider that when you’re 27. But realize that in 10 years, you’re 37, raising little ones and your life is no longer your own. By 47, your bodies have thickened and drooped. By 57, you’re probably finishing menopause and his libido is largely gone. By 67, you’re thinking of retirement, travel and grandkids. By 77, you’re hoping just to stay healthy, and … Can you see how making a decision based on attraction is a perfect example of short-term thinking? Like getting a tattoo with someone’s name on your back and breaking up four months later. The truth is that life lasts for a REALLY, REALLY long time.

And yet we base our relationship decisions on evanescent emotions like lust, passion, and chemistry. Fact: In relationship studies, traditional “attraction” wears off within 18-24 months of dating. This probably corresponds to what you’ve experienced in real life – namely, that it’s hard to get “excited” about someone with whom you’ve been intimate for two years straight. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but if you ask most married couples, the nature of sex changes. Sure, you might be that rare “three times a night” couple well into your fifties, but most of those clichés about parents not having time or energy for sex are true.

We’re attracted to what we’re attracted to – often to our own detriment.

So if life becomes more about responsibility, friendship, compatibility and all those other “boring” things that old married couples cite, how much emphasis should we put on physical attraction in our 20’s/30’s? It is no secret that compatibility is a stronger predictor of relationship health than chemistry. Yet chemistry is what we chase – somehow hoping that it turns into compatibility as well. It rarely does. Look at your most “passionate” relationships. Where are they now? Exactly. Yet we can’t help ourselves. We’re attracted to what we’re attracted to – often to our own detriment. Which is how men end up with hot crazy women and women end up with hot emotionally unavailable men.

This isn’t my opinion. This is life. Just look around. Does this mean that you should stay with your amazing boyfriend even if you don’t feel attracted? Ah, if it were only that simple…

Reasons to Break Up Because of a Lack of Physical Attraction

As you know, sexual attraction rarely grows over time. With men, this almost never happens. With women, it tends to be correlated to her feelings about her partner. However, this is presuming a steady baseline of attraction from which to grow. If there is NO attraction to start, there’s not even any room to go down. That’s a rough proposition for you to endure with a boyfriend. Thus, it’s impossible to convince you to give a shot to someone you’re purely NOT attracted to. No rational thinking is going to overcome your genetic and cultural biases.

So we discriminate on age and height and weight and dozens of minute details of which we may not even be aware. Then there’s the Paradox of Choice. We dissect others physically, although none of us wants to be dissected physically as well. I can explain this phenomenon – as author Barry Schwartz did for a few hundred pages in his amazing book, but, at the end of the day, we can’t help ourselves. As noted dating guru David DeAngelo says, “Attraction is not a choice”. We’re still going to crave choice and variety, and something approximating societal ideas of perfection, however unrealistic this might be.

In a good relationship, sex is the dessert, not the main course

If you doubt this yourself, go to an online dating site and make a list of your “favorites”. Odds are, they’re going to be among the most physically attractive singles on the site. That doesn’t mean that you don’t care about who they are as people – what they do, what they earn, what they believe – but it all starts with attraction. The problem is that when we compare people side by side, great catches often lose out. Why respond to the 5’5″ guy when there are six-footers out there? Why go out with the heavyset person when you can write to a lean model-type? Why go out with the 45-year-old when you can try the 29-year-old? Once again, this isn’t my opinion. 20/20 did a study years ago in which women were more likely to date a cute 6’1″ plumber than a 5’4″ heart surgeon/concert pianist. But hey, you can’t help what you’re attracted to.

That doesn’t mean you’re shallow – no more than anyone else. It just means you’re human. The other long-term thing to consider about why it’s important to have attraction is that in a monogamous relationship, there’s only ONE person with whom you’ll be having sex for the rest of your life. In that case, well, you’d BETTER have some measure of attraction. Anything less is a recipe for wandering eyes and future infidelity.

Which brings us to the moment of truth. You know that sex is the dessert and not the main course…but you know that this is the only person you’ll ever be with again. You know that companionship is more valuable than lust over 40 years…but you know that attraction is important and won’t get better over time. So should you stay or should you go if you’re not that physically attracted to your partner? It all comes down to your own internal compromise mechanism. Because there’s a difference between observing that your boyfriend’s got a paunch and being physically repulsed by him. Only you can decide. If you’re turned OFF by him, the whole thing’s a non-starter.

You’re not doing yourself (or him) any favors by staying with him if he has no ability to excite you. However, if he’s somewhere in the broader spectrum – somewhere between a 5-7 on the attraction scale, you may want to think twice before you toss him back in the sea. First, ask yourself if he – or another man – could dissect YOU physically as well. How about emotionally? Intellectually? It’s simple to find fault with others, but there’s a certain grace and wisdom in loving people in spite of their flaws, just as you’d like to be loved in spite of yours.

We often underestimate how rare it is to find someone who loves us unconditionally

Second, ask yourself if your boyfriend – despite your middling attraction for him – can make up for it in bed. If he’s energetic, passionate, and devoted to your pleasure, he may be more valuable to your love life than someone who is more aesthetically pleasing with the lights on. Finally, ask yourself if you can do appreciably better. We often underestimate how rare it is to have a partner who loves us unconditionally.

Very often, the second you assume the grass is greener is the second you may find yourself in an exciting new romance…with a guy who only texts you once a week. Attraction is an intensely personal choice and is fundamental to maintaining a healthy sex life. But don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re better off with a 7 in attraction and a 10 in compatibility, than you are with a 10 in attraction and a 4 in compatibility.

Warmest wishes,

Much love,

Evan

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Comments:

  1. 211
    Jessica

    I’m going through the same thing. I am married to the nicest guy ever. But the only thing I loved about him was the fact that he was nice. We have been married for 4 years and known each other for 7 years but I’m not in love anymore, I’m doubting if I ever been in love in the first place or I was just excited to have someone who deeply cares about me. The thought of having sex makes me sick

    1. 211.1
      hunter

      Jessica,…

      a therapist can help with your situation

       

  2. 212
    Ashley

    This was really good advice! I am having a lot of trouble in this field currently.

    I met this guy and let me tell you, he is the most sweetest and caring man I have ever met. He is everything that I have looked for in a man. He calls me every day, he even drove 2 hours just to see me for only a half an hour and he drove back. He admitted to me that he has a history of drug abuse and he has been in rehab for over 4 years and since then, has not touched the booze or the drugs. He has been wanting to kiss me and I keep telling him no because I want to be safe. I told him if he eventually wanted to kiss me, then he needs to take a blood test and have me see the certificate from the doctors to make sure he is clean. I even told him that I would do the same thing. He says he respected that and he is going to do it. But of course to make a long story short, I am not really sexually attracted to him and it sucks. Like here is this perfect guy, as sweet as can be, hard worker with a great job but there is no spark there. And my dad would always say “There has to be some sort of sexual attraction to make a relationship work” and I’m starting to think that he is right. Where as my mom is always like “It does not matter about the looks, as long as he treats you right and makes you feel like a goddess”. I don’t know what to do. Plus I also think about the future a lot and I want to become a mother one day and I want to find the perfect mate. I hate to sound so childish but, I don’t want to have ugly kids. I also have always preferred this one race of people that I have been so attracted to and I have always wanted to marry one and have kids with him. And I feel as if I should wait for that but at the same time, I am not going to have it because of where I live (not that they are in a different country, is that they mainly are in hotter areas like Texas, Arizona etc.)

    I don’t know. Maybe time will tell.

    1. 212.1
      Lala

      What race of man do you desire that is mostly in arizona and texas? It made me giggle. I have lived in several states in the US and there are different races and ethnicities all over. Arizona and Texas have black, white, hispanic, asian, so on so I have no clue what state you live that that race doesn’t live. Lol. You sound young and/or sheltered. Focus on growing yourself right now…not on a man of a certain desired race.

  3. 213
    ONEBEN

    Really wise text. Thanks so much for your imput and potentially life changing advices 🙂

    My GF is great, and we have an amazing sex life…. I was just never into small round girl (she is build like that, not a lot of things she can change)…. But admitidly, I don’t want to make short terms decisions.  Thanks again !

  4. 214
    M Garrison

    Compatibility, me and my BF are borderline 11 on a scale of 1-10. Attraction to my BF is 0 or in the negative’s! Just turned 40 he loves me unconditionally always there for me and a wonderful person with whom I have so much in common with… but I find him physically revolting… we’ve been together 3 years and they have been wonderful and happy… I just have to have 3-4 glasses of wine before we go there once or twice a month… I’ve encouraged him to lose weight, stop smoking, see a ENT  for snoring, buy some new clothes, have some cosmetic work done for under eye bags… None of which he has done…

  5. 215
    Renee

    I feel really reassured knowing that I’m not the only person who is in this kind of situation. I’m with this guy and i’m honestly very turned off by him. He’s was always a nice person I just don’t find him attractive. My problem is that I’m terrified to end things with him. Im 16. He is extremely popular. he has a large friend group and they’re all the most well known guys in school who throw the biggest parties and hold the most influence, and he is a sensitive person and shares everything with his friends. I feel that if I end thinngs with him I’m going to become a villain in the eyes of the most popular and very large group in school no matter how nicely I end it, and I really donnt want that for my last 2 years of high school.

  6. 216
    cristy jones

    Please let him go if you think so, otherwise both of you will suffer whole life as I am .

  7. 217
    Often

    So so happy I’ve come across this page.  And reading all these different stories, makes me feel so much better that I’m not alone in this.

    I’ve had the same problem with my bf of almost 2 years. We go together so well. He treats me like a princess and he has the kindest heart ever, so pure. I am his first real gf, so being intimate is frustrating. He doesn’t really know what to do and even when I show him it doesn’t really work.. I’m just not that attracted to him? I’m not sure. I’ve also been very depressed and had some really damaging past relationships that I seem to think are catching up with me now.  Blocking me from any sexual feelings. I can see a future with him, he would be the perfect dad to my kids and we both want the same… I love being with him, he’s my best friend. But.. I have no idea if this will ever work if the sex doesn’t get better… A life without him, that thought is killing me. But I don’t want to be selfish. And he deserves better,…. my only hope is to really work on the sex part and maybe even therapy together…

    I’m so upset about it.

  8. 218
    Julie

    I am stuck in a completely different problem. My bf is very attractive, we are super compatible but every time we are about to have sex, I just can’t. Sex is so terrible, I often end up crying and hating my life… Outside of sex, we are great companions, we have a lot of fun, emotionally, intellectually we are made for each other, Im sure he would be the best father for my children…but our intimate life together is a disaster. It has always been, ever since the first kiss I have always been turned off by him, but I always hoped things will change, I will teach him, we will develop together. Over the 12 years together things went from bad to worse and Im stuck not knowing wether I can continue a relationship without sex. It is just too important to give it up in my early thirties…

    1. 218.1
      hunter

      Julie, you, and many other women, feel the same way….

  9. 219
    Bigred

    This helped me with my thinking! Thank you so much that was really some amazing advice! You are so right about all of it!

  10. 220
    Ka

    I dont know about other people but as for me, if a man and i connect very well in our relationship i think hes the most attractive man to me.

  11. 221
    Zoey

    I’ve been reading/scrolling through the comments for a whole after reading the article and I feel like I’m in a similar situation. My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost 3 years (we are just a month away). He is sweet, caring and loving and we work very well together. At the beginning of our relationship we were having sex like crazy! So I know I was initially attracted to him, but now? I’m not physically attracted to him and I have a hard time getting a lady boner from him. We maybe have sex once a month but it feels like a chore most times. I’ve gotten to a point where I really like a blind fold or a position where I’m not facing him. I’m not imagining another guy specifically but I’m not picturing him. I’ve taken steps to be open with him about this because I suspect my decline in being attracted to him is due to his actions, lack of ambition and maturity. It is clear that should our relationship continue down the road that I will wear the pants so to speak. We met in college and shortly afterwards he dropped out. He has no degree and now works part time at a restaurant. He’s talked about going back to school recently which I’m on board with, but I’m 25 and a few years into my professional life, and he’s a few years behind. Now that I am in a different stage in my life it has created distance with us. We live together at this point (which always makes things more difficult) and I’ve been thinking of breaking up on and off for a year or so now. I really care for him and as many other people have said he’s my best friend. But I find myself craving the touch of other men, I wake up from steamy dreams of other guys, and want to reach out to guys from my past. I have refrained from doing all those things because I’m not a cheater but I keep coming back to this admittedly somewhat religious thought – to think of being with or lusting after another man or woman is to have already committed adultery. (I know we aren’t married but same concept) If I am even having these thoughts regularly isn’t that a broader indication of how our relationship will inevitably fail? I am afraid to end up like his parents. His mom is similar to me, a strong personality and the pants wearer, and she has shared with me the resentment she has for her husband at times as she has had to dig them out of debt. I fear I will come to resent my boyfriend too. I put all this in a long post and I realize there is not much in there that makes it seem like J should stay with this man boy but I care for him and love him. I don’t know if I’m staying because it’s easier or because I actually should be staying with him. He knows his shortcomings and wants to change and accepts responsibility but either doesn’t take action or is snail like pace to take action. Ugh I feel so conflicted.

  12. 222
    HK

    Based on my personal expereince on having gone through similar like this i would like to say few things:

    1) Often at times we meet one or two partners who blew us away with attraction, but fail in compatibility or chemistry. But the subsequent partners may be “Attractive Enough”, but may not have the “Wow!! he blew me away feeling”, and we tend to think as “Oh, Why i did not feel attracted”, but on the contrary “They are Good enough for us” type of partners, which we may have to actually settle down for

    2) But If you are struggling to get attracted (meaning its an effort on daily/weekly basis), then better break up. Because mind should be “conflict free”, while “Really Living with the partner”. It should not be like “hes looking good this way and not that way. He looks good only in this angle and difficult to accept in the other angle etc,.”, then its a struggle within the mind which is diffcult to silence. And it may be very painful to other partner too once they figure out that we are finding difficult to get attracted, and they would definitely feel hurt.

    In summary:

    a) IF you feel “Oh no im not completely attracted” or “Im Trying to get attracted because hes a good person” etc,. then please liberate him and yourself. You cannot afford to have that life long mental conflict which disturbs the peace of mind

    b) IF you feel hes “good enough for you”, then make sure to shut that “X-factor demanding part of the brain” and tell it not to compare. Most likely this will naturally happen because the chemistry, compatiability, comfort will be so over-riding, that the “good enough” person will soon look like the most handsome person. This is the birth of True Love, where the inner-beauty is also accounted in the personality which you get attracted to.

    c) If you feel hes “good enough for you” but unable to shut down that “X-factor in the demanding brain” inspite of the compatibility, chemistry, then it is likely that we are “Not truly ready for marriage/relationship at this point of time” or “We are greedy for more”…

     

    Just my humble opinon. I will leave the Evan’s experience to comment on this

    1. 222.1
      hunter

      HK…at 50, we “choose” to be with someone……..

       

  13. 223
    Anaxx

    My boyfriend is 40 and I am 25. I met him in a very difficult situation where he had lost his job and has 2 kids. We started just making out and having fun until in less than a month he had already told me he loved me. I decided to try out being serious with him since I always wanted a real relationship, and after meeting fuck boys that just wanted to have sex, I really wanted to give myself a chance of being with him and only him. Even tho I decided this, I never felt as much as in love as he was. He treats me like a queen. Even tho hes going thru difficulties finding a job on his carreer. We have been together for just 9 months, but its been a roller coaster since he started being very clingy, and I felt so asfixiated that even physically I dont feel attracted, I dont find him sexy as I used to. He makes me feel beautiful and gives me all the love and details in the world. But I get bothered at everything and sometimes treat him bad. Sex hasnt happened in a long time and Im making him suffer because he noticed that Im really independant and dont even imagine myself married or living together with him (he has proposed both things) But I do care for him, and he has been the man who has treated me the best! .Physical attraction is not all. But sometimes other stuff like clingyness and 100% of emotional dependancy sucks out your energy. It makes you also overanalyze every detail and imperfection of your partner. Ive thought that maybe the fact that he doesnt have a good job by his age, that he doesnt take that much care of himself physically and that he has kids with 2 different mommas, makes me just want to be by my own and find something greater, with the fear that I realize in the future that the greatness was him…

    1. 223.1
      Marika

      Anaxx

      I don’t really understand what’s keeping you in this relationship, beyond maybe not wanting to hurt him. It’s clear you want different things. He wants to settle down and be a family; you wanted to ‘try’ being with a nice guy who treats you well, but who you’re not really into. Which is fair enough. You gave it a try, it didn’t work. You’re 25, you have a lot of time to figure out what you want and there will be a lot of guys in your future.

      I think the kindest thing for both of you, would be to end it. He deserves to find someone who loves and is attracted to him and wants marriage and to be a step mother. You want to live & be independent. Nothing to overanalyze.

  14. 224
    Rafael

    People are flat out lying to you, by telling you that you don’t have to be attracted to a man in order to be happy with him!

    The truth is, you ALWAYS have to be attracted to the man you’re with in order to be happy with him!  Because what’s the point of getting into a sexual relationship with a guy that you’re not even attracted to???  I mean how miserable is that???

    Also NEVER get into a sexual relationship with a guy that you’re not attracted to, just because your last relationship or marriage didn’t work out, and now that you have kids you are now just looking for a comfort zone for security purposes!  Don’t do that!

    Be true to yourself, and find a man that compliments you physically.  You’ll be a whole hell of a lot more happier, and more sexually satisfied than you are right now!

    Finally remember this one very important thing right here;  “your life is too short and precious to be wasting it on a guy that you’re not even attracted to!  You deserve way better!”

    Best,

    Rafael

    1. 224.1
      hunter

      RAFAEL, at 50, people choose to be with each other…

  15. 225
    Lisa

    As a woman yes my attraction has grown but by a few months if it’s not there it’s not coming and you are wasting his and your time don’t force it. I agree compatibility is more important but you can’t have a 1 on attraction.  And while at 57 looks will not be the same or matter that much if you are 27 that’s a long time to be with someone you are not attracted to.  This sounds like a recipie for disaster. Move on.

  16. 226
    Scott Cockrill

    This is the dilenema of bonding vs passion, of hugs or kisses.  Since our Western culture uses sex to sell, and is always pitching, are we conditioned to have Hollywood expectations?  It would be insightful to compare how other cultures respond.

    1. 226.1
      hunter

      scott cockrill, not to mention the age factor…

       

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