How Do You Know He Loves More Than Your Looks?

young adults having a restaurant date, blindfolded

Hi Evan,

I’m a very successful, 37-year-old black/mixed race female who had over $40,000 worth of plastic surgery 4 years ago. I won’t lie: I did it to hopefully land a “top quality” guy. Here’s the problem: It actually worked. The surgeon was very skilled and I ended up a much prettier and younger version of myself.

Pre-surgery, very successful men have always found me attractive enough to date. But it was my “personality,” I was often told, that they were attracted to. But wedding rings eluded me, and these men soon broke my heart and went on to marry hotter girls. And the black men I wanted ended up marrying white women. (Yes, yes, all the clichés.) Now, with my new looks, these same types of alpha males behave quite differently: they call regularly, talk about a future together, and yes, some have even proposed.

To give men some credit, I have to say that I’m also more fun to date. Because when a guy always treats you well, it’s easier to be confident, sweet and lighthearted. Here’s my dilemma: I am currently with a “great catch”: early 40’s, tall, black, very successful, treats me well. He wants to marry me and have a family. He tells me that he was initially attracted to my looks, but it was my personality that won him over. Thanks to me, he is now all about family values and want to raise a strong black family. (Prior to me, he had mostly dated blonde women.)

But I can’t seem to say yes. I can’t shake the feeling that should my looks fade, he might change his mind, and I will end up divorced in 7 years, with young children. What I really want now is “that nice guy who would have loved me with my flaws and all” — the kind of men you encourage strong women to give a chance to. Even though my boyfriend tells me he loves me, even he admits that had he met my former self, he might not have given me a chance in the beginning, but now it doesn’t matter because he sees me for who I am. What to do? Dump him and start looking for that “nice” guy who might not show up in time for me to have children? Stay with this guy and live with my fears? Help!


Dear Martine,

Not only have I already written a treatise on how difficult it is for attractive women to trust men, I’ve had at least 3 girlfriends who lost over 40lbs before dating me. I can pretty much guarantee you that I would not have given them a second look at their former weight.

This doesn’t mean that I’m shallow — at least no shallower than anyone else in the world.

It means that I have preferences, same as you reading this. And as much as I preach being open to all sorts of possibilities, the fact remains that all of us are as valuable as our options.

All of us are as valuable as our options. If you have 500 men in your Inbox on, you be afford to be choosy…

If I prefer women who look like Barbie, but am not particularly tall, rich, charming or charismatic, I’m probably not going to get many Barbies. I can theoretically hold out for the Barbie of my dreams…or I can consider dating a curvier woman who has everything else that I’m looking for in a partner. Same thing goes for women. If you’ve got 500 men in your Inbox, you can afford to be as choosy as you like. If you determine that none of them are suitable because you want a six-foot-tall man with dark skin who loves dogs and Glenn Beck, then, well, you may be waiting for a while.

What you’ve done through your plastic surgery, Martine, is made yourself more “valuable” and desirable to the opposite sex, thereby increasing your number of options.

This is nothing to apologize for, as it’s had its intended effect. And if you’re doubting whether your boyfriend is being “real” with you, I don’t even think that it’s the right question. The issue here isn’t about your boyfriend: it’s about you and your own self-esteem. The fact that you’re not positive you “deserve” this guy is just beneath the surface. You’re looking for an excuse to run instead of delighting in your successful relationship.

This reminds me of a girlfriend of mine who never quite believed that I could be attracted to her — not while I was attracted to the women in Maxim and Internet porn. I couldn’t have been crazier about her, yet she broke up with me three times because she just didn’t feel safe. She had a fat girl complex — from how she treated me as a constant threat to cheat, to how she fumed that men were gawking at her new body in the gym, as if it’s their fault that she was once 40lbs heavier.

I’m no therapist, but, in layman’s terms: you eventually have to get over it.

Do you think ugly rock stars spend much time worrying about WHY women like them?

Do you think rich men squiring golddiggers around are losing sleep at night?

The truth is that we are the sum of many parts. Some of them are what draw people in… some of them are what keep people sticking around forever.

Do you think ugly rock stars spend much time worrying about WHY women like them?

Attractiveness is a sales tool — nothing more. You’ve probably heard the expression, “See that hot woman over there? Some guy is getting sick of screwing her right now.” It acknowledges a basic truth — looks can only get you so far. Personality, emotional stability, playfulness, generosity — those are the things that keep men hooked on you. This is a central tenet of “Why He Disappeared”. Yes, he has to be attracted to you, but long-term relationships are forged in something much deeper.

Every man knows that there will always be someone younger, hotter, and thinner than his wife… He makes a choice to forgo those women because of what he stands to lose.

Your concern is a real one, Martine. Rich men with nothing going for them WILL lose their golddigger wives when they lose their money. Hot chicks with nothing going for them WILL lose their shallow husbands when their looks fade.

But that’s not you. And it’s not your boyfriend.

He only knows you as you are now — smart, strong, successful, and, after $40,000 in plastic surgery, a lot more physically attractive. Take heart in the fact that you were able to afford the kind of changes necessary to increase your dating pool, and don’t spend anymore time second-guessing how you got there.

Your very reasonable insecurities only stand to mess up the good thing you’ve already got going. Please report back and let us know how it goes.

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  1. 41

    40k buys ALOT of plastic surgery, especially on a 33 year old. Enough to re-do the entire body, although I can’t imagine a 33 year old needing a face lift, but who knows?   
    I’m thinking of Barbra Streisand, who  hasn’t done too badly in both her career and personal life…Would she be “forced” to get a nose-job today?  

  2. 42


    Good point.

  3. 43

    I wonder if the OP is missing the point entirely by focusing only on looks.   This is the giveaway line: “I can’t shake the feeling that should my looks fade, he might change his mind, and I will end up divorced in 7 years, with young children.”
    What is making her feel this way?   It might not have anything to do with her looks.   Is her man giving off some OTHER vibe that would make her think that he’d leave her if they had difficult times?   For example, have they had fights that they weren’t able to resolve in a satisfactory way?   Because there WILL be difficult times in marriage, make no mistake about it.   If two people cannot resolve these difficulties in marriage, it doesn’t matter how beautiful one or the other party is.
    So she needs to be honest with herself and ask why she is feeling this way.   Is it because of her own insecurities, or is it because of signals her man has been sending her?   If it’s the former, I agree with other commenters that she should shed the fear and simply work on loving and appreciating her man.   If it’s the latter, then she should hold off on marrying him and date him a little longer to be sure he’s the one.

  4. 44

    RE: Zaq‘s #37
    Improve your attractiveness to the opposite sex by whatever means, so that the ones you find attractive will accept you
    Is this really a hundred times more palatable to you?   So if it meant a lifetime of not eating carbs, desserts, or alcohol to keep a trim figure?   Or working out for 3 hours a day at the gym instead of relaxing and spending time with your loved ones?   Forgo vacations, new clothes, and Lord knows what else so you can pay for the “maintenace” of your plastic surgeries?   Perhaps if your attractiveness is due to your income you would prefer to go back to school to study a subject you hate and then enter a career that you don’t really care for where you spend 70+ hours a week, just so you have a better income?
    Though people might be willing to sacrifice temporarily for something desirable, it’s hard to do it for a lifetime.   Particularly when you open yourself up to new types of people and find a wonderful mate that you love and makes you feel marvelous…just as you are.
    RE: Sayanta‘s #38
    Yeah, the delay in the approval of our responses meant that I didn’t see your reply to Karl when I posted mine.   But yeah, it does seem as though I know some of you!   I actually thought of you when I was talking to a NY lawyer friend.   A doctor friend of Indian descent has had difficulties finding a spouse, though she was limiting herself to Indian guys.   Perhaps you could send her some of yours!
    RE: Chris‘ #39
    Do you know if the study was done in the U.S.?   I wonder if it’s different in other parts of the world.   For instance, when I’ve traveled through Latin America I’ve always found everyone to be extraordinarily helpful.   They’d carry my luggage, stop at a real restroom instead of the “banos naturales,” come to a full stop for me to get on/off a bus (instead of just slowing down and expecting me to hop off), etc.   These things had little to do with my appearance, apart from the fact that I’m female.   If I was a man I don’t think I would have been so lucky, even if I was on the cover of People’s Sexiest Man Alive.
    Stacy (#40) & C (#41): Good points!

  5. 45

    The main problem and the dynamic of life. What you could of been happy with is going to be change when you lose 50lbs/plastic surgery/etc because your expectations change. What you could of been very happy with when your 20lbs overweight would make it look like your settling when your 10lbs underweight (skinny). Human nature – peoples expectations change compare to the  attention  they get. Majority of the time you will be where you started….

  6. 46

    I am a girl who is fascinated by make up and I have a few “make over” books because they are fun to read.   One that I have was written by make-up artist Scott Barnes, and he features Dr. Katherine Albrecht, a Harvard grad with a PhD in Education.   She discussed attending a lecture once where she literally forgot to pack her make-up, and the young man responsible for getting her where she needed to be on time was not impolite to her, but he was clearly disappointed at how she looked.   She said over the lunch hour, she went and purchased $100 worth of make-up and applied it as Scott had taught her and the difference in the way she was subsequently treated was like night and day.  

    Whether we like it or not, there is power in beauty.   And remember that what is expressed here is only opinion.   I think $40K on plastic surgery is a bit excessive just to get a date.   But that doesn’t make Martine wrong for doing so if she had the resources and it’s what she in her heart of heart truly wanted.   My perspective is not fact but merely an opinion.   No one who posts on this board needs to feel like they must immediately start making a list of flaws that the plastic surgeon needs to fix so they can find a worthy partner.   But if that’s ultimately what you end up doing, it’s a free country.   We all weight the costs vs. the benefits of what we want and are we willing the pay the price to have it.

  7. 47

    Starthrower: yes, it’s her prerogative to spend that money on  a body renovation.   However, it sounds like she’s having some buyer’s remorse even though she’s gotten the results she was looking for.

  8. 48

    There’s an expression that is something like “If you go fishing with diamonds, you’ll attract women who like diamonds.” If you get a bunch of “work” done and go fishing with your looks, you’ll attract men who value beauty. It is what it is.  I have no problem doing whatever is in a person’s means to improve themselves as long as they aren’t hurting people or stealing money to do it.   Right or wrong, attractiveness is a social currency in our culture.

    It annoys me a bit when people applaud weight loss and tell a person how great they look, but if you have something asethetically off with your face, you are supposed to just accept it and be fine with it, even thought those same people who judge plastic surgery probably wouldn’t date anyone with those flaws or want to live with those flaws either.  

    I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to do anything that they do not feel comfortable doing. Only that it is empowering to be able to change something  IF it  bothers you. Self-consciousness, shyness, and feeling bad about something tend not to attract a whole lot…in a lot of cases if you feel good, you do act more confident and outgoing which is attractive – as well as putting more time and energy into your hair, makeup, body, outfits, so you still  come off looking more like  “that  girl” even if your features are not perfectly symmetrical or perfect.   The thing is plastic surgery does not always turn out perfectly or always look totally natural, so I don’t think it is anything to do on a whim or without a lot of research.  

  9. 49

    @Joe #49,

    I don’t disagree with you.   I said in an earlier comment that having the new “thing” (whatever it may be) is not always better than what one had before; sometimes it just creates a whole different set of issues.

  10. 50

    But I can’t seem to say yes. I can’t shake the feeling that should my looks fade, he might change his mind, and I will end up divorced in 7 years,
    Plastic surgery isn’t the issue, all women have that worry.
    I have an acquaintance who was model-hot, naturally, when she was younger.   She also had a lot else going for her.   Married an attractive Ken doll type.     He divorced her when she gained a ton of weight.     No plastic surgery was in the equation.   Happens every day, to all types of people.   It isn’t about the surgery.

  11. 51

    @Goldie   #19
    On the flip side, that shows that her BF is *honest*, can be trusted to tell the truth.
    Having a case of “fat kid syndrome” myself,   I’m not sure I would want to hear something like that or that I would tell someone else something like that.

  12. 52

    Selena 29

    Have you noticed how “He loves me and I love him” doesn’t make it high on the criteria lists of those who have them, if at all?

    So many of the posts the last few weeks have made me feel jaded toward my own gender. And glad I’m not a man faced with the prospect of dating some of these women.

    Actually, I was gratified to read the female comment authors questioning those list holders.     Boosted my faith in contemporary American women.

  13. 53

    jen says: “It annoys me a bit when people applaud weight loss and tell a person how great they look, but if you have something asethetically off with your face, you are supposed to just accept it and be fine with it, even thought those same people who judge plastic surgery probably wouldn’t date anyone with those flaws or want to live with those flaws either.”
    Well, sure, I understand if someone is deformed or has something hideously grotesque on their face, by all means, I applaud the doctors that are able to fix it! But I worry that too many people are seeking “sameness”, and we are going to see a lot more cookie cutter versions of beauty. I work with a lot of asians who get eyelid surgery to look more anglo, and I’ve know Jewish girls that got nose jobs, and Indians who get their skin lightened. i just think its disappointing that we are basically white-washing nature beauty.
    I myself have a roman nose and when I was young I hated it, but now I think its lovely. I would deeply regret it if I changed it.
    Karl says “Martine may have directly asked her boyfriend that question. I’ve had people (including girlfriends) ask me questions where they don’t want to hear the truth … and I try to avoid lying, especially to friends.”
    I agree, she may have asked. I myself tend to do this with lovers regarding my breasts. Never have any said they have a problem with them being small. They could be lying, but this is one case where i feel like men should lie! They always get better sex when they do 🙂

  14. 54

    @C. #55

    I think sometimes we need to consider if we really want to know the answer to a question before asking it. 🙂

    But this guy probably could have answered more tactfully.  He could have understood she had some insecurity with showing him her “before” pictures and assured her he loved her for her regardless of what she looked like.   Brutal honesty is sometimes just brutal. And unnecessary.

  15. 55

    Steve #53,
    have you seen The Invention of Lying?
    Telling the truth is not always a good thing. 🙂

  16. 56

    JuJu – I saw that movie the other day, funny! And it did make me appreciate the cultural “niceties” we live by instead of unthinkingly blurting out “the truth” at all times.

  17. 57

    C (#13)  wrote:
    I wonder if the op gave older, maybe overweight white guys a chance. or maybe thats not top quality enough for her?
    I think the answer to this question may in fact be no, and frankly, we can’t blame the op for that.   Why should she or anyone else date someone that they aren’t attracted to?   Should she settle for someone who is unattractive in order to get a white guy?   Are white guys of “better quality” than “slick rich black guys.”   As a 39 year old black woman, who is frequently asked whether I’m much younger, I have no interest in dating overweight or significantly older men regardless of race.
    As for the op, sadly it’s too late to find the nice guy who likes her for her.   Just like the movie star wonders whether every woman is only interested in him because of his fame and fortune, Martine will never again know whether a guy initially likes her for who she is or what she looks like.   Presumably, they will all be interested (at least initially) in her looks, no matter how nice.   So, like many posters have mentioned, if she loves him she should stick with him and be happy that she got exactly what she wanted (and paid for).

  18. 58

    Maybe the op is suffering from a guilty conscience. She knows she herself would not have fallen for the man had he been less successful. And she’s transferring her objectifying-commodifying view of her mate to him as well, i.e. he only sees her as a beauty object no more or no less.
    If the situation were to be reversed, say he loses his employment / successful postion, would she still love him and be happily married to him?

  19. 59

    I agree with Zaq about taking steps to improve your desireability, although I wouldn’t put the premium at “100 times better.”  

    Aside from working on my clothing and body, I found  that if  the people you like tend to have some interest, it can really pay off to adopt that interest yourself if you want those people to like you.   When I was single I thought it really  worth it  for me to be able to talk about the shows my dates  watched, the countries they wanted to visit, and the bands they listened to.   To give a specific, yeah, I started watching Lost because the girls I   liked tended to be into Lost, but watching Lost didn’t do me an iota of harm, and it made me a much more successful dater.  

    I drew a line at changing my beliefs.   I even draw a line at watching something I thought was boring (I can’t get into Mad Men, for some reason, I don’t like spectator sports). but for me getting with the non-girly things that my dates were into was a great move.  

    @ Jen

    The 20/20 segment was filmed in an American office environment.   Unfortunately I have never been able to find the piece online or I would link to it. Many studies have confirmed lookism in the environment (height is easiest to quantify: a study I have seen multiple times is that on average, for every inch taller a man is, his income goes up by $800 a year), but that  anecdotal segment on 20/20 made it more vivid than anything else I have seen.  

    I agree with tyou that different cultures have different mores of helpfulness and people in South America may have been kinder to you than people elsewhere, but still, attractiveness pays off socially and in the workplace, just like it pays off in finding a “quality” person.

  20. 60
    Karl R

    JuJu  said: (#57)
    “Telling the truth is not always a good thing.”

    Why do you think  lying would be  better?

    Let’s say you ask a question (“Do I look fat to you?” or C’s example in #55) where there is a “right” and “wrong” answer. There’s also a true answer which could be either of those. There are three possible outcomes:

    1) He says “No” (the truth), and you feel happy, until you realize that he might have said it because it’s the “right” answer instead of the true answer. Then you feel  insecure again.
    2) He says “Yes”, and you’re upset.
    3) He says “No” (a lie) and you have just reinforced the habit that the “right” thing to do is lie to you.

    When you ask the question, you set up three possible outcomes, and all of them are bad. If every answer leads to a bad outcome, then the only solution is to stop asking that kind of question.

    I’m sure someone will try to say there’s an exception for lies that are intended to protect someone’s feelings and avoid fights. A person could make the same rationalization for the following lie: “I did not have sex with your best friend.”

    Nobody benefits from being lied to. I value tactful honesty over brutal honesty … but the key is honesty.

    C, (#55)
    Since men can get a good idea about your breast size before they ask you out, the men who are with you don’t have any problem with their size.

    Selena said: (#58)
    “[The Invention of Lying]  did make me appreciate the cultural ‘niceties’ we live by instead of unthinkingly blurting out ‘the truth’ at all times.”

    I can observe all of the cultural niceties without lying. If I say, “I’m happy to see you again,” it means I’m happy to see that person again. If I’m not happy to see that person, I can say, “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you,” or “How have you been?”

    And you’re completely overlooking the power of silence. If I keep my thoughts to myself, I don’t have to lie.

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