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

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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. 241
    Raina

    I’m so glad I came across this article! I have recently started dating this guy who I haven’t been 100% sure about when it comes to his looks. I would say he’s probably a 6 on the attraction scale, he isn’t what I would usually date at all, but he’s so sweet, kind, caring, considerate, and is crazy about me and I really like him. I know he would give me the world. After reading this article I decided I’ll stay with him. I know looks aren’t everything and that friendship, compatibility, morals, values, loyalty, dependability, and how a man treats me is more important.

  2. 242
    rachel

    Its not worth it if you’re not physically attracted to him. He’ll probably cheat on you as he’ll sense that you’ve settled for him.

  3. 243
    Elizabeth

    Thank you all for your comments. I’m a woman in my 60s who, after a lifetime of waiting, has met not one but two men who are kind, caring, affectionate, intelligent, and loving. And I’m not sexually attracted to either one of them at all. I think it’s important to realize that Evan’s original post compared an overwhelming sexual attraction to one that’s maybe on the scale of 5 or 6 out of 10–still there and something you can build on. That’s a vast difference from “not attracted at all,” which is where I am. I’ve had a few (one in particular) amazing sexual connections without the emotional support I want and value in my current relationships. But the bottom line is that I can’t, no matter how much I try, imagine being married to a man I have no sexual interest in. I know that for young couples, initial sexual attraction may mellow with time, but please, if you’re young, don’t assume that when you are in your 50s or 60s you won’t be interested in sex. I’ve been very honest about my feelings with these men, but I’m pretty sure one of them thinks I’ll change my mind eventually, and I can’t imagine that happening if it hasn’t yet. I’ve been alone most of my life and I’ll keep being alone, no matter how much I’d like to be loved and married, rather than offer someone less than what they want from me or accepting less than what I want in a relationship.

  4. 244
    SD

    It’s selfish to hold on to him. There is someone out there who will think he is hot and desirable, just the way he is. To hold on to him just for the way he treats you and makes you feel isn’t fair to him. He will constant try to make you happy, you will keep judging if it is finally enough and he will aways come up short. Eventually, he will grow to resent you.

  5. 245
    Isabel

    This guy is a keeper. I think that if you let him go with the hopes of finding someone who you find more physiclly attractive, you will regret it. This is especially the case because this lovely person is humble and strong enough to want to work on himself in order to hold on to you.

    On the other hand if you cannot value him as he is, and wind up hurting him and make him feelndevalued, you should let him go, so that he can be with someone who will value and respect him as he is.
    All that said, I think there is a lesson for you here and only you can figure that out.

  6. 246
    Andie

    Woow this article has helped me a lot. I never thought about relationships in terms of compatibility on one side and attractiveness in the 9ther. I placed all of that in one big bag. I have met this fufe and I think we are like an 8 on compatibility and a 6 on attraction and here I thought that it wouldn’t be wnough. But I think it might be. He haa been making me feel safe and secure. And I feel like he is different from other relationships I have had. In the paat I have liked the guys right away. Like instant attraction. And well it never worked out bc compatibility was a 4 or a 5. So this makes me see relationships in a different way.

  7. 247
    Sierra

    I’m in this kind of situation too right now. Where I’m not that physically attracted to my boyfriend is sex is pretty much impossible for me with him. But he’s the most amazing man on this earth, so as what I could see him and I’m afraid if I would break up with him then I can’t find anyone who’s as good as him. Who can tolerate me and have patience with all my quirks and supports me financially, emotionally,

  8. 248
    Teresa

    Hi,so I actually had a similar experience ,hence why I was led to this post.So I was in a relationship for 18months with this amazing and loving guy(he is averagely good looking).Initially I thought I was attracted to him probably because of the way he treated me but few months into the relationship I realized I was not physically and sexually attracted to him..We were good friends but I just don’t like him kissing or touching me.Sex was not exciting for me with him,most times I give in because I just want him to be happy,(at most twice in a week)He wondered maybe I don’t like kissing but I really do love to kiss, just not with him…Sought advices from my sisters and they all advised I stayed with him because a good man like him may be rare to find.I took their advice and continued dating him but I was really sad and unhappy.It started affecting our communication and friendship.i felt stuck and unhappy,till eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and broke things off.Didnt tell my sisters about it,eventually they will get to know.I know I lost a good man but I feel at peace in my heart.I feel sad loosing a good man but I was more sad when I was dating him.

  9. 249
    Christine GILL

    I used to look for the 10. What I found all to often was a narcissistic egomaniac that was emotionally unavailable. Why? Because he could be. There was always another woman around the corner.

    Based on advice I read here I adjusted and started just saying yes to as many different men as possible. Now I am in a happily committed relationship with a man that I probably would have dismissed based on looks. I am not always visual attracted but I’m almost always emotionally attracted to my partner.

    There has to be a seed to grow. If there is NO seed be honest and allow your partner to find someone who appreciates them.

    One thing Evan said that I never grasped until my friend said it to me was “is it possible that he is having the same concerns about your physical appearance but is overlooking those things based on conpatabolity” It was like a lightbulb. I judge my appearance all the time but somehow had no insight that someone might be “sizing me up”.

    Having someone that loves me despite my flaws and imperfections is the most valuable gift.

  10. 250
    Joey

    Been through this and have come out the otherside. You have to enjoy kissing and having sex with your partner, otherwise you are short-changing yourself. If you are not a ‘picky’ person – and by that I mean you don’t demand to date 8s, 9s and 10s, guys in perfect shape with a fat bank balance and all the same interests in common – and are the type of person who can appreciate the qualities that count as well as feel attracted to guys who are not supermodels, it is the relationship that is the problem here.
    I dated a wonderful, kind man for 2 years in my early thirties who I did not really want to kiss. Whilst he was a good companion and sweet, gentle person, I ended up feeling like I would be unfaithful if I stayed in the relationship (and this is at a time when I REALLY wanted to settle down and have kids). At the end of the day, life can be fantastic and wonderful whilst you remain single and keep dating until you find someone you like, respect AND fancy. They do not have to be drop dead gorgeous, but at the end of the day you have to want and enjoy intimacy with them, otherwise you’ll be consigning yourself to a life of celibacy, misery and possibly unfaithfulness. I’m pretty sure that is NOT the type of relationship most of us are looking for.

  11. 251
    Alex

    I learned this the hard way. I dated men that were amazing, but that I was not attracted to. Hoping their other qualities would over shadow or my feelings would change. TWICE I did this and all parties wound up heart broken and resentful. Everyone is different, I’ve learned sex and attraction are too important to compromise on, for me anyways.

  12. 252
    Chantale

    Nicely put Evans. I married young, someone who was a 10 in attraction 3 in compatibility. Since I have been divorced for the last 18years, I only date the 5-7 in attraction. Truthfully my last 2 long-term relationship ended because they were more attracted to me and felt the strain. I missed the relationship nevertheless and wished I had relaxed a little more because I realized I was happy/content with them after it was over. The first few intimate moments were blah but we got in sink and I was never turned down compared to my 10 in attraction husband who thought the world was his oyster and can attract any woman he wanted. Well, I believe in matchmaking and attraction grow overtime.

  13. 253
    Debbie

    My answer is “NO” in all caps. I had the same situation as you, and he sent me 4 pics of him. Had I not been attracted to him, I would have just stayed friends. I’m not saying you have to like every one of his physical features, just some of them: maybe his smile and his eyes, or his hair and his skin. Something has to be attractive to you, something physical. He sent me his voice months after we met, and although it’s not what I had imagined, I can live with that. You see, if we don’t have physical attraction, we can’t enjoy the physical part of it:: kissing, making love, etc. So I recommend telling him that although you find him a nice pleasant man, you’d rather remain just friends, and if he continues to insist, tell him kindly you’re not physically attracted to him.

  14. 254
    Denise

    Attraction is definitely not a choice. I’ve been very attracted to guys that were a really bad match, and wish I had been attracted to some guys I had great compatibility. I even tried to stay in relationships with great guys I wasn’t attracted to because I didn’t want to be shallow. Yes, looks fade, and libido dimishes with age, but we need to stop feeling bad about something we can’t change. I read somewhere that when sex is good, it’s 20% of the relationship, and when it’s bad, it’s 80%. I totally agree. We are sexual beings, and having great chemistry, intimacy and affection within a relationship is very important. It doesn’t have to be either or. We spent much more time doing other things than having sex, but they are equally important. Great sex with a jerk doesn’t work, but compatibility without intimacy and affection doesn’t either.

  15. 255
    Masha

    That is a good post Evan you bring
    Important points about attraction and
    Chemistry not being the same thing.
    I think attraction can change over time
    as well if you have emotional intimacy.
    I met two guys that i had attraction to both very different and equally intense.
    One was so primal I couldn’t think or function
    And the other i had emotional connection to and some physical attraction. I end up getting to know them as friends which was really really hard to do
    But I learned that the one i had great primal attraction to we would not be able to function together over time. He would misunderstand me. The other one was more in alignment with my values and over time the attraction has developed for me. I think that friendship is key on relationships and attraction is important but sometimes who you are attracted to physically isnt for the right reasons.
    Sometimes your type of person the right guy doesn’t come in the package you expect. I wonder though this woman has spent time online for a while before meeting in person so if she wasn’t physically interested from the photo, then she stayed for all the other reasons she mentioned so far. Oh and FYI I am older that 30.

  16. 256
    Lisa

    I think it’s actually a shorter answer than EMK gave you, but his is very well thought out. My question is how would the LW feel if the man she was dating felt this way about her? What if he felt like he was just not attracted to her physically? The answer is you would feel horrible. Horrible now, but even worse if 15 years from now you found out that your husband settled for someone he was not physically attracted to. I always try to put myself in the shoes of others to figure out the answer. He deserves more and so does she. It’s not a good match and I think ultimately when you have dated for so long and gotten so frustrated with the process you start to think well he’s nice let me settle an settling never works. It’s one thing if there is still some sexual attraction even if it’s not as strong as it could be. But if there’s no attraction that’s settling and it will not work, move on. It’s better to be alone than to settle.

  17. 257
    Elizabeth

    Oh no, Evan! This is the worst advice EVARRRRR.

    I married my best friend at 21 because I believed what you said above about compatibility, friendship, raising children, etc. I didn’t find him particularly attractive but I thought that was shallow… 20 years later we divorced. Obviously there were many issues, but in my very experienced opinion that lack of sexual energy was our ultimate downfall. If I’d found him even remotely attractive, I believe we would still be married.

    IMO women’s sexual interest wanes much more than men’s, – so if you don’t have a good strong attraction in the beginning, when things are the most exciting, you are asking for trouble down the line! I found that no matter what we did, there was always a lingering dissatisfaction that nothing could fix.

    Skip to my next relationship, with a hot, sexy, and abusive man. I was so starved for that “zing” that I put up with this man (including domestic violence) for six years!

    I have since remarried, and my husband is both my best friend AND thrills me. (I’d give him a chemistry 7 and a 9 compatibility score on that scale of yours.) We’ve been together for almost 5 years and they’ve been the best years of my life.

    Please, please don’t tell women to consider staying with men below a chemistry 6 because it falls from there, and sex is the glue that helps keeps people together.

  18. 258
    Tina

    Certain advice is well meaning but dangerous. Unless you have experienced being in a marriage where your partner isn’t interested in you sexually, I’m not sure one is qualified to truly comment. If you are not physically attracted at all and would feel the need to make major changes in the other person’s appearance in hopes that you might be is a clear no. We have a word for that it’s called a friend. A romantic relationship assumes the physical manifestation of love will be included. Yes there are extenuating circumstances like handicaps but that isn’t this scenario. It is devastating to a person not to be sexually wanted by a partner at any time in their relationship. Suggesting you would put someone in that position tells me you don’t even love them as a friend. Find a way to get your sexual needs met in a relationship and stop dragging your “friend” through this farce. Meanwhile if all there is is great sex covering up the lack of other relationship essentials that dog won’t hunt either. That’s my very experienced opinion. Best of luck.

  19. 259
    Winifred Dam

    Thanks a lot Evan. You’ve really helped me in shifting my focus to what really matters. I sure will

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