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. 21
    Lance

    Okay, just read the letter and response.

    Couple of points:
    1. She states the guy isn’t ugly. The way I interpret this is that his presentation is lame and he has no “style.” The way he looks is indistinct or screams beta. The truth is, most guys don’t have awesome bone structures and aren’t classically hot…but with some nice threads, a cool haircut, good posture and body language, that same ugly guy is now handsome. He needs to fix his presentation.

    2. Which leads me to #2. Internally, the guy is beta, and this is what is really turning her off. Notice she said he made long term plans too soon. That means he’s clingy and trying to her lock her down. The guy has confidence issues and is immature when it comes to relationships and sex. He’s probably lousy in the sack, too.

    Conclusion: They shouldn’t be together. The guy needs to grow internally and fix his presentation. She needs to tell him this. He needs to do some reading and get honest feedback from trusted sources and become a better man.

    1. 21.1
      Betty

      Just because he may have things to work on, doesn’t mean their relationship is doomed. She can be honest and kind with him as she talks about what she’d like out of him. If she can exercise a little patience, he might be able to  make it work! It’s worth a shot considering how well they get along otherwise.

  2. 22
    mic

    He said he will take all the steps necessary to improve himself physically.

    Didn’t notice that before. Wow. That sounds like he is too eager to be with her, which in and of itself might be linked to his appearance and of course hers. Too bad what he looks like is a mystery. Other important parts of the story – for example, how much each person values physical intimacy – also are missing. Anyway, thanks for the de facto endorsements of professional image help 🙂

    1. 22.1
      fazsha

      I think it’s perfectly fine to say that you will do whatever you can to make yourself more physically pleasing to another person.   If someone said you were too loud in restaurants and other public settings, would promising to be more careful in order to please your partner just be a courteous thing to do, or would it be ‘selling out’ because you’re ‘too eager’ to be with someone.   My view is that relationships should attempt to please the other person, but also to kindly point out things the other person could do better.   If I had a girlfriend ( I don’t) and she respectfully and thoughtfully told me a way I could improve myself in some way, I would be happy to listen.   If I agreed with her, I would be grateful to her for pointing it out, and if I disagreed, we could discuss our points of view.   I don’t take offense easily if the other person at least shows an attempt to be gracious in the way she brought the topic up.   My radar is up the most keenly when I sense a lack of kindness.   I do wish I had a girlfriend, but I just had a hip replacement and am just learning to walk again, so I’m just not ready to court anyone.

      1. 22.1.1
        Betty

        well said! How kind they are in bringing it up really matters. If they are decent enough to care about your feelings, then they are more likely to be someone worth your effort and time!

         

  3. 23
    mic

    So, I think it is interesting that refining or even overhauling our appearance to please some anonymous, non existent person is acceptable, but changing for a specific person that you actually like somehow feels wrong. Why is that?

    Kenley, it probably is considered “wrong” for a man because it means the woman has the power and that he’s “beta” and not the dominant man (which implicity suggests manly-looking, at least when younger) that women typically want. Until recently, it wasn’t considered at all “wrong” for a woman to do much upkeep or “refining” for a man’s sake, but not to the extent of surgically changing her features to something they never were. Of course there also elements of appearance that very much reflect personality, such that changing them is like changing personality, which feels “wrong” to do for anyone else’s sake and probably cannot work in the long run.

    Another reply talked about why women try to fight their feelings. Women are more pragmatic in matters of love, it’s been shown. Their attempted compromising on looks might explain a lot of break-ups that mystify men. Look at John Edwards – women will tolerate much more from men they find quite physically attractive.

  4. 24
    mic

    By the way, among personality-linked appearance elements somebody probably shouldn’t change mostly for the sake of a potential specific or actual partner is overall style. Bah to any image professional whose priority isn’t making the client satisfied with his or her personal style. Change the hair somewhat, change the footwear somewhat, wear the right sizes, but don’t for example dress conservative when you have artistic leanings.

  5. 25
    starthrower68

    I think women have to be careful about being starstruck by a guy. Been there done that and have come to realize that is a huge warning sign that I’m not seeing things objectively. I fell head-over-heels in “lust” for a very attractive man a couple of years ago and I completely ignored his lack of character. It didn’t take long to find it out, either. I’m not saying that all beautiful people have no character but I’m saying that one must be careful not to be so caught up in that so that one’s objectivity is clouded.

  6. 26
    Eathan

    I agree.. attraction is the X-factor. I’ve had relationships end because one of us didn’t have enough attraction to each other.

    Eathan´s last blog post…She’s Out The Closet

  7. 27
    downtowngal

    I agree with the poster above who said that after 5 months of dating, if it’s not there it probably never will be.

    Maybe you should have a break, that way your true feelings will become evident. If you miss him then there’s a shot. If not then you have your answer.

    Attraction is subjective; I’ve found guys who are conventionally attractive to be a turnoff based on their character or how they’ve treated me. And I had a serious boyfriend whom many might not have considered attractive at all, yet his smile, intelligence and unconditional interest in me turned me on.

    Attraction is very important to relationships, and for women, especially, because studies have shown that the more attracted you are to your partner, the better the sex and the easier it is for you to conceive.

  8. 28
    Angela

    What ever other attributes this guy has it does not seem to offset his looks. One of my best relationships was with a guy that I initially didn’t like how he looked. He pursued me really hard and when we met and I got to know him, his personality overshadowed how I feel about his looks. Plus he had a nice body!!!! I think she needs to move on and just be this guys friend

  9. 29
    hunter

    A womans’ biggest mistake, when she selects with her eyes. But didn’t our creator build people that way, just to keep this place populated? Sometimes, we almost have to think that way just to maintain our sanity.

  10. 30
    downtowngal

    Hunter, I think it’s everyone’s mistake. But in this case they’ve been dating for a few months, long enough for someone to get over the physical attraction stage.

    1. 30.1
      Lucy

      It happened to me. My ex boyfriend wasn’t attractive at all. But we were compatible in many factors. But it didn’t work, you can’t love someone if you are not even attracted to him, love is complete (you know what I mean). At the end we broke up and after that my friends started telling me things about him that they should have told me before. I realized he was an asshole and I thank God he wasn’t the handsome enough to cover his inner ugliness. Now everytime I remember him I think ‘iiuuhhh’. I should have listened my best friend when he told me I deserved someone better, but you can’t undo your past.

  11. 31
    Margaret

    I love Evan, but I cannot help but notice that his wife, who is *three* whole years older, is very attractive. Hence, his argument is rather moot. Somehow, I don’t see him with a Christina Onassis clone…thick ankles, legs, etc.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. Attraction is *very* important. The caveat is that it means different things to different people.

    I myself know that *I* have to find the man attractive, even if the rest of the world does not.

    No offense, Evan, just sayin’

  12. 32
    Margaret

    Lance #21,

    Beautifully put. My sentiments exactly. A guy does NOT have to be Brad Pitt, but bland and flavorless and beta is not sexy either.

  13. 33
    hunter

    Margaret, I have heard such words from women who can doll up very well. Now, if most of us men can stay away from these “dolls”, we might put some these dating sites out of business…

  14. 34
    David Gideon

    Hi, Mia.

    Your boyfriend’s problems do not end with his looks. The bigger issue is that he’s too attached to you, which shows insecurity and a general lack of confidence on his part. This will annoy you more and more as time goes by.

    Another problem is that he’s willing to improve his physical appearance for you to stay with him.

    He should have an internal desire for excellence that drives him, not that a woman will like him if he does it. This also shows an inner-weakness that will become more and more unbearable to any woman over time, not just you.

    I’d wager that if this guy was more confident, positive, happy, humorous, and committed to his own excellence… His looks would matter much less.

    David Gideon

    David Gideon´s last blog post…How To Talk To And Date Models

    1. 34.1
      Nellie

      Oh David, YOU NAILED IT!   Thank you for putting into words my struggle.

    2. 34.2
      Karmic Equation

      Agreed 100%

    3. 34.3
      say that again

      The bigger issue is that he’s too attached to you….

      Yes i was trying to figure out what is wrong with this nerdy man.

      It is not even the looks and what not.

      Its that he has no self. no personality. and is depending on the woman

      in his life to define it for him. That really, is the real problem here.

  15. 35
    Peter

    Hey Mia, would love to know what you decided. So many of the responses on here show the uniquely American approach to relationships, Shopping for mr. perfect. In my experience, Europeans tend to celebrate the oddities of a person as part of what makes the person unique, while american’s see it as flaws in some sort of genetic social darwinism. There are reasons we have expressions…beauty is skin deep, it comes from the wise. Finding someone who loves you unconditionally is a rarety, and should be treasured. You may find he has much more confidence than you think…it take a mountain of it to truly love some one. Change what you’re looking at, and CHOOSE to see the beauty in him.

    1. 35.1
      requin

      Peter–

      “Finding someone who loves you unconditionally is a rarety, and should be treasured. You may find he has much more confidence than you think…it takes a mountain of it to truly love some one.”    <— SO TRUE!   The idea that because the man is willing to change himself physically for the woman he loves, makes him weak, ineffectual, “beta” etc is pure and utter nonsense!    It takes incredible strength, self confidence, and MATURITY.    I’m dating a true, dyed-in-the-wool old-school Alpha man and he will do anything w/in his ability to make himself a better man for me.   There is no shame in it!! I am so proud of my Alpha and he loves me unconditionally and calls me his Queen.   He’s strong, sensitive, loving, humorous yet dignified and puts my feelings ahead of his own in all things. In return, I RESPECT and LOVE him.   His willingness to be the best he can be, for me, has brought us closer than either of us thought we could ever be w/ anyone.

  16. 36
    A-L

    Very interesting, Peter (#35). I can’t comment on the accuracy of the European vs. American perspective. But the idea of the “U.S.” version as social darwinism for generic perfection is something I hadn’t thought of before. But I think that everyone can agree with you that, “Finding someone who loves you unconditionally is a rarety, and should be treasured.”

  17. 37
    Kat

    I just found this site and this post the girl’s situation sounds very familiar. The only difference in my case is the guy is 4 yrs younger and I am a single mom which makes my mental state of priorities different. The physical attraction is not totally there, I think because I know he is younger than me. Also that I have known him for the last 3 yrs as my friends younger brother. But to make a long story short after talking as friends for 2 months he tries to convince me that he will do anything to make himself more appealing to me.
    Physically he is a good looking guy, just looks his age. Otherwise our personalities blend well and have an unbelievable amount of things in common and a good connection. I have told him a number of times I see him only as a friend and what he does to get himself together is great but to do it for himself and not to impress me. A number of people have said to me to enjoy the devotion but I feel that leading him on is not right. After another 2 months I see him acting more maturely and has made progress in his determination to become more successful.
    We have a group of friends we share and when we see each other he is very attentive to me and my son and shows his willingness to be the “guy for me”. We have shared a few kisses but most of which have happened while I was upset and he was trying to cheer me up or I have kissed him while a bit intoxicated. He is very respectful and says he adores me. I don’t know if I can see a future with him and am torn as to what to do to. I have dated other guys but it never really works for a other reasons also I am not looking to be in a monogamous relationship right now.
    He says he is willing to wait for whatever reason. I have considered his courtship after 6 months of him insisting but I make him keep his intentions on the down low as they say. Otherwise I feel he will take things to serious. But to respond to the post my two cents is this…. If the physical attraction is not there look for the possibility of becomes friends. Sometimes that spark isn’t there and you can’t make it work she might appriciate everything about him but she will eventually look else where and have can cheat which will cause the ruin of the relationship/friendship.

  18. 38
    Kirra

    I found this post, and it really hits home with me. I’m in a similar situation. I truly LOVE this man I am with, but our sex life is really struggling. There are many reasons why, but (although I tried to deny it to myself) I am attracted, but still missing a certain level of attraction and desire that I have am used to, and have always had in past relationships. He has picked up on this and asks me if its an attraction thing, and I deny it.
    There are other ‘complications’ persay which lead to us not having sex (timing, work schedules, roomates, etc..) but those things have never stopped me in the past. I feel like a horrible person because I want it to work with him, I really do. But as Marc says “there has to be some measure of attraction or its a recipe for wandering eyes and future infidelity.” YIKES! I am NOT a cheater, and don’t think I could ever go through with it even if I was close to doing it. But… I have found myself thinking about other men constantly… not in a way that I want to have a relationship with them… just sexual thoughts. Why can’t I have these thoughts about my own boyfriend??
    If we attempt to have sex, it gets weird. Because it feels like something we should be doing. And there’s an expectation for it to be good. I’m thinking about all the pressures and intricacies of the situation, and not whats happening and what I’m feeling as he is kissing me in the moment. I will be laying there with him, thinking about work, about my schedule, about the problems with our sex life (And thus ous relationship) and I think about other men too. I end up so distracted, that I am barely making an effort, and its an epic fail. Should I try having a couple drinks before? I’m thinking that maybe we just need to actually HAVE sex a few times before this situation can be criticized.

    Does this make me a horrible person?!?!!? PLEASE HELP.

    1. 38.1
      starstruck

      I think if you can’t even comfortably have sex with your own boyfriend then you aren’t meant to be together. Sex should be fun and it’s not fair on your partner if you’re not enjoying it either

    2. 38.2
      Karmic Equation

      I’m with starstuck. If you don’t enjoy having sex with your boyfriend, you need to end the relationship.

       

      He deserves someone that’s into him, including sexually. And YOU deserve to be in a relationship where you enjoy the sex.

       

      Love isn’t enough to sustain a relationship. Lust isn’t enough to sustain a relationship. However, you DO need some from column A and some from column B to have a strong, lasting relationship (along with compatibility with common values). And if you ONLY have love or ONLY have lust for your S.O., then no matter how compatible you are, the romantic relationship can’t last. You could possibly become best friends (if there is ONLY love; don’t bother to be friends if you ONLY have lust).

       

      Don’t be afraid to let go and find someone else.

    3. 38.3
      Zoey

      This is the same exact situation I’m in. I’ve tried everything with him, I told him what to do in bed BUT I still catch myself thinking about other people or just simply other things. I googled this post because I’m just out of options on how to deal and starting to think this might really be the end of “US” after a year and a half together. Similarly he also knows I struggle with finding him attractive but wants to work on himself to get me to stay. I didn’t tell him out right but he has figured it out. I just have no yarning for him sexually anymore.

  19. 39
    Sayanta

    Kirra-

    It doesn’t make you horrible- it just means you need to tell him how to be better in bed. ;-P

    1. 39.1
      say that again

      this thing of women trying to make men better should die some day.

      Its the most worthless effort women engage in.

      You should find out if he is “good” when you start sleeping with him and then either stay because he is “good” or ship out because he isnt. There is this strange women thinking men are made of malleable clay. You can shape them to what you want.

      Decades down the line it still doesn’t work. And the women born later on start the impossible task all over again- of ten things to make your man into a fantastic angel!

      1. 39.1.1
        hunter

        say that again,

        …the saying goes, ” men hope she doesn’t change, women, hope he changes”…..

  20. 40
    ange

    i think its not so much about the actual classical handsomeness so much as physical chemistry, pheromones if you will. Men always tell women that certain things just work with them because of biology. Sure, cultural expectations are also to blame but yes yes yes – there is a reason one person is attracted to someone and the other just isnt. It’s about the best possible match geneticlly. Women have really strong sense of who they are attracted to physically, even if the man is not a classic hottie, it’s about a certain hormone that actually tell a women – the man will give her healthy off spring. It’s not just me blabbing what i think, yes i read it in a book lol!! you just shoudnt force yourself to be attracted to someone you are simply not. Sometimes im not attracted to the best lookig men becuse i just dont feel it. Listen to those impluses, they tell you something.

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