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Advice for the Modern Man: Beauty and the Eye of the Beholder

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Couple in love

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(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)

I dated a terrific girl for nine months, but to be honest, I was never sure how attracted I was to her — despite the fact that we had a healthy sex life while we were together. I feel like I’m being superficial by letting this one thing hold me back from an all-around fantastic woman. Looks fade, and I realize her personality is way more important than how she looks on the outside. But I just can’t seem to get over the fact that I don’t find her extremely attractive.
–Longhorn Sammy; Dallas, TX

If I were to boil down to one word what everyone wants in a romantic partner, it’d be compatibility. Compatibility when it comes to values, personality, sense of humor, what you each want out of life.

And yes, physical compatibility.

The importance of physical compatibility gets a bad rap, because it’s most often associated with men-are-pigs buzzwords like “shallow” and “superficiality.”

From a young age, we’re taught that lust fades and looks don’t last, and that if we want a meaningful, enduring relationship, it matters less what a person looks like on the outside than who they are underneath.

I agree with these teachings. I agree appearance isn’t everything, and making decisions based solely on it never leads to Disney-worthy endings.

But discounting its importance is equally egregious.

Physical attraction is the precursor to physical intimacy, which is what separates romantic interest from roommate. If you can’t connect with someone physically, it makes it that much harder to connect in other facets of the relationship.

I’m not saying physical compatibility is more important than its emotional counterparts; I’m saying it’s just as critical. It’s one of the pillars that must be evaluated in a potential partner.

Telling someone to date a person they’re not attracted to is as ridiculous as telling them to date someone with an opposing stance on having kids. Both register as deal-breakers.

Think about it…you can spend weeks, months, sometimes years figuring out if somebody is sweet enough, or compassionate, trustworthy or dependable enough.

Yet it takes a split-second to determine if someone is attractive enough. It’s a decision more primal than rational. Attraction is the only component of love that’s certified at first sight.

Granted, it can grow over time. The more you get to know someone, the more attractive they may become, because you can see them for who they are, not just what they look like.

That said, whether we’re aware of it or not, we all draw a line in the sand, and everybody else falls on one side or the other — the people we are/can be attracted to, and the people we aren’t/cannot.

This does not mean that, to be attractive, a girl has to have Sofia Vergara’s chest anymore than a guy has to have Ryan Gosling’s six-pack. There is no universal definition of attractive.

I cannot state that clearly enough. From hairstyles to waist measurements, everyone has their individual preferences. Nobody’s right, and nobody’s wrong.

But what it does mean is that there are instances in which no matter how nice a person is, how much they make you laugh or how well they treat you, you will never be physically attracted to them. They fall on the incompatible side of your line.

You dated this girl for nine months, which is enough time to get to know her and to give yourself the chance to become attracted to her. If you haven’t by now, will you ever?

On the other hand, you pointed out you had a healthy sex life together. That could indicate one — or some combination — of three things:

  1. You’re a guy, and guys can sleep with virtually anyone, especially when facing limited options.
  1. You are physically attracted to this girl, but you’re saying you’re not to cover another problem with the relationship/your ability to commit.
  1. You are physically attracted to her, but don’t want to admit it.

No. 1 is and will always be true, while No. 2 rings false based on the info in your question. This girl has everything you want except for physical compatibility.

And I’m not going to speculate on emotional baggage that could be in your closet. For the sake of this article, I’ll assume there’s none in there.

Which brings us to No. 3. Is it possible you broke up with her because she doesn’t look like the type of girl you thought/hoped you’d end up with? Or because you’re worried other people won’t think she’s pretty enough?

Only you can answer these questions. Clearly, you’re having second thoughts about letting her go, so it’s good you’re reevaluating your thought process.

Selecting a partner is (arguably) the most important decision you’ll make, meaning it’s one you don’t want to force, in either direction.

If you’re not attracted to her, you’re not attracted to her. There’s no shame in that. And if you are, don’t fight it — give into it.

I’m guessing deep down you already know where you stand, one way or another. Because when a relationship is worth pursuing, that connection you share, that compatibility you feel, it’s undeniable. Just like physical attraction.

What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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