Right now, I am attracted to some fairly specific looks in women. I worry that if their looks change, my feelings will change and I won't know what to do. Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner's looks changed? Can you give me advice on how to get beyond my initial reasons for being attracted to someone?
May 19, 2010 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Right now, I am attracted to some fairly specific looks in women. I worry that if their looks change, my feelings will change and I won't know what to do. Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner's looks changed? Can you give me advice on how to get beyond my initial reasons for being attracted to someone? (thanks to d.g. for helping me by writing the question)
posted by abbat to Society & Culture (41 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Have a good long look in a mirror in a brightly lit room. Stare at your face long and hard until you dissociate your own sense of self and it's as if you're looking at another person. Notice all the flaws that you overlook in yourself but immediately notice in others.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:10 PM on May 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

If it's only the precise way they look now that attracts you, you'll never even get into any kind of serious relationship in the first place, so I wouldn't worry about it.

Not to get all mushy on you, but that ain't what you fall in love with, anyway.
posted by rokusan at 8:13 PM on May 19, 2010

Your initial response to someone's appearance is just that: an initial response. I think you'll be pleased to discover that most people have something that you can find attractive beyond looks: their intelligence, their sense of humor, their kindness, their courage, their loyalty. Think about the personality traits you value in your friends and when you seek a mate, look for those traits. These are the things that do not change with age, and these are the things that will sustain your relationship well beyond mere physical appearance.
posted by jamaro at 8:13 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

You're young, right? I think it's natural for looks to be a big part of the initial attraction when you're young, so I'm not sure you need to 'get beyond' your initial reasons right away. As you get older, physical appearance becomes a smaller part of the picture for most people ... which is not to say that people inevitably become unattractive as they age.
posted by lukemeister at 8:19 PM on May 19, 2010

abbat, so nice to hear from you! I was wondering when your weekly question would come up. (Not sarcastic.)

Anyway, we're all a little bit superficial and must of us will go for the prettiest rose in the room. Have you had relationships with any of these women? Gotten to know them? I find that someone can be really good looking, and I'll want to get to know them, and once I do, I may find they're not that interesting anymore. I get to know them as people, and they kind of lose their sheen, and then we're all just people with our warts and all. Conversely, someone can not be the prettiest rose in the room, and I get to know them, and like them, and they become more good-looking to me. I think that happens with a lot of people.
posted by foxjacket at 8:19 PM on May 19, 2010 [12 favorites]

We have some friends who had twins. Their mom was on bedrest for the last four months of her pregnancy, and gained almost 60 lbs of non-baby weight; about a year after the babies were born the couple divorced, because the husband decided he was no longer attracted to his wife, and started fooling around with some woman he works with.

I also read this blog - the woman who writes it has disfiguring burns as the result a plane crash. She and her husband are clearly deeply in love, and they have a wonderful, warm family.

There is a sea of difference between attraction and love. Attraction, in another time, was called Lust. The purely physical arousal of the senses. Love is another matter. Love is the attraction of two souls, two minds, two people who share common interests and common beliefs. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that attraction and love are the same, but they are not. Love can lead to attraction, and attraction can lead to love, but they are different things.

Stop looking at women with your eyes. Start looking at them with your mind. Do their ideas, their conversation, their thoughts excite you? That's love. The rest is just bodily functions, really.
posted by anastasiav at 8:22 PM on May 19, 2010 [38 favorites]

Looks fade. Money is transient.

That's why it's a bad idea to enter a relationship based on these factors alone. Remember, you'll get old too - and the best looking people may not value you for your attractiveness anymore.

Find someone based on more than that, and you'll be happy when you're 85, long after the shallow things have ceased to matter.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 8:24 PM on May 19, 2010

Well, my partner was a woman for the first five years of our relationship, and has been a man for the 12 years since, which is a pretty extreme version of what you're asking. I liked women. I learned to love (or, kept loving) a man. So perhaps I can speak to your question a bit.

What I have found is that over the years looks get less important as you build other things together. I may be fat and have a little facial hair problem, but I'm also the woman who stuck by him through a really rough transition year. He may be developing a gut in middle age, but he's also the man who courageously launched into parenthood with me nine years ago. He's the guy so supportive he let me take our only car on a month-long trip one time; I'm the woman who makes him laugh multiple times a day. We've weathered a few crises, solved some challenging problems, and have a big storehouse of shared positive experiences.

I suppose looks are about the least constant of a person's qualities. Everyone undergoes the normal changes of aging to various degrees; people gain and lose weight; health problems, injuries, and surgeries can happen to anyone at any time. I know a couple where the wife lost an eye in an accident; my partner's father had both feet amputated in the years before his death. Men, and sometimes women, lose their hair.

It seems like many couples find that the love, companionship, mutual support, friendship, and all the other things that are mixed up in a long-term relationship compensate for these things. You might sigh over them from time to time ("Man, you were hot when we were young. For that matter, so was I!"). I miss the rosy peach-fuzz cheeks my partner had before his transition and every now and then I pine a little for the less-hairy version of his back. But he's a keeper; I'm not going to toss him over some body hair (in part because he never tossed me because of mine).

You may be drawn to someone because of her looks, but I expect that ultimately you will come to love her for much more than that. Once looks are only a piece of the package, and not the whole package, they get less important. IME.
posted by not that girl at 8:27 PM on May 19, 2010 [81 favorites]

Changing tastes is one of the delightful benefits of ageing.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:29 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure advice will help you here, beyond, "don't just value your fellow human beings for their physical attributes."

But think of it this way; do you have any friends with some kind of physical flaw? And do you still like to hang out with them and after a while, find that their flaw(s) aren't something you care about, because you like being with them? A good relationship is like that, multiplied. And if you are getting bored with a partner, maybe it's not that you notice their "flaws" all of a sudden, but that there's no real chemistry. Assuming that you don't have something else going on, like a fear of serious relationships or some other kind of relationship hangup that needs counseling.

If you fall in love with someone, and it's a true attraction, their physical appearance will not be the most important thing about them; you will notice that they have Flaw X or whatever, but you won't really care (and of course you will hope they feel the same about your own flaws). But you will still be attracted to them, in the sense of not wanting to spend time apart/being surprised at how much you enjoy being with them. Not just how much you want to sleep with them, but how much you just want to be around them.
posted by emjaybee at 8:29 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am attracted to some pretty specific looks in men… when I’m just looking. Some of my favorite and most rewarding romances have been with men who didn’t have those looks.

It’s like this (for a straight woman): You can be wrapped up in the ever-lovin’ arms of a big manly man who has the build of a young Patrick Warburton and feel all swoony swoony lusty emotional more more more. Or, you can we wrapped up in the ever-lovin’ arms of a big manly man who has the build of a young Patrick Warburton and be thinking, “Josh certainly is attractive and well-built. I’m sure his mother is proud to have raised such a fine boy. Statistically, Josh will do well because good-looking people tend to be more easily hired and promoted and ….” And there is just nothing sexy about that. Looks only go so far.

Recently got a gander at a man who was a huge crush - a massive OMG OMG OMG it’s him!!!! crush - when I was young and shy. His hair has thinned and changed shape, his skin is different (and by that I mean thicker, weathered, not a lovely young tan, etc.), and he’s put on more than a few pounds. Still totally appealing because of the light in his eyes and his kind nature.

Being attracted to specific looks is a nice set of general guidelines – technique, if you will - but once you’re comfortable with the process, you should begin to improvise. Knowing who is attractive to you and why is art.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:33 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Consider that you can apply the same logic to almost any aspect of someone's personality. People change in many ways— not just appearance.

That said, popular culture emphasizes certain body types over others. We're taught from a young age that women and men are supposed to look like this. I've found the best way to deprogram myself is by watching movies and television with characters that don't all look like supermodels. This is one of the many reasons I love The Wire.

Minor aside: I really like the way you've phrased your question, thanks!
posted by yaymukund at 8:44 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Something really cool happens when you fall for someone. It may be their looks that first attracts you (and that's ok, although if your "type" verges on fetish, it can be limiting), but then over time, as you get to know them, and learn things about their personality that you find attractive or charming, those things start to shine through, and change the way you see them, and I mean that literally. You start to see not just their physical appearance, but all the non-physical things you love about them.

The really cool thing about this is that it actually means that, in many (maybe even most) cases, you still find this person physically attractive even if their appearance changes. It's not that your tastes have changed, but you just still find this individual attractive.

One other thing - when we're young, most of us put a lot of emphasis on physical appearance. As you get older and have more relationships and more life experiences, your aesthetic preferences will change, and they will become less important as well.

I have to say, I am glad to see you asking this question.
posted by lunasol at 8:45 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have known some pretty attractive people in my life, but I have not been relationships with all, or even most, of them. It sounds kind of stupid and schmoopy, but people who are pretty on the outside are not always pretty on the inside (just like unattractive people can be jerks or can be awesome). And when you fall in love with someone - I mean fall in love - they become the most gorgeous person on the planet. In my experience, at least.
posted by rtha at 8:47 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

What you're attracted to and what you love are not necessarily the same.

If you were to ask me what I'm attracted to in men, physical-feature-wise, I could give you a list of traits: Darkish hair, dark eyes, slender build, medium-to-large nose, strong jawline, nice teeth, large hands. If you were to open it up to "physical essence" I might add: mischievous smile, a quickness of movement, a certain way of walking. However (and this is the point), if you were to look at my resumé of men I've loved, only a few of them meet any of these criteria, and those that do don't really meet all of them, checklist style. Love is all about specifics and all about chemicals and all about the unexplainable. I have fallen for sirs that, upon first glance, I didn't even like to look at. As I knew them better, they grew on me. My utmost test of real, as opposed to distant or transient, attraction is whether I like how someone looks very, very close up. If it's weird, it's not there. If I prefer it, wow.
posted by millipede at 8:49 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Some other posters have covered this very well, but I thought I should add this: there's nothing wrong with being attracted to someone based purely on their looks, or entering a relationship based on that attraction. If all this relationship is based on is looks, however, then it will end when those looks change. And that's fine. There's nothing wrong with two people finding each other hot, having fun with each other for a year, then deciding they aren't as attracted to that particular look any more, and moving on.

I think what people are trying to point out is that long term, stable relationships are often based on far more than looks. So if you get into a relationship and your feelings change because their looks changed, then you will know what do to - end the relationship, as the reason you entered into it is no longer there (NB: these kind of relationships are often primarily physical anyway, so there's unlikely to be much heartbreak. It's important to be honest though- if someone thinks you value them for everything they are when you actually only like their looks, they'll likely be hurt if you break up with them based on their changed appearance). Perhaps what may happen is that when you're in a relationship you'll find that they have other qualities you're attracted to, qualities that will remain when their skin isn't quite as nice and their hair is a little greyer.
posted by twirlypen at 8:50 PM on May 19, 2010

Generally speaking you don't form a relationship with a person's face, but what's underneath, that brings the face alive. That being said, if you can only get aroused by a very select group of characteistics (blonde asians with mohawks and webbed feet) that's slightly different than say, having a fondness for tall, hour glass shaped women but the ability to appreciate the butt on a shapely but flat chested woman of any hair colour. The former is a fetish and the latter a "type", and I suspect much of the human population does this.

How will you have sex with your long term partner, 20 years after hooking up, you might worry? Well, true she might lose some of the visual characteristics you like, but if everything else clicks, she'll know how to talk dirty the way you like, how to touch you, what makes you feel like the sexiest man alive... she might be wrinkly, with a spread waist from childbearing, but you'll have copulated so often that you'll have an intimate understanding of how to get the motor running. Heck, maybe if you do have a fetish, she'll do it by describing that girl of your fixation to you.

Plus, in the bedroom humans are surprisingly non-picky. Give them enough smells, tastes and something that is sort of the right shape and the bed springs will be squeaking like nobody's business. Hell, some people are so trigger happy that a crude drawing is enough to lift their luggage, or a memory.
posted by Phalene at 8:53 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to start dating women who DON'T fit the look of what you normally go for so you can discover how fascinating and wonderful different people are. Or, better yet, you probably shouldn't be dating at all. Spend time building friendships in order to learn that people are far more than their looks.

I'm guessing based on your previous questions that you're young. I hope you have photos of what you look like now because, believe me, your looks are going to change... and in many ways, not for the better. Do you really want a woman to be so shallow that she'll dump you simply because you won't look the same in years to come? NO? Then why the heck would you even consider judging another person that way?

Last, but probably most important: You should seriously consider therapy. Again, I realize you're young, but your ability to understand other people as well as the world in general seems impaired. I do not say that to be mean spirited in the least. Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:57 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

KokuRyu : Changing tastes is one of the delightful benefits of ageing.

I wholeheartedly agree. It may seem inconceivable when you are younger, but (at least for me) my taste in what I find attractive is aging with me. This means that I see an actress in her mid thirties (with *gasp* wrinkles and other signs of getting older) and I actually find that way more appealing than a Playboy centerfold who is literally young enough to be my daughter now.

Can you give me advice on how to get beyond my initial reasons for being attracted to someone?

This is easy enough; figure out what it is that you are initially attracted by, in this case it sounds like you are putting a lot of emphasis on looks, fair enough. Once you have found someone who meets that criteria in your book, figure out what else you like about them. Personality, sense of humor, intelligence... and focus on that.

Pretty is what gets you to notice someone, these other things are what will make you love them.
posted by quin at 9:14 PM on May 19, 2010

I just want to stress again that when you start to like someone, it's like they magically become more and more attractive. I don't really know how to explain it, only that when I'm deep in love with someone I usually realize that no matter what happened to his looks, he'd still be the most beautiful man in the world to me.

Maybe whatever specific traits you prefer signal something to you that makes you want that woman, and thinking about the absence of those traits makes you not want that woman. But when you get to know someone, those signals get all rewired, so that the things you thought mattered don't actually. Maybe before you knew her you would have thought "eh, her nose is a turn-off, but I can deal with it because she has such beautiful eyes." Once you fall in love it's "god she has the most beautiful nose in the world, I love everything about it because it's her nose, it reminds me of her, this marvelous person I love more than anything."
posted by sallybrown at 9:47 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I have to respectfully disagree with 2oh1. There's nothing wrong in having a type that you are attracted to*.... but that's all it is: attraction.

Attraction will attract you to someone's looks, their personality and how much you appreciate that personality will keep you there.

Just think of someone really annoying or that you truly dislike/cannot stand being around. Now imagine if that person were extremely attractive. She'd probably still be just as annoying/disliked.

If the only thing keeping you around a girl is her looks, then it's not love, it's just attraction. And a relationship based on attraction alone is no relationship at all. Move on and find someone else.

*I've run into so many of my significant other's ex-gfs at his common hangouts. Based on their looks, I know that I pretty much fit his type just right. But even though we're long-distance, I don't feel threatened by those girls because I know that my looks alone are not what keeps my SO and I together. It's definitely what first attracted him to me (and vice-versa), but had our personalities not meshed so well, I'd have been added to that list of ex-gfs a long time ago.
posted by Neekee at 10:02 PM on May 19, 2010

fwiw, while I thought my SO was cute when i first met him, he wasn't really my type. Now that I actually know him as a person (not just looks) I think he's the most attractive person in the whole wide world ever.
If you love someone, you'll think/feel the same :)
posted by Neekee at 10:10 PM on May 19, 2010

"I have to respectfully disagree with 2oh1. There's nothing wrong in having a type that you are attracted to*.... but that's all it is: attraction. "

I don't disagree with you at all, actually. The question, however, was about being attracted to "some fairly specific looks in women." The OP said: "I worry that if their looks change, my feelings will change and I won't know what to do." My advice was specifically addressing that.

There's a type of woman that I am instantly attracted to, but it's important to realize that a meaningful connection with another human being is so much more than skin deep.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:24 PM on May 19, 2010

It's a guarantee that at some point you'll look at your current companion's body/face, no matter how careful you've been, no matter how beautifully perfect this person is, and think: "Ugh." It will be a splash of cold water on your passion, and whether or not that lasts a day or the rest of your life depends on how mature you are and how real the relationship is.

The first time it happens you might think it means the Death of Love, but it doesn't. Life trundles on.

So now that you know it's coming, you can stop worrying about it.
posted by fleacircus at 11:03 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you had any long-term relationships with women? I don't just mean romantic or sexual relationships, or family relationships, but what about friendships? Did you go to an all-boys school?

I ask because you seem very inexperienced with the opposite sex, to put it lightly. I can't even count how many guys I've known who (to me) looked very average or even unattractive at first, but who I developed big crushes on after getting to know them. On the other hand, there have been guys who looked gorgeous at first sight, but became repulsive to me once I discovered how awful they were underneath.

I was once head over heels infatuated with a man who was much older, short, had a little bit of a gut, bad hair, and wore dorky clothes. But GOD, was he brilliant! I fell completely for his mind and his heart, and then, I can't even begin to describe how badly I lusted after him. Yes, pure insane can't-sleep-at-night LUST. All his so-called physical flaws vanished in my eyes. He was unavailable at the time and I haven't seen him in ages, but every once in a while I still look him up on facebook and swoon a little.

Bottom line? Physical attractiveness is temporary. You don't have to wait for someone to get old and wrinkly for their beauty to fade - a terrible personality will take care of that in an instant. And when you love someone, that person will be the most beautiful person in the world to you, and it sounds impossible, but they will only become more beautiful as time goes by and every day you love them more. I hope you'll get to experience this for yourself.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:06 PM on May 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

What specific thing(s) are you talking about?

A fetish? (Like, they must have large breasts or big feet or wear glasses?) If so, well, they're pretty hard to change.

Or are you talking about like, their weight?

You get all kinds of chemicals when you sex and hug and laugh with someone on the regular.

Those chemicals make you think that person is hotter than they actually are and then you have orgasms and the chemicals and the positive reinforcement carry you through until you're really entertwined emotionally and often financially, legally, practically, socially. Then you have the issue: well, if they're not hot anymore, what do I do?

That's complicated and really depends. Maybe you leave them, maybe you think it's worth it to stay, maybe you cheat (not ethical), maybe you nag them to change. It's up to you to do what you think is right for you and your partner at the time.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:52 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know abbat, I was always attracted to tall, clean shaven men, in terms of sparking initial interest. My husband is shorter than me, and has a mustache. Honestly, I'd prefer if he shaved the mustache off, but 90% of the time, I don't even remember that it's there. As so many people have said so much better than me, you may well find that falling in love with someone actually DOES blind you to things that you used to find important.

Plus, seconding:

"I have to say, I am glad to see you asking this question.
posted by lunasol at 8:45 PM on May 19
posted by bardophile at 1:41 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

fleacircus: It's a guarantee that at some point you'll look at your current companion's body/face, no matter how careful you've been, no matter how beautifully perfect this person is, and think: "Ugh." It will be a splash of cold water on your passion, and whether or not that lasts a day or the rest of your life depends on how mature you are and how real the relationship is.

You know, I've never gotten this. Even with the face other anachronism pulls that makes him look like the side of a barn hit by an ugly stick then run over by a tractor. That he accompanies with a laugh. Even then, when I can't actually look at him too close, my actual honest to god feelings aren't compromised. Attraction isn't love. I love him and I'm attracted to him but those two aren't dependent on each other. That's not to say they're totally independent, but I love him for the whole of who he is. So the beard, the pudge, the loss of the pudge, the growth of chest and back hair, the prevalence of nose hair, the changes age wreaks upon all of us just don't affect the love. i'm lucky enough they don't seem to affect the attraction either. Both of us look very different compared to our 'original' looks - he looks like an adult now and so do I. He has a beard, gained 10 kg, lost it again, gotten even more hunched. I've gained about 30kg, had a baby, lost most of it, changed shape. That's just life and growing up.

The love? The love stays true.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:38 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

My looks have changed somewhat dramatically over the course of my current relationship: I started working out, lost about eighty pounds, and am now in the best shape of my life. Surprise! If my boyfriend hadn't asked me out when I was obese, he would have never gotten to see me look good in spandex running shorts.

Anyway, there's a lot of good advice here. I just wanted to add: make friends with more women. Not just women you find attractive or women you want to date, but women in general. I think there's a tendency among young men to view women as a hot and mysterious Other, hence all that pick-up-artist crap designed to "figure us out" and supposedly trick us into sleeping with anyone. And the thing is, women and men are not really very different at all. Demystifying that supposed otherness will help you figure out what you're attracted to inside a person, rather than merely from a distance.

In the words of Diesel Sweeties, the day a boy becomes a man is when he realizes even pretty girls go poop.

I'm glad when people ask questions like this. So many don't, and it does no one any good - not even hot people.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:54 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

hey abbat.

One of my good friends' parents liked to point out that we young men had a habit of walking into a room, sizing up all of the women in the room, and instantly ruling the bottom 80% of them out, and focusing on the top 20%. Didn't matter the size of the room or the number of women in it. And they were right.

We would, mentally, instantly rule out (of our particular interest) 80% of the women in the room based solely on looks alone. I did that most of my adult life. I'll be frank - its a habit that's been hard to break and I still struggle with it. I don't live with regrets, but I missed out on some potential opportunities with some pretty incredible people thanks to my shallow approach to judging the fairer sex.

I'm not saying you have the same problem, that's for you to decide, but I encourage you to see it as a problem if it is something you can admit to doing.

There's nothing wrong with having certain things you like - I have never been very attracted to girls that are bigger than me, I have always had proclivities for certain ethnic groups over others - these are natural things. But even with those who do fit your current criteria are going to change - the fact you are realizing in your calendar.

It stands to reason that if you could get past those current criteria in the here-and-now that you'd pretty much make this question a moot point. I think what everyone's trying to say here is that you need to base your feelings on more than just looks. Right now, and for the long run.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:11 AM on May 20, 2010

It's good that you're thinking about things like this now - it shows you're willing to think about your tastes and work on the parts of you you dislike.

Remember the phrase, the icing on the cake? That's what looks are. They draw someone in just like a pretty flower on a cupcake, but they don't mean the cake itself is any different. A homely cupcake could be the best one you ever had; another could be lovely for the first bite and then sickly. Looks are really not the biggest factor in long term relationships - otherwise couples wouldn't stay together if one had a disabling/disfiguring accident, if they got sick, or if one just got fat.

Also, tastes change a lot. when I was seventeen I'd never have thought I'd have a boyfriend with a beard - that was what old men had. Now I'm 28 and I love MrMippy's soft beardy face. Think about what specifically attracts you to women - it may be a fetish, as other posters say above, or it may simply be something that seems important now but changes over time.
posted by mippy at 5:13 AM on May 20, 2010

Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner's looks changed? Can you give me advice on how to get beyond my initial reasons for being attracted to someone?

I'm going to answer just to give you some balance to the "Looks are completely unimportant" and "If you love someone, they become the hottest person of all time" crowd. I mean that's great if those things are true for some people, but it seems like abbat is not one of those people, so just mentioning that people exist who are different than him is not going to be helpful.

I think I have a thing for glasses. I'm not going to call it a fetish, because it's not that extreme, I just like girls in glasses. And I had this girlfriend who wore glasses (not all the time, but to read and stuff) and one day she was all "Fuck it, I'm getting Lasik". And, like, it broke my heart. I like, asked to her to keep the glasses and pop out the frames and just wear the frames. When she was all "Hmmmm, maybe", I just knew that she was never going to do it.

It's really okay to be one of those people for whom looks are important. The trick is to not let looks be the ONLY thing that you base your attraction on. If all you like about a girlfriend is her looks, and then her looks change, then yeah, you're going to be unattracted to her. Focus on finding women who fit your preferred physical type, but who also fit your preferred personality type, too.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:41 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yes, 23skidoo is completely correct.

Sorry about the glasses thing, man. I kinda like glasses too.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:52 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

What 23skidoo said. Despite the impression you'll sometimes get from people around here, you're not shallow for thinking appearance is important. You're shallow if you think appearance is all that's important. In my experience, dating people that don't fit your type in the hopes that it will expand your appreciation of different looks is a terrible idea. You'll waste your time and theirs and there will be hurt feelings.

Sure, everybody gets old and looks change, but there are plenty of attractive older people who try to look good and take care of themselves, and there's nothing wrong with wanting someone like that. For a long-term relationship it's often important to find someone who shares your attitudes towards life, and approach to physical health and appearance can be one of those things. Some people look good when they're young just because they're young. When they stop being young they stop looking good. Other people look good because they're young and they take care of their bodies, too. The latter will continue to look good as they age.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:36 AM on May 20, 2010

Yeah, 23skidoo makes an excellent point. You don't want to be overly focused on looks, but you also don't want to go to the other extreme where you feel that looks shouldn't matter at all. I say this as someone who married (and then divorced) a man I wasn't attracted to because I thought it would be too shallow to break up based on a lack of attraction. But it's complex too -- one thing I realized after we split is that he had a lot of personality traits that were unattractive to me (which I didn't want to admit), so over time he actually became uglier to me even though in reality he was always a pretty average-looking person.

I wasn't particularly attracted to my current boyfriend when I met him. We worked together at the time. The first time we hung out socially, though, we connected on all kinds of levels, and it's like that flipped my lust switch. And physically speaking, it's little, specific-to-him things that I love most -- like his smile, and the way his eyes light up when he's really passionate about something. Things like that can keep the fires burning even when initial attraction loses its shiny-and-new intensity, and even as you and your partner age and change.
posted by spinto at 8:08 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your perception of someone's looks change with love. I find all sorts of conventionally unattractive things beautiful on the people I love, family as well as my husband.

It's not shallow to find certainvthings physically attractive. But as you get into a long-term relationship, you change with the person you love. When I was 20, 30-year olds were unattractive to me. Now I think my 31-year-old husband is hot stuff, even though he has changed a lot from the 19 year old I first met.
posted by jb at 8:31 AM on May 20, 2010

To answer your specific question without pontificating on how noble people should be:

You're probably talking about weight gain. If you let yourself go like she does you will remain attracted to her. If you remain fit and trim, you will probably stray. Is that shallow behavior? No. It's the way people are. Unless you're Larry King, almost everyone winds up with a partner who is at their equal level of attractiveness.
posted by L'OM at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2010

I worry that if their looks change, my feelings will change and I won't know what to do.

The only real way to know how to deal with this, for you, is through your own experience. Give it a shot. Meet a girl that you find attractive, one you can stick with for more than a few months, and her looks will change over time. Someday you can answer this question for the rest of us. Try not to break too many hearts along the way.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:04 AM on May 20, 2010

Here's something that will help you immensely. Date great looking people - as often as you possibly can, but do it only if you can do so in rapid succession. You'll learn a heck of a lot. I bet it'll cure you of ever again deciding to get into a relationship based solely or mostly on looks. I had a friend who idealized beautiful girls, but never actually dated them; he was particularly crazy about models. At the time, I was doing fashion photography, so I had steady access to models, and encouraged him to date them, even if he didn't think he had a chance. Well, due to purely a numbers game, he managed to get dates with a few. It cured him. We had some good laughs about it for years and years (until I lost touch with him). Imagine you're going out with this gorgeous girl, and constantly wishing she'd just shut up because it's a steady stream of inane or racist, or nagging, or whiny, or simply idiotic remarks without letup, to the point where you can't bring yourself to even look at her. It won't take days, it'll take hours - and you simply cannot stand to be in the same room with her (or him as the case may be). Now, imagine that someone says: marry this person. Holy Impossible Moses - it would be a most cruel punishment. Ergo, learn to search past the looks as soon as possible. In any case, most people get used to looks very quickly, to the point where you don't "see" them - beautiful or ugly. You mostly experience them as a personality - and that's a bit more permanent.
posted by VikingSword at 11:36 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

[few comments removed - chill out or go to metatalk, don't start fights here, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:04 PM on May 20, 2010

Intellectually, the answers to your question are very simple, and they've been stated here by many people.

1) In a long-term relationship, you develop feelings as the relationship progresses that you didn't necessarily have when the relationship started.

2) One's taste changes with age.

The problem with telling you these things is that, even though they are true, they are probably going to FEEL false. So if this thread is helpful to you at all, you have to take some stuff on faith.

I had an interesting experience yesterday. I was on the subway, sitting across from an older woman. She was probably in her late 60s. Like nearly all young men, I had never found "old ladies" attractive. Old lady = grandma.

I'm no longer a young man, but I'm not old, either. I'm 44. When I was 16, 30-year-old women weren't interesting to me. They were by the time I was 22 or so. Now, I regularly think women in their 40s and 50s are hot.

In any case, I was looking at this woman -- who didn't look like an amazingly young 69-year-old; she looked like a normal 69-year-old -- and I suddenly realized I was attracted to her.

Why? How did this happen? Magic. But it's magic that happens to almost everyone, and obviously it isn't REALLY magic. It's some sort of neurological change that occurs when you age. But it feels totally inexplicable.

As I was thinking about this, I imagined talking to my younger self. "One day, my lad, you will find old ladies attractive."

"No WAY!"

"Look, I'm you from the future, and I'm TELLING you it's true."

"Whatever. Maybe it's true. But if it is, the future me is not me any more."

I think older me and younger me would have to stop talking at this point, because there's no way I could explain it to him. The truth is, something about me HAS changed. And yet I'm still me. I still have the same personality, the same interests, the same memories. I feel a 100% continuity with my younger self.

So I think that the answers here are not going to fully satisfy you. If you can, try to take on faith -- based on the sheer number of people who are saying the same thing in this thread -- that the way you feel now. WILL change, even if that doesn't seem possible.
posted by grumblebee at 6:58 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

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