How to get over not looking however it is I'm supposed to?
August 20, 2010 5:05 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend said he would prefer that I look different; then he said he didn't; how do I reconcile this and move on?

Several months ago—I think November or December—my boyfriend and I were having an argument. I don’t even remember exactly what the argument was about or why we were having it. I had been feeling very insecure just then about how he perceived my body because it seemed to me that he hadn’t been as anxious to touch me, as turned on by me or at all complimentary as he had previously and in the midst of arguing, I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing. I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it, before point-blank asking him if he wished I looked different. He said yes, that he was a typical guy.

This very much crushed me and the rest of the night was awful. He later took back what he said, saying that he hadn’t meant it and that he loved my body, but it didn’t console me. He then said he’d only said it because he could tell I had body issues and what he actually meant was that he wished I looked different so that I would be happy with my appearance. Also not consoling. Then even later he said that he didn’t want a shallow relationship, and he said this because somehow it validated the depth of his relationship with me (still not sure how the convoluted logic on that one is supposed to work). He later said he just wanted me to be “healthier” (I am not unhealthy, though, and when pressed he admitted that he didn’t really think I was unhealthy. I could be in better shape and would benefit by losing 20 pounds, but I am within normal BMI range). He was adamant in asserting he loved me and my body and continued to just say this, over and over. Eventually I moved on and things were good again. Except we keep having variations of the same fall-out every few weeks.

I am so happy with him when I don’t think about this. If I weren’t, I would leave and move on but I really, really want things to work with him; it is not just the best relationship I have but the relationship I want (except, obviously, for this). I have not been able to get over the fact that he would rather be with someone who looked different to me, though. I hate it. Sometimes I don’t even want him seeing or touching me because of this and when I think about it I get so upset, so angry, and so full of self-hatred. It makes me think that he’s going to leave me once he finds someone who ticks all his boxes; otherwise, I can’t understand why he’d want me to look different. He says he doesn’t want anyone else, that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, that he loves me, and so on—but then why did he say he wanted me to look different? I am having a lot of trouble seeing how that isn’t tantamount to him saying he doesn’t really want exactly me. I realize that over time people change, especially appearances, and so maybe the way he wants me to look doesn’t matter at all because it’s slightly transient but at the same time, I think that he should adore the way I look simply because it’s a part of me. I was not physically attracted to him when we first met; now I think he is the sexiest man alive. Because of this, I think I would still find him sexy when he’s old and wrinkly. There’s nothing wrong with how he looks, but what makes him so attractive to me is not really his physical appearance.

What makes this more difficult to process is that I am extremely attractive. I don’t know how to say this convincingly without sounding like an ass, but I am generally considered to be hot (though I question this now). As I said, I am carrying some extra weight (I am 5’8” and weigh 155lbs; the lightest I have ever been is 145, but that was before I met him; I had recently got over thinking this was excessively fat, though, and did have a lot of body issues and several years ago was bullemic). That he wants me to be model-perfect really hurts. I have been with guys before who I thought actually were happy/thrilled with how I looked and now I don’t know if I was just fooling myself. He knew what I looked like when we met and even said that he wanted me from the moment he first saw me; I can’t help thinking that I must have just been a disappointment once my clothes came off if he still wants me to look different. When I think about this I get so angry and feel like maybe I’m just being used because he can’t get someone better, but he always assures me that he loves me, loves my body, I turn him on, etc.

And in case it is not clear; the relationship is solid (shared interests, shared sense of humor, goals, outlooks, we get along great, want the same things, and just basically clicked from the start, and so on). I’m 28; he’s 31. Relationship is over a year old.

I would really like to be able to believe him now but I don’t know how to reconcile this. I want to get over this and make the relationship work but it’s been months and every time I start thinking about it I get upset all over again. Has this happened to any of you? What did you do?

Sorry about the length.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sometimes people say mean, stupid, or hurtful things in relationships. Sometimes they try to undo the damage of the mean, stupid, or hurtful thing and only make things worse.


Or, sometimes people are just assholes.


How has he acted towards you since then? Does he seem eager to see you naked, cuddle, have sex, etc? Does he compliment you? Do you catch him staring at your ass/cleavage/etc? That might be a better way of evaluating things.
posted by too bad you're not me at 5:13 PM on August 20, 2010


You bugged your boyfriend until he said something to stop getting bugged. He's an amateur, he said something stupid. Your question sort of feels like it's become a fixation point for you.

His perception of your body is his problem, not yours. Do you love him? The answer seems to be yes. Does he love you, the answer also seems to be yes.

You gotta let this go, and you gotta get comfortable in your own skin.
posted by iamabot at 5:15 PM on August 20, 2010 [28 favorites]


Ok, this is probably going to sound harsh, but I think mayhaps you will benefit from straight talk, because you aren't getting it from your boyfriend.

Characterizing yourself as extremely attractive is not what's making you sound like an ass. In fact, it's your LACK of confidence in your looks that's what's doing it. You could lose every last pound you think you need to be perfect and it still wouldn't be enough. For you. This is not your boyfriend's problem.

And I will tell you, yes, this very thing has happened to me. And the reason it did was because I was letting my own self esteem issues take over and make me difficult to be around. First thing you have to do is to DECIDE TO LIKE YOUR BODY. 20 pounds means, quite literally nothing. If you like yourself and your body, 20 pounds is a snap to lose if you want to. It's not the problem. I promise. Stop second guessing what you believe vs. what you *think* your boyfriend thinks (more on that in a second) and more over comparing yourself to society's ideas about what makes you attractive because you clearly think you are good looking. You're mostly right -- but if you second guess and don't do the work it takes to believe it yourself, you're missing that crucial ingredient to real attractiveness: Confidence. I know that's a tall order. We live in a shitty culture.

Here's how you let go of what your boyfriend said in the midst of that argument. Look back at how you explained the argument. You dropped hint after hint after hint that he should compliment you and remind you that he thinks you're perfect and beautiful and yadda yadda yadda. But he is a typical guy, as you said. Not a mind reader. He probably had a totally different idea of what you wanted to hear. He probably had NO idea. Eventually he said what he thought you might have wanted to hear. Then you FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. Then he took it back. This whole thing did not go well because you can't have a rational conversation about this.

There is a lot of work you have to do to be able to let it go, but you should, very much quite literally, look in the mirror -- and don't drop hints to your boyfriend about what you want to hear and what you need to hear. If you want to hear that he thinks you're beautiful and he's crazy about you, tell him you need to hear that next time.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:18 PM on August 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Nobody is supposed to look any particular way. Your body issues seem to be pretty deep-seated, such that it may not be possible for him to avoid triggering them since you are the one who asked the question in the first place. Given your attitude towards him, not being attracted to him at first and so on, how would you respond if he asked you the same question? Did you ask him what he meant by "different?"

I'm not one to OMGTHERAPY all the time, but all in all it sounds like you haven't finished dealing with your body issues and now they're affecting your relationship with someone you ostensibly like a lot.
posted by rhizome at 5:20 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


My husband and I had a conversation about my body shortly after I moved up here. I'm overweight, and I knew from a previous conversation (before we ever even thought about dating) that he is not especially attracted to overweight women. In light of that fact I simply could not believe it when he said he was attracted to me and loved my body.

I don't remember everything he said but it was words to the effect that while his ideal body type would be different than mine, he loved my body because he loved me. Basically what it came down to was, if I were thinner would he be happier? And he said he wouldn't mind if I got thinner but he was incredibly happy with me just as I am, and if I lost weight he'd be such a wee tiny bit happier it barely counted.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:25 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had been feeling very insecure just then about how he perceived my body... I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing. I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it, before point-blank asking him if he wished I looked different.

It sounds like you were really going at him, asking it over and over, and he just said yes to get you to stop. The very fact that this happened months ago and it still upsets you says, to me, that you are NOT OKAY with your body image and need to figure that out instead of putting it on him and potentially ruining your relationship. For your own mental health, you need to find a way to work on your body issues - maybe a support group for people who have struggled with eating disorders, a good therapist who specializes in body image issues, etc.
posted by coupdefoudre at 5:25 PM on August 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


He's really playing with fire. He clearly meant what he said and is now backtracking because he sees you were upset. You're really not overweight at all, and you yourself said you're very attractive, so this is not a problem with your body -- it's a problem with one person's opinion of your body. In general, it doesn't matter much what one person thinks of your body; the only problem is he happens to be your boyfriend.

However, you sound as lackluster about his looks as he sounds about yours. I'm not sure why this is just fine when it's your attitude about him, but it's a huge crisis when it's his attitude about you.

You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube: you can't unhear or unthink what he said. There isn't always a way to make-it-all-better in a relationship. Sorry if this sounds grim, but I don't see a way around it. You just need to decide whether this is such a dealbreaker that you have to break up, or whether you can just accept that he's not perfect (he's the one with a problem, not you) and stay together.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:30 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I had been feeling very insecure just then about how he perceived my body because it seemed to me that he hadn’t been as anxious to touch me, as turned on by me or at all complimentary as he had previously and in the midst of arguing, I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing. I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it, before point-blank asking him if he wished I looked different. He said yes, that he was a typical guy.

It sounds like you badgered and baited your boyfriend into saying something that may or may not be true. Maybe your body perfectly matches the ideal of physical beauty that he has in his head and maybe it doesn't. With the approach you are taking, you are very unlikely to get an honest answer out of him on this question (he probably feels, quite rightly, that he is in an emotional minefield where there is no right answer). However, it doesn't really matter. You don't need to live up to whatever ideal of physical perfection he has in his mind. He chooses to be in a relationship with you and that's what you need to know. If you think your sex life is suffering or you aren't being touched enough, then talk to your boyfriend about those issues, instead of trying to badger him into judging your body.

Quite frankly, it sounds like you have pretty strong feelings about your body that you aren't handling too well and are off-loading them onto your boyfriend. Repeating negative statements as some sort of challenge to your partner to deny them is not healthy behaviour and it isn't a respectful way to communicate.

There’s nothing wrong with how he looks, but what makes him so attractive to me is not really his physical appearance.

Surely, you would be able to accept if you boyfriend had somewhat similar feelings to your own? Maybe he does and you need to be able to accept that this might be the case (and maybe, after you've given him some time to let this blow over, you can talk about this).
posted by ssg at 5:31 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it, before point-blank asking him if he wished I looked different.

This never, ever works -- not just about weight issues, but about anything where you want the person to say a specific thing and then try to angle to get them to say it. Your boyfriend can't read your mind, and he's going to be looking at the conversation from a totally different viewpoint anyway. Plus, if you were clear enough to be obvious that you were trying to make him say the specific thing, that would probably end up making him feel more contrary than anything else. If I was badgered like this during an argument, I would probably end up saying the opposite of what the person wanted to hear, just to be like that. I'm not saying that to be mean to you either; I once broke up with someone just to make him say that he wanted to be with me. Didn't work.

but then why did he say he wanted me to look different?

Because you were bugging him.

he hadn’t been as anxious to touch me, as turned on by me or at all complimentary as he had previously


You've been together over a year; things cool down. The way to heat them up again is not to make him feel guilty and have an argument about your looks.
posted by frobozz at 5:34 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Stuff said in heated arguments is best left there. I know I've said, and my lovely partner who I love deeply has said things to each other that are designed to do most damage.
posted by the noob at 5:35 PM on August 20, 2010


I am 5’8” and weigh 155lbs

I had recently got over thinking this was excessively fat, though, and did have a lot of body issues and several years ago was bullemic)

The conversation with your boyfriend is not the issue here. You have issues with your perceptions about your body. Losing 20 pounds or DTMFA will not solve what is going on in your head. Work on what is going on in your head first, and when you do that, you'll have some clarity about your relationship.
posted by ambrosia at 5:36 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Look, if your boyfriend can't convince you that he likes your body and there's nothing wrong with you, none of us are going to. Here's my reconstituted answer from a slightly different situation (edited for irrelevant parts).
Without going into a lot of detail here, I have a very obvious birth defect that no amount of dieting or surgery or whatever would fix, and that apparently makes me unattractive to a wide swath of people. I spent a lot of time and relationships ("relationships") trying to prove my worth to some dude. I spent a lot of nights wishing I'd die in my sleep because I was sure no one would love me.

The insecurity is a black hole that will suck your whole life into it. You can never get enough reassurance from another person that you are wanted. You have to believe it yourself. I've been with my (very loving and faithful) husband for nearly six years, we don't have the additional complication of poly, we have sex on the regular, and I still have minor bouts of insecurity. But trying to keep up with what I imagine another person wants me to be is sheer insanity. You can lose your soul over something like this, even if you keep the guy. Even if you lose the weight, you're only going to get older, and you'll get gray hair and wrinkles and so forth.
I would add that my husband and I have had a couple of conversations where he said some very honest things and I was left feeling extremely insecure. I don't want to elaborate on it too much here, but feel free to email me. Basically, your boyfriend may have been telling the truth when he said he'd prefer you lose weight. But it doesn't matter. If he really preferred a different look, he'd be with a different woman.

Except we keep having variations of the same fall-out every few weeks.

How?? STOP ASKING HIM ABOUT IT. Seriously, nothing good can come out of having this conversation. Either he lies and you don't believe him, or he tells the truth and you don't believe him. You don't believe you're attractive and there is nothing he can say or do to really reassure you. Even if you lose the 20 lbs, you are going to need his constant reassurance that it was the right thing to do and NOW you're attractive to him. Even if you break up with this guy, when the next guy tells you how hot you are, you're going to wonder what he really thinks.
posted by desjardins at 5:42 PM on August 20, 2010 [18 favorites]


but then why did he say he wanted me to look different?

Maybe he assumed you want to look different and was trying to agree with you in advance. Frankly, if my girlfriend was repeatedly asking me, "you don't like the way I look, do you?" I would start hearing it as her saying, "I don't like the way I look, do I?"
posted by rhizome at 5:45 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am so happy with him when I don’t think about this. ... I have not been able to get over the fact that he would rather be with someone who looked different to me, though.

Have you ever had a cavity, and you keep poking the tooth with your tongue to see if it still hurts? Or you keep peeling off a scab to see if the wound underneath has healed - only to make it bleed anew? Yeah, that's what you're doing. Leave it alone. Let it heal. Stop checking. It'll be fine.
posted by desjardins at 5:45 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I believe you're hot. That's not what is important. What's important is the lack of self-knowledge and self control you displayed by baiting him that way, ie, I know you don't like my body and wish I were different. You're voicing your fears/feelings rather than your knowledge about what he's actually thinking, unless you read his diary.

A better approach would be, "Hey, I'm feeling crappy and weird. Now pet my head and tell me I'm pretty." Although that's probably a little too direct for most guys. But you get the idea.

Most important, though, is to key into what's going on with you before you take it to him. It comes with practice, mostly, though I'm almost 40 and I still sometimes project my emotions wildly onto my husband.
posted by Issithe at 5:46 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing. I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it, before point-blank asking him if he wished I looked different. He said yes, that he was a typical guy.

You're having an argument and you lay this on him. You are insecure about your looks and decide to accuse him of not liking your body. Your line of questioning is close to bullying behavior. You may as well be looking for drama, or a fight, and a reason to dislike yourself even more. Your motives are not sincere. If he said you were the most gorgeous person alive your body perception would still be crap. How long can he go around reassuring you that you are beautiful and good enough? You need to believe this for yourself.

I have done this sort of thing with my husband. If you don't think you'll like the answers don't go around asking for a critique. Don't fish for compliments and reassurance. It reeks of desperation and insecurity. Have you seen the movie Lovely and Amazing (youtube)? Emily Mortimer's character is desperate for approval. Don't be that person. She's gorgeous but is wasting precious time and energy disliking herself and because of it, she is less attractive.

Bottom line: Your motives weren't sincere but his answers were. He was not trying to be hurtful, he was trying to be truthful. You can't be mad about this. Learn to love yourself, don't ask this kind of stuff any more, and get over it.
posted by Fairchild at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing. I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it...

Don't play this game with people. It almost never turns out the way you want it to, and now you're reaping the rewards. If you had point-blank asked him from the start instead of needling him first, this might have turned out differently. As it is, it sounds like he said something stupid out of spite and is now trying to backtrack. It may be based on some small grain of truth. Do you think your boyfriend is the hottest man on the planet at all times, and nooooobody is ever hotter? I'm going to guess that you don't, but that it doesn't matter because you love him. He's hot enough for you, right? And that, I would guess, is how your boyfriend feels about you. So, stop asking him. Stop thinking about it, even. It doesn't matter in the long run anyway!
posted by katillathehun at 5:53 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


From the limited information you provide, I will say that you sound very insecure to me, and therefore require a lot of verbal encouragement and reassurance regarding your appearance. It sounds as if you're not getting that encouragement and reassurance to the degree that you would like from your boyfriend, this makes you fearful to the extreme that he doesn't like your body, and from there you jump to the bizarre conclusion that he would actually prefer to be with some unknown person with a better body than yours.

I find it very interesting that you say his physical appearance is not the thing that makes him most attractive to you, and yet, you seem hung up on this exact issue as it relates to yourself. What factors are stopping you from believing and accepting that he feels the same way about you?

You acknowledge that you have body image issues. It sounds as if you have not fully resolved these and are not yet at peace with yourself. His reactions in the original argument sound to me like those of a partner who's not sure how to deal with your insecurity tried to give you the answers he thought you wanted, and obviously failed. They do not sound like those of someone who's just waiting for a hotter woman to fall into his lap.
posted by sillymama at 5:55 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


wrote: "we ... want the same things"

Not really. You want spontaneous compliments, and he's apparently not the sort to do that. You want a mind reader, and he is not. You both need to work on your communication skills. It sounds hokey, and even feels hokey at first when practicing better communication habits, but it really helps things. You won't get what you need if you don't ask, and an accusation is not a request.

My SO and I used to have rather heated arguments to the point that it made other people uncomfortable. We're just that way normally. We finally decided to attempt to stop expecting each other to be mind readers and just say what it is that we want. It has made things a lot better in that department. Now, in our case, we never really had lingering issues over our arguments, and were just doing it to keep from making other people uncomfortable, but it has made the loud arguments go away for the most part.

Ironically, and completely off topic, it turns out that complete directness between the two of us is also disconcerting to others. Who knew?

Oh, and what was said earlier about things sometimes cooling off..yeah, it happens. It's not about appearance, it's about other things going on in life. There's a ebb and flow to sexual energy in most relationships. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you need more touching and whatever, tell him that.
posted by wierdo at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2010


Just another person saying this is something that's about "you and you" that is getting misplaced onto "you and him." It sounds like some combination of anxiety and body issues. I feel for you: I know how hard it can be to feel fearful and anxious about something.
posted by salvia at 5:59 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It really does sound like it was a stupid (and mean and inconsiderate) comment made in the heat of the moment. Ask a similar question "would you prefer it if your boyfriend was exactly who he is now, in all ways, but just slightly taller / more hair / less excema / more toned / looked more like Brad Pitt?" and the answer would probably be yes. Which doesn't mean that you don't love him completely! And it sounds like the same is true in reverse. His subsequent comments are actually pretty revealing - he clearly loves you for who you are, and does find you attractive, and wants to spend the rest of his life with you.

You need to give these comments the same weight (actually more!) than this one random comment. (Yes, I know, that's easier said than done! But worth trying...)

Two other things to think about:
- how you guys argue. All couples argue, that's a given. It's how you do it that makes a difference long term. If you're getting to the point of saying hurtful things that then hang around in the bedroom in capital letters, then you might want to think about working on how you argue.
- you mention that you haven't been as intimate lately as you used to be. Partly this may come down to the length of your relationship, but if there's a real problem there, it's worth exploring. The reason is unlikely to be that he's no longer attracted to you - it's more likely to be that one or both of you are stressed, or that you've just got into a bit of a rut. Plenty of advice on AskMeFi and the internet generally on addressing that - none of which involves changing your appearance.

Good luck.
posted by finding.perdita at 6:01 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you pushed him until he finally admitted there were some things that he wished were different about your physical appearance.

And think about it, how is that really hurtful? All of us have things that our significant others wish were different about us.

Maybe I would look better if I were more muscular, etc., and maybe if I pushed them to, women I have been with would also admit they would prefer me to be more muscular. But that doesn't bother me ... I have other priorities.

You're not a model, so it's not really your job to look flawlessly hot. Most of us would certainly enjoy it if our significant other were flawlessly hot. But we don't EXPECT our significant other to look flawlessly hot.
posted by jayder at 6:02 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Good grief. I love my husband but would change some physical things about him if I could. Heck, HE would change some physical things about himself if he could. So would us all.

Look, what is pretty is CONFIDENCE. You could have the absolute best body in the world, one that would make Angelina Jolie weep with envy, but if you are not confident in your own skin that's worthless. If you drive your man away, it will be this that does it, not some perceived body flaw.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:07 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


*so would WE all* grrrr....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:08 PM on August 20, 2010


Every single media depiction of the female form is seriously, if not dangerously, thin and/or artificial in whole or in part. From the time we are able to focus our eyes we are bombarded with images of what a "hot" woman looks like. (This does the kind of damage to women in which you are painfully stuck) but it impresses on the growing adolescent male human that what they want is a virtually impossible female body. Men really do seem to be a bit more susceptible to visual stimulation than women. They naturally like to look at women and our culture teaches them what kind of body is best. Intelligent, serious men will grow out of this trap and fall in love with a woman they can actually touch and they grow up. They'll always look but they won't spend the rest of their lives chasing an illusion.

If women don't realize how poison those ubiquitous messages are, they can't outgrow them. Wise up, girl. Get a full length mirror and walk around naked until you make peace with the way you look. Try a little feminism or therapy or exercise or all three. If you are confident, healthy and happy with yourself, you will be as sexually attractive as you choose to be at any size and any age. You'll get there a lot faster and more securely by working on your own attitudes and beliefs than you will by diet and cosmetic means or by working on your guy.
posted by Anitanola at 6:21 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have not been able to get over the fact that he would rather be with someone who looked different to me

He didn't say this though, did he?

It sounds like you gave him plenty of opportunity (and incentive) to say this, if that was what he meant, but it's not what he actually said ( other people have done a good job pointing out what he most likely meant).
posted by tallus at 6:23 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, I'm 5'8" and would be very happy at 155. And very thin. I know people carry weight differently, but I cannot imagine anyone looking "excessively fat" at that height and weight. Sounds like your perception is skewed.
posted by FlyByDay at 6:59 PM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


This happened to me, too. Had my worst fears about my appearance confirmed by my boyfriend. It took me a couple of years for the periodic fights and raging insecurity to go away. In those two years I:

-Worked on myself. I wasn't happy with the way I looked, sure...but I was also really unhappy about my personality, my social life and my career. Whenever I was really unhappy about those things it became really easy to pick at my insecurity to distract myself from my other problems. And, then, naturally, I would get upset and there would be a fight. After I fixed a lot of the things I hated about myself, it just got easier to think: "Hey, even if he did leave me for stupid reasons, I'd be okay. It's not the end of the world at all. There's plenty more to life that can make me genuinely happy. I can make myself happy. I don't need him to make me happy--he is just someone who makes the journey better."
-Came to know my boyfriend better (it's been three years, now), and to understand what it meant when he said he cared about someone and wanted them to be happy. It helped back up his statements that he cared about me. At some point, I had to become his advocate to myself. When I thought "He's just using me for companionship until his Real True Love comes along" I would counter with "He doesn't use people, because he's a good person. He's not lying to himself about me, because I know what it would look like if he was. So: he's not using me. It's really hurtful to him that I sometimes believe he would be so manipulative and heartless. I need to stop this train of thought."

I know it's not easy. Even if this was somewhat self-inflicted, it hurts like hell. You had yourself halfway convinced that you'd be lovable at any weight--and then someone whose opinion matters so much to you says that your weight does matter? How could you not be terrified and upset at this?

Even so, you know he didn't mean it that way. You do have to work on convincing yourself that he really loves you as you are for the relationship to work. It sounds like he's doing the right things by being reassuring and patient with you. So--match his level of effort by giving him a genuine chance to convince you that he really is into you. Tell the nagging thought that he's only saying these things because he's using you to go away, because he's not somebody who uses people. Remind yourself that he really loves you and does not want to hurt you. It might help to keep a little journal of the really touching things he does for you, of the things he says he loves about your appearance. You can look at that record when you're feeling really angry about what he said. Ultimately, there's really only so much he can do to convince you; you have to do the rest. Good luck. It's worth the effort.
posted by millions of peaches at 7:03 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Look... of course he wants you to "look different". In a perfect world, we'd all look like Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie (or whoever). Men have fantasies, women have fantasies, it's normal. But we know it's a fantasy. That's where his head was. I'm sure every other guy, removing their dumbass-filters and if 100% free (ie no consequences whatsoever) to say what they thought, would want each of us that they're with to look different in some way. Hell, i'll go so far as to guess even Brad Pitt has things he's change about Angelina, if he was really honest with himself. Can you really really say there isn't something about your guy you didn't wish was different at some point? Seriously? Most of us are just smart enough to never, ever say this outloud!

Your guy just had a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease in the heat of the moment and the argument. Nothing more, nothing less. Everything else he's said on the topic is him trying desperatly to make up for his huge goof. He didn't mean it the way you're thinking he does. None of us are perfect, and aren't expected to be by our SOs. It'd be a boring world if we were. But we love each other for who we are, flaws and imperfections and all. We all have them, and we can't be so naive to believe that the people who love us don't notice - but they either really don't care, or thats WHY they love us.
posted by cgg at 7:25 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


it impresses on the growing adolescent male human that what they want is a virtually impossible female body. ... Intelligent, serious men will grow out of this trap and fall in love with a woman they can actually touch and they grow up.

I'm sorry, I have to call this out as being inaccurate. I'm sure some adolescent guys are only attracted to impossibly thin women. But not most. I'm a straight 29-year-old man -- I remember what it was like to be an adolescent male who was more attracted to Drew Barrymore (pre weight loss) than Kate Moss. Adult men who are open-minded about body type didn't all arrive at that point through some journey of growth where they realized it was more important in life to have an all-around great partner and how they'd gone astray by being brainwashed by the media (I'm not even going to go there). People like me (and most straight men) are attracted to women with a range of body types because we're actually, naturally, pre-reflectively attracted to them. We're just as superficial as the guys who only like super-skinny women! You'd be doing yourself a disservice to think that deep down, all men would really prefer the supermodel types but you can find the man who's open-minded. I mean, you can find those men, but you don't need to feel like he's going to need to be charitable toward your body that's not "model-perfect." For many men supermodel does not equal "perfect," and this is not some realization that involves politically correct deprogramming or resigned "settling."
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:49 PM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's never a great idea to take people for what they say in an argument. I'm a guy that will often turn on somebody I feel is cornering me. Not that I'm proud of that.
That said, he was a jerk. It's really not so cool to go after people that way. Either of you.
Rules for fair fighting.
posted by Gilbert at 8:42 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really, really hesitant to post what I know is going to be very unpopular and probably hard to hear, but just to be the voice of dissent...my 0.02 is that he meant it when he said it the first time. And you know he meant it.

So, okay, most people seem to be approaching this from the perspective of "you shouldn't have been arguing and badgering him" as if that nullifies the whole situation or actually answers the question. I guess I don't see it that way. Nor do I think he just "said what you wanted to hear" or "blurted out something mean in the heat of argument." I suppose I'm also reading into the OP's question in my own way, but I would be more inclined to believe that this was always a nagging, underlying issue that happened to break the surface in a way that makes it seem like a one-off. Why was she badgering him to begin with? Is the question I can't help but wonder. And indeed, I go to the OP for reference and she has answered that:

I had been feeling very insecure just then about how he perceived my body because it seemed to me that he hadn’t been as anxious to touch me, as turned on by me or at all complimentary as he had previously and in the midst of arguing, I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing.

That's the real issue right there folks. Argument is a smokescreen.

My sense is that it is quite possible that a woman could "pick up on" a man losing interest when their sex life declines in exactly this way, without any explicit reasons spoken aloud, and he indeed would be very reticent to talk about for whatever reason...fear of seeming like a failure, fear that she will leave him, not wanting to hurt her with the truth, etc, etc. All I can say is, go with your gut, NEVER ignore your emotions or rationalize them away, and do not live in unhappiness because you "should" for any longer than you have to. And for heaven's sake, there is a man out there, not just a man, scores of 'em, that REALLY will love your body and sing your praises so much that you won't have to ask. Believe it.
posted by Nixy at 9:32 PM on August 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Per my first comment, I agree with Nixy's comment except that I do think the OP shouldn't have brought it up. But once you bring it up, I see no reason to assume that he was insincere in what he said. The idea that he was "telling you what he thought you wanted to hear" makes no sense. He would have to be an idiot to have thought that what you wanted to hear was that he would prefer if you lost weight. If he wanted to tell you what you wanted to hear, he should have said "no," not "yes"! I'm a bit surprised (but only a bit) at how many of the answers have danced around this. He undeniably meant what he said. He is being utterly silly, and you could easily find a slew of men within a 1-mile radius of you who would think your body is amazing -- with no hesitation, qualifications, or footnotes. But he evidently does not. Sorry. It's up to you to deal with that fact.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:09 PM on August 20, 2010


I suppose I'm also reading into the OP's question in my own way, but I would be more inclined to believe that this was always a nagging, underlying issue that happened to break the surface in a way that makes it seem like a one-off. Why was she badgering him to begin with? Is the question I can't help but wonder. And indeed, I go to the OP for reference and she has answered that:

"I had been feeling very insecure just then about how he perceived my body because it seemed to me that he hadn’t been as anxious to touch me, as turned on by me or at all complimentary as he had previously and in the midst of arguing, I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing."

That's the real issue right there folks. Argument is a smokescreen.


The only way this was always a nagging, underlying issue is if he was ALWAYS not anxious to touch her, and ALWAYS uncomplimentary. But the OP mentions she noticed a change in his behavior, which means that he used to be anxious to touch her and complimentary. And it seems that her weight has been the same (or within 10 lbs) for their entire relationship, so it's not like he's gonna be all "You gained a bunch of weight and I'm just not attracted to you anymore".

Perhaps there is some other issue that's making him less affectionate. He could still be totally into her body and have other reasons for being less affectionate.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:15 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wrote an answer, then wrote a different one, and while they both seem responsive to things you said, they also seem antithetical. The words that jumped out at me in your post were "I am extremely attractive" and "he should adore the way I look" and then "a lot of body issues" and "was bulimic". I kind of forgot about the bulimic part as I got carried away on #2 below. But then I remembered and came back and wrote #1. Then I wondered how they could both be. It's the bulimic notion of an unacceptable body image vs. what sounds like a previously unquestioned faith in your extreme attractiveness. I can only surmise that my habit of talking out of my ass has come back to bite me again and that I understand less about body image issues and identity than I thought. Or maybe #2 was always there and eventually led to #1 and is still there. Whatever. I hope they're useful even if only to eliminate some possibilities:

1. I have to think that your history of bulimia and the issues surrounding that are playing a major role in this deep down. While the things your boyfriend says, does, and thinks are of course important to you and to the relationship, I think they're incidental in this case. It's not what he said, it's the nature and degree of your reaction to it. The fears and insecurities and extreme reaction you're having sound consistent with what bulimics go through in terms of body image and self esteem. You'd know better than us, but it sounds like you made progress from where you were with that several years ago and now have been knocked back partway into those same thought patterns and worries. If you recognized it back then as a treatable situation in which you could and did make progress, perhaps you can take some of the same steps again this time. It sounds like your boyfriend would support you in that.

2. Armchair Freud here, checking in to hypothesize that perhaps you have defined and grown your identity around the idea of beauty over the years to the neglect and detriment of other aspects of your personality, leaving you hyper-vulnerable to beauty-themed worries and attacks. Not many people would casually describe themselves as "extremely attractive" as you just did. Extremely? That's awfully attractive, and pretty rare. So if it's accurate, you've been treated a lot differently in life than most people and have viewed it through a very different lens. Judging by your reaction and the particular way you've talked about it, It sounds like you've had such unquestioned faith in your attractiveness as a truth and such utter reliance on it being true that when somebody does something to call it into question, your whole world is rocked. You sound like you're in absolute disbelief, firstly, that he could find you less than super hot, and secondly that his attraction might be less because of it (if we can separate attraction and measurement of beauty into two different concepts here). Maybe no one else has ever behaved that way and you have therefore taken it as a given that any guy you're with, or perhaps anybody period, will be thrilled by your hotness. That's what it sounds like you're saying about the previous guys.

Look at how you hectored him to try to get him to validate your self image for you. You absolutely had to hear that he thought your appearance was as hot as ever, and you really thought that you were going to get the answer you wanted. And if you got it, you were subconsciously going to go "Ahh, whew, glad that's over. For a second I thought my identity was going to shatter, but he has reconfirmed what I of course knew to be true and that is that who and what I am is an extremely attractive person."

And now that the answer you badgered out of him isn't what you absolutely had to hear, you sound like a person who has their religion called into question - their whole framework of reality. Maybe your personal framework of reality has always been reckoned from this one fixed point and now it's flapping in the wind and WHAT'S HAPPENING?!

I'm not saying this to tease or criticize you. This can happen to other people whose identities are largely defined by some impressive superlative or another: smartest, fastest, biggest, strongest, funniest, most successful, most talented, most popular, whatever (with the understanding that most people by definition are not one of those superlatives and that lesser degrees of those qualities form parts of their perhaps more balanced and varied personas). Maybe they grow up defining themselves that way, and then one day out in the world they run into something that shakes that identity and then they don't know who they're supposed to be if they're not that superlative thing. What an unsettling feeling - hurt, angry, confused, lost, maybe even panicked. If you feel unhooked, adrift, scattered and so anxious you're going to explode, consider whether any of what I've said could be the cause. Could be a total overthink based on random wording you happened to choose in your post, but I bet at least some of it is close to home.

What I hear is that you're questioning your whole being, your whole worth, based on one forced comment about your physical appearance. You're even looking back in your history to question whether the previous guys you were with even really liked you. Because I mean, if you're not extremely attractive and perfect and people aren't thrilled by that, then they couldn't possibly love you, could they? Isn't that what you're saying when you question yourself over something like this? You're saying that if you're not physically perfect and desirable, then people who are with you can't actually want you and are just using you because they can't find anyone better, but they've got their radar on and will dump you just as soon as they can upgrade. Yet in the next breath you talk about how your boyfriend's physical looks don't have much to do with your attraction for him. If he's not perfectly smoking, physically, why shouldn't you throw him out as soon as you can find someone better looking? Something in your thought process is inconsistent. If your boyfriend can still be wonderful even though his looks aren't anything to write home about, then there must be other things in him/about him that are good and worthy of both attraction and love. If that's true for him, why not you?

Maybe a good exercise to take yourself through is this: If I were not extremely attractive, what would I be? Who would I be? If you took that away, what would be left? If you made a person out of that stuff, what would she be like? Would she be worthy of love? (I'm going to cheat a bit here and answer that one: yes). What this may help you do is release some of your fears about not being seen as extremely attractive. It may allow you to think more about the other parts of yourself and explore them and get to know them. If more of those things can come to define who you are, you can feel more grounded and anchored and less vulnerable to becoming lost in yourself when somebody doesn't think you're physically perfect.

One last thing. A lot of pain in life is caused by "should". You're saying that since you're attracted to him despite his ordinary looks, he should be attracted to you no matter how you look. But there is no should. There's only is. By rejecting what is, by trying to use the force of your mind to bend reality to the ideal you've decided should be real for everyone, you create a dissonance that continues to eat at you when that doesn't work. "Why why why isn't he doing right?" you ask. Well stop asking. The interplay between love, attraction, and beauty may work a certain way for you and differently for other people. Accept theirs and then work within that landscape.

Accept that your boyfriend may find you physically very good but not physically perfect. Accept that that can affect his attraction in a way that's different than you are used to. Accept that he can still love you. Accept that you can still be loved. Don't let the fact that you may not look as much better than everyone else as you'd like make you feel you're not as good or as worthy as anyone else. Get right with yourself and then present yourself to the world as-is. Your confidence in yourself and your groundedness will be a whole other kind of attractiveness.
posted by kookoobirdz at 10:34 PM on August 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing. I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it, before point-blank asking him if he wished I looked different.

Poor guy. Look, this is clearly about your issues with your body. That's why you brought it up. That's why you badgered him about it.

I have not been able to get over the fact that he would rather be with someone who looked different to me, though.

He did not say this. What you're doing here is creating drama my weaving an almost-true story that makes you the aggrieved party and gives you something to continue this conflict over. He, after repeated questioning from you, reluctantly agreed with you that there were somethings about your appearance he would change. He said nothing about wanting to be with someone else. You "can't get over" something that never happened, and I suspect you know this.

So, the question is, why are you doing it? Well based on this:

I think that he should adore the way I look simply because it’s a part of me.
I am extremely attractive.
I had recently got over thinking this was excessively fat,
I can’t help thinking that I must have just been a disappointment once my clothes came off
I think about this I get so angry and feel like maybe I’m just being used because he can’t get someone better


It sounds like you have crippling insecurity, and because of this low self-esteem, you are seeking affirmation to extreme levels, both in frequency and degree. But it's not going to work, because you expectations are unrealistic and compliments cannot heal the huge wound in your self-esteem.

Complicating the problem is this:

He says he doesn’t want anyone else, that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, that he loves me, and so on—but then why did he say he wanted me to look different? I am having a lot of trouble seeing how that isn’t tantamount to him saying he doesn’t really want exactly me.

This, and the quotes above, show a black and white, all-or-nothing thinking that generally we grow out of in maturity. I hate to play internet psychologist, but that black and white stuff can be a symptom of a personality disorder. You should be able to handle that he finds you attractive but doesn't think you're perfect. You need to, or you'll never be happy in a relationship. He can love you without it meaning automatic adoration of everything about you.

You probably should talk to a therapist about your issues. No matter what, the first step is getting over this is to stop bringing it up; because you're putting him in a postion were it's impossible to to console you, and then you turn around and act as though he carelessly or maliciously hurt you. At some point, he will either tire of being tricked into the part of the bad guy, or you will convince yourself that his "betrayal" is real and the relationship will end.
posted by spaltavian at 11:34 PM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


You're projecting your issues onto your bf.

If he's the one with the problem, you can come on here and have us tell you to DTMFA or get couples therapy or whatever, so that he can deal with his issues about your body so you don't have to.

The only person who can deal with your body anxiety is you, and since you have a history of serious eating disorders you probably need some professional help to do that. Until you do, you're going to go on feeling like this and wondering why every boyfriend you get turns out to have issues with your body.
posted by tel3path at 2:48 AM on August 21, 2010


I told him that I knew he didn’t like my body. He said nothing. I said it a few more times, really wishing he would deny it, before point-blank asking him if he wished I looked different.

Many guys hate feeling manipulated into saying something. Not sure if this applies to your guy, but it's possible.

Just a data point here:
If a girl I'm being with had said the above, I'd be hard pressed not to answer "Yes." out of spite, even if I consider her the most attractive being on earth.

"Tell me I'm beautiful." "You're beautiful." works so much better.
posted by Triton at 5:51 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You should go see the Neil Labute play Reasons to be Pretty. It's all about a woman who mercilessly persecutes her boyfriend for making an offhand comment about her appearance and ruins their relationship. But, like many other things, it turns out that her outrage and obsession with this perceived slight were actually about something else entirely.
posted by yarly at 8:45 AM on August 21, 2010


yarly, I'm sure it's great, but the worst possible advice for someone with a gender-based relationship difficulty is "go see a Neil Labute play."

Anon, I feel like everybody's being pretty hard on you, but you have a sadly common affliction that led you to dig all these verbal traps for your boyfriend. Therapy: as prescribed.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:11 AM on August 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


As a guy I'm going to play devil's advocate here. Prepare for some harsh realities.

"What makes this more difficult to process is that I am extremely attractive. I don’t know how to say this convincingly without sounding like an ass, but I am generally considered to be hot (though I question this now). As I said, I am carrying some extra weight (I am 5’8” and weigh 155lbs; the lightest I have ever been is 145"


You claim you are "extremely attractive" but to be honest 5'8" and 155lbs is what I would consider heavier than what I am typically attracted to and that weight alone would most likely be enough to prevent me from being sexually attracted to you at all, regardless of how pretty your face may be. This is the case for many guys. Blame it on the media, society, whatever--it is a reality. You can't get mad with someone for not being attracted to a certain body type--that is just unfair.

What is also unfair is being in a relationship with someone and expecting that they would never want to change anything about you. For example, I love my girlfriend who I've lived with for several years very much. I think she's beautiful, but if pressed, I'd probably ask her to work out more to lose the little tummy she's developed (likely due to my cooking, so I have to take some of the blame there). If you asked her, she'd tell you she would think I would look better if I wasn't losing my hair and if I worked out more to get more muscles.

Are we awful people? Hell no. We're just human and are aware of what we are and are not attracted to and more importantly we are open and honest with each other and would never blame the other person for having their opinion.

Now if that opinion ever killed all of the sexual attraction one way or another, that would be more serious, but it hasn't. My point is, it is not unreasonable for him to wish you would lose a little weight, and I'm sure there are things that would be perfectly reasonable that you wish you could change about him.

If the differences between what you currently look like and what he wishes you looked like are too great, you need to either lose some weight if you are willing to, or have a talk about whether the relationship still makes sense. At the end of the day, those are really your only two options once you cut past all the emotional crap in this discussion.


And if you do decide to lose some weight for him, it is certainly reasonable for you to ask him to do something to improve himself for you, such as work out more or something like that. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting your partner to do something to look sexier...welcome to nature, that's how humans are.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You claim you are "extremely attractive" but to be honest 5'8" and 155lbs is what I would consider heavier than what I am typically attracted to and that weight alone would most likely be enough to prevent me from being sexually attracted to you at all, regardless of how pretty your face may be

Look, OP, unless the above poster weighs all his girlfriends I think this is ridiculous. Because 5'8" and 155 lbs does not look identical on every woman.

Years ago I saw a magazine article that posted oh, 6 or 8 or so women of identical height and weight. Their perceived body shapes ran the gamut. It all depended on the fat percentage versus muscularskeletal percentage.

One of my daughters is that exact height and weighs maybe ten pounds less than that. She's built like a brick house and I seriously doubt ten more pounds would change that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of a similar situation with a friend of mine. It sounds like maybe he's a bit tone deaf and said something stupid and then could not manage to get his foot out of his mouth.

I'm sure that like every couple, you've had a hundred small misunderstandings that you've both just let go. You don't need to torture yourself with this one, especially if there's overwhelming evidence by the rest of his words and actions that he just made a mistake.
posted by desuetude at 1:05 PM on August 21, 2010


yarly, I'm sure it's great, but the worst possible advice for someone with a gender-based relationship difficulty is "go see a Neil Labute play."

I can understand why you'd say that but this play is less gender-wars than his other stuff. I saw it when I was going through some vanity/body image issues, and it has helped me see the problem in a very different, useful light (even though it was not a very good production...). It turns the spotlight on female vanity and vulnerability, forcing women to look at the fact that we are never going to "look however it is we're supposed to."
posted by yarly at 2:03 PM on August 21, 2010


You claim you are "extremely attractive" but to be honest 5'8" and 155lbs is what I would consider heavier than what I am typically attracted to and that weight alone would most likely be enough to prevent me from being sexually attracted to you at all, regardless of how pretty your face may be. This is the case for many guys.

Are you sure you even know what this looks like? It's definitely not overweight. It's also not stick-thin by any means, but definitely not a boner-killer for most guys. Picture chart here. I think this is lacking a range of examples but looking at the entries in the 140-160 5'6"-5'9" range, I don't really see anyone who, based on body alone, my male friends would pass over. In fact, I see nothing wrong with the women OR men in that range but add a beautiful face and, you know, an appealing personality and I don't see anything not to like. Maybe I'm not discerning enough.

People look so many different ways and the variety is beautiful. OP, your bf would not be with you if he didn't find you attractive.
posted by Polychrome at 3:27 AM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of guys (women may do this just as often, I'm a guy so I'm speaking from my own experience here) will feel trapped in particular kinds of arguments/conversations, and do something stupid in order to get out of the situation. Different people have different unfortunate automatic responses. I, for example, will sometimes feel trapped in an argument and just say what I think the other person wants to hear in order to end the argument. That's a terrible habit. A friend of mine says something really hostile or hurtful in order to shut down the discussion entirely. That's a worse one.

At the absolute top of the list of types of arguments that get this kind of response from me is the type your boyfriend was in: a situation where someone is repeatedly and confrontationally demanding to know how I feel about something. My girlfriend and I have an escape route for this - I told her once that being in that situation felt like I was fighting off swarming zombies and made me panic, so now I just say "I've got zombies" and we try to take things in a different direction. But, my strategies aside, the fact remains that I've said some of the dumbest things I've ever said when in the exact situation your boyfriend was in. That doesn't excuse them, but it does mean that they shouldn't be taken seriously. They were not intended to communicate information, they were intended to end the conversation. It sounds like your boyfriend did the same thing, and you should take him just as seriously.
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:53 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - this needs to go to MeTa, not turn into a fight here. Future commenters, what you personally do and do not consider attractive is not relevant to helping the OP answer her question. Keep answers on topic or go to MeTa or email.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:04 AM on August 23, 2010


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