How important are looks to a relationship?
December 16, 2021 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I've found a guy who I think I'm very compatible with on a number of levels but I keep worrying that I don't find him physically attractive enough. I'm looking for perspectives!

I'm seeing a guy who is in some ways not conventionally good looking and i'm worried that in time this will bother me more and more as surely at the beginning that's when attractive is at its height? I was wondering if anyone had experience of dating someone who was not conventionally attractive who grew on them?

I know this probably sounds really superficial but I have to ask as I don't want to mess him around and ignore something which I could have known from the beginning. And I feel like an arsehole for even thinking these things which is then feeding the anxiety loop / thoughts of 'I should just save his feelings and dump him now' which I don't actually want to do that!

I have a history of going for guys I find very good looking (hard not to when you meet them via dating apps as there is very little else to go on!) but then overlooking important qualities because I'm so physically smitten (I have a high sex drive and somtimes get overly focused on the physical aspect in the first few months - this then fades).

I also have a history of being very, very kind and generous to people I meet and not getting the same back. For example, I had a period of looking after an ex who had cancer, and then when I needed a similar level of support he just didnt have it in him to give it.

I am looking for someone kind and mature to build a life with. So this time I swiped right on people I may not have before to widen the pool and also because in this case he looked interesting. We have a very similar history (he is also very caring and looked after someone with cancer) and seems like a very good person in general. Far less awkward than the emotionally avoidant men I've dated over the past five years, has loads of friends, a great job etc. And most importantly, he makes me feel relaxed and comfortable in a way I don't often feel with someone. I feel i can trust him, and like something very lovely is building. On our first date, my first thought was 'no', but then as the date wore on I could see he was a lovely person and felt attracted to him. We also had a really nice first kiss, and our chemistry is good.

We have good sex and I definitely feel attracted to him in those moments, but sometimes I find myself comparing his looks a bit and wondering if I should hold out for something better and then feeling awful about it.

I am hoping these thoughts will ease off as time goes by, because it becomes more about who the person is - can anyone offer me reassurance on this? I really don't want to go far down the line and hurt his feelings so am becoming anxious that I have these thoughts. I guess this is normal at the beginning when I don't know him that well? We've been seeing eachother for a couple of months and things feel like they're deepening into a nice, close relationship so I'm hoping these thoughts will disappear.
posted by starstarstar to Human Relations (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
surely at the beginning that's when attractive is at its height?

Actually, I'd say that attraction grows as you get to know someone. As you fall in love with various aspects of their personality, you see a person for their whole self rather than just the physical shell.

While initial physical attraction is quite helpful, it's not the only important factor. I'd say to give this guy a few months and see how you feel then. Try to stop focusing on just his physical body.
posted by hydra77 at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2021 [43 favorites]

You're asking about two different things here: physical attraction and conventional attractiveness. I wouldn't normally suggest that someone try to wait it out if they're not experiencing physical attraction, hoping that it will grow. I certainly wouldn't think there was anything wrong with them saying "I'm not physically attracted to this person"—you can't force it, and sometimes it's not there. But that's not what you're saying; you're saying that you're attracted to him, but compare him to others and judge him for not being more conventionally handsome. Frankly, that sounds like a you thing!

So the answer to your real question is: yes, you can get over your sense that this person you're physically and emotionally attracted to is somehow "less than" because not everyone else you meet will agree. But that's less about giving the relationship time to develop, and more about figuring out what's causing you to think that way and working on those parts of yourself.
posted by babelfish at 11:17 AM on December 16, 2021 [33 favorites]

I've been in this situation a few times and turns out, it wasn't the looks that mattered, it was the doubt I felt and couldn't get to go away. I wasted those partners' time and hurt them more by sticking around hoping things would change. When things ended, I sometimes realized that the doubts I felt were unfounded and I had regrets, but I honestly don't think I could have ridded myself of those doubts without leaving.
posted by 10ch at 11:21 AM on December 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

If you wanna bang him, then great. That's the marker. But honestly if you're only kinda feeling it I have to say that you should just pull the plug. It's honestly really painful to date someone who is only kinda into you and sometimes attachments form and then you're stuck with the pain of breaking up or the pain of a relationship in which one person is all-in and the other person is only kinda interested but trying really hard.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:21 AM on December 16, 2021 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: Just in answer to @rockemsockem, I do want to bang him. And I really enjoy kissing and cuddling him! And his smell! So attraction is there?
posted by starstarstar at 11:24 AM on December 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

Sounds to me like you're attracted to this guy. My experience in my LTR that turned into my marriage is that everyone changes, both in terms of looks and personality. If the only reason you're with someone is for looks, that's probably not awesome, since looks change with time, as people get older. Personality tends to be a bit more stable, so I'd argue if you're digging both his looks and his personality, that's a very good sign. Neither my wife nor I are particularly conventionally attractive based on what the media says 'conventionally attractive' is, but we're into each other on a bunch of different levels and that's what's important. In my humble opinion, the rest of the world's expectations can go bother off.
posted by Alterscape at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

Those all sound like attraction, yes! Just because he's not everyone's type, that doesn't mean he'll stop being your type.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:30 AM on December 16, 2021 [22 favorites]

From your question it sounds like you ARE attracted to him but perhaps had a different idea of what you wanted your partner to look like or concerns about how others may view him, you, or you two as a couple if he's not conventionally attractive. My advice is you should try to let go of these concerns and focus on exploring and developing your attraction to him (as a whole person, looks are just one piece of that). I think attraction grows as you fall in love, but attraction can also ebb and flow with how things are going in the relationship and with the individuals.

So, if it's the outside stuff ("this isn't who I pictured myself with", or others think he's not attractive), try to get over it.

If you can't get over it OR if you are genuinely not attracted/have unacceptable chemistry with this person, then I think it's better to break up sooner rather than later. It would be cruel to stay with someone just because you feel ashamed of your reason for breaking up. An ex of mine told me he knew he "should" love me and I felt extremely hurt and foolish that I had been with someone (for 3 years!!) who was still trying to talk himself into loving me.
posted by kochenta at 11:36 AM on December 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

My now-ex husband was born with a severe cleft lip and cleft palate, and we are old enough that he had a high number of operations during childhood (rather than one or two) that left visible, distinctive characteristics that were obvious to anyone, as opposed to a small, neat scar on his lip. We hung out at some of the same places and I noticed his appearance immediately before I actually met him. We had great chemistry, attraction, love, sex, and relationship and I honestly hardly noticed after a bit; it was just the way he looked, and wasn't a big deal.

However, I'm very plain myself, and it might have helped that I never really imagined myself snagging a stunner, haha.

But no, really, I thought he was gorgeous and loved a lot of things about his looks, because I loved him.
posted by Occula at 11:41 AM on December 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

Just in answer to @rockemsockem, I do want to bang him. And I really enjoy kissing and cuddling him! And his smell! So attraction is there?

Honestly maybe? But maybe not. There are plenty of people who aren't "conventionally" attractive but they're my type such that I don't even think "they're not hot" when we're together and that is kinda what I mean. If you're just into someone's looks it makes all kinds of things easier than if you're into them but not as much their looks. Just sayin'. This is the time to be picky and just because women aren't supposed to be shallow doesn't mean it's a good idea to ignore your own kind of "no thanks" feelings.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:48 AM on December 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine, now in her early 30s, always went for the same good-looking type and had a series of really very unsatisfactory relationships with handsome guys she met on dating apps who, invariably, turned out to be utter bastards. Then lockdown came, and people weren't allowed to meet in person, so they had to talk and get to know one another instead. Quickly she found that the good-lookers she'd normally go for had very little to say for themselves.

One day she meant to swipe left but accidentally swiped right on the profile of a funny-looking guy, jug-eared, balding, really not someone she'd ever have given the time of day to ordinarily. He'd swiped right too and they started talking and she found that there was a lot of substance to him, he was funny, kind, with good values and morals, and they talked for months before they could meet so they really got to know a lot about each other.

He drives a Ford, not a BMW, he's a cop, not a finance broker in the City, he lives in a small house he's buying, not a fancy shiny new apartment he's paying a fortune to rent... but everything about him - the qualities that make him who he is - that she normally would have discounted ended up making him the ideal man. She adores him (and his lockdown adopted dog), and now, after 18 months, they're moving in together.

She said to me recently that she tried to go back and un-like him when she realised she'd swiped the wrong way, but wasn't able to. That wrong swipe on a guy she wouldn't have looked twice at if she'd met him in a pub has changed her life.
posted by essexjan at 11:51 AM on December 16, 2021 [22 favorites]

Hello! I am not conventionally good-looking, and I have dated both conventionally good-looking and not conventionally good-looking people. I agree strongly with babelfish - if you wanna smash and love the way this person smells, that suggests that you are physically attracted to this person, which suggests that these thoughts you're having come from some other kind of value judgment.

One of the most profound relationships of my life began at the end of college. I was still really insecure about my own looks, and my partner was not-conventionally-good-looking. He never talked about insecurity, but I got the sense that he felt he was ugly, just like I did. At the outset, I was attracted to his intellect, curiosity, and creativity, but didn't feel a physical spark, although the sex was great. At least one friend commented that she thought I was way cuter than he was, that I could "do better". Sometimes I found myself wondering if I should "hold out", similar to you. Over time, my feelings for him intensified - when he smiled, he was the most beautiful man in the universe. I adored his narrow hips and broad shoulders, loved how I could tuck my chin just under his neck, since he was only a few inches taller than I was. There's a great line in a song by the Magnetic Fields - "I don't know if you're beautiful - because I love you too much".

Have you thought about why having a conventionally-attractive partner matters to you? How do you feel about your own looks? During that long-ago relationship of mine, I know I had two types of thoughts: one was a worry about other people judging him/me, like my friend did. The other was a thought I now feel ashamed of: something that said that I deserved "better", that my ~relationship exchange value~ was greater than his. I think both the worry and the judgment stemmed, at least in part, from my own feelings of ugliness and unworthiness. I felt like other people judged me for not being pretty, so I both feared other people's judgment of my partner and did the thing I was afraid of to *him*, in the way that humans unconsciously try to beat feeling powerless by exerting power over others.

I think it's totally fine for people to decide what values they want to realize in relationships, and it's completely legit to feel attracted to some people and not to others. But if you're looking for a kind, mature person who you love to have sex with and who loves to have sex with you, it might be worth asking why conventional attractiveness would seem more important than those other qualities.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:53 AM on December 16, 2021 [18 favorites]

So to recap, the sex is good, the chemistry is good, you enjoy kissing him, you didn't immediate feel attracted to him but you now feel attracted to him. But your worried you don't feel attracted to him because sometimes you're aware that he's not the hottest man you've ever gone to bed with?

I agree with those saying that it sounds like you're over-thinking this, but that also over-thinking things can legitimately ruin a good relationship. If, when the relationship inevitably cools down a bit, are you going to panic that this confirms you're not attracted to him enough? Do you think you're having this intrusive thought because you aren't actually that attracted to him and are trying to trick yourself into believe he's attractive, or is this your brain being overly anxious over dating and compulsively looking for faults? Only you can answer this, not us.

Since you're asking for anecdotes: when I met my current partner I wasn't attracted to him (nor is he conventionally attractive - same goes for me), then I got to know him and found him very attractive, we started dating, and now, a little over five years later, we still find each other attractive. But for me attraction has never been primarily about the visual.
posted by coffeecat at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

In the six years I've been w/ my husband I've noticed that his facial features are kinda softening/aging in a way that I find attractive, it's like a foxiness I guess. He's definitely the better looking in the marriage which I couldn't care less about. When I look back on the men I've felt sparks with, there's literally zero physical correlation. Give me sparks over a certain look anyday. That said, I definitely find a certain foxiness in men attractive and foxiness is kinda how my facial features would be described I should point out. So I guess I'm saying we're starting to look more alike. It's hard to explain but I'm pretty sure there's some sort of evolutionary long term relationship 'thing' going on where we're starting to look like each other. Frankly, I'd prefer him to change in other areas (household chores!) but heyyy, that's me.
posted by BeeLIC at 12:01 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you're attracted now, then that's really all you need to know. I think that worrying too much about what will happen in the future is just borrowing trouble. It's the early stages of the relationship - you're just getting to know each other and your feelings (or his) could change for other reasons, you might learn things about him that make him seem less compatible, he could get offered his dream job in a city on the other side of the world. Or things could continue to be great and you could get married and live happily ever after! What I'm saying is that you really don't know how things will progress and it seems silly to break off a promising thing on fears that your feelings will change at some point in the future.
posted by lunasol at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I felt this exact same way with my current boyfriend of 6 years. This sounds terrible I know - but I am conventionally attractive and on a scale of 1-10 of attractiveness I would give him a 5-6. He is also older than me by 12 years. We met online too. This sounds even worse but I'm going to be honest - when we first started dating I felt like people were looking at me and thinking "what is she doing with that guy?" (I doubt anyone was).

However, he is SUPER sweet, kind, considerate, never critical, responsible treated me great and yes SMELLED AWESOME so I kept dating him. And the sex was good. Now I never think of his looks and when I do its only because he's looking super good that day and downright cute!

In my experience, the concern with looks will fade over time. I say I was mostly over it within 9 months of dating.
posted by Saucywench at 12:09 PM on December 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

I find looks matter less over time for me. The way they look is just a neutral part of them, rather than anything I think negatively about. Appearance is MUCH more important to me early on, when I don't know someone well.
posted by metasarah at 12:17 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I mean, is anyone really gonna come in here and say that they dumped someone who was otherwise great because they weren't good-looking enough? Just sayin', there's a ton, a TON of social pressure on women in particular to just go with this kind of "hot guys are not nice" kind of narrative or say that looks "don't matter."

Like, if it's truly just that you intellectually think he's not that cute but he makes you flutter, great! But you're also allowed to just not find someone attractive even if they're otherwise perfect.

Dating is not a meritocracy and you're not a public equitably-distributed resource. You get to pick! And it's okay to pick on looks.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:20 PM on December 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

I'm a 4 married to a 9, stop worrying about it.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:23 PM on December 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

If I were dating someone who I knew thought of me this way I'd be kind of crushed and would prefer to be broken up with early on. I don't expect that anyone would date me *because* of my appearance, but I would like to think people wouldn't date me *despite* my appearance, if that makes sense.
posted by nixxon at 12:42 PM on December 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

Having a conventionally attractive partner is a mark of status in some circles, just like having a designer watch or perfect skin or a high-status job or a certain kind of car are also marks of status in some circles. That status boost can feel nice, and in some high-visibility lifestyles, having a conventionally hot partner can boost your clout, and therefore your income.

It's ok to want that form of status. If having a hot partner feels important to you, be honest with yourself about it. It's MUCH better to admit that honestly and deliberately seek it from the get-go, rather than figure it out after building a commitment with someone and hurt them later.

There will be lots of people in your life you will feel attracted to - attraction isn't really that rare of a thing for most people. There are lots of people in the world who you could be compatible with. If a partner doesn't feel like the right fit, for any reason, even superficial reasons, it's ok to decide to move on.

It is much more respectful, kind, and fair to the other person's time and self-esteem to decide that internally for yourself and avoid getting serious with someone else who doesn't match what you're looking for.

Worth remembering:

1. Everyone gets less conventionally attractive with the passage of time.

2. Many people find their sex drive wanes as they age.

3. Companionship is much more durable than sexual / aesthetic attraction.

4. If you don't get along with the person, the superficial benefits of being with a hot partner won't outweigh those issues.

5. Don't lie to yourself about what you want. Be honest with yourself, so you can proceed with integrity towards others.

6. This is YOUR work to do, not theirs to know about. Do NOT ever tell someone that they are not attractive enough for you. We each need to manage ourselves and it's not our right to shred anyone else's self-esteem in the process.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2021 [20 favorites]

I'm pretty far from a Dr Relationship, but it seems to me that the adage "if the answer's not a 'hell yes!' it's probably a 'no'" is a good general rule for all sorts of things. But the underpinnings of that kind of pithy motto is that it makes it extremely important to be honest about and understand where one's hell-yeahs and nopes are, and the causes and conditions of how they express.

Sometimes people engage in a kind of what-if catastrophizing, a search for reasons to say no to a thing. I think in some cases, that stems from looking for a way to grant themselves permission to say no to a thing. It's worth introspecting on if you're doing that, and if so, why. That why can vary from everything from there's actually another reason a person wants to say no but can't approach it directly so they crabwalk sidewise to another excuse, to they don't want to say no at all, it's actually intrusive thoughts and/or self-sabotage. Pretty much no rando internet person can identify that!

Of course relationships that third parties would declare to be a big mismatch of attractiveness can work out fine--most people can think of happy couples off the top of their head! Relationships where anyone would say they're pretty much equally good-looking explode into tragic flinders all the time. The factor itself is pretty much completely independent of "relationship doomed y/n".
posted by Drastic at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

How old are you? How old is he? The advice is different for a 19, 29, 39, or 49 year old.
posted by notned at 1:21 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

I notice that you phrased this "how important are LOOKS," not "how important is attraction." The answer is, looks are only important in a relationship insofar as they contribute to attraction. If you're excited by, sexed up by, happy around, smitten with, someone, then by default, you are attracted. It's not "false" somehow if they aren't a physical ideal. If it's a concern about status, well, that's only important if status is important to you.

Some people cannot experience the excited/sexed up/smitten/comfortable thing without a high level of physical ideal-ness. But if you're experiencing it, then you're not one of them!

Look. I am not quite in your situation, because lord knows I'm nobody's ideal of a physical specimen and I haven't left a trail of superhot jerks in my wake. Most of my exes, viewed objectively, were on a spectrum from perfectly good-looking to reasonably picante, shall we say, and most of them were perfectly fine humans.

But now I am dating someone who is alarmingly, unsettlingly, dizzyingly kind. And good. This one is...extra. He just is. And let me tell you, girl, that shit is terrifying the first time it happens! Because you know you're not just going to like them, you might fucking love them, and who has the guts to actually love someone!!! NOBODY that's who. And that kind of unsettling can have you casting about for the thing, the reason, that means oh no no, surely not, you don't have to allow this wonderful shit to happen to you, lol.

Just take it as it comes, man. Stop borrowing trouble.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:28 PM on December 16, 2021 [20 favorites]

I'm a 9 married to a 5 and you know what? It doesn't matter. All that matters is what *you* want, and if you want him, you're good. Also, it is hard to understate how important the other factors are as you age. In two decades, you're certainly going to look different. But you'll still have your personalities.
posted by epanalepsis at 1:42 PM on December 16, 2021

I have been on both sides of your situation.
I've dated many people both conventionally attractive and less so. Some people I was incredibly attracted to, and now look at photos and have no physical pull to them whatsoever. Sometimes even during a relationship I will look at a photo and struggle to see the beauty I see in the person in the still photo--not because they are unphotogenic but because the camera does not have love's eye.
If that's what's happening here...great! You will be attracted to him while you have feelings for him and that will probably continue to grow over time, even if his (and your!) physical appearance changes.

I've also been on the other side, as the less-conventional object of someone else's affection. I'm a fat pretty person. I have dated people who were very attracted to me, but unhappy with being attracted to a fat person. If it's this sort of situation--if you're attracted to him but don't "want" to like someone with his appearance, then end things. It's going to continue to bother you and will affect the way you treat him and your relationship.
posted by assenav at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

I mean, is anyone really gonna come in here and say that they dumped someone who was otherwise great because they weren't good-looking enough

Yes, I will take the fall and be that guy. With the caveat that they weren’t totally great, and over time the connection that initially made me overlook their looks waned and with it the attraction.

What strikes me about your question is that on some level, your gut is telling you no, and in hindsight every time my gut told me that early into things and I tried to convince myself not to listen, in the end I wished I had trusted my gut.
posted by nancynickerson at 1:56 PM on December 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

And most importantly, he makes me feel relaxed and comfortable in a way I don't often feel with someone.

I don't know about you but to me this is so huge. Especially if you are planning to build a life with someone (as opposed to just having a nice time of it right now). Looks are one of those things that can ebb over someone's life but personality stuff is often harder to budge. I am with a guy (nearly 14 years) who is not my usual... body type? Like I tend to go for lanky guys and he's more pear-shaped. I, myself range between medium sized and slightly above medium. But oh MAN I feel home when I am with him, flat out. And some of this is also our peer group I think? No one is particularly judgmental about body type, he's still able to do the things I want to do, and our chemistry is just so so good.

But I'd be lying if I said that on days when I'm in a darker place, I think about this a little even now. And I've just concluded that I am a person with a slightly dissatisfied edge to me. Not a big deal, but helpful for knowing that picking at this particular scab is all about ME and has nothing to do with HIM. One of the things that has helped is that we've talked about it, I think he does the most with what he has. I've dated guys who were more physically typically-handsome and... eh.

So I guess I'd toss this back at you a little. Are you someone who is likely to nitpick at things and, over time, do those things tend to be a problem for you or a non-problem? Because my gut is "the pluses seem to outweigh the minuses" here.
posted by jessamyn at 2:11 PM on December 16, 2021 [12 favorites]

I've fallen madly in love with people who I initially didn't find very attractive, and then sort of shifted to finding them physically attractive because I was smitten with them. Their physical quirks became endearing and I became blind to their flaws, and I genuinely got turn on by them on a visual, physical level.

I'm not saying you will have the same experience with your guy, but I can vouch that it can happen. The fact that you have good chemistry, good sex and you really like him bodes well for the possibility that his looks will grow on you.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:17 PM on December 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

No one is perfect but you should feel so happy/lucky/excited to be with the person you're dating. No one should feel like they're "settling" nor should they feel like they're being "settled" on. I know I wouldn't want this and you probably wouldn't either.

Attraction isn't about a numbers scale (eww) -- it's about a feeling or vibe, at least to me. And it sounds like you just aren't totally feeling it with this guy. The reasons are unimportant: the gut feeling is what counts. As for overthinking, sure, but I have mild OCD so I used to think I should ignore my gut feeling. Now that I've learned to hone those fears and manage my OCD better -- sometimes through medicine and sometimes through other techniques, I see that feeling as a powerful force that I should listen to more, not less. There are people I've dated who were different from my type in looks but whom I admired and respected so much that the looks were unimportant; they were "hot" to me and I was proud to be their girlfriend. But there were also people I found cringey for whatever reason, even if I enjoyed having sex with them, and I just couldn't see myself in a relationship with them so I ended it. I'm also going to go out on a limb: if you're posting about it here, it's such a big challenge that you already know it's a no, eh?

HOWEVER, you have tons of different perspectives and everyone is right because it's about personal wants and needs. We can't say what you want but hopefully hearing all of us helps you figure that out.

Finally, there are conventionally "hot" guys who are not assholes! Maybe this guy isn't hot and is kind but there are plenty of ugly jerks, too. I am attracted to a lot of types of people but they all need to have an essence I like! Recently, I dated someone who was super appealing to me who was bald; there was a different guy who was also bald but who wasn't very attractive to me. The baldness was a red herring, although someone could accuse me of being superficial if I'm basing attraction on hair/baldness alone. But we are not human Mr. Potato Heads: there is always more to it. Personally, I've been super thin and hot; now I'm chubby and hot. After I gained those 70lbs over a handful of years, I used to worry that no one would see me as a serious prospect because of how I looked. Guess what? Not the case at ALL. Lots of people finds lots of different looks attractive; if looks are important to us, whatever those may be, then that's OK. Not everyone is into me and I'm not into everyone. I would hate, hate, hate for someone to be thinking what you're thinking about this guy and not break up with me. Learning that I can choose and reject people over even "petty bullshit" has been incredibly freeing: as women, we're told to take what we're given when we should be asking ourselves what WE want. This is no exception!
posted by smorgasbord at 2:53 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you are looking for something to be a potential problem. As everyone has said, attraction is not correlated with looks. You have attraction and like him, so enjoy that!

In my experience, as my partners became more and more beloved, I adored their physical attributes more and more.

I know you aren’t claiming to be a ten in this question, but it seems implied that you are better looking than him. You probably already know this, but it is worth stating--whatever your look number is now, it will decline because conventional standards of a good-looking woman means a young woman. So, looks change, and how hot someone is now does not predict the future. If you did “hold out”, and ended up with a hotter guy, would you leave him if he was in a fire and horribly disfigured? I don’t think so.

Good luck.
posted by rhonzo at 4:43 PM on December 16, 2021

This sounds terrible but I met my husband on Tinder and when I saw him in person the first time I was slightly disappointed (this is hard to admit, even to myself). He was still a nice looking man but obviously had chosen his best photos for Tinder. I was worried that I wouldn't be attracted to him but I decided to keep seeing him because he was such a wonderful person and we were very compatible.

Five years later and I often look at him and say "you are SO beautiful". I really think he is beautiful! For me, the attraction obviously grew and grew. I think this can often be the case.
posted by thereader at 4:44 PM on December 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

If you are attracted to a non-traditional kind of person, either individually or as a genre of person, it can be difficult to work it out. Most of my previous mlae partners were conventionally attractive. The one I had the most intense physical chemistry with was not. I always framed it as not being 'bothered by' those qualities. But the reality is I am attracted to those qualities - I like my men hairy, and large, and interesting looking. But I didn't realise that until after I broke up with my (very conventionally attractive) ex and decided to be single forever. It didn't last. Part of that was recognising that there were men who made me rethink my celibacy and they were all fat, all hairy, all bisexual, and one of them was short as well. And they all made me feel very good - not in terms of 'very nice to observe' (although that too) but there was a sense of comfort with them and their bodies that had been missing from a lot of my previous relationships.

What we are attracted to is not always going to match what is conventional, and when you spend your life surrounded by media and social messaging that what you are attracted to is wrong or lesser, it can take a while to work it out. But feeling good and secure and wanting to be physically with them? Sounds a lot like physical attraction to me.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:50 PM on December 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

... sometimes I find myself comparing his looks a bit and wondering if I should hold out for something better and then feeling awful about it.
Everything else you have said is very positive, but it's natural to wonder if there's someone out there that's just a little bit closer to perfection, especially when you are bombarded with the idea that particular characteristics of physical appearance are so important and that perfection is the standard we should all aspire to. Holding out for physical perfection is most likely to leave you dissatisfied forever, though.

It sounds to me like you're very comfortable with this person in every way apart from his not looking exactly the way you imagined your perfect man to be. The fact is that none of us are perfect in every way and we need to decide where we are prepared to not have a box on our 'perfect partner' list ticked. Unless this particular box is an absolute deal-breaker for you, there's no reason why you can't be absolutely happy with him.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
posted by dg at 5:26 PM on December 16, 2021

As a general rule, I've found women are far more likely to develop a genuine physical attraction to someone they're in a relationship with. I'm like a physical 3 (obvious birth defect, not terribly good looking on top of it) and my female partners have (with a little time) expressed that they found be genuinely pleasing to the eye in ways I found believable. Men on the other hand, if they didn't find me attractive from the get-go never really did.

I don't expect that anyone would date me *because* of my appearance, but I would like to think people wouldn't date me *despite* my appearance, if that makes sense.

Sometimes it's just the truth. I'm reminded of it every time I see my face and have made peace with it.
posted by Candleman at 5:58 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also, it sounds like you have been dating a lot of duds. Just because this is the first nice guy you've met doesn't mean he's the only one out there or even the best match for you. If you're into him and want to see where it goes, then great! But also I hate how we're often told as women that we should be grateful for very breadcrumb of kindness or understanding we get. We can have that and still want more, whatever that may be!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:58 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

It might help you to read a bit about relationship OCD and see if anything resonates with you. It could also help to read about the distinction between objective and subjective attractiveness.
posted by alphanerd at 7:15 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I thought my husband was hilariously, comically funny-looking when we first met. In 1985. I think he's the handsomest man on earth now. Several things about both our appearances may have changed in the interim, though.
posted by shadygrove at 8:33 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I feel like I have to weigh in on this because I had similar feelings at the start of what turned out to be an almost 8 year relationship, and I pushed myself past them figuring that attraction would grow over time. I consider that relationship to be the biggest mistake of my life and I deeply regret putting both of us through it.

I would also have described us as having "good" chemistry and "good" sex at the beginning, but for me that isn't enough and it doesn't sound like it's enough for you either? There's a massive difference between okay-ish sex and amazing sex, and likewise a very meaningful difference between "good" chemistry and great chemistry, especially if you have a high sex drive.

Looks and attraction are all mixed up together of course and it's impossible to put a quantitative figure on a person's appearance, but I'd encourage you to seriously consider whether it's just his looks that are the problem, or your attraction to him in general. Some say attraction grows over time, but sometimes it wanes – and good sex becomes mediocre sex becomes sex that you dread having.
posted by RubyScarlet at 10:28 PM on December 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

My ex-wife had vitiligo, which caused dark spots on her skin during sunny months. I imagine most people would be weirded out by it (from comments I've heard). One of our daughters has it too.

But I didn't care. I loved *her* and not her conventional attractiveness to others in society. I basically forgot she had it most of the time. I was blind to it.
posted by tacodave at 10:38 PM on December 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

In all your past questions about relationships, you've emphasised that you want to settle down and have a family. This sounds like the kind of guy who might make a good husband and father. Is the possibility of your long-held dream coming true feeling scary to you? Are you feeling tempted to self-sabotage by going back to a familiar pattern of dating emotionally withholding but outwardly successful and high-status men who give you a lot of high-intensity emotions? How can you care for yourself to keep hold of your real values and dreams, whilst navigating something that probably feels unfamiliar and therefore anxiety-triggering due to its comfort, safety, and sweetness?
posted by Balthamos at 1:43 AM on December 17, 2021 [9 favorites]

It sounds like you are attracted to this man, and you're feeling something almost like shame about being attracted to someone who doesn't meet your definition of conventionally attractive, or maybe that you're worried others might judge you for being attracted to someone who doesn't meet certain societal tests of attractiveness. I'd think seriously about why you're worried about this. Is it really that you're concerned you're going to wake up one day and realize that you don't like this person because of his looks? Or is it that you're concerned about what your friends might think, or how you'll look in photos, or whether there's some magical man out there who is exactly like this man but looks like The Rock's twin brother, or other things that have less to do with your actual feelings for this actual man, and more about feeling judged or anxious or insecure?

Remember too, looks fade. If you're actually seeking a long-term relationship, assuming you're lucky enough to get to grow old together, the person you settle down with now will eventually look very different (and less conventionally attractive) than either of you are now. Will you dump your beloved partner if he ages differently than you? If not, why would you dump that potential future partner now?
posted by decathecting at 10:19 AM on December 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Apologies, but I'm about to get a little tough-love on you:

Just in answer to @rockemsockem, I do want to bang him. And I really enjoy kissing and cuddling him! And his smell!

So....why are you asking this question?

So attraction is there?

If wanting to bang him isn't attraction, then what else do you think attraction even is?

Dude, you dig making out with him and you want to bang him. Stop fooling around on the internet and go bang him. Who the hell cares whether he isn't "conventionally good-looking" - maybe when you bang him you'll find out he is an absolute WIZARD in bed or something and you won't care. Or - more seriously - maybe over time you will find other incredible aspects about who he is that will make you not care that he doesn't have the exact percentage of BMI body fat or whatever the hell else you're worrying about now.

You dig him. You wanna bang him. Go do that, and fuck what anyone else might be saying you're "supposed" to be doing. They aren't you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on December 17, 2021 [7 favorites]

This reads to me like a "gut says yes, head has QUESTIONS" situation, is that accurate?

I would like to say trust your gut. But you do also need to look at this questioning part of your mind and evaluate, coldly, whether you can keep it from screwing up the relationship.

If you can, great, go ahead and try this thing that is making you happy!

But if your assessment is that your questioning mind is going to be a time bomb you can't defuse, then the responsible thing to do is avoid putting this person through that wringer.

It's hard to judge, especially if you have anxiety or catastrophizing going on. You don't want to go directly to "aaah I might be terrible I'd better pull the plug on everything." I personally find my self-awareness is not as good as it thinks it is and I do better up-weighting my trust of what I know by experience right now. YMMV.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:50 PM on December 17, 2021

With conflicted feelings like these, it helps to know which side your best self is on. I can imagine it going either way. E.g., your best self is excited and attracted, but your anxious side worries what people will think when they see you next to him. Or conversely, your best self just isn't into him enough physically, but your underconfident side warns you won't be able to find a better match and you'll be alone. Or another variation on one of those.

So, do you notice whether you feel more one way or more the other when you're feeling good about yourself -- centered, calm, confident, strong? And/or more the other way when you're feeling the opposite? If so, give more weight to the way your best self feels.

If you haven't noticed that kind of a pattern, keep an eye out for it. Or if you can, purposely get into a best-self frame of mind using whatever techniques do that for you (e.g., visualizations, meditation with positive self-regard, etc.), and then ask your best self's perspective on this conflict.
posted by daisyace at 1:52 PM on December 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

As a man, the best relationships I've had are with "plain looking" women. Over time, you really stop caring how they look because everything else is so wonderful. To me, they were the most beautiful people in the world.

I feel you're worried about what other people may think. You really shouldn't! People don't care as much as you think they do.
posted by GiveUpNed at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2021

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