I don’t consider myself a shallow person, though I do believe that many members of my family are very shallow. They are very into looks, dress and impressing others. I’ve always kind of been the black sheep of the family—resisting the temptation to care about these things. Yes, I like nice stuff, but up to a point. I would never put on a designer-label article of clothing or pocketbook. On principle!
When I started dating, I specifically told the shadchanim that I didn’t want to be set up with someone from a fancy family, who would expect me to look a certain way. I wanted to meet someone with great midot similar to mine, but someone who was very low key in appearance, with a family to match. I see myself living out of town and getting away from all this flashy stuff that I see around me.
I’ve been dating for a little while and have worked very hard to not focus on looks, clothing and outer trappings. I feel sticking to these values elevates me and makes me feel good about myself. Recently I was set up with Shlomo, who came very highly recommended. Whoever we checked with had amazing things to say about him in every way possible.
Here’s the problem. Shlomo is pretty bad looking. Maybe some people might even call him ugly—I hate to say. He’s shorter than me, heavy and doesn’t have very nice features. I’ve been pushing myself to go out with him again and again, because he really is such an amazing person and there is so much about him that I admire so greatly. However, the lack of attraction on my part is definitely troubling. I want to be “bigger” than that and not let looks influence my decision to continue dating him. I tell myself that I’ll get used to his looks and it won’t be a big deal eventually.
My mother thinks I’m kidding myself, and though she agrees that I don’t need to marry an Adonis, if Shlomo is a turn-off, that is significant and I don’t have to prove anything to myself by continuing on with him. I never want to believe that I was shallow and regret ultimately making a decision because of his looks.
Do you think I should push myself to overcome these feelings and possibly marry him because he is beautiful on the inside?
The Navidaters Respond:
Physical attraction has nothing to do with “flashy stuff.” Couples living outside of flashy neighborhoods find each other attractive. First and foremost, I think you need to work on separating some of your thoughts. They seem to be tangled together. You’ve woven your distaste of materialism and opulence with the chemistry that should be felt between a man and a woman.
If you would only consider marrying the most gorgeous of men, then we’d do a little reality testing and help you broaden your net. Your net, however, is so wide; you went fishing for a tuna and caught a dolphin… you’re considering keeping the dolphin… but I think you could benefit from spending some time learning how to fish.
There is nothing petty, selfish, shallow, self-serving or glitzy about being with a man whom you find attractive. As a matter of fact, whenever I hear a plight like yours (and they’re fairly common, unfortunately), I don’t understand the notion of moving forward with someone who you think is outright ugly and for whom you have zero attraction. Would you want to be with someone who found you unattractive? Probably not. That wouldn’t be fair.
I have met handfuls of couples over the years who were encouraged to look past a complete lack of chemistry and I have to tell you, it usually doesn’t bode well. Intimacy is something people look forward to sharing once they are married. It is a deeply significant part of a relationship; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If the thought of being intimate with Shlomo is repulsive to you, then the real question in my mind is How could you stay?
Yes, feelings grow and people can look past physical attributes they do not find attractive. For some people, when there is a certain chemistry, be it spiritual, romantic, intellectual etc., they can look past the physical (sometimes). But you and Shlomo do not have a chemistry. You find him repulsive. There is a big difference. In other words, if you had true feelings for him, you would already be looking past the physical. You admire him, he’s wonderful and lovely, and will make someone else happy. But you’re not the one. Let him go and move on. You may want to speak with a trusted mentor, a friend, a rebbetzin or a therapist to learn the difference between being shallow and the importance of chemistry and feelings, and also to truly accept your right to be physically and emotionally attracted to a man.
By Jennifer Mann, LCSW
Esther Mann, LCSW, and Jennifer Mann, LCSW, are licensed psychotherapists working with individuals, couples and families in Hewlett, New York. As The Navidaters, they specialize in dating and relationship coaching. To set up an appointment, please call 516.224.7779. Sessions are held in the office or via Skype. If you would like to submit a dating or relationship question anonymously, please email [email protected] Visit their website, thenavidaters.com, for dating and relationship advice and to learn more about their services. Follow The Navidaters on Facebook and Instagram. Check out the hit web series “Soon By You” and be sure to tune into the Navidaters After Show!