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Dating Advice # 174: Double_Beauty
Dating Advice 17

Dating Advice # 174: Double_Beauty

How much emphasis should be placed on physical attraction?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I'm a 35-year-old Jewish male, looking for the right one to share my life with. I've read through almost all your columns and I can really see where I need to make some changes in my dating habits. But there is one thing that has been nagging at me about your advice. You repeatedly emphasize the need to date someone 4-5 times in order to see the attractiveness of the person. And you don't seem to approve of that "spark" that so many people seek. So does that mean I should not pursue women who trigger that immediate attraction?

I admit that when I've dated prettier women, I found it hard to stay objective because the chemistry was so strong. Furthermore, I usually ended the courtship because we really weren't compatible. But the concept of purposely seeking out less attractive women seems bizarre. Is there some kind of balance point and can you recommend how to get there?


Dear Nick,

It seems that there's been a misunderstanding. It's not that there's anything wrong with being attracted to someone from the start - quite the contrary. Our point is that attraction isn't always evident at first, and people who are dating for marriage should give it a chance to develop. The expression, "His looks are growing on me," describes a very common phenomenon: As people begin to get to know each other and form an emotional connection, they are able to let go of their first impression and see their dating partner from a different perspective.

Each of us has a certain idealized standard of beauty that colors our expectations about how our spouse should look. If we are not willing to look beyond that ideal, we won't be receptive to anyone who doesn't fulfill those expectations. However, many times if we are more open-minded and allow ourselves to start to enjoy a date's company, we are able to let go of that rigid ideal and take a less biased look.

As we begin to see more of the inner, spiritual qualities, we connect with that "beauty." This is actually a truer beauty, as it tends to improve with age, while physical beauty almost always deteriorates.

If you're looking for a spouse, this "long-term beauty" is a much more relevant factor. You can become attracted to a whole person, rather than how he or she appears to a stranger.

We have found that it can take four or five dates to recognize an attraction to the whole person, both the physical and spiritual beauties. Certainly, there is no guarantee that physical attraction will develop, even when a man and woman begin to like each other. And since physical attraction is definitely an important ingredient in marriage, we discourage people from continuing to date if one or both of them doesn't feel any attraction after the fifth date. In our experience, if attraction hasn't begun to grow by that point, it isn't going to do so in the future.

We also don't encourage someone who is genuinely bothered by a date's appearance to keep going out after the first or second date. Physical attraction is not something that can be forced.

We can't deny the fact that sometimes, people who have "immediate fireworks" can develop a great relationship and a long, happy life together. However, this romanticized ideal can keep you from making a connection with the person who is right for you as a life partner.

There's another problem with the belief that two people must be instantly attracted. We've seen this happen many times: two people feel a strong physical attraction, and only after the intensity fades they realize that they haven't put enough effort into developing an emotional connection. After weeks or months of feeling "head over heels," they come to realize that their goals or values aren't compatible, or that they don't really know each other very well. It seems to us that you've experienced this yourself -- your letter describes how you were sidetracked by the strong attraction you've felt for some of the women you dated.

Just as physical attraction often takes a while to develop, an emotional connection needs to take root and blossom over time. In fact, emotional intimacy -- the term we use for the connection that forms the foundation for an rewarding, enduring relationship -- takes more time to develop than physical attraction. That's the reason why we caution daters against expecting an instant "click." Those sensations are just as illusory as instant physical attraction, because they are based on a first impression that can have little to do with what the other person is really like.

Practical Tools

Whether you're attracted to someone in the first meeting, or whether you're ambivalent about her looks but willing to see how things develop, here are some suggestions to help you get to know each other better and see if you have long-term potential:

First, look for dating partners who seem to have goals and values that are compatible with your own. On your first date, assume that you're going out with a pleasant person, and try to enjoy the experience of the date: learn a little bit about someone else, savor a cup of coffee and dessert or an agreeable meal, appreciate the interior design or architecture of your surroundings, enjoy any entertainment you may have chosen, and have a little fun with your conversation.

Push certain thoughts out of your mind, such as, "Is this the one I'm going to marry?", or "How do I know she has everything I'm looking for," or "If I don't find out X, Y and Z it will be another wasted date." The only concern you should have on the first date is whether you get along well enough to go on a second date. That means if you are ambivalent about her, or feel something even slightly positive, you should go out again.

The second date should be similar: Lighten up and try to have a good time. At the same time, you can begin to open up your conversation to gain more insight into your date's personality, values, tastes, and way of dealing with different situations. We call this being "purposeful." Dating Maze #41 gives may suggestions about topics of conversation that you can introduce at different stages of the process.

While purposeful conversation shouldn't dominate your time together, it will help you add depth to the way you relate to each other, which in turn can strengthen the emotional connection. This approach will also help you decide at a relatively early stage whether you two are moving in the right direction.

We hope these suggestions help you date successfully and meet Ms. Right in the near future.

Rosie & Sherry

March 12, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Kenneth M. Albert, June 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Your #174 double beauty was very good, common sense advice. Thanx!

(6) Fran, April 3, 2005 12:00 AM

comment on comment

To Paul. I am your age and an attractive female. I am not more insecure because I am older. In fact I am more determined and confident in what I find tolerable and acceptable in other human beings. I am flexable but up to a point. So many relationships end because we try to be so tolerant and flexable just to have someone in our lives and find we are with someone and feeling alone still. I have learned that I don't need someone to make me happy, but that I would like someone to share my life with and that is an important choice and that I should choose someone who I am going to want to spend my life with. Yes it is ok to date people we may not wish to marry, but if we are looking for a life partner we "are" wasting our time to date someone we know from the start that we could not have a future with. Like the article states it may take time to know for sure just whether or not a date is a possibility and we should give a person more than just a superfical chance, but also if we cannot stand that person after one meeting it is time to move on. And by the way I date much younger men. Not that I feel all men older than I am are somehow flawed but mostly because I am high energy and youthful thinking so I seem to be more compatable with younger men. Maybe your attraction to younger women is not a distate for more mature women but actually a preference other than what you realize. If your preference is for younger women then don't bash the mature women because you cannot relate to their needs, which possibly include stability, direction, and wisdom. Just a hint: if you carry the attitude you have in your letter around with you on dates, I would not wish a second one either.

(5) sisi, March 29, 2005 12:00 AM

The writer may not fully realize that it is possible to be attracted to someone who is not the prettiest girl in the room or the girl who is overweight etc... Very few men seem to have this ability. I know far too many men who complain about singlehood, and about being rejected by the girls they do go after (usually the ones who all the guys chase, so they must for practical reasons reject most of them!)and all the while there are dozens of smart, funny, fun to be with women all around them. Unfortunately they are unable to see past the few extra pounds, the not so perfect complexion, the too short, too tall or too whatever that is on the outside.
Many beautiful women marry short, bald and fat men.... if they can see past the shortness, fatness and baldness then maybe men can see past the typical woman's physical faults.

(4) florence, March 15, 2005 12:00 AM

i think we should all remember what our sages taught us. "sheker hachain v'hevel hayofe" it means "charm is false and beauty is vain". in fact in all religous homes the husband will sing this song on friday night before kiddush. this teaches us that a marriage should not be physical oriented but we should strive for an emotional and spiritual bond that is more sublime and everlasting unlike a superficial bond based on physical beauty. time has proven over and over again that looks may be deceiving. another point is that human nature is that we tend to get used to things, even a beautiful looking person, so that the initial charm and attraction based upon looks wanes after some time.

(3) RO, March 14, 2005 12:00 AM

who knew?

When he first got out of car all I saw was a mountain man- long gray hair, fuzzy beard, 6'5, and 300lbs.

All my life I have been drawn to thin, dark haired, rudolph valentino types, so he was much more than I expected.

It has been 3 years now and the words to sum up how I feel are still... he lights up the room when he walks in.

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