Are you fixated by appearance?

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Physical attraction is a key part of how we choose a life-partner.

While physical attraction may play a bigger role for men, women also typically need to feel a visceral pull to someone in order to feel strongly enough about them to get married. In fact, people who downplay the physical side too much may be making a mistake. Torah sources are very balanced about this, urging that we recognize the role of appearance whilst acknowledging that it is ultimately vain and superficial.

The fixation with appearance may be covering a deeper concern

What happens when the physical appearance aspect dominates? What happens when someone cannot get past very specific preferences? What does a person do when they find themselves compelled to move on from what could be a great shidduch because the physical side is not working for them? The bigger concern is when the question of appearance dominates the entire dating process, with many otherwise great shiduch prospects getting rejecting due to looks. If this has happened several times, it is quite possible that it will be a continual pattern.

This article would like to draw your attention to something truly important, but which is not often understood. When the physical appearance continually proves to be an obstacle, it is often the product of the person’s own inhibitions and not the result of some meaningful preference that he or she has just not yet found. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If the problem truly is finding someone who fits the bill, it makes complete sense to stay patient and keep looking. But if the issue is within oneself, a new approach is needed. By rethinking things, you are not compromising or settling for “second best”. Instead, you are breaking out of a vicious cycle that is not going to lead you anywhere.

Briefly, it seems that some people have built-in resistances to commitment or to some other aspect of the dating process. However much they would like to move forward, there are underlying forces holding them back. This is usually hardly noticeable and may seem a preposterous statement to make. But the actions of the person usually reveal these patterns of thinking and behavior. To help such a person to compensate for these inhibitions, they develop in their minds an image of the kind of physical attraction that they believe will drive them to want to make a relationship stick. They probably do not realize it, but they have essentially transferred responsibility for attraction to the person they date and not to their own decision-making powers.

To explain a little further: there are a very wide variety of reasons why people find entering or finalizing a relationship difficult. Many of these are discussed on this website. The original causes of these difficulties are usually traceable to their early childhood or to traumatic life events. The net result is that a good percentage of people will struggle with some aspect of relationships, because it is one of the most significant and challenging psychological exercises people shall ever be engaged in. Some people will find that the difficulties they experience are significant, and are proving to be substantial obstacles on their pathway to relationship success. The truth is that those difficulties are not that great, but because people are unaware of them, they have the capacity to cause years of dating failure and resultant frustration.

Reflect on what might really be going on for you

Put differently, some people have a large part of them pushing them to find a life partner and settle down in marriage, and then there is this smaller but still significant part of the person pulling them away from marriage. It is not an ideal situation to have a part of oneself undermining the already complicated and challenging task of entering a relationship. But rather than deal with this internal conflict (which they are not even aware of), they begin to develop the notion in their minds that someone sufficiently attractive will compensate for their inner struggles. And for a short while, it may do. They will get very excited about someone they consider “hot,” but invariably it cannot solve the problem, and failure inevitably ensues.

If you are a person who finds that physical attraction has gotten in your way too often, the first thing you could do is get a better understanding of how this may be affecting you. This will help you to take back some control and to avoid becoming a helpless victim of another person’s appearance. Please recognize that it is not something over which you have absolutely no control; it only controls you because you are unaware of certain things. You can and will find someone attractive to marry, but you need to determine for yourself what that means and how that fits in with the other priorities you have in a marriage partner. You have less control over what you find attractive, but you do have a great deal of influence over how this affects your most important life choice.

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