Why Do I Only Attract Girls I'm Not Attracted To?

Dear Elana: 

Why do I only attract girls I'm not attracted to? I'm not horrible looking, but I'm not movie star handsome either. I know I can't get a supermodel, but I want a girl who I'm attracted to. 

- Still Trying Under Duress

Dear STUD,  

Beautiful women tend to want to date handsome men. But, if you happen to be a shorter, stouter, balder man, there's still hope. You might just need to adjust your expectations.

It's human nature to try to attract the best possible mate. Men who want to date women who are more attractive than they are often trade a winning personality, wealth, or status for looks. However, if you don't have these social resources to leverage, then you might need to shift your perspective. If you can't get the one you love, then love the one you can get. When I was a teenager learning to accept my changing appearance, I had a John Cage quote taped to my bedroom mirror: "The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason."

We tend to think of sexual attraction as being biologically determined, as if there were a hierarchy of sexiness that correlates with better genes and greater happiness. In fact, much of your perception of beauty is culturally-defined. You might think that a woman in a Rubens painting is overweight, but your ancestors would have considered your Tinder crush waifish. Similarly, you might view body modification as grotesque, but the Kayan Lahwi women of Burma and Thailand elongate their necks with copper rings because long necks are a sign of beauty in their culture. Who you get the hots for is greatly influenced by your socialized beliefs about beauty. If you learn a new way of seeing, you can fall in love with a non-traditional beauty. Maybe she doesn't fit your physical ideal, but she has stunning eyes, elegant style, and graceful posture. And who knows, your great-grandchildren might consider her the gold standard of beauty in the future. Whatever you do, don't wallow in vanity for too long. Remember that looks fade, but having a partner and best friend to share your life with is irreplaceable.

--

Elana Hunter started KickStartLove when she was single, and after years of dating she is now happily married. She provides individual dating coaching for private clients who are ready to change their lives. 

The case for high standards

One of the issues I come across most often in my coaching practice is settling. That is, dating someone who isn’t quite “good enough” but who you date because you don’t think you can do any better. I see this most often with men, but women do it too. Here’s why it’s a bad idea, and why you deserve your perfect match.

You have probably heard of people being rated by numbers. A gorgeous model is a 10, and a bottom-of-the-barrel ugly is a 1. But the thing to remember is that these numbers are subjective. Your 6 is someone else’s 10, and your 10 is someone else’s 6.

The same is true of your number. One person might see you as a 4 and someone else might see you as a 9 or 10. You owe it to yourself to avoid dating the people who diminish your value, and to only give your heart to the people who admire and cherish you.

Few of us grow up believing that we need to have low standards. Something happens in our adolescence or early adulthood that wounds our egos and diminishes our self-confidence. We experience some form of rejection, and don’t want to get hurt again. It feels safer to date someone beneath us, someone who will be grateful to date us. But there’s a problem with this logic. Just because we perceive our partners as being lower status does not mean that they see themselves that way. A “low-status” mate is not more likely to stick around than a high-status partner.

Here’s why.

If you treat your partner like a 6, he or she will have very little incentive to stay. (If your partner does, it’s a sign of low self-esteem, and that’s not good, either.) When you’re kicked to the curb, you tell yourself, “I can’t even keep a 6, I better lower my standards to a 4.”

Wrong.

That’s false logic. You would be much better off shooting for an 8, 9, or 10 next time, because you will treat this new prospect with love, respect, and admiration, and that will hold interest.

Now, let’s clarify what it means to be a 10. Before you go prancing off into La La Land and chasing A-list movie stars, let’s make sure that your “high standard” is your deepest, most real desire. Are a fit waistline, firm skin, and an expensive car the traits that elevate someone in your book? Are they the qualities that will bring you meaningful, profound, satisfaction for 50 years to come? Probably not. So, let’s take a moment to figure out what a 10 really looks like for you.

Start by identifying the qualities that you really want and that you honestly value. Create a list of 10 to 20 items that absolutely make you swoon, the ones that you wouldn’t want to live without. This list will be different for everyone. Most likely, your list will include qualities such as intelligence, emotional stability, honesty and loyalty. It might even include physical characteristics such as body type or hair color. Are creativity, athleticism, sense of humor and spiritual/religious beliefs on your list? What about lifestyle, status, and education? Determine the most important qualities that you look for in a mate and write them down.

Now, you have a succinct list of the qualities that you want. If you did it right, it’s not a superficial list of features that turn you on. Rather, it’s a genuine list of characteristics that make a person compatible with you, a really good fit. If you meet someone who is “okay”, but who doesn’t quite meet your standards, don’t get involved. Really. You don’t have to settle. You know that expression, “There are plenty of fish in the sea?” Well, it’s actually true. Throw your “okay” fish back in the water, and keep rowing until a superstar swims your way.

Love is a serious business. It’s fun and silly and romantic. But it’s also serious, especially when you are thinking about creating a life with someone. You want to make sure that your better half lives up to the title. Settling leads to disappointment and regret. Hold out for that astonishing person who will make your heart pitter-patter, who will understand how you feel through thick and thin, and who will be your best friend. That person is out there and they are looking for you. If you have the skills to play the game, and the good judgment to sort out the mediocre from the golden, you can win yourself a 9 or 10.