January 15, 2020

Why Your “Type” Isn’t Always Good for You

Guest Author — 

There is very little reasoned, biblical perspective when it comes to evaluating physical attraction in dating and marriage. Debra Fileta does a wonderful job of pointing out our culture’s weaknesses in this regard and helping us find the “more excellent way” of Scripture. If you’re single, you need this perspective to help you make a wise marital choice. If you’re married, this perspective will help you maintain your loving affection for the spouse you’ve given your life to. Thanks, Debra, for this insightful contribution to our blog.

When I was single, I would often imagine what my future relationship was going to be like. I wondered about the kind of guy I’d end up dating and marrying. I’d try to picture who he would be and how he would look. I wondered if when I eventually had a picture of him, would I be proud to show it to my friends, or would I find myself with someone with an amazing heart whom I struggled to find attractive? I know I’m not alone in that worry because I hear from many people who express the same fears and concerns.

Finding someone to whom you are physically attracted is an important part of the equation of a healthy relationship. But it’s not the only part of the equation of attraction. It’s important for us to understand that attraction is multi-faceted. While attraction may start as physical, it’s fueled by other aspects of connection: emotional, mental, and spiritual.

 I am thankful that I am married to a man that I find attractive. But I was surprised by my growing attraction to him because he was not my so-called “type.” Physical attraction is a legitimate need in a relationship, but it must be kept in proper perspective, because just because you’re physically attracted to someone, doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Sometimes we’re physically attracted to people because something unhealthy in us, connects with something unhealthy in them. That’s why that initial physical attraction has to be kept in proper perspective. Sometimes it’s skewed by our own internal struggles, and other times, it’s skewed by what the world has led us to believe is “attractive”.  

HEALTHY EXPECTATIONS

As you are looking at your relationship, it is important to make sure that physical attraction is part of the equation, but more importantly, that you are coming to the table with appropriate expectations. It’s important to remember that expectations of physical perfection or the fulfillment of selfish fantasy are not realistic. Real people have real bodies, and our expectations must be real as well. This is not about finding a supermodel wife or waiting to marry Mr. Universe.

That might sound like a no-brainer to you, but we live in a culture in which the concepts of sexual chemistry and physical attraction have become totally, completely, and irreversibly skewed. The entertainment industry and the pornography culture have completely ravaged our understanding of beauty, and namely, the beauty of a real woman. And this distorted mentality is starting to seep into the church in a truly concerning way. I know, because I hear from Millenials all the time who are battling unrealistic expectations of physical attraction. A young man afraid to marry an incredible woman because her arms were too big. A young woman hesitating to commit to a godly man because he’s shorter than she had hoped. Before we start judging, let’s consider the ways we all come to the table with an unrealistic perspective.

Our concept of beauty and sex appeal has been completely hijacked over the years to the point where our expectations are unrealistic. We won’t even consider seeing someone as attractive if they don’t measure up to the standard that Hollywood has laid out for us, or to the filters that Instagram has convinced us are real life. But we’ve got to open our eyes to the fact that the standard we’ve been fed is so far from reality.

Beauty is fluid. And our desires, as well as the people we will find attractive, are morphed and changed based on the things we allow ourselves to be exposed to. In that regard, we actually have some sort of control over the things we define as attractive and beautiful.

In a culture that is infiltrated with pornography, airbrushed billboards and magazines, plastic surgery, and Instagram filters, our standard of “beauty” has moved so far from the truth that it is causing some major damage to our relational expectations—for both men and women. The more unrealistic images we take in, the more skewed our concept of beauty will be. Single or married, you can expose yourself to so much “fantasy” that real women and real men begin to lose their luster.

WE NEED A RESET

The only way to get our expectations moving back to reality is to realize that we need a reset. The reason we say “no” to distorted expectations of attraction is that skin-deep beauty can only last so long. Fast-forward 50, 30, or even 10 years, and your body as well as that of your spouse will have changed, sagged, and likely stretched out beyond recognition. After a few babies, a surgery or two along the way, and the unrelenting process of aging, I can guarantee you one thing: Neither of you will look the same. That is why it is so important to make sure your expectations of physical attraction are kept in check because it is only one part of the equation of lasting attraction.

In marriage, you will see your spouse at their absolute worst. You’ll see them in their most natural state—before the hair, before the makeup, before the accessories. You’ll see them through the lens of real life, which does not hide morning breath, cellulite, or other imperfections. You will be with your spouse through the days of sickness and exhaustion. What will ultimately define your marriage—and ultimately, your very life—is not the “supermodel status” of your husband or wife, but rather, their character.

Your spouse is the person who will have the greatest influence on your happiness, your confidence, and your security. Your spouse is the person who will walk with you through the highs and lows of life, help raise your children, and influence your family in every single way. According to Proverbs, a wife [or husband] of character is a treasure (Proverbs 31:10). And he who finds that finds a great thing, something worth holding onto no matter what. I know so many marriages that started with “amazing physical chemistry” and fizzled into nothing within a few short years. I also know of so many marriages that started on the foundation of good character and godliness—and continued to grow in intimacy, in respect, and in love.

It is time for us to rise above the noise of this culture and set our relationship expectations and standards on things that really matter. It is time to reset our standard of beauty by shutting off the influence of the unrealistic junk and filling our minds and hearts with the truth.

  • Beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30).
  • Charm is deceptive (Proverbs 31:30).
  • Real beauty runs deep (1 Peter 3:3).
  • Real attraction is multifaceted.
  • Inner beauty cannot be fabricated or replicated.
  • Character is what actually defines a person.
  • Spiritual health trumps everything (1 Timothy 4:8).

It is time for us to say “no” to the unrealistic standards this world is throwing our way. That starts with taking inventory of what we allow our minds to think about and our hearts to lust upon. Maybe that means making the commitment to stay away from porn. Maybe that means turning off Netflix for a while. Maybe it means stepping away from Facebook or TV or magazines. Maybe that means putting limits on how much we mindlessly scroll Instagram. Maybe it means guarding our conversations and how we allow ourselves to talk about the opposite sex.

Ultimately, it means saying no to lies that skew our perception of physical attraction—in exchange for truth. It’s time to reset our understanding of the role of physical attraction in our romantic relationships and remember that attraction has just as much to do with character as it does with chemistry.

This article is an excerpt from Debra’s new book, Love In Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship, and is used with permission. To find out how each season (spring, summer, fall, and winter) can make or break your relationship ORDER LOVE IN EVERY SEASON TODAY.

DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates, and Love In Every Season. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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12 responses to Why Your “Type” Isn’t Always Good for You

  1. What do you think of my mom’s counsel that physical attraction is unimportant & irrelevant because people should marry for friendship? It’s hard to cope when they’re no longer trustworthy & you stop enjoying their company

    • Angel,

      Part of this is personal preference, to be honest. For some people, physical appearance matters more than it does to others (though Debra’s counsel about looks changing as we age should be heeded and weighted by all). There should be enough attraction before marriage so that there is still interest in sexual intimacy. Normally, sexually intimacy (long-term) is fueled by the health of the relationship more than new physical attraction, but if a person’s appearance turns you “off,” I’d think twice about moving into marriage. Friendship is foundational and crucial to a good marriage. In fact, you can’t have a strong, intimate marriage without it. So I agree it’s good to put the focus there. But an intimate marriage should also involve sexual intimacy. If that’s going to be a problem I wouldn’t ignore it or you won’t be able to fulfill all that marriage asks of you and invites you to…

    • Good question, Angel. I think physical attraction needs to be kept in proper perspective, but that doesn’t mean we ignore it completely, either. The physical component to attraction is one of the many layers of attraction, and it’s necessary to have that in a marriage…but physical attraction can also be trumped by emotional, mental, or spiritual connection (or a lack of those things). So I think the best way to approach the conversation is with balance.

  2. I needed this post. I struggle immensely with this topic and knew I wasn’t really attracted to my (now) husband when we were dating, but he was (IS) a wonderful, good, honest man who honored my decision to wait until marriage to be intimate. I assumed that one we were married and intimate that those feelings/attractions would grow and that I just wasn’t feeling them because I had been so deeply hurt in my previous relationship. Well…here I am almost two years post wedding and I am struggling. I adore my husband and want to have those feelings and attractions to him, but just don’t yet. I am in counseling trying to sort through my hurts, hoping to open up. I read Christian self help and marriage books all the time, with a passion, and yet I am unable to discover the desire for my husband. Everything about his personality is everything I prayed to God for. So, I patiently wait for the rest of myself to catch up…

    • Christina Dougherty January 16, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      I can relate, girl! It’s a hard space to be in. I keep my focus on the Lord and do my best to work on my spiritual health. He’s not happy since I haven’t lived up to his “expectations” in a wife. It’s a vicious cycle. I’ll be praying for you! Please pray for me too!

    • I really appreciate your honesty here. And I think that physical attraction is absolutely only a PORTION of the equation of attraction. Which is why you say you married him to begin with, because everything else was there!! My best advice to you would be to see this as a place of growth, something you can work on in your marriage. Maybe there’s something he can do with his health, how he dresses, or even hygiene that can help you kindle that part of your relationship. And you can also take inventory of what you allow your mind to dwell on, or are there anything you can cut out of your life to help you “reset”. Working together to grow in this area is the best thing you can do, but the key is communicating about it and working on it together. I wrote a book called “Choosing Marriage” where I address the problem of a lack of physical attraction in marriage in detail. Over 50% of married couples I surveyed said they have struggled with this at some point in their marriage. I think that chapter would encourage you with some more practical advice.

  3. I agree with the article—Character, inner beauty, spiritual health trumps everything – because in a lasting relationship, there will be need to be mutually selfless, humble when needing to apologize or take a back seat; rational and principled in making decisions that will affect two or more persons. There is a need to forgive when hurting or being hurt; need to be strong and courageous in daily life; need to express hope and joy, to encourage and be encouraged, to tell the truth, to not let fear damage our relationship, to keep one’s promises; there will be a need to be strong enough to be vulnerable and flexible, and strong enough not to misuse the vulnerability of our partner, and so much more. All so true and necessary.

  4. Well, what a Godincidence! A couple of hours ago I was wrestling with this exact topic. I’m kind of seeing a guy at the moment and I struggle a bit with the fact that he’s not as attractive as my ex boyfriend. It partially comes down to entitlement, though mostly to identity: my ex dumped me, the situation got quite infected and it really damaged my view of myself as a woman. Though it took some time I’ve forgiven him and have pretty much healed, but now that I’m inching my way out into dating again I find that I still have insecurities. Basically, the ugly truth is that I want a really handsome guy so I can parade around with him and show people that “look, I attracted this gorgeous guy, so I’m still enough as a woman even though I was rejected”. And that’s wrong. That’s placing my worth in another person, which is idolatry. I want to have my identity as a woman in being a daughter of God and a bride of Christ, not in attracting a certain kind of guy. It feels a bit difficult to get there, but it’s not too difficult for God!
    Thank you for a timely and convicting blog post.

    • Christina Dougherty January 16, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      Extremely mature awareness, Hanna. Your identity is in Christ!

    • I’m so glad this helped, Hanna. In the end, remembering that physical attraction is a part of attraction over all, but there’s more to it to be considered. Also wise that you don’t use your ex boyfriend as your “measuring stick”, because there’s a good reason he’s your ex boyfriend. I love your insight, and your understanding of what’s really going on in your heart. And nothing is difficult for God, like you said. Thank you for your great comment.

  5. So true! I think back to the previous guy I dated who I found very physically attractive right from the start – and his looks blinded me to his selfishness, his dishonesty and his emotional manipulation of others, including me. ‘My type’ was definitely very harmful for me.

    When I first met the man who is now my fiance, I didn’t find him at all attractive physically. As I got to know him, I learned to love his servant-heartedness, his care for others, his humilty, his humour and his love for the Lord. But now, after 2 years I think he is the most physically attractive man on the planet and I’m counting the days till we get married!

    • This is a really beautiful story….thank you so much for sharing, and giving such a clear example of how physical attraction is really just one of the components of a deep and lasting attraction. Congrats on an upcoming wedding!!!!