Feeling you aren’t attractive enough to be with your partner can be demoralising and isolating.
It can happen for various reasons.
Your self-esteem may have taken a knock – and with it, your sense of how desirable you are. Perhaps it’s something that you’ve begun to feel after going through physical changes; after an injury, following pregnancy or during menopause. Or, perhaps it’s something you’ve felt for a long time – you may have grown up believing that you’re unattractive, or have been told this in a previous relationship.
What do we mean by ‘attractiveness’?
Does being ‘attractive’ mean fitting into some mould of what you’re supposed to look like? Or is it more complicated?
While there are certain traits, or physical characteristics, that are more celebrated and valued in modern society (often unhelpfully reinforced in the media), there is no set criteria for attractiveness. The phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ may be a cliche, but it holds true: what is attractive to one person may not be attractive to someone else – and vice-versa.
In truth, we tend to feel more attractive when we enjoy self-esteem. People with high self-esteem tend to feel attractive because they simply feel good about who they are. They feel they are desirable – and see themselves as such. Less positive people tend to emphasise what they see as the bad parts of themselves – and therefore see someone less attractive when they look in the mirror.
The tricky thing is that it can be cyclical – if we begin to feel unattractive, our self-esteem may drop, causing us to believe it even more. If several things are affecting our self-esteem, this can lead to deeper issues of mental health, such as depression and anxiety. Conversely, poor mental health can cause low self-esteem.
Feeling less satisfied in areas of our life – such as family or work – can affect how attractive we feel. Someone feeling unsuccessful in their career may not feel they’re attractive because of the effect it has on their self-esteem. They may feel that, because they aren’t accomplishing as much as they want to, they aren’t desirable. Similarly, those of us struggling to exert control over finances, or finding ourselves emotionally drained by our extended family, may feel this way.
Looking after your appearance and staying healthy influence how attractive you may feel, but it’s easy to over-emphasise the physical – in doing so, you can create an unhealthy and self-fulfilling pattern of thinking.
How does feeling unattractive affect a relationship?
The effects on your relationship can be difficult and sometimes emotionally painful to navigate and may create distance between partners.
When you feel unattractive, your partner may seek to reassure: “I do find you attractive, and you shouldn’t worry.” But if you aren’t easily reassured, you are likely to reject this support, telling your partner they’re wrong, or simply ignoring what’s being said.
This can leave your partner feeling helpless, frustrated and rejected. Your partner may not know what to do – and may get tired of trying to offer support and getting nowhere. Then the distance between you and your partner gets wider.
What can you do about it?
Try to understand why you feel unattractive.
If it’s something you’ve started feeling recently, think about any changes that could be causing you to feel this way. Perhaps you aren’t feeling satisfied in your work. Perhaps you’re under financial pressure and this has left you feeling out of control. Maybe there are family matters causing you stress. All can have an impact and damage your self-esteem.
Consider whether any practical measures could alleviate your feelings. At work, think about areas where you do feel more effective, or those you’re more passionate about. Do you and your partner need to talk about money? Do you need to give yourself some space from your family?
Is there someone you can talk to about what you’re feeling – a trusted friend or family member? Sometimes having the chance to express yourself, even if it is just a quick chat, can make a difference.
If your feelings of unattractiveness are rooted in a longer-term pattern, or they’ve come about after physical changes, think about whether you need to reframe how you’re assessing your ‘attractiveness’. Sometimes, a small effort to focus less on what you see as the ‘negatives’ can have a positive effect.
One practical tip is to keep a note documenting your levels of confidence. It can help you identify when you feel less confident or aware of your ‘attractiveness’ and, conversely, when you feel better about yourself.
Reading your notes back can help you understand that your perception of your attractiveness – or your perception of how important this is – is as much affected by your moods as it is based in reality. It can also help you think about how doing more of what you enjoy can have a positive effect on your self-esteem – and directly affect how you feel you are perceived by others.
Reconnecting with your partner
The other important step is that you and your partner reconnect and talk about how you’re both feeling. The benefits are threefold:
- It gives you a chance to express what you’re going through. Your partner may not fully appreciate what you’re feeling – especially if you haven’t told them, or you haven’t sat down together to have a proper mutual conversation.
- It gives your partner a chance to share their perspective on the situation. Be mindful of breaking out of familiar, negative communication patterns and really try to listen to each other.
- Reconnecting in this way will help your relationship stay strong and mitigate the risk of issues causing you to drift apart. It’s important to address any issues in your relationship before the distance between you becomes greater – sometimes, being brave and getting it all out is the best way to do this.
We know it’s hard to be open and honest about this kind of thing – and it’s so much easier said than done. If you’d like some help from one of our counsellors why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.