Are Looks Important in a Marriage Decision?

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Guy smiling at his date, at a bar; Dating

“Hi Celes, I’ve read your soulmate series on how you met Ken. Can I ask you a question: Would you have married him if you weren’t PHYSICALLY attracted to him? Personally I’ve encountered good/nice/okay guys who have expressed their interest, but I [rejected them as I] was not physically attracted to them.

My key question is, what if you only like someone’s character but don’t feel physical attraction toward him? Does marriage require physical attraction, or should looks be abandoned? Thanks in advance and really hope u can answer this. I look up to you as a role model. 🙂 ” — Rachel

Have you ever thought if looks are important in a marriage decision? Do you wonder how highly you should prize looks as you consider your ideal traits in a life partner? Reader Rachel recently sent in this question and I thought to respond to this via a blog post instead.

Marriage is a very personal decision. Some prefer partners who are very good looking, while some don’t. Some like their partners to be fuller with “meat,” while some prefer their partners skinny. Add to the fact that what constitutes beauty is a very subjective thing, it then becomes impossible to give this question a definite answer.

But if you ask me for my opinion, IMO looks, in the grander scheme of things, should be a secondary criteria. That’s because looks are temporary, while our mind and soul, these are forever.

My Experience

By now most of you would know how I met my husband Ken; if not, you can read my soulmate series where I detail our journey from how we met to how I knew he is my one.

So the first time I ever met him in school, I thought he was very good looking. I later found out that he was scouted to be in a campus manhunt contest and even won third. Tall, well-built, and handsome, he was like a “dream come true” kind of guy for me, though I was never looking for someone who was good looking. As a self-inferior girl then, I also didn’t think much of myself and my looks to think that I could ever have a “chance” with someone with such good looks.

When we reacquainted 9 years later, he still looked good, albeit a bit aged as he had been smoking and drinking so much in the years prior. He has since reversed the damages, looks-wise, after quitting smoking and drinking. Then, when it came to assessing our compatibility in other areas, he turned out to be my perfect match, so it became a no brainer that he is the one for me.

Hair Loss Problem

Now the thing is Ken suffers from, or used to suffer from, severe hair loss. (I didn’t talk about this before because I didn’t think it was my thing to say, but I’ve checked with him and he says to write whatever I want.) Basically he used to suffer from premature male-pattern hair loss, a condition where men and women lose hair at their temples and/or the top of their scalps. The cause is unknown, though in Ken’s case it’s likely due to genetics — though funnily his dad is in his 60s and still has tons of hair.

Now I don’t know how you perceive hair loss, but in Singapore and at least from my experiences growing up, hair loss is very much seen as grossly unattractive, embarrassing, and even a shameful thing. In fact if you look at the older male celebrities in Singapore compared to the ones in Hollywood, you’ll find male celebrities have much higher hair lines in Hollywood (Leonardo Dicaprio, Nicholas Cage, Jude Law, Bill Murray) than here. Here in Singapore, every male celebrity has lots of hair even at the age of 50, and their thick hair is obviously from artificial treatment vs. being naturally abundant.

Add to the fact that there are many hair loss treatment companies in Singapore that spend tons of money blasting their ads in shopping malls, TV, and roadshows and creating shame/negativity around hair loss, it perpetuates the idea that hair loss is very serious and unacceptable, that it is shameful to lose hair, and if you are losing hair you need to fix this problem ASAP — even at the cost of huge sums of money. IMO the social stigma from having a receding hairline here is about 5-10X vs. all other places I’ve been in (except for Hong Kong which I find is a very looks-focused country too).

So for Ken, the problem wasn’t just that he was losing hair, but that he was losing it at such a young age. Male-pattern hair loss hits 70% of men and 40% of women at some point in their lives, but in his case it started in his mid 20’s and got really bad in his late 20’s. By the time he was 30, he had lost about 60% of his hair, which is, well, a lot. Over half his hair was gone. Not only was his hairline much higher — it had a distinct “M” shape — his hair throughout his scalp was also quite thin.

Male Pattern Hair Loss Scale

Male pattern hair loss scale. Ken’s hairline in his late 20s was somewhere between Pattern #2 Class 5 and 6, while his hair throughout his head was much thinner than usual. (Picture © Alvi Armani)

Losing so much of his hair so quickly was naturally a saddening experience for him. This wasn’t natural hair loss over decades, but rapid hair loss in a few years. Not only did it make him look less attractive by the Singapore society’s standard, it also made him look much older, like a man in his late 40s, rather than 29-30 which was his real age then.

While he tried to take his hair loss into stride initially, he eventually saw a doctor who prescribed him medicine. This medicine seemed to work well as his hair started to grow back, and by the time we reacquainted (he was 31 while I was 28), Ken looked the same as his past self when I first met him in school, albeit older.

What If Ken Was Balding When I Met Him?

Now the thing is, what if his hair never grew back? What if he only had 40% of his hair when we reacquainted? Would I have liked him? Would I have considered him romantically? Would I have married him, to quote Rachel’s question?

First off, this is quite a strange question to consider given that Ken is my husband and we’ve been married for several years now. I see Ken as a core part of my life just like PE is a core part of who I am, and it doesn’t matter even if he has one strand of hair left, no hair left, or if he had a totally different face — I’d still marry him.

But if I am to imagine that I didn’t know any of this stuff, that I am my 28-year-old single self now again with no awareness of what we’ve been through, and that Ken and I are just meeting for the first time again after years, then I’d say I’d be shocked initially.

  • Firstly, I already knew him back when he had lots of hair and all, so to see him balding and looking so different after just a few years would be quite surprising.
  • Secondly, when you meet a date prospect for the first time, you’d probably expect him/her to at least look his/her age, sans good looks or smart dressing. I already knew that looks weren’t all that important to me in a partner at that time, but I did subconsciously expect that my dates would at least look their age — plus-minus a few years. Since Ken would look more like he was 45 rather than his real age of 31 with so much hair loss, it was something I’d have to “normalize” first.

However, beyond that, I don’t think it would have changed the outcome of our relationship. Why do I say that?

Firstly, the reason why I married Ken or got together with him isn’t because of his looks. It’s because of his kindness, openness, reliability, and honesty. I remember being very impressed by him early on when we chatted (this was after we reacquainted but before we met) as he was so selfless and giving. That he turned out to be very intelligent and conscious which was a dream come true for me, so when it came down to whether to marry him, it was clear that he is the man for me. Perhaps his looks might have facilitated our connection at the beginning on a small level, as having someone who looks attractive to you would naturally pique your interest in a romantic way, but without all his other traits, our friendship would never have advanced to anywhere near relationship status.

Now the second and more important thing I want to say is something that I teach in Soulmate Journey, my course on finding love. During Soulmate Journey, I ask my participants to think about the kind of partner they’d like to have when they’re 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and even a 100. So imagine yourself at these individual ages. What qualities would you look for at each age? And what are the common qualities that you would look for in a partner across all ages?

Couple dating in a coffee shop

What would you look for in an ideal partner when you’re 30?

 

Happy middle-age couple

…how about when you’re 40? …50? …60?

 

Elderly couple, kiss

…or when you’re 70? …80? …90? …or a 100?

While there are traits that may seem important at particular phases of our life — for example, looks would probably rank higher when we’re 20 or 30 — chances are there are traits that continually appear throughout each age group, such as empathy, reliability, caringness, and so on. These are the traits that are the real qualities to look out for in a life partner, vs. the qualities that matter to you now only. That’s because the latter group is transient, but the former reflects your real needs in a partner.

So when I thought about this question, I realized the most important things to me in a partner whether I’m 30, 40, 50, 70, or even a 100 are someone who is (1) kind and (2) committed to his growth. These are qualities that matter most to me and that I strive to uphold, and hence qualities I’d like my life partner to have too.

Ken met this in every way possible, and after we got together, the way he would always be there for me, be patient and supportive toward everything I say/do, and be caring, reliable, open, and trustworthy about just everything in general made it clear that this is the man I see myself with for life. That he’s good looking and all that were not even vague factors of consideration — marriage is a life-long thing, and all physical looks will fade away with time, just as celebrities come and go when their looks fade. There will be a day when both Ken and I will be old and wrinkly, but who he is as a person? This is who I’ll live with forever.

Engagement shoot: Reflection in the water

Now say if Ken were really ugly (as defined by society) or he were balding seriously when we met. Perhaps I might be hesitant to date him at first, out of fear of how others would perceive me. I was 28 then and others would generally expect that I would date someone who looked my age. Add to the fact the public nature of my profile, I think that many people were already quite scrutinizing on who I’d date / end up with, and whether that guy would be attractive (since that’s the most visual part of a person).

However, as we interacted more as friends, I would inevitably feel more drawn to him because of the strength of his soul, his intelligence, and all his other great traits — kindness, compassion, generosity, authenticity, etc. I would gradually be warmed by his heart and kindness, which was what touched me about him at first. I’d start to see how attractive he is as a person, with or without hair, with or without conventional good looks. I’d start to realize that he is actually very attractive the way he is and admire his physical features and look for what they are. I’d also start to realize that my fears were really more vanity-driven fears, borne from living in a material world like Singapore.

And I’m sure I’d start to fall in love with him anyway, like how I did in real life.

Physical Attraction

Guy smiling at his date, at a bar

To set the record straight, I’m not negating the role of physical attraction in a relationship. It’s important to be physically attracted to your partner. It’s important that you find your partner attractive as he/she is. If not, there may be issues later on not wanting to be physically intimate with your partner after marriage, being physically repulsed by him/her as you see him/her day after day, and so on.

However, I’ve found that initial physical attraction is usually the result of conditioning since young. For example, perhaps you were taught to perceive X look as beautiful or handsome, and hence you gravitate to guys/girls who look that way growing up. Perhaps you were taught to perceive Y look as attractive, and therefore you gravitate to guys/girls with Y look.

Yet, physical attraction isn’t something set in stone. From my experience, I’ve found that physical attraction (or non-attraction) toward someone can change over time, and it’s usually molded by the person’s character, heart, and soul. I have in various instances found very attractive men repulsive looking after discovering a very ugly trait about them, such as them being very materialistic, judgmental, or fake. I had (in the past) also met guys whom I felt were totally unattractive but later on grew to like them and actually find them very good looking — more so than conventionally attractive guys. Of course, those connections didn’t work out and I’m glad they didn’t because I’d never have found my true soulmate otherwise.

To You

Now I understand some of you may have a preference for a certain type or look and you won’t find someone attractive unless he/she falls under this type or look. That’s perfectly understandable.

All I ask is that you be more open-minded in how you perceive someone’s looksBeauty comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, and colors, and the reason why we would perceive someone as attractive or not right away is because of how we’ve been conditioned to see beauty as. However, if we would be more open in how we perceive beauty, I’m sure we’ll start seeing beauty in all kinds of looks: tall or short, muscular or “scrawny,” sharp chin or round chin, double eyelids or mono eyelids, tall nose or round nose, sharp face or round face.

If you currently know someone who has a nice personality but you don’t find him/her attractive, don’t cross out this connection yet. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Get to know him/her better, as a person, a friend. All great romantic connections tend to start off as friendships. As opposed to judging this person by his/her looks at the onset, I suggest you look at him/her as just a friend you’re trying to get to know more first. This way, you can focus more on the connection as opposed to focusing on his/her looks. Spend some time to chat with him/her. Hang out as friends. Get to know him/her better.
  2. Invite him/her to group outings. If you feel awkward going out solo with the person too often, invite him/her to group outings where both of you can meet other people while hang out together at the same time. This will allow you to see other aspects of him/her too as he/she interacts with other people.
  3. Explore areas of commonality. Do you have any common interests? Explore them. If you have any new goals, activities you want to explore, share with him/her and invite him/her along too. You want to build on your commonalities together and see if there is potential for this connection to go further.
  4. Broaden your definition of beauty. As I mentioned, true beauty comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, and colors. If you really don’t find this person attractive in any way, then try and see the person for who he/she is and how he/she looks, without mentally benchmarking him/her to certain images of beauty. There is beauty in every physical feature and look. We just need to learn to see that. Read this article: The Beauty of Self
  5. Assess your connection over time. After some time together, assess your connection. Do you see potential for this to develop, be it as a friendship or romantic relationship?

    If yes, then continue to nurture it and see where it goes. There’s no need to put a timeline such as, “I’m going to cut this person away if I don’t feel attracted to him/her in 3 months.” Even if you don’t feel attracted or romantically interested in this person, keep him/her as a friend. (Unless you’re not even interested to have him/her as a friend — then let him/her go.) Many great relationships develop organically — for example, I know a couple who only fell in love with each other after 1 year of being good friends. Before that, they were always only going out as friends, enjoying each other’s company, and never thought of each other as romantic prospects at all.

    On the other hand, if this person is not even compatible with you as a friend and you’re not interested to stay in touch at all, then let him/her go. There’s no need to force something to happen. Think of it as a necessary step to attract more of the right people into your life.

All 10 tips in 10 Steps to Attract Authentic Love apply. 🙂

As for Ken, it’s quite possible that his hair loss will return as we recently agreed for him to stop taking the hair loss medication. That’s because I don’t think that it’s healthy to take any medication on an ongoing basis, especially if it’s voluntary vs. being medically required. Whether he loses his hair or not though, it doesn’t matter because balding or being bald is just a different look, just like having a lot of hair is another look. Either way, he’ll always be attractive to me. 🙂

Much love to your love journey, and let me know how everything goes! 🙂

Also check out: ‘My Partner Broke Up With Me Due to Lack of Physical Spark. How Should I Deal with This?’

Images: Dating, Young couple, Middle-age couple, Elderly coupleKen & Celes, Guy at bar

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