The dilemma My partner and I are mismatched in terms of attractiveness and this plays on my mind almost daily. I am preoccupied with not being good enough for him. He has never said anything to this effect, and I’m not aware of him having been unfaithful, but still I worry he will eventually realise and leave me for someone better. I think he underestimates how desirable he is and appears not to notice how much attention he receives from the opposite sex. I feel painfully self-conscious when he introduces me to friends. A colleague once commented I had “done well”. We continue to have a good sex life, but I can tell he doesn’t share the immense physical attraction I still feel. We are compatible in many ways and I don’t doubt he loves me as a person, but I’m tired of the shame I feel when looking in the mirror and my constant doubts about why he would limit himself to me sexually. I should feel happy and grateful for what we have, but I can’t silence the bitchy voice in my head telling me he’s out of my league.
Mariella replies I wonder how many men have been tempted to write to me about their worries regarding their ineligibility for the stunning wife they’d managed to snare. I’ve been trying to do a count of how many letters I’ve had in the past 20 years from men who felt in any way inadequate or insecure about their worthiness for their partner. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear I’m struggling to come up with one! That’s not to say that humble, or indeed realistic, men don’t exist but for reasons we’ll have to try and unravel, men don’t seem to consider that visual shortcomings preclude them from seeking specimens of perfection to bed down with. For the male of the species, power, money, availability, prospects and even personality have for millennia made up for any defects in the looks department. If only the same could be said for my own sex.
I’m not going to zoom in on your obvious and debilitating insecurity. You’ve clearly had it highlighted for you and for some reason have chosen to disregard it as a contributing factor. We both know how irrational it is that one person telling you that you “got lucky” should seal the narrative of your courtship. Aren’t you lucky to find your partner more attractive by the day? I’m pretty sure that puts you in a rare and blessed minority in both sexes. Generally, drop-dead good looks over time are obscured by familiarity, tedium, bad habits, selfishness or lack of humour, so that eventually the eye of the beholder is blinded to what were once all-consuming charms. In your relationship the opposite has occurred for at least one of you and I’d be singing “hallelujah” from the top of my lungs if it were me.
I won’t go on about your self-esteem, but will say you need help
It’s perfectly possible that one day your partner may leave you for someone else, as so many partners these days tend to do. But allowing the prospect to preoccupy you to the extent you have is as profligate a waste of precious time as I’ve encountered to date. Like I said, I won’t go on about your lack of self-esteem, apart from to say you need professional help. Believe it or not, in this supremely superficial society, where the worship of physical perfection has been elevated to dizzy heights, there remains a majority of people who aren’t focused on finding a centrefold to offer affirmation of their own attractiveness. Surely you’ve seen the Private Eye cover that asks: “What exactly does supermodel Jerry Hall see in billionaire Rupert Murdoch”?
If I had a pound for every apparently mismatched couple in the universe, I’d have retired long ago. Fact is that looks aren’t everything. Often, they are a long way down the line of considerations and they’re certainly much less preoccupying when there are further considerations involved in partner choice. I can’t wave a wand and sweep away your groundless preoccupations, but hopefully you’ll accept my encouragement to try and see your relationship from a less polarised perspective.
If you don’t want to tackle your crippling doubts with someone who’s trained to help, then the best advice I can offer is to adjust your outlook. A whopping 42% of marriages end in divorce so, should you marry, you’re as likely to find yourself tumbling into that statistic as anyone else and those abandoned partners aren’t all the equivalent of gargoyles! In the meantime, you’ve got a partner you find attractive, who you enjoy being with, and who wants to have regular sex with you. Instead of wasting your energy preparing for an impending cataclysm, enjoy the miracle you’re living. Either he’s a peculiar, masochistic pervert who’s been living a lie all the years you’ve been together, or he actually loves you.
I certainly can’t guarantee that your union will last forever, neither can he, but I do know that every minute you waste worrying about its demise is one you’ve lost to wallowing in your good fortune. C’mon, if not for you, try celebrating for the sisterhood. There is finally justice out there, a contemporary levelling of the power couple balance to include a few women punching above their weight. Seemingly as yet it’s just a select few and luckily you are one of them!