In a recent post u/macmeeler asked an interesting question: how much (should you) value physical attraction in dating? This is a great question and I wanted to post a full response. This is my opinion, so take it or leave it as you will.
Physical attractiveness in a potential spouse is extremely important for Christians, perhaps more so than for non-Christians
Imagine you moved to a country and were going to buy your first house there. As you begin the process you are shocked to discover that you were only allowed to buy one house in your entire life, and that selling it or buying another would lead to a life long prison sentence. How picky would you be in that situation?
Though it is a poor analogy, it illustrates a serious point: Unlike first time home-owners who often buy a “starter” house, Christians who enter marriage don’t get do-overs. Barring a few narrow circumstances laid out by in scripture (which vary somewhat depending on who you ask), divorce simply isn’t a faithful option for the Christian. This should make us pause before rushing into a lifelong permanent commitment.
It gets worse. In the fictitious permanent home ownership scenario above, you can at least redecorate or remodel however you please. Not so with spouses. Unlike a house, a spouse has a will of their own and cannot so easily be renovated or reshaped. In many cases, unless you have a highly pliable spouse, who you marry is who you get.
Simply put: You cannot go into a marriage resting your hope that certain attributes in your spouse will change favorably. You have to decide on what is, not what may be.
Ever person has preferences in attributes in a spouse, and everyone will rank or weigh those attributes differently. For some, orientation towards family life or the desire to be a stay at home mother are highly desirable attribute in a potential wife. For such a person, settling on this issue and marrying someone who does not match this is likely to be utter foolishness. Certainly, no person is perfect. We are talking about two sinners pairing together after all; at some point everyone who marries settles. We all have a cross to bear, but in this area we do get some input on how much that cross weighs.
I knew enough about myself when I was dating to know that I place an inordinate premium on physical attractiveness and overall sexuality. I also knew how competitive I was. Healthy or not, I was aware that if I did not find a top tier wife in terms of looks, I would have always wondering “what if?” and questioning my decision. To bring back the house buying scenario, why settle for a shack when you know that with some effort you could secure the funds for a mansion?
Is this just vanity? Somewhat. But consider this: much of our outward appearance signals our inward self. This is what I mean:
Being overweight signals:
- Poor health and potential risks of expensive complications
- Doesn’t value healthy living
- Will struggle keeping up with me in my hobbies
- Likely to pass on unhealthy genetics to my kids
- More likely to die young from preventable causes
- Lacks discipline in eating, exercise, or both
- Laziness, lack of concern for the value good health brings to a relationship
Ugly clothing / makeup signals:
- Unaware of social dynamics or conventions
- Lack of confidence
- Over-developed sense of shame; may indicate frigidity in the bedroom
- Laziness, lack of concern for the value good aesthetics brings to a relationship
- Laziness, lack of concern for grossing the crap out of people around them
- Being gross and horrible in general (seriously, how hard is it to shower daily and brush your freaking teeth??)
You get the point. Being basically healthy and attractive has never been easier in the history of humanity, so why not expect that someone you are going to PLEDGE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE TO avails themselves of the opportunity? These outward attributes reveal inward realities that I care little for. Seriously, gym memberships are CHEAP. Learning how to eat and workout more effectively than 80% of the population takes like 30 minutes of googling and reading. Makeup, dental work, clothes, etc have never been cheaper or more accessible. The kind of woman who has no desire or drive to take advantage of the situation and put in even a modicum of effort is not the kind of woman I find myself interested in.
Am I being ridiculous? I don’t think so. Seriously, a woman (or man) who wants to marry, but doesn’t take steps to improve their physical attractiveness is saying this:
“Uhm, yeah, so, despite it being easier and cheaper to be fit, well dressed, groomed, and generally attractive than just about ever before, I don’t really want to bother with it. In fact, even though there are entire industries, YouTube series, even charities, designed with the express purpose to make the process of being attractive as easy as possible, it’s just too much for me. So here’s what I’m offering: pledge yourself, for your ENTIRE LIFE, to me to be your sole sexual outlet forever, forsaking all others no matter how attractive or motivated sexually they may be. Oh and this still applies even if you get jacked and model tier hot. In fact, I hope you do because that would be good for me because I know you can’t ethically justify leaving me because you want to be faithful to Christ. How does that sound?”
Screw that deal. Talk about not loving your neighbor.
Being unattractive and trying to find an attractive spouse is not only selfish and short-sighted, it’s a violation of the Golden Rule: “treat others as you would have them treat you.”
I plan to be fit, healthy, well dressed and groomed, and sexually vibrant. I like presenting that as a gift to my wife. Knowing this, I found a wife who would to the same in turn.
So is sexual, physical, attractiveness important for Christians? Unless you really don’t place a high premium on it as most guys do: yes it is.
Now a caveat: people age, disfigurement happens, and life doesn’t always turn out as expected. That said, there is a world of difference ethically speaking between someone who is unattractive because of a maiming accident and someone who eats themselves to death. Someone who strives to maintain their attractiveness as they age, is not the same as someone who “gains some baby weight” and somehow never lost it decades later. Again, it’s about what externals reveal about internal character. I get that my wife and I are going to age. I am also highly confident that we will be fit and look good for our age.
Physical attractiveness is important and it’s okay to discriminate against spousal candidates based on it. Who knows, maybe some of the lazy folks in the congregation would get motivated if the lie of “looks don’t matter” wasn’t so pervasive.
Or maybe I’m just an unsanctified jerk.