Reader Question of the WeekCan you marry your boyfriend if you’re not attracted to him?

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. This week’s question is a doozy, and I’m going to need a lot of input from you, my readers.

A reader writes:

I’ve been dating a guy who’s my best friend for two years – he loves me, and wants to marry me as soon as possible, and is definitely physically attracted to me. I love him deeply in a care for him sense, in a trust him sense, in a he’d be the greatest dad sense. But he’s short and fat and sweaty and I can’t, I can’t imagine being into him sexually. Even kissing sometimes is good, but frequently repels me. I’m a virgin with no other experience at all (and frankly with little natural interest in sex most times, anyway). Is there…what on earth can I do? I can’t bear to break his heart, but I don’t want to forever resent that he isn’t even in shape and he’s 25….

Oh, wow. That’s one I’m not sure I even have an answer for! And this likely falls into the category, there isn’t a definite answer, and you have to ask God and just feel right about it. The answer could be different for different people.

So I just want to give a few thoughts, that may be a little contradictory, but which hopefully raise a bunch of things to consider as you pray/think through this.

What if you're not attracted to your boyfriend? Can you still marry him? Some thoughts!

Sex is an intrinsic part of marriage. When you marry, you have to commit to having regular, enthusiastic sex.

Seriously. Anything else just isn’t fair to the person you’re marrying. If you’re thinking to yourself, “well, I’ll agree to have sex once or twice a week, but I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it, and I’ll have to grin and bear it”, I just don’t think that’s fair to the guy. So much of a guy’s self-esteem comes from knowing that he can bring pleasure to his wife–not just that she “lets” him have sex with her. It’s when it’s a mutual thing that he feels like a man. If him touching you repulses you, that’s not a good thing.

Sex is more than physical

At the same time, sex is more than physical. For most couples, those butterfly, intense attraction feelings fade after a year or two. What you’re left with is a deeper love that’s based on companionship and togetherness, and that can actually make sex more intense. It’s not just hormonal; it’s actually based on a deep and abiding love.

And when you do totally love someone, that vulnerability that you share with them becomes sexy. Having someone that knows you that well becomes sexy. And being able to explore and figure out how he can make you feel great (which is possible even if he’s bigger), can leave a woman very sexually satisfied. Many women, for instance, marry guys who are trim and slim, and ten years later end up with someone who is very overweight. But you can find a way to make the marriage work, even if you aren’t as attracted to your husband anymore.

This is an extreme example, and perhaps one I shouldn’t bring up because of the controversy, but I do think it fits. I have known one couple who married where he was homosexual and she was heterosexual. Yet he found that he was attracted to her–just not to any other women. God helped him to channel his desire to her, even though she wasn’t what he normally found attractive. And their sex life worked because it was based on this deep emotional connection.

My concern, though, is that this secondary attraction–the one that is based on love and companionship more than just raw hormones–should likely have kicked in by now. If you were going to be able to be attracted to him based on his good character qualities, I would have thought that you would have felt it already.

Settling in marriage hurts everybody

It sounds from the letter that you’re around 25 years old. That’s still pretty young. Marrying someone because you feel like you “owe” him since you’ve been so close for so long, and you can’t bear to break his heart, could easily do more harm in the long run. Yes, it would be devastating to break up now, but if you married him, would you always yearn for something else? Would you always feel like you had settled? Would you always secretly wish there was something else for you?

If you think that, and then you face a tragedy together or some stressful times, those thoughts will be magnified tenfold. And he will sense them. You’ll be chronically unhappy, and he will feel like a failure.

When you marry, you have to be prepared to love and embrace wholeheartedly. I do believe that this is possible to do without a lot of sexual attraction; I’m not sure it’s possible if he actually repels you. There’s a difference between being neutral and being a net negative.

If you really can’t picture marrying him, I think it’s better to break it off sooner rather than later. If you keep waiting for those feelings to find you, you’re keeping him from finding another woman, and you’re keeping yourself from finding another man.

Let’s be realistic about finding a marriage partner

One last thought: let’s be realistic when we are looking for who to marry. People tend to marry someone of similar attractiveness. So I don’t mean to be offensive here, but if you’re waiting for a Brad Pitt (and I’m not saying our letter writer is), but you yourself are no Angelina Jolie, then perhaps you need to be more realistic. There are things other than looks that are important, and if we’re too picky about who makes a good mate, and if we judge solely on looks, then we may paint ourselves into a corner.

Attraction is a hard thing to define. It is certainly partially hormonal and almost animal, so that the thinking part of our brains play little part. But it is not entirely that. When we choose what we want to find attractive, quite often we can overcome physical shortcomings if the other things are important enough to us.

So that’s my answer. I guess I’m going back and forth on this one a lot, because I’m not sure there is a definitive answer!

But I’m hoping my readers can chime in (you all gave such great feedback on the wedding ring controversy last week!).  Were you always attracted to your husband? How important is attraction? Let us know in the comments!

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UPDATE: Our Reader wrote back with an update on her life! She says:

First, I want to say thank you so, so much for taking the time to answer. Secondly, I want you to know that your answer, and the answers of the many commenters, have really blessed me. Not, perhaps, in the way that might be expected – by the time this article launched, I had already broken up with the poor, sweet man. But, I have to say, I felt like God sent me your voices after the fact to help confirm in me that I need not feel guilty about having been honest.
I did break up with him, and it wasn’t easy at all. With the help of prayer (some of it y’all’s, no doubt!) and my counsellor, I was able to break up with this boyfriend for deep and honest reasons, without skewering his sense of self-worth. It was really important to me to love him as a friend and as a brother in Christ, and that ability came from outside of me. He took it much harder than I did, but he is recovering well now.
It really was just a case of a great friendship, where he really, really wanted marriage – and for a long time I thought maybe I could do it?? I didn’t know; but eventually it became clear to me that I couldn’t do it. There were sexual and simply practical and even emotional logistics that were just…off.
So, thank you for listening. Thank you for writing this up for other girls like me.
And, in case you wondered, I am single and much relieved to be so (that was a shock! Didn’t realize how miserable I had made myself trying to make it work until I was…free. Felt AMAZING, and in a right way, too.) Anyway, I met this gorgeous young man not long after the breakup…and it’s so different, I am floored. I don’t know if this new guy likes me yet, or if he’s just friendly, but wow – this is literally the only time I have EVER been attracted to looks and personality at the same time. It’s wonderful to even be able to HOPE this romance materializes!
So, thank you for helping to free me from my best intentions to do the wrong thing. And…if you ever want to pray that God maybe guide the new man and I into at least a trial relationship…I wouldn’t mind!
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