By Esther Mann, LCSW
This week’s letter is being answered by Jennifer Mann, LMSW.
I am in my thirties, divorced, with children. A few months ago I was set up with a wonderful man, Sam. Sam is also divorced, with children of his own. We have spoken about getting married and he is completely on board and excited to spend his life with me and seems to genuinely care about my children. A few weeks ago, we introduced the children and have been spending time together as a “family” when he has his kids every other weekend.
Sam is everything I could dream of. He is intelligent, funny, charming, romantic, caring, generous, and a good father to his children. And he is a good-looking, handsome man–and that is wherein the problem lies. His ex-wife and their children are also breathtakingly gorgeous. My young daughter noticed his daughter’s looks and now calls her “Princess.” When we are out on a date or driving around, I see women looking at him. When we are out to eat, the waitresses are fawning all over him. He is not just subjectively good-looking, he is movie star good-looking. Tall, dark, and handsome.
His looks bring up all kinds of insecurities for me. For starters, I feel people looking at us and I know they must be wondering what a good-looking guy like that is doing with a woman like me. I have never had an issue with my looks until now. He is clearly the more attractive partner in our relationship, though. My second insecurity is my fear that he will wake up and realize he can have any woman he wants at any time.
My family and friends keep telling me that I’ve hit the jackpot, and his looks always seem to be a topic of conversation. At first I was OK with it and felt lucky, but now that we are a couple, I don’t like my mother, sisters, cousins, and friends noticing his looks and commenting. They think I am crazy and are encouraging me to marry him.
I should be feeling like the luckiest woman in the world. I am getting a second chance at love with an all-around wonderful man who is not only good to me but good to my children. Instead I am stuck in anxiety and doubt. I want to spend the rest of my life with Sam but not under the current conditions.
You are neither the first nor the last person to have been romantically involved with an exceptionally good-looking significant other. While some may not understand or value your hardship, it is completely normal to feel a certain amount of anxiety and fear in your situation. All you have to do is an Internet search, keywords “dating a good-looking man,” to see that you are not alone. Many sites will be generated that address your position and feelings. You have hit the jackpot, so to speak, yet you can’t fully enjoy and let yourself go, because of the fear and anxiety this is stirring up for you. Living under your “current conditions” is living with confusion and anguish, certainly unenjoyable.
You have a lot to consider. You have found a wonderful man with a list of positive attributes a mile long. The fact that you trust him with your children is no small potatoes. And yet you worry that others are judging you and, perhaps more significant, that Sam will one day realize he can be with anyone he wants to be with, and leave you. Life is trying to move you forward, yet you aren’t so sure if you are up to the challenges that living with a “movie star” will pose. The stakes are high, which is exactly where your anxiety has mounted itself. No wonder!
No one can or should tell you whether to marry Sam. All of your well-intentioned family and friends are not with you when you are with Sam in public places. They are not in your mind and heart when you are struggling. Their sentiment of “get over it and move on” is unhelpful. As much as you can, try not to take it to heart. This answer will only come from within.
Moving forward with this anxiety and fear will only invoke more anxiety and fear. Sam’s proposal is imminent, so it is in your best interests to examine and process your feelings now. You don’t enjoy living this way. I wonder how Sam would feel if he knew you were burdened by confusion and insecurity because of his looks. The time has come to decide if you will be exiting this relationship or entering into a healthier frame of mind.
I see three clear choices in front of you: (1) Leave him. (2) Stay with him and continue just as you are. (3) Stay with him and learn to tolerate and manage this anxiety and fear. Perhaps there is a fourth choice: challenging your fears.
In any relationship there are deal-breakers, things that are absolutely non-negotiable. Are Sam’s good looks a deal-breaker? Women notice him now and will probably notice him down the road. But it is only you who have his love and commitment. It is only you whom he has chosen to build a relationship with based on respect and trust. He doesn’t seem to be obsessed with his looks or think he deserves a better-looking woman. This is your stuff. You wrote that the problem is that he is a good-looking, handsome man. This means that Sam is the problem. It’s as if his looks are cursing the relationship. But the problem lies within your attitude about his looks. It seems that he is holding up his end of the trust-and-respect deal. Are you holding up yours? Do you trust him with his looks?
In order to be in this relationship, and quite frankly any relationship, you will need to flex your self-esteem muscles. You can list Sam’s good qualities. Can you list your own? Perhaps you are beautiful, intelligent, funny, a wonderful mother, etc. Sam can see it. He wants to spend his life with you. In order to move forward with Sam, your challenge is twofold. Firstly, it is to feel worthy of this gorgeous man’s love and devotion. Can you muster up the courage to believe in yourself, your worth, and your value? Secondly, it is to have enough trust in him to know that even though the ladies may like what they see, he isn’t focused on the ladies–you are. If you continue to struggle with your anxieties and fears, you may want to consider speaking to a therapist. I wish you peace of mind and all the best.
Jennifer Mann is presently working as a psychotherapist at Ohel. She also works as a relationship coach and can be reached