Issues with Attraction in Dating

Dear Dr. Chani,

Over the past four years that I have dated, I have not gone out with many guys. I tend to be selective about who I chose to date. Recently, I decided to go out with someone who sounded like a great person. The drawback for me is that he is on the heavy side.

I have always felt that it was important for me to marry someone who is slim and physically fit. I am petite and slim, and I am not attracted to someone who is a lot larger than I am. Even though I know that looks should not be so important, I still find it hard to ignore this issue.

When my mother’s friend suggested that I go out with this guy, I wanted to decline. But since she had tried to set me up with several people in the past and I had said no many times, I decided that I should accept her suggestion this time.

Surprisingly, I really enjoy his company. He is sweet and friendly. I am sure he will make a great husband. But I cannot see how I can get over his weight issue. Should I break up with him at this point? I would love to know your opinion about this.

Thanks in advance,


Dear Atara,

First of all, I am happy that you are willing to face your concern about attraction, and you are not brushing it under the rug because “looks should not be so important.” The issue of attraction is a genuine concern. Sometimes people are uncomfortable acknowledging their true hesitations about attraction because they fear they are being shallow. The truth is that attraction is a significant consideration in a relationship. What makes you attracted or unattracted to someone is highly personal, and you need to get the clarity you need to make this decision on your own.

There are several factors that affect how attracted you are to a person. One factor is the physical qualities a person has, such as body type. Another factor is the way a person acts. You might have noticed that sometimes you initially consider a person to be objectively good-looking, but after you find their personality to be abrasive or rude, you are not at all attracted. On the other hand, sometimes you may not consider a person to be physically attractive, but you find their personality to be so engaging and enjoyable that you develop great chemistry.

I am glad that you allowed yourself the opportunity to date someone even though you knew that the person was a bit overweight. Even though you have always thought you could not see yourself attracted to someone who was not slim, your opinions can change as you date more. It sounds like this might have already happened to you to some extent. You are questioning breaking up with him because you are already attracted to his personality, even though you are not necessarily attracted to him physically.

One way to deal with different issues of attraction is to ask yourself, “Am I unattracted or just not attracted to this person?” If you are unattracted, meaning that some aspect about the person really bothers you and repels you, then it might be difficult for your negative feeling to change over time.  Yet, if you are not attracted right now, but you allow yourself to be open to appreciating all of the wonderful qualities you notice about the person you are dating, you may eventually find that you feel attracted enough to marry him. You might decide that his weight does not bother you, or you may no longer focus on his weight since you are able to value him for who he is – as a “whole person.” 

Since you are still in the midst of making this decision, I encourage you to continue dating him and getting to know him. Try to focus on getting to know his essence – what he is like beneath the surface. In the meantime,  put the question of how you feel about his physical characteristics “on the back burner.” After a few weeks, revisit this question and see how you feel about it at that time. You may decide that his weight still bothers you. Yet, I have found that people are often surprised to find that factors that bothered them initially eventually pale in comparison to their future spouse’s positive qualities. I hope you get the clarity you need to feel comfortable with your decision.

Wishing you much success,