I'm a 28-year-old doctor with a big problem in relationships that has just been getting worse and worse. I am obsessed with a woman's looks. If I'm introduced to someone by a friend and she isn't stunningly beautiful, I have no interest in even finding out her name. What would you suggest to help cure me of this obsession that's driving me totally nuts?
For men, physical appearance is everything. Countless times I have told a single male friend, "I have the ultimate girl for you: kindhearted, highly intelligent, comes from a loving family. She'd be great for you!" In every instance, his first question is, "Okay, but what does she look like?"
When I say, "Well, her great size virtually guarantees that you can't notice the hunchback, and her shaving every day has gotten rid of the mustache," he spontaneouly decides to apostatize and check into a monastery.
And wait, it's getting worse. Today men no longer even focus on a woman's looks in their entirety. Today it's a single feature that they look for. It can be blue eyes, long legs, blonde hair, or Mt. Vesuvius built on her upper rib cage. Men today are so obsessed with looks that they almost never seem to care for character and goodness.
Women are faring no better in finding a man for the right reasons. I will tell a woman that I want to introduce her to the nicest guy in the world, very handsome, who has beautiful values. In every case, her first question will be, "What does he do?" When I tell her that he works part-time as a night watchman in a local junkyard, she suddenly discovers her latent homosexuality.
But listen up, Lenny, because I don't want you do be a drug addict. Men who are obsessed with looks are addicts, requiring the instant high that a drug provides. They are addicted to the immediate thrill and instant pleasure of seeing someone of striking beauty. What you're telling me in saying that you're obsessed with a woman's looks is that you need to look at a woman and fall for her immediately. You need that injection in your vein that gives you an instant buzz. But hey, how long does the buzz last?
Sorry, buddy, but your obsession only betrays your immaturity. A child loves candy more than food because he seeks instant gratification of the senses. The immature man is one who never appreciates the road of a relationship, only the destination of sensual pleasure. He wants to have a woman but never to live by a covenant. He wants to be swept off his feet but never to sweep a kitchen floor for his spouse.
Not all attraction begins with love at first sight. The strongest kind of attraction actually grows with time, and this is the type that usually lasts, because it's more embedded in character. On the other hand, attraction that's entirely based on looks is superficial. One day you see the woman without makeup, and you think you married King Kong. She puts on a few pounds, and you begin to use her as a paperweight. When she gets pregnant and you don't look at her body as much as before, she responds to the rejection with coldness and biting comments. Time goes by and, naturally, she begins to age. Then we witness the heartbreaking spectacle of these women doing everything they can to artificially preserve their looks. Face-lifts, nose jobs, breast enlargements, and dangerous dieting become the order of the day.
And addiction to looks leads to a permanently roving eye. . The man hasn't commuted the relationship to anything deeper, and the woman provides him with nothing that can sustain the intensity of pleasure. Besides, there are other beautiful women out there.
We also witness how the love-at-first-sight kind of attraction quickly becomes a manic, obsessive kind of love, characterized by men who claim not to be able to sleep or think of anyone else save the gorgeous woman they saw at the cinema.
Then there's the issue of sensuality deprivation. Very often, physically beautiful people have very boring relationships and very bad sex. G-d gave a man and a woman five senses with which to enjoy each other. When you promote the sense of sight to the exclusion of everything else, you diminish the importance of touch, smell, sound, and taste. A woman's casserole, that unique fragrance unique to the feminine gender, no longer drives you wild. Similarly, you can even get irritated with hearing her voice, preferring instead to have her shut up and know her place. Your physical life becomes completely unsatisfying. Since you suffer from diminished sensuality, sex with your spouse quickly become monotonous, and you now find it more exciting to feed your sight addiction by watching pornography on the tube.
While attraction is supremely important in a relationship, don't equate attraction with physical beauty. Real attraction to a woman is not based on the color of her eyes or the slenderness of her figure. Rather, it's based on her femininity, her womanliness, her feminine energy. It's the attraction of polar opposites. Only by discovering the woman in her entirety, over time, does the full wealth of that femininity become manifest.
Don't judge a book by its cover. If you meet a woman who is attractive but no bombshell, give her a chance to knock you out with the full color of her soul rather than just the single shade of her flesh.
And one final word, Lenny: Just think how you would feel if a woman were to judge you only by your looks, rather than also focusing on the beautiful car you drive.
With you through all your travail,
Dear Rabbi Shmuley,