(re-blogged from 11/19/2010)
“I want my wife to be a perfect 10!” says the young man to the therapist.
“How else do you want your wife to be like?” asks the therapist.
“She would have a great personality to match,” he responds.
“OK. And if you had to give up some of one of those, which would you choose?”
“Well I wouldn’t want to give up either, but I guess she could have some personal faults, like she smokes or something.”
The presumption that this young man laboring under is that he would be happy if only he had a wife who was a “Perfect 10.” The underlying beliefs are something like, “Having sex with someone who looks fantastic, seeing her beautiful face every day and showing her off to my friends is a recipe for happiness.”
Unfortunately there are several problems with this common, typically male, belief system.
Firstly, there is no such thing as a “Perfect 10.” That dubious rating system is flawed because we in fact constantly change our evaluations of people’s attractiveness, depending upon circumstances. Even the color of clothing people wear alters their attractiveness, as in this study showing that men are more attracted to women who wear red.
Second, even if you found someone who seemed to you to be a “Perfect 10,” your quest for perfection would surely be defeated before long, as you began to notice imperfections and tire of the novelty of this particular individual. Male libido is in particular susceptible to novelty, and a mate who has been around awhile will usually appear less attractive to any given male in time, as suggested by research summarized in Psychology Today.
Third, physical attraction is only one of many factors that determine the success of a relationship, many of which are more powerful statistical predictors of who will stay together, such as sharing values, goals and plans in common with one’s partner. Presumably, if a relationships ends, then it wasn’t such a great source of happiness. The male delusion about the “Perfect 10″ sometimes includes a desire to have multiple brief relationships, but the majority of individuals, including men, are looking for a long-term mate and will not be very happy dating an endless stream of people.
Finally, there’s a presumption here that sex with someone who is extremely physically attractive is necessarily going to be better than sex with someone who is only moderately physically attractive, but with whom one shares a strong sexual chemistry. Anyone with a good deal of experience in relationships knows this to be a false belief: sex, like baseball, is 90% mental. The intensity of the sexual experience has everything to do with the nature of the relationship between the two people, and only a little to do with what they look like to each other. In turn, the relationship has everything to do with the quality of attention and mindful presence habitually employed by both partners in their interactions.