A woman wrote into The Cut’s 'What your therapist really thinks' column and asked for help – but her problem didn’t sit too well with the therapist.
The woman, who is in an 'extremely happy' relationship and describes herself as 'a reasonably attractive woman in her early 30s,' explained how she felt bad for her less attractive friends, and wanted to know how she could help them find love.
I am part of a female friendship group that would typically be considered very attractive, slim, and fit. Most of us have long-term partners and when we go out, most of us are never short of propositions from male suitors.
My problem is this: I have two friends who would not be described as conventionally attractive. They are both longing for a partner and a family, and as we all get farther into our 30s, this is becoming increasingly problematic.
She says it saddens her to see them 'constantly rejected and humiliated in the dating scene'. She adds:
It also seems particularly unfair to me that so many of our mutual friends are objectively beautiful women and receive what is almost an embarrassing amount of attention from men. The comparison is drawn, and it’s obvious what the problem is for these two lovely friends.
She says she 'constantly' begs them to see therapists to learn to love themselves, 'despite the fact that much of male society thinks they are not worth loving'.
I hope I don’t sound heartless when I say they are not 'pretty' but I think their success rate in the dating world speaks for itself — they often can’t get past a first date.
But the question backfired slightly.
Psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb replied and explained that it’s not a woman’s appearance that’s the problem – but their belief that they’re ugly.
She says that this can be caused and exacerbated by having friendships with people who pity them, or don’t see them as equal. She said:
It’s hard to have a friendship in which one person feels superior. It’s not that people who are more attractive (or talented or intelligent or wealthy or successful) shouldn’t befriend people who are less so and vice versa.
You may not realise how damaging your 'I feel so sorry for them' attitude is. While I have no doubt that you care about your friends, there’s a difference between compassion and pity, and if you pity them, even privately, you send them a message that’s not just damaging but untrue.
Your contention, for instance, that 'the fact that much of male society thinks they are not worth loving' is hardly a 'fact.' Sure, the men who hit on the 'very attractive, slim, and fit' women in your social circle may not be drawn as strongly to these two friends based on the dynamics of a bar. But how you go from that to the conclusion that 'much of male society thinks they are not worth loving' is quite a leap!
How do you explain the statistical majority of women in the world who aren’t 'very attractive, slim, and fit' — and yet somehow find themselves married to men who presumably consider them “worth loving”?
She says the woman is contributing to her friends’ belief in this 'so-called reality'.
She advises the woman questions her assumptions about men and women, and attraction and worth, for her own sake. She concludes:
Eventually, you too will lose your power to draw male eyeballs in the way you do now. One day you’ll be sipping drinks at a table next to some very attractive 25-year-olds, or walking down the street with your teenage daughter and her friends, and find that the propositions from male suitors are directed elsewhere. And by the time that happens, I hope you will have discovered that you are still worth your partner’s love.