Your Turn: “My Family Thinks My Boyfriend Isn’t Attractive Enough”

In a new feature I’m calling “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I’ve been dating the sweetest guy for about five months. We’ve been friends/coworkers for almost two years and I’ve never been with someone who is so good to me and makes me feel so special all the time. The problem is that my family doesn’t think he’s attractive or good enough for me. When we first got to know each other, I only loved him as a friend but he had much stronger feelings for me and was pretty irritating in his pursuit of me. At that time, I would vent to my mother and brother about “Mark” and how annoying he had become and how sensitive and nerdy he could be. I would complain that he wasn’t my type at all because he was younger than me (I’m 27 and he’s 23), he’s short, doesn’t have the best skin and apparently I even complained about the size of his head! Needless to say, I planted a very negative seed in the heads of my already judgmental family members.

When I first started dating Mark I made a point to tell my mother and brother that I thought I had feelings for him. My mother reacted like I just told her I thought I was gay, telling me that I’m just confused and like the attention. My brother became very angry and called me desperate. I haven’t mentioned anything else to my family about the relationship and have lied to Mark about why my family doesn’t know about us. I’m sure my mother has an idea since we’re so close, but she’s constantly dropping hints about how she wouldn’t be okay with it. Unfortunately, I know they wouldn’t approve of him even if they met him. I really like him and feel like I’m falling for him but I won’t quite let myself because my family’s disapproval is constantly in the back of my head. How can I fix the damage I’ve done and get my judgmental, superficial family to see how lucky I am to have the love of someone so amazing? — Appreciating Short and Sweet


  1. You said, “I’ve never been with someone who is so good to me and makes me feel so special all the time.” Tell them that.

    The negative things you said were largely superficial. I would just tell your family straight up, “I know I complained about him in the past, but now that I know him a lot better he’s been a great friend, funny, sweet, sensitive, etc.”

  2. Beckaleigh says:

    You need to be with the person YOU choose, not the person that your family chooses for you. It sounds like you are still in the beginning stages of your relationship, so keep getting to know this guy to make sure he really is right for you. If you decide that he’s a keeper, sit your family down and tell them that you value their opinion and that you understand that they are concerned about you, but that you like/love your boyfriend and you see a future with him/enjoy being with him. Then tell them that you want for them to meet him and that if they can’t be nice, they will be the ones who suffer.

  3. Wait, you’re 27, right? I’m pretty sure your parents/brothers approval shouldn’t matter as much as you’re letting on.
    In any case, just tell them that you’ve gotten to know him and have strong feelings for him. Explain how well he treats you and all of the things you had described him as before were pre-judged as you hadn’t gotten to know him yet.

    1. And I’d add this: Think twice about how much you confide in your family in the future, especially since they’re reacting so strongly.

      I have to wonder how much venting you did since their reaction is so vehement and you’re so reluctant to be open to “Mark” about the family dynamics when it comes to him. You’re going to have to come clean to him soon about what’s going on – your venting, their reaction, and their reluctance to accept him.

      It’s time to be a bit more independent – and accept all that independence brings with it.

  4. ReginaRey says:

    Are YOU attracted to Mark? You seem to have somewhat fallen for him in regard to his personality, but are you also physically attracted to him? No matter how much you like someone, or want to like someone, to have a romantic relationship with that person you need to have a phyiscal attraction…otherwise, all you’ve got is a great friendship.

    Also, I’m a bit worried by this statement: “He had much stronger feelings for me and was pretty irritating in his pursuit of me.” I understand that sometimes, you can have no interest in someone…and then later on you realize you misjudged them, and you open your mind to the possibilities. If that’s the case, then great! But I’m wondering if perhaps you have convinced yourself that you SHOULD like Mark, because he is so taken with you and because he has pursued you so much…which is different than actually having a romantic attraction to him.

    If you are romantically, emotionally, and physically attracted to this person, and the only thing that’s making you doubt it is what your family is saying, then sit them down and set them straight. Tell them you misjudged him, and that you’ve fallen for him. Explain why you care about him, and why he would make a great partner. But if you find yourself wondering if you’re simply enjoying the feeling of Mark’s affection and pursuit, please think twice about starting a relationship with him. I know I’m not the only one who has dated someone more because I liked “being loved” than I loved the actual person.

    1. I know this may sound odd, but attraction is not always physical. I usually start off being friends with most of the guys I ended up dating. Depending upon the type of person you are, you can sometimes be attracted to what you see projecting from a person’s heart. How he/she treats you as well as other people, being thoughtful, kind, and considerate normally draws me first.

      1. PS: But you do make a legitimate statement, because I have seen the pros and cons of the “I understand that sometimes, you can have no interest in someone…and then later on you realize you misjudged them, and you open your mind to the possibilities”.

      2. ReginaRey says:

        I understand where you’re coming from 100%. I had a boyfriend who I at first was NOT physically attracted to at all. In fact, I thought he was pretty UNattractive. But the more I got to know him and his personality, I became more physically attracted to him. Emotional attraction can certainly LEAD to physical attraction. In the end, after 2 years, we broke up for a host of other reasons (mostly just being incompatible in general)…but I won’t lie, at times my being unattracted to him physically caused some major problems before that. I think I realized that no matter how attracted you may be to someone in all other ways, if you really aren’t attracted to them physically you probably aren’t right for each other. At the end of the day, you’ve got to want to kiss them and get naked! 😉

      3. “No matter how much you like someone, or want to like someone, to have a romantic relationship with that person you need to have a phyiscal attraction…otherwise, all you’ve got is a great friendship.”

        Very well said, and I agree with both of your comments, ReginaRey. My first thought when I read the letter was that she’s likely not, but trying to convince herself that it’s not important because of how he treats her, and her last sentence speaks volumes since she thinks she’s lucky because he loves her.

      4. elisabeth says:

        While I agree that physical attraction can grow from emotional attraction, Regina’s got a great point about being attracted to someone because you feel you should be. I’ve been in those shoes, and it’s hard to ignore that kind of attention and affection, ESPECIALLY when it’s a really nice guy behind it all. But in the end, you can’t force yourself to return those feelings. I’ve hurt a once-close guy friend more than once that way, because over the years, I’d convince myself that “maybe now is the right time for us,” but it never was.

      5. Wow I’ve done the exact same thing! Lost way too many great guy friends that way. It usually didn’t last 5 months though, usually about a week before realizing, UGH I just can’t do this, there is just NO attraction. I think the fact that is has lasted this long bodes well for the physical attraction having actually developed.

  5. Explain to your family that your original comments were based on first impressions, and first impressions are often wrong – you changed your views on him, and you would like them to meet him and give him a real chance. That being said, it might help to remind your family that while having their approval would be nice, they’re entitled to their feelings, and even if they continue to disapprove of your relationship, they still need to respect it. After all, you’re a grown woman, and who you date is your choice to make. Be firm that they can keep their judgmental opinions to themselves.

  6. Skyblossom says:

    They’ll always remember the bad things you’ve said but you can soften that attitude and begin to turn it around by starting to say positive things. By keeping silent about your relationship and hiding it you give the impression that you know it is bad and shouldn’t be in it hence the need to sneak. You need to be open and honest about your relationship and hope your family isn’t too superficial. So far their opinion has been entirely based on your opinion and behavior so let them see something better.

  7. I wonder if you have any doubts about your relationship. You said you were completely unattracted to him at first and that he pursued you to the point of being irritating. Yea, sometimes you realize that you do actually like someone who you used to find unattractive and irritating, but that’s not usually the case. Do you think that since your brother suggested that you’re just with Mark because you’re desperate, you’re now wondering if he’s right?

    If you truly have no doubts about your relationship, then just keep telling your family how much you care about this guy. Eventually they’ll realize how serious you are about him.

  8. You have got to be happy for yourself. No matter what you said to your family in the past, help them to understand how you feel about him now. Good people who make you feel special is very rare and hard to come by (let alone a significant other). So embrace the relationship.

  9. OH EM GEEE, you are twenty-SEVEN years old. You do NOT need to justify your relationship to anyone at all. You sounds like you got stuck back at 17 needing the approval of your family. What a waste of mental energy.

    No need to waste time and energy trying to back-track on what you’ve already told them, but feel free to share how great you feel about him in your normal everyday course of life. They’ll get it eventually. And if they don’t, well, chalk it up to annoying chatter. The only time you should listen to the negative nellys is when they are telling you something specific about his mis-treatment of you, or that you’ve changed in a negative way since you’ve been with him. ANYTHING else is simply a verbalization of their own biases.

    Although I do agree with what ReginaRey said in her 2nd paragraph. A favorite quote of mine from a Yelp review, discussing a yelper’s ex: “…and yes, he’s hideous. We were friends first, he worse me down.” <—AVOID THAT.

    1. Oh, and lastly – kind of a bitch move to hide him from your family. And LIE to him about it.

    2. Sorry, the full/correct quote is: “…and yes, he’s hideous. We were friends first, he wore me down. I’m not proud of it.”

    3. elisabeth says:

      Whoa – I get that as a grown woman the LW doesn’t necessarily require approval from her family in every situation, but what’s wrong with *wanting* your family to understand where you’re coming from? The LW states that she and her mother are quite close, that speaks of a tight-knit family relationship, so it makes sense that she’s actively seeking the approval of her family. I don’t think that means she’s “stuck at 17.”

      I do agree that keeping her relationship from her family is coming out of fear, though, and could be really damaging to her relationship with her family and with her SO. Dishonesty is almost never the best policy.

  10. Let them meet Mark and see how well he treats you and how happy he makes you. Once they get to know him and realize what a nice guy he is, hopefully any negative feelings they may have had will disappear. They are your family and should be supportive of YOUR choice. Also they should be happy you found someone who makes you happy and not worry about superficial things like looks.

  11. Oh, and lastly – kind of a bitch move to hide him from your family. And LIE to him about it.

  12. I didn’t read comments yet but… you say you’re 27? Oh. Okay.

  13. People keep commenting on the LW’s age, but no matter how old you are, if you’re close to your family, their opinion matters. Having your family members voicing their disapproval of your relationship or your chosen significant other can really harm your relationship, or at least add unnecessary stress. I think the LW’s right to consider how her family’s going to react, and think about strategies to help her manage those reactions. Regardless of her age.

    1. I agree! Its not like she’s saying she’s going to break up with him because of how her family feels, just that she wants to fix it. She SHOULD want to fix it, as they are family and as it is clearly her fault that they see him that way. Good for her for looking past her initial shallowness and seeing what’s really there. Now the only trick is backtracking two years of negative comments to her family!

  14. spanishdoll says:

    I feel really sorry for her boyfriend! I would feel awful if I ever found out that my boyfriend had complained about how annoying and ugly I was to his family, to the point where they already hated me! 🙁 If he was writing this letter I would tell him to MOA.

  15. My parents didn’t like my boyfriend when we started dating, but for other reasons…He had tattoos, gauges, his friends, etc… I told them that I’m sorry they felt that way but I really liked him & wanted to see where things went (I was 20 at the time). Fast forward 2 and a half years, a brief break up two summers ago, & my parents love him as if he is their own son.
    The fact is, after a while, if your parents really love you, they’ll see that you have found someone that has treats you right & nothing else will matter. I don’t know how stern your family is, but you should tell them you’re dating him & tell them it would mean a lot to you if they got to know him & see all the wonderful things you see in him.
    I think the first part of your letter, where you used to complain a lot about him is a huge reason as to why they haven’t accepted him, but like I said, all of that should be water under the bridge once they see how he cares for you. That’s what made my parents love my boyfriend. & honestly, it didn’t take that long for them to warm up to him…

  16. Question for LW to ponder: Are you looking for feedback from your family or for permission? If it’s feedback, you’ve gotten it. Move on with your relationship and take advice from the family as needed. They will either come around as they see how well he treats you, or continue to hold a grudge – you can manage the family and your relationship from that point knowing the lay of the land. If it’s permission, then you need to move out of the relationship and towards a healthier mindset for your life. It’s one thing to be close to your family. It’s another thing to never grow up.

    This thought process, by the way, extends to all facets of your life, not just your current relationship.

  17. Green_Blessings_Goddess says:

    Are you interested in your boyfriend? If you are why are you bothering to write us and ask us our opinion?

    If you are interested in him and truly want to be with him, let your family know the positives and when they say their feedback to you, say time will tell.

    The things your mom and brother are saying though I do not think are unfair. They love you and are telling you the truth and I am sure they know you well and care for you and want your happiness. I am siding with your mother here, I think you are being desperate and not as into him as you think you are. However, you seem set on your course of action, what jumped out at me about your letter is you said he was so irritating in how much he pursued you, that is a red flag.

    Yes, I know girls like the guy to pursue them, but it should be fun, flattering and you should be excited in the process, happily awaiting your next call or encounter, I think you are talking yourself into this one and missing out.

    That overly persistent chasing is not healthy if you are complaining to your mom about it. What if you break up with him, will he stalk you and keep showing up and then when you two are back together, spend everyday with you and smother you so much that you two only see each other, that is how abusers start their crap. They isolate you and overtime erode your confidence.

    Get out now before you have to get a divorce or get pregnant. Don’t write in for advice if you don’t want honest feedback, I am going to tell you the truth, not tell you what you want to hear like the rest of them do.

    Listen to your mother and brother, it is not that he isn’t “good enough”, the problem is you are not into him and you were complaining about him and annoyed by his courtship, that is not love. Love or the beginning of a romance between friends is when you are happy to see them and look forward to seeing them. Your mom and brother love you, listen to them.

    1. Fairhaired Child says:

      I was also going to comment on the irritating part being a red flag! If the LW complained enough about how much she “hated that he kept flirting with her it was weird” etc esp if she said he asked her out and she turned him down several times. From an loving, but outside view (like the family) this could mean that the guy was a level 3 clingon possibility and that he could become a stalker if they ever broke up.

      Now if you explain as other people have said ,tell your family how he honestly makes you feel, describe dates/things he does for you (how happy it makes you etc), and possibly introduce him to one family member at a time – they could get different opinions. Its just that based on your letter and based what you may have said to the family this instantly said to me that its a possible red flag. Looks may have nothing to do with their concerns, just how “annoying and desperate” he felt and that it’s continued for two years before you finally started to date him.

  18. WatersEdge says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate… Your family probably knows you pretty well. Is this something you typically do? Do you jump from boyfriend to boyfriend? Do you like a lot of attention? Have you consistently made bad dating decisions before? Are you the girl singing “I Want Your Sex” at the karaoke bar? Why don’t they trust your motives with this guy?

    I hate to say it, but if it’s his looks that are the problem in their mind, then meeting him may not help. You’ll have to plant some seeds first. Tell them he’s fun and he’s good to you and you expect them to trust you to make your own dating decisions at this point (regardless of people you have dated in the past). Repeat ad nauseum.

    1. AnitaBath says:

      I agree. All of the horrible things she said about him suggests that he’s the last person in the world she’d want to date. Maybe she got over her shallowness and was able to get close to him and see how awesome he is, or maybe she was only able to see how awesome he is after she decided she liked the attention and was “desperate.” I think the meaning behind her family’s statements deserves some looking into (minus all the shallow, rude aspects).

      If she decides she’s in this relationship for the right reasons, she should sit her family down, tell them she was in the wrong for saying all of those things (and they weren’t accurate), and now her parents are in the wrong for continuing such an attitude. She should tell them how she feels about him and all of the positive things. Tell them she wants their support, but she doesn’t *need* it, and she hopes they’ll come around. Give them a few weeks, and then test the waters.

  19. ( . )( . ) says:

    LW: Kudos to you for looking beyond the shallow and giving my Marky a fair chance at love. If he truly is as good to you as you say, then also good for you to recognize that he’s a keeper.

    Regarding your dilemma – this ain’t nothing new: ie one person having to convince their family to accept their choice in mates. Today, it’s the “level of attraction” that is up for debate.

    Not that big of a deal. Families ought to tend more about the character of a person their son/daughter is forging a life with than the shallow stuff. Keep reminding yourself of that and for chrissakes break the news to your mum & introduce the poor lad already!

  20. It’s time to act your age… stop playing games and stop telling your family everything. If he is sweet and treats you wonderful… doesn’t that make him attractive?… it does for me. Don’t worry about what your family or anyone likes or wants for that matter. We are only on this Earth for a short period of time… follow your heart and enjoy life!!!!!!!!!!!! Geez stop playing games and hold on to a good guy when you have one.

  21. I tried to put myself in your family’s shoes. For a year and a half you kept telling them how much you don’t like Mike. Of course there will be red flags popping up as soon as you start dating him.

    The same way you put that negative image into your family’s head, the same way you’re going to replace it with the image of Mike you have now. Every now and then, tell your family what Mike did for you that day. Or what he told you to make you feel the most beautiful/loved girl in the world. Unfortunately, you can’t say it once, and expect your family to do a complete 180. Slow and steady wins the race.

  22. heidikins says:

    So, you’re keeping a significant relationship from your family because you know they won’t approve, you’re lying to your boyfriend about why he hasn’t met your family, you have yet to have the difficult conversation with your mother and brother about WHY “Mark” is such a great catch, and all the while you are keeping your “sweet, attentive” boyfriend in the dark about not only your past feelings but also the way you portrayed him to your support system. And this is the guy who treats you like gold, makes you feel special, and absolutely adores you.

    I realize I only know a snippet of this story, but it’s the snippet you chose to share. And frankly, it sounds like YOU don’t deserve HIM.

  23. Well of course your mom reacted like you just came out of the closet because you did! If you do genuinely like this guy, then your previous rantings were you (consciously or subconsciously) trying to hide the fact that your heart loved that he was “sensitive and nerdy.” Congratulations on finally admitting what your heart desires, now bring your relationship with your boyfriend out into the open to your family and explain that this is what you want. If they can’t accept that, that’s their problem.

    That said, there’s also the possibility that you just succumbed to this guy wearing you down over time. I highly recommend that you evaluate this relationship and determine that this is in fact what you want. Only you can make that determination, though.

    1. Fairhaired Child says:

      my coworker read the LW’s complaint and she also stated that the complaining may be that the LW actually did like him the whole time and the only way to “talk about him constantly” was to “vent” instead of gushing about him as one would if he was a super cute boy she worked with. She def. could have been fooling herself and pushing him away by constantly commenting negatively on his looks to others. (similar to how we are told “boys only pick on you and throw things at you because they secretly like you”)

      But there is also the possibility (as you and others have stated) that he simply wore her down with the constant flirting etc.

    2. Woman of Words says:

      “That said, there’s also the possibility that you just succumbed to this guy wearing you down over time. I highly recommend that you evaluate this relationship and determine that this is in fact what you want. Only you can make that determination, though.”
      That is true… and another perspective is that you may still be with him BECAUSE your family is making so many complaints. I did this this too – went out with someone my family didn’t approve of, and eventually when they finally quit complaining, I suddenly realised I was with him only because they WERE complaining about him 9and rightly so…). I didn’t want to uphold their view that I’d made a poor choice by caving into their wishes, until they finally lost interest in the subject and I felt that I could make an independent choice, not because they were pressuring me.
      However, that’s all speculation, only you know what the situation really is. Good luck, and I hope some of the advice posted here is helpful to you!

  24. sounds like SHE WAS THE ONE who didn’t think he was attractive enough. Then she convinced her family the same. Now her family is of course confused by her change of mind with all the mean things she said about him before. Of course they aren’t encouraging her. Its doomed to fail sadly. He deserves to be with someone who didn’t have such a negative first impression of him. I feel bad for the guy. Let him go and maybe he will find someone who deserves him.

  25. christina says:

    well clearly you’ve been raised to learn that looks and what is on the outside is most important. thank GOD you’ve taken your head out of the sand for long enough to grab this guy who sounds amazing.
    truthfully- from what you’ve said so far it doesnt seem like your family will ever approve of your relationship. so i’d say stop asking for/caring about their approval and MOA about that. if they care enough about you they’ll begin to see how happy you are and get over it.

  26. So to bring another perspective to this.

    I have a cousin. Beautiful girl physically, but she also has one of the sweetest hearts out there. She works with disabled children, she volunteers her time for at-risk youth programs – one of the most beautiful people inside and out ever.

    She has had difficulty in relationships. Men (and they were all very good looking and very successful) treated her like crap, taking advantage of her sweet nature.

    Finally she began dating a guy who was ‘beauty-challenged’ shall we say. Beyond that, he is a wimp who is happy to have a mid level career and does not have any aspirations to get ahead. However, he is a very nice man and does treat her well.

    The whole family is in agreement – she is too good for him. That is very un-PC to say, but it’s the truth. She is with him because some jerks messed her over and now she’s playing it very safe. If she let herself heal up and believe she’s worthy of getting a guy who has it all, then she would eventually get one.

    The LW’s family might be seeing the same thing. While we don’t comment to her about our feelings and don’t wish the man ill, we will all be giving each other behind her back high-fives when they break up.

  27. I agree with what a lot of other people said. Tell your family what you told us. You grew to really like him, and he treats you well. Tell them you changed your mind. Then, live your life.

    And certainly stop hiding your relationship! Imagine how you’d feel if your boyfriend hid you from his family because they didn’t think you were pretty enough.

  28. I’ve made the mistake of telling my mom about a fight my boyfriend and I had, and to make matters worse I exaggerated to make him more of the bad guy. (like saying he had control issues, not that he hit me or anything.) I guess it made me feel better at the time.

    Now she will NOT let it go! Ahhh!!

    I think the best thing to do is introduce him to your family, then they will see he is not the hideous annoying desperate loser they have thought up in their heads (from your previous descriptions of him). I’m sure he is worse in their imaginations than he is in reality.

    Unfortunately for me my mom lives 4000 miles away from my boyfriend and I, so she won’t meet him until the summer. Once she meets him though I think she will see what a wonderful person he is and how perfect we are for each other 🙂

    1. Although honestly is does sound like he just wore you down. A guy treating you incredibly well and making you feel special should be a given, not the only qualification needed for a relationship with you.

    2. Woman of Words says:

      Been there and done that; now my mum complains that I never tell her anything! Problem is, we move on past the problems and they don’t have that benefit of moving on…

  29. professor says:

    It seems to me as if you brought all of this on yourself. Your family’s opinions were formed by your own callous words — you basically spent ages telling them all of the negative (and hurtful!) things, but now you expect them to instantly have a different opinion, just because, seemingly out of nowhere from their point of view, you’ve changed your mind?

    Imagine if you were buying a house. Your real estate person shows you one that you hate — it’s run down, structurally unsound, in a bad neighborhood, ugly, and overpriced. You don’t like anything about it and you tell your family that, showing them photos of how ugly it is, discussing all of its negative aspects, and telling them how much it costs. Then, a while later, you tell them you’ve changed your mind as it’s got a really lovely architectural style, and you’ve decided to buy it. Would you expect them to think it was a good purchase? You’ve clearly convinced them how bad you think it is, and they’re going to think you’re making a poor decision — why don’t YOU remember how bad you said it was? You made all of them listen to how awful it was, how can you have forgotten?

    What I’m saying is, while your family may be judgmental, remember that their first exposure to this person was your description of him. If anyone was “judgmental and superficial,” it was YOU!

    Fortunately, since this sweet guy was able to change your mind, perhaps he can change your family’s, too. But that’s not going to happen until you stop hiding him from your family and lying to everyone involved. And when sweet boyfriend asks why your family thinks so poorly of him, you can tell him it’s because you thought so poorly of him, too.

  30. They want you to date someone your age or slightly older. Dating a much younger man can make you an easy target for older men who think he’s a wimpy sexual plaything, doesn’t offer much, and that men should be dominant over women by being older as well. It’s no wonder older women tend to cheat on younger men with older men because older men offer more while younger men are wimpy sexual playthings for women. Society expects a woman to have a man who will provide with lots to offer.

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      I think somebody’s projecting…

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