My Wife Has Never Complimented Me on My Looks

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A husband wrote me, "My wife is beautiful. Not, Baywatch beach-bod type, but very girl-next-door beautiful. I tell her she is because I never want her to wonder how I feel about her. We have been married 12 years. We have three children. To my knowledge, my wife has never complimented me on my looks (sans the clothes I may wear from time to time). No ‘you're handsome, good-looking, hot, cute, sexy’...without me having to prompt her by asking….  She says she loves me, and I am pretty sure she does, but how? Like a close friend? Or like a devoted husband? How can a person who you devote your life to not be somewhat pleasing to the eye?”

I told him that I appreciated his honesty about an issue that many men have thought but been afraid to voice. I replied that the good news is that most women tend to be personality oriented or relationally oriented, rather than visually oriented.

What Is Desirable in a Man?

Many women would agree with Proverbs 19:22, "What is desirable in a man is his kindness” (NASB). The Hebrew word hesed, translated here as “kindness,” points to loyalty or unfailing love. The ESV translates this as, "What is desired in a man is steadfast love,” and the God’s Word translation says, "Loyalty is desirable in a person.”

At the end of the day, what turns a woman on is not the physique of the male but his heart and soul.

Yes, women are attracted to handsome men. My wife, Sarah, has found that the husband who has let himself go (in that he is overweight, dresses like a slob, and does not shower) is a turnoff to women. Women desire a man to look nice, and most wives tell their husbands that he looks handsome when he stays fit, dresses well, and keeps himself groomed. But at the end of the day those external features mean nothing to her when he is harsh, angry, unapologetic, disloyal, and habitually unloving. A woman has no interest in marrying a handsome man who is not gentle, kind, loyal, and loving.

The Lustful Woman—Merely Play Acting?

However, some women do lust for handsome men. As a society moves more and more toward the sensual, some females become like the woman Ezekiel describes. “She saw men portrayed on the wall, images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, girded with belts on their loins, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers, like the Babylonians in Chaldea, the land of their birth. When she saw them she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea (Ezekiel 23:14–16 NASB). And remember Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:7, "It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, 'Lie with me’” (NASB).

But for the most part, the women you see going nuts over a handsome man, especially in the media, are play acting. What woman wants to get involved with a good-looking man with serious character flaws? As I understand it, of the 37 million people registered on the Ashley Madison website (that has the slogan “Life Is Short. Have an Affair.”), women make up only about 2 percent, a statistically insignificant number.

God’s Hardwiring

On the whole, God has not wired women to want to jump into bed with any cute man who winks at her, smiles, flexes, disrobes, and invites her to sleep with him. That’s an immediate turnoff to most (all?) women, even sending fear up her spine. The most common question women ask is, “Does he love me for me?” So jumping right into bed with a man runs contrary to her nature since she does not assume all men are virtuous and caring. Bluntly, she fears he thinks only in terms of orgasm, so she takes steps to determine his motives for a relationship. She asks herself, “Is this about love or lust for him?”

Hooking Up

What about the hook-up generation? Are younger women lusting for good-looking men? For a season many of these gals give this a try but they are hardwired to love and be loved. It makes no sense to have ongoing sex with a man who she does not know and love, and who does not want to know and love her. She will inevitably say, “I feel like a prostitute.” And she should.

So, why do some women do this? I spoke to 3,000 people in France. I said, “A woman lives with a man to prove her love. A man lives with a woman to determine if he is in love.” The 1,500 women almost broke into cheer. That’s how they feel. They want commitment from a man but find the man unwilling so they give him sex to get his love. Of course, that never works. Eventually, women get in tune with reality and say, “I just want a man to love me for me.” Women are relationally oriented, not visually oriented.

The Lustful Male

This is why the Bible, generally speaking, warns the husband against the lustful eye far more than it does the woman. For example, Proverbs 6:25 states, "Do not desire her beauty in your heart, nor let her capture you with her eyelids.” Jesus taught that the man lusts for the woman (Matthew 5:28). And in Job we read that he said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1 NIV). Typically we do not hear a woman saying, “I needed to make a vow not to look at men in thongs on the beach and lusting for them.”

Shallow Males?

It has been said when a single man sees a beautiful woman he comments, “Wow, I would love to be married to her.” On the other hand, when a single woman sees a great-looking guy she utters, “He looks handsome. I would like to get to know him.” She isn’t interested in whistling at him but in getting acquainted. Why this male and female difference? Are men without depth whereas women are sophisticated? For the man who looks at a gorgeous woman and declares his wish to unite in matrimony, perhaps men know women are loving and nurturing by nature and therefore assume the woman he sees will be a quality person. Are not most women virtuous like mothers? Instead of castigating the male for what seems to be a superficial assessment of women, perhaps men are astute in their basic assumption that women are caring and kind in their nature and therefore let themselves be more responsive to the attractive female. He knows she is relationally oriented, so he hopes to find a beautiful woman.

The Gold Digger

Of course, we all know that not all women are principled and chaste. There are a percentage of extremely attractive women who end up turning men off. Such a female is self-centered, on the hunt for a man of wealth or for one who will romance her endlessly. She is either a gold digger or addicted to love. She jumps from man to man until she finds the one who supplies what she craves. Once men see her for who she is, they want nothing to do with her because they know she will drop them like a bad habit given someone better comes along. She may be drop dead gorgeous, but her spirit is deceptive, manipulative, and hedonistic. He knows he is but a pawn on her chess board.

Love or Looks?

On the other hand, the virtuous woman does not jump into a relationship, or from relationship to relationship, based on the man's appearance. She will be very intentional about finding out who he is as a human being. After the first date, she and her girlfriends will shift quickly in their conversation from how cute he is to how he treats her. Yes, these gals will give voice to the “tall, dark, and handsome” man, but that is the intermission to the play. The actual drama revolves around emotional connection with a loving man who has all the marks of being a loyal and humble human being. The drama is about love not looks. Is he the type who would love her until death parts them? Is he an honorable man she could love all the days of her life?

Be Assured That Your Character Matters Most to Your Wife

In the case of the man who wrote me, if I were him I would not be particularly bothered by the fact that my wife is not making comments about my physical being in the way that I make about her. Women process the relationship with their husbands based on the quality of his personality.

If your wife finds you unattractive, it has nothing to do with your physique but with your insecurities, fears, anger, selfishness, and a list of other character flaws. But given that you are the real deal, relax. She fell in love with who you are, not with how you look. When your wife knows that you are kind, loyal, and loving, she will deepen in her love and respect for you.

-Dr. E