Let me say from the start that I feel your pain. Dating someone seriously and simultaneously knowing that his ex was prettier than you can make you feel, well, pretty low. Even if you happen to be the most well-rounded, well-adjusted catch in the world, the reality is that you’re still human and that we still live in a looks-obsessed world. As a therapist, I know that dating and relationships, in general, would be so much healthier if it weren’t for the gold standard of appearance. Yet appearance matters, especially the younger you are.
For daters in their 4os, 50s and beyond, they have had enough life experience to put appearance in perspective. They know the truth: Attractive people usually are no happier or well-adjusted than the rest. (They also know that looks fade). But in your teens, 20s and 30s, appearance tends to take first position when it comes to importance. Can we all please agree that we hate that?
If you’re dating someone who happens to have a prettier ex, I won’t patronize you by suggesting that it doesn’t matter. Looks do matter. Keeping it real, it sucks that his ex is prettier than you. The question becomes, what do you do with this information?
Remember that the relationship with his ex ended for a reason.
Sure, his ex may be gorgeous, but her beauty was not enough to keep the relationship afloat. Even if she ended it but he would have chosen to stay with her, sooner or later he’s bound to realize that what he really wants is a woman who wants him, too. In other words, he is going to grow up and have a real relationship, which means that he will realize that appearance simply isn’t enough to sustain a relationship over the long haul. You must remember that your boyfriend has chosen to be with you at this point in his life, and that’s what matters most.
Just because they’re pretty doesn’t mean they were funny, smart, or interesting.
I won’t mention any names but I can think of a laundry list of gorgeous celebrities that seem dull or (perhaps) even a tad brain-dead in interviews. I always tell my clients in my practice the same thing: What keeps someone coming back to you is humor and warmth. If you really want to know the trick to keeping a man, it’s making him laugh, listening to him, and showing him a lot of affection. So, while a bona fide beauty may hold a man’s attention for a few months or even a couple of years, he will inevitably leave her after a while if she doesn’t bring much to the table in all the other ways, too.
Confidence reigns supreme.
Confidence comes in a very close second place when it comes to what men notice about a woman. As long as you are confident about what you bring to the table, you will have no problem attracting and keeping a man who’s a good match for you. Men love confidence as much as women love confident men. The confident mindset when it comes to his prettier ex says, ‘Well, I must really be an extremely good catch because I’m the one he chose to be with now.’
Details about his ex can eat you alive.
The surest way to become insecure or obsessive is to know too much about his ex. When the subject of his ex comes up, feel free to listen but don’t follow it up with questions about her personality, career, or lifestyle. Her existence simply doesn’t have to matter to you. That relationship ended and it’s now time to focus your energy on cultivating the relationship you’re in.
The big picture…
Looks do matter but only as much as you say they do. Never forget: You are in the driver’s seat of your life, and you control with whom you choose to spend it. Keeping the big picture in mind, the vast majority of men and women fall in the average category across the board: looks, intelligence, and income. You shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to be exceptional in any one area. If his ex is prettier than you, just remember that appearance is only one of many characteristics that count.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.