Dear Dr. Warren,
By my own admission, I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I’m not a handsome man. I’m only slightly overweight and although it hasn’t kept me from having a great life, it’s been lovingly confirmed by various people in my life. It isn’t something I celebrate, but I do want to be realistic.
I recently joined eHarmony and have been trying to grapple with the problem of when to post pictures of myself. I have uploaded three different photos for my matches to see, but I’ve made them available only after reaching Open Communication. I decided that if a woman got to know me on the inside, she might not mind my looks so much. But to be honest, it hasn’t exactly turned out that way. I’ve reached Open Communication with several women, and once they see my photos, they close communication.
After having gone through this for two months, I’m at a loss. I thought eHarmony’s process was different. I thought your site wasn’t just for the great-looking people I see in your ads. I will freely admit that I like eHarmony’s approach. It seems that you’re trying to make dating a more substantial process. Maybe it’s impossible to get around this issue.
Can you give me some guidance?
David in Memphis, TN
Thanks for your heartfelt letter. Despite your “good soldier” tone, I can tell this is a very painful issue for you. You’re reaching out to solve this problem, and I believe that in the context of eHarmony’s service, we can manage it.
You won’t be surprised to learn that photos have given us a great deal to think about. After all, we believe that part of the problem with traditional dating is that persons make choices based largely on appearance. eHarmony was created to help people build better relationships by choosing their partners more wisely, and this means deemphasizing the role of the physical in making that choice.
But at the same time, I am a big proponent of chemistry in a relationship. I deeply believe that if two people don’t share a pretty substantial sense of chemistry, the relationship won’t be satisfying in the long run.
So where do these two perspectives leave us?
First, David, I can virtually guarantee you that all women will not be put off by your appearance. There are standards of beauty in our society for men and for women, but there is almost no predicting what an individual person will find attractive. You don’t need every woman in eHarmony to find you attractive – only a few.
If you are comfortable doing so, I suggest that you reveal your photo from the very beginning of our communication process, and I’ll tell you why. If it has been your experience that most women close your match after seeing your photo, you want to move that event up in the process. You don’t want to waste time getting to know someone who isn’t comfortable with your looks. By presenting your photo at the beginning, matches who aren’t attracted to you can close you immediately, and you’ll avoid any interaction with them. When you begin the first round of communication with someone, you’ll know that they have accepted your appearance.
Now, you may ask, “But Dr. Warren, isn’t that giving in to the people who are making judgments based on looks?” Perhaps, but I don’t think so. In your unique circumstance we’re trying to select the people who aren’t making a judgment on that criterion. If things are as you describe them, a woman who moves forward with you will have made a decision that your appearance is less important than or equally important to the other things she knows about you.
Does it make me sad that some women would close you based on nothing more than your face? Absolutely! And while I know that every person wants and deserves to be attracted to the person they marry, I also know that once you get to know a person from the inside out you will perceive his or her appearance in a different way.
So I would like to say this to all the people who will see your photo: If there is one lesson we’ve learned from our successful couples – those people who met on eHarmony and married – it is that many times your soul mate turns out to be a person from outside your “comfort zone.” Your comfort zone is that imaginary boundary you create regarding geography, height, occupation, physical appearance, etc.
Drawing strict rules about whom you’re willing to consider may mean that you miss out on a person who can literally change your life into something more happy, fulfilling and rewarding than you ever might have anticipated.
Good luck, David, in your eHarmony experience, and keep us informed on your progress.
I wish you the very best,
Dr. Neil Clark Warren