the beauty trap

The Beauty Trap: How Good Looks Can Lead Us Astray

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I am full of desire. And when I don’t have an object for my affection I project that romance on to everyone who passes by.

My first two marriages were initiated and founded on beauty. In two very different ways, I was drawn in by the stunning good looks of both women, to the point of overlooking a number of warning signs that things might not go as planned. And it’s probably not their good looks that drive their lives, they weren’t like model-types, but they were, and still are, quite good-looking. I was captivated by that beauty in a way that was unhealthy. I am trying to educate my way out of this trap, but it’s not easy.

Today I’m Revisiting My Approach to Beauty

Walking along the lake-side trail this morning I was fascinated by the tremendous variety of women walking by, running by, laughing by, and just going on about their business, with little or no notice of me. But I noticed them. I always notice. It’s sort of the animal part of my brain, I think. I’m not lusting after them, just observing.

And some of the things I’m attracted to are sort of amazing to me. Take the new trend in athletic tops for women. I love all the fancy crisscrossing straps, the bright colors, the mixes and matches of sports bra, top, and skin. I love it. I am fascinated by it. And you can see the designers are into it as well. The variety in color, shape, and sparkle is amazing. And it has very little to do with the beauty, but it has a lot to do with the attraction.

Scent is another aspect that can be overused, but in some ways can be quite an attractant. When a beautiful (from what I can see) woman passes by running past me and she leaves a slight scent of eucalyptus or mint I’m intrigued in an even deeper way. It’s an odd thing, the lingering scent of a woman as she runs away from you. The metaphor is too close to reality.

When I ran into the high school friend who would later become my wife, she came in and hugged me rather easily. It was a happy greeting for both of us. “So you’re married?” “No,” she said, “Divorced.” “Me too!” I rejoined with a bit too much enthusiasm. And we were connected and fascinated into the next rounds of courtship. But her hug left a touch of her perfume on my neck. And the rest of the day I could not get away from it. I didn’t want to. But I was also sort of mesmerized by the way she stayed with me for the rest of the day. Like a smile. Just another signal of something, desire perhaps.

Desire and Snares

I am full of desire. And when I don’t have an object for my affection (a relationship) I project that romance onto everyone who passes by. It’s a hunger that is slightly unhealthy, but when observed and checked, pretty harmless. But I notice my own hunger and observe my silly misconnections. For example, the amazing runner who passes by, with all the signs of “YES” when caught up to at the water stop, I see she is very different from the front. It’s the face and eyes that hold so much of the soul, the chemistry information. And even that, the chemistry, the spark, is a trap.

And what I mean by trap is this: it is very easy to get way ahead of the relationship when the chemistry is hot. It is easy to overlook incompatibilities and misses when the lust factor is overriding your brain. And the further you go down the sexual connection before establishing the friendship connection, the deeper you get into the trap of beauty. The heat and lust and beauty drive our animal instincts, and we find satisfaction for many of our needs in a simple animal connection. Yes, this is true. BUT… There is so much more necessary for a relationship to work. The compatibility and friendship can be overwhelmed by the rush to bed. The relationship part of the coupling can be overlooked, and in fact, ignored, when the heat is on.

So when I find myself projecting too heavily at the backs of pretty runners in Lululemons, glistening with energy and effort, I laugh at myself and my mystical imaginings. Beauty is a big part of the equation, for me. But the beauty aspect must be tempered with all the other aspects of the relationship. I’m lucky, I am getting to experience some of that craving with a woman, today, who is really wanting to go slow.

Slow Down and Enjoy All the Flowers

It’s a good thing, this slowness. I know I am an excitable boy. I know my projections, my love poems, my illusions, are my own. This woman cannot fulfill my hopes and dreams. I have to fill those for myself. She can, however, become a treasured companion, all in good time. I don’t know the pace of things. I don’t know what dating should look like.

I really don’t know what the word LOVE means. But I know what it feels like. That’s not good enough. Pacing the relationship, regardless of the attraction and chemistry, even sexual heat is the only way I can think of to temper the beauty trap. Because as we age the beauty changes, and our love and affection should only grow deeper. That’s the hope, anyway. The process of learning the other person’s rhythm and habits is a process. Jumping into “RELATIONSHIP” too fast is also a dangerous trap. I want it. But I know it’s not what makes for clarity and understanding.

I want to know. I feel it, but I need to know what our time together is like. And what’s the only way for this understanding? Time.

I like to say, “Time is on our side. We should not be in a hurry.”

It’s like a mantra for me. But it’s a mantra that I’m using to try to slow myself and my big romantic heart down. I could lose myself again, and miss the disconnects that ultimately derailed both my marriages. And whether I get married again or not, is not even relevant. All I have is this time, this moment, and today I am happily plodding along, in spite of the beauty trap, and learning at a slower pace, how our lives MIGHT fit together. And man is it too early to start thinking about that?

SRSLY! It’s too damn early!


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Epilogue: a poem from my last breakup: the heart is an odd engine

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Dating 2.0

image: pretty hair at whole foods, john mcelhenney, creative commons usage

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