Hi, Carolyn: For almost a decade now, I have been close friends with an incredibly kind, compassionate, sweet, and altogether special man. We have been spending a great deal of time together, and I am beginning to envision a romantic future with him. He has alluded several times to wanting to take our relationship to the next level.
Unfortunately, I have one hang-up that makes me feel incredibly vain and shallow: I don’t find him physically attractive. Maintaining a level of physical fitness and wellness is incredibly important to me. My friend doesn’t exercise — never has; it doesn’t interest him in the slightest — and while I didn’t think it bothered me, it does.
Does physical attraction develop over time? I don’t feel like it’s my place to push him to work out or eat right, especially since we are still just friends. Should I just move on from this to someone I am wholly attracted to?
The time to be a better, deeper and less vain person is after you’ve committed yourself to someone. When you’re on the threshold of romance, with nothing invested beyond some mental what-ifs, that’s when you want to listen to the pettiest side of yourself, and recognize you won’t be happy unless that side is happy.
You may not be proud of it, but it’s part of you — arguably the most honest part at that.
So while, yes, physical attraction does often develop over time, so do resentment and disgust — and because the fates have a mean sense of humor, it’s usually when you bank on one that you get the other. Plus, getting together with the hope that one of you will change is the beginning of most unhappy endings.
I agree that it’s not your place — as friend or spouse or in between — to push him to firm up his habits, but I don’t love the idea of just “moving on from this,” either. You’re apparently not teenagers; why not be honest with him? “I’ve thought of the ‘next level,’ too — but health and fitness are huge for me, and I can’t get past your indifference to them.” Admitting this might bring unwelcome consequences, but he deserves to know who you are, what you value and why you’re turning him down.
Last thought: Someone chiseled now can sag later, just because. “Would I still love him squishy?” is something you especially need to ask yourself, because fairness demands that you hold out for “yes.”
Dear Carolyn: My husband’s first wife died recently of a debilitating disease. We’ve been married almost 40 years, so we’re in our late 60s, but I was one of the reasons he left her.
He wants to attend her memorial service. Should I accompany him? I knew her well before their breakup and would like to pay my respects but don’t want to offend her family by reminding them with my presence of a painful time for their daughter.
Stay or Go
If an offense can feel fresh four decades after the fact, then being the once-friend who broke up the marriage of their now painfully deceased daughter might be one of them. Your concern is well-placed; I think it would be a generous act to stay home.
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