Do the clothes make the Man?

Dear Toni--

I have a fun-loving, fashionable, and sometimes too assertive friend who has been seeing a man for 6 months. She very much enjoys his company, and this feeling gets stronger each time they go out. The problem is that he has NO fashion sense and must know this because he has asked her to help him shop for clothes.

Recently, when he took her out he was dressed horribly. His clothes were incredibly nerdy--short-shorts and an ugly button down shirt. She told me that she was truly embarrassed to be seen with him and felt completely turned-off and even mortified by his appearance. She tells me that she has never felt a physical attraction towards him and that he has never even attempted to hold her hand, let alone kiss her.

Do you have any suggestions for a situation like theirs or should she just stop trying to make this work? I have advised her to get out now and move on with her life. She has been married before, so she is not an inexperienced kid. If she does break it off, is there a tactful way to go about this? --Helping Friend

Dear Helping Friend--

Let me begin with an observation; I don't think the way he dresses is THE issue here. Even though this is what your friend focuses on, she readily admits that this relationship is platonic. I'm assuming it has not progressed to something more over the past 6 months because there is no physical chemistry, maybe on both their parts. It also sounds as though she is not too concerned about this as she continues to see him and enjoys his company, if not his appearance.

As her friend you seem to think there is a problem here that needs to be fixed. If she is actually considering a serious, romantic, long-term relationship with this man, I have to wonder WHAT needs this relationship (as it is now) meets for her. It must be providing her with something that she isn't ready to let go of.

The only advice I would have for this "couple" is that they sit down together and talk about their relationship--what it means to them and where they are each hoping to go with it. One or both of them may be surprised by what the other has to say. It is never necessary to say hurtfully blatant things about one's lack of attraction for the other. Something like, "We seem to be good friends and nothing more" would suffice. Or, "How are you feeling about me and our relationship at this time?"

If your friend is leading this man to believe she is truly interested in a physical relationship, she needs to let him know she does not see this happening. She can lead with telling him how much she LIKES him and enjoys him as a friend.

Honesty is always the best way to deal with a situation like this one. This combined with some deep discussion of what each is needing and looking for from their future should clear up the confusion and help them make some decisions about what comes next, if anything.

(from July 2005)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"A Good Example of the Wrong Chemistry"
List of more
"Attraction and chemistry"

"Help For the Flirting Challenged"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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