She Won't Believe She's Pretty
Q: I've been dating my girlfriend for 2 years now and she never seems to feel that she's pretty. She's told me that it's my fault because a long time before we started going out, she claims that I called her ugly. But since we've been going out I've always told her how pretty she is, yet she doesn't believe me when I say it. She just says that I'm supposed to say that because I'm her boyfriend. I've even told her that she's the prettiest girl in the world but that just ended up starting a fight. I've tried to tell her that if I did say she was ugly that I don't mean it now. I'm really serious about this girl and I'd like to marry her but I don't think it would be possible until we can figure this out. I really want to make her feel pretty and good about herself but I don't know how. She's beautiful and I wish she could see it. -- Bob, 20
Dr. Susan: Some comments can never ever be forgotten. If you called her ugly way before you were involved, she's always going to have that lurking in the back of her mind, so that whenever she feels insecure, it will pop out. The good news is that she must really like you a lot if you've been together for two years in spite of that unfortunate early remark. Try being more creative. Some women like to be told they're the prettiest in the world, and some don't. Personally, I find it a cop-out to say that. It's too cookie-cutter. A much better kind of compliment is one that is personalized. Here are a few examples: You're got the most seductive eyes. When you smile, the whole room lights up. When I touch your hair, it's so soft and sexy that I just want to get lost in it. I can't imagine anyone being a better kisser than you. In other words, say nice things that you actually mean, that are specific to this one girl. You can also point out that anything you said before you dated, when you were in high school, shouldn't be taken seriously. You were dumb and you said lots of things you didn't mean and that you're sorry for. But you're much more mature now and so on. I suspect that's true anyway. Finally, it's not your job alone to build up her self-image. Some women will never believe they're truly attractive no matter how many men insist they are. Maybe she got negative messages growing up. She might need to talk this over with someone she trusts, besides you (whom she doesn't trust). The better she can learn to feel about herself, which might take until she's a bit older, the better chance you two have of making the relationship work.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.