A friend of mine, Paul has recently gone through another break up.
He's a lovely guy, Paul, and is never short of a romantic interest. He's got a beautiful smile, a gym-honed body - the subject of way too many topless selfies - and a Pollyanna-ish approach to life. He also has a tendency to date very good-looking men. Therein lies the problem, according to my friend Emily.
If you were to line up Paul's exes, it would resemble a casting call for a Tommy Hilfiger campaign. They're a ridiculously attractive bunch, and not just pretty faces either – he's dated lawyers, French PhD candidates, and most recently, a fireman with a megawatt grin,
Manpower-ready body, and heart of gold to boot. We all wanted Paul and Rob to stay together forever, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Something to do with Rob's ex hanging around like a bad smell, and a few inappropriate emails and texts that Paul found, I don't know the full story. Emily does, and she pins the blame on one thing and one thing only – Paul's penchant for beautiful men.
"But Rob was lovely," I protested. "I wanted to marry Rob!" exclaimed another girlfriend. We all did. Rob's that kind of guy. But the fact remains that he is criminally good-looking, and according to Emily, that is why it was never going to end well.
"Rob's so good looking he doesn't know what to do with himself," she said. "He turns heads everywhere he goes, and everyone wants a piece of him. Even when he's with someone as great as Paul, that kind of attention is hard to ignore."
I thought about some of my girlfriends who have gone out with really hot guys. Some of the most gorgeous girls I know have been reduced to insecure, clingy messes because their boyfriends are so attractive they can't bear to let them out of their sight. And I must admit, consciously or not, in the past I've automatically discounted incredibly beautiful men as potential love interests. Perhaps it's unfair, perhaps it's the result of being burnt once or twice in the past, but when I see a man who's very attractive, and is clearly aware of the fact, I give him a wide berth. I've seen what it's done to my girlfriends and it's not pretty.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate an aesthetically pleasing man or woman as much as the next person, but it can become toxic when the pursuit of beauty eclipses the value placed on all other qualities. New York psychotherapist and author of Is He Mr Right?, Mira
Kirshenbaum, widens the definition of a "hot" guy to include goodlooking, "cool," powerful, rich and exciting guys, the type of guys women often pursue for possessing at least one of these qualities.
Kirshenbaum acknowledges that once in a while, a woman (or man) might bag a hottie who happens to find them hot too, and they live happily ever. We only have to look as far as Hollywood to find examples of that, but in real life, she says it's pretty rare that the incredibly goodlooking person is able to tick all your other boxes in the long term.
Beauty, like success, power and "coolness", is intoxicating. If you are the type to be easily attracted to these qualities – and many of us are – enjoying reciprocal attraction with someone who we perceive to be as hot or cool can provide a thrilling, and often addictive ego boost.
But, as Kirshenbaum points out, when you're hooked on "hot" guys (or girls), you tend to be blinded to their less appealing character traits.
Eventually they show their true colours, and having been hung up on an illusion of this person's desirability, you get hurt or disappointed when they don't live up to your expectations.
This, according to Kirshenbaum, is when many people make the jump from "hot" to "safe". Safe is essentially the opposite of hot. There's usually no real spark, and not a huge deal of chemistry, but we feel safe in the knowledge that this person won't hurt us, and probably won't ever leave us. After being put through the wringer by hottie after hottie, Mr or Mrs Safe suddenly holds a lot of appeal.
If it doesn't sound like a great alternative, it's because it isn't. Safe inevitably becomes boring, and so, says Kirshenbaum, many people swing from safe to hot, hot to safe, thriving in the thrill of the chase, reeling from the pain of being dumped, finding respite in a pair of loving, caring, arms, and trying to ignore the niggling voice telling us there's a greener (hotter) patch of grass over yonder.
The trick is to find someone who is a combination of the two – someone who is hot enough (in whatever sense of the word appeals to you) to hold your interest, and safe enough to make you feel comfortable and secure in your relationship.
I hope the next hottie Paul goes for is "safe" enough to stick around.
Have you dated a total babe? Are you a total babe? What's it like for you?