Why men don’t tell you you’re pretty

Some men tell you they think you are attractive on the first or other early dates. Some will never tell you.

For two months I dated a man who never said he thought I was attractive. In frustration at his aloofness, one day I said to him, “I don’t even know if you find me attractive.” He said, “I’m pursuing you, aren’t I?” Since I didn’t consider this wealthy man’s once-a-week phone calls and occasional casual, home cooked meals much of a pursuit, I retorted, “Are you?” In other words, he didn’t feel he needed to tell me he was attracted to me or thought I was pretty or sexy. His actions — minimal as they were — should speak for themselves. So I guess he found me minimally attractive. Or he never learned to express himself to a woman in a way that would make her feel good.

beautiful.jpgUpon sitting down for dinner with another man for a first encounter, he looked at me, paused, and said, “You’re beautiful.” I smiled and said, “Thank you.” That was the last time I heard it for several months. When he uttered it again, I said, “Thank you. That feels good to hear.” He said, “I don’t tell beautiful women they are beautiful.” When I asked, “Why not?” he said, “Beautiful women know they are beautiful and they hear it all the time. It doesn’t mean anything to them because so many people tell them. Average-looking women know they aren’t beautiful, so if you tell them they are, they know you are lying. And women think that someone wants something from them if you compliment their looks. So I find it best to not tell women they are beautiful, pretty or sexy.”

Can you imagine? Yes, I know you can, but I’m guessing you’re as incredulous as I am about these attitudes.

So what about those of us who aren’t classically beautiful? Using the last guy’s logic, since he finds you beautiful, you must hear this all the time and have grown weary of hearing it. But if you have the kind of attractiveness that some find pretty and others find average, I bet you don’t feel you hear “You’re very pretty” too many times.

I think some men hold back telling a woman she is beautiful (or pretty or sexy) because they don’t want to come across as fawning, smarmy, unctuous or gushy. He doesn’t want a woman to think he has fallen for her based only on her looks, so then can be led around by his nose. When some women know a man is ga-ga for her, they use it to manipulate him. It’s happened for eons.

And of course, men can use these compliments as a “line” to get closer to you. As I discussed in “He had me from ‘You’re gorgeous!’” I was enamored with this guy from the get-go, but his salutation was only part of the enticing package. But alas, his thinking (or at least saying) I was gorgeous was not enough to keep him around after three dates. He went poof.

Intellectually we know that it only matters that we think we are attractive, and what others think isn’t our concern. But deep down we also like to know that the person we are dating finds us attractive and is able to express that genuinely. Yes, it can be overdone so that you think the man only wants to be with you because of your looks. But if he tells you sincerely and regularly, somehow it makes him more attractive too! And, of course, the more beautiful a person is on the inside, as shown through his thoughtfulness, kindness, caring, respect and attention toward you and others, his outer looks become more appealing. (See “Yummy is as yummy does.”)

How do you feel when a man tells you sincerely he thinks you’re attractive (beautiful, pretty, sexy)? And what have you done when a man you’ve gone out with for more than a month is stingy in this area?

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23 responses to “Why men don’t tell you you’re pretty”

  1. LA Avatar

    Men tell me quite consistently that I am beautiful and sexy but I don’t put much credence into their words. Some are very sincere when they say that I am more beautiful than my picture, but, I think most use the words as a line. To me it is just words. If a man really wants to compliment me and show that he finds me interesting and attractive than give me some actions. To me, a man who follows through on his promises, is willing to help when I need an extra set of hands, or will listen to me when I want to vent is more attractive (and gets more attention) to me than the dashing executive who whispers sweet nothings into my ear.

  2. Strblonde Avatar

    This was a very interesting article for me to read. I grew up with my older sister constantly calling me “dumb, stupid, and ugly.” Because of an eye problem, I believed it and developed very low self-esteem. I did not date because I was too shy. As a result I have been gullible to flattery. I am now finally realizing the difference. I have been told lately be several different men that I am attractive and desirable. I’m not sure how sincere it was now from one of them, but from the others I believe they were sincere and that has helped my confidence level even more. So much so that I finally feel strong enough not to let men take advantage of me. I have a whole new “game face” on and if they go “poof” I am not going to keep asking myself, “what did I do wrong?” In the future, if a man I am dating does not compliment me occasionally, I think I would tell him, “you know, it would be very nice to hear if you find me attractive and desirable once in awhile. It isn’t going to go to my head.”

  3. Kat Wilder Avatar

    You know, a lot depends on how and when it’ said. If it comes off as “a line,” I dismiss it. (But that doesn’t mean if it’s passed off in a charming way by a charming man, I’m not going to smile and thank him.)

    Like many women, though, I often find compliments heard to accept. I’m working on it, though.

    But I want to ask you all — how often do you compliment your date on something, whether it’s his clothes, smile, eyes, etc. (and, after you’ve been intimate, his well, ya know. A lot of friends have told me they don’t, and I was very surprised. I think for men, that is something they desperately want to hear).

  4. Fred G Avatar
    Fred G

    OK – I am guilty of that. And even on occasion I explain it – whether it matters or does any good or not.

    Basically – I do eventually acknowledge someone’s physical attractiveness then state (honestly) the following.

    “…Yes you are very attractive, and I often do not say anything about it – though if that faded or if something happened to change that it would not matter. Someone that has my affection and commitment is going to have that whether they are deemed generally attractive or homely or something else. …”

    And some women I have dated for a while were not what most considered to be attractive. Though as one bonds with them they naturally become so to me.

    I know – it sounds like a bunch of crap – but every woman claims (read the online ads) that they want a man who is honest.

    So I do usually acknowledge things like:

    “That looks good on you…”

    “You look good in that…”

    when it actually is.

    I find if someone constantly needs reinforcement of being pretty then I usually do not survive the relationship. So the man who said “I’m pursuing you, aren’t I?”, was just a tad insensitive.

    When I get that kind of question I usually say that I do find them attractive, which I do, and that I don’t often acknowledge it (as in the statements above), then try to acknowledge it for a while honestly to turn around any valid insecurity. I also acknowledge the values that I find more important – when it is true and we know each other well enough to be believed – “Love the way you think…”, “I learned something new from you”(often), and last one: “Thanks for asking for directions”.

    (Last one for humor).

  5. NYSharon Avatar

    To all the men out there: WE NEVER TIRE OF HEARING A COMPLIMENT, AND SAYING THAT YOU LIKE THE WAY WE LOOK IS ONE OF THE TOP ONES. Bottom line is, is you are interested, tell us you think we are beautiful.
    I will tell you what happens when men are stingy in that area. My exhusband was. Even when I would go the extra mile he would never say anything. At some point I started asking “how do I look?” and he was say “OK” in a monitoned voice. Then we would go to a social event and his friends would say all the things I wanted to hear from him. When I finally confronted him about this, he simply said that he thought I was looking for a compliment and knew I what I wanted to hear so he didn’t. That is one of the reasons he is now living alone and it certainly shows that it is better to error on the side that she may tire of it. (I dought it)

  6. Gatti Avatar

    My ex used to accuse me of “fishing for complements”, I guess I was because then didn’t arrive too often, so I tried to help them along. Now I’m get complements all the time (sincerely meant ones!) and was called modest as well. Who’s right? I know which one I’ll take!

  7. bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    Wow, it must be nice to get compliments on your appearance. The only compliments I’ve ever received in my entire life (besides the obligatory family patter) were those I received from an ex boss (the best boss I ever had) on my work performance.

    I often fantasize about what it would be like to get compliments on my appearance. I imagine it would be nice. Well, it doesn’t look like I’ll ever find out for myself so I’ll continue to read your blog and enjoy myself vicariously through reading about your achievements.

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  8. Kevin Avatar

    wow great blog

  9. Bonhomme Avatar

    why are we always thinking in terms of men giving women compliments? for once, i’d die to see it the other way around (i hate to say it but women seem too full of themselves and ONE ANOTHER–yes, they’re really not into us guys unless OTHER WOMEN find us desirable!)


  10. guy Avatar

    I dont know i love to tell my wife shes beautiful. Sometimes i feel like she doesnt believe it and that saddens me because to me shes the only person i find attractive. She thinks i want an anorexic hoe, but she is so sexy to me. I love her, I think of waking up to her and falling asleep next to her all the time. I am considered very attractive by most standards, but still, it would feel sooooooooo good just to hear once in a while that she thinks im beautiful. Or that she still fidns me sexy. Or that she misses having sex with me. The only times she really does these things is when shes prompted. I know its not the sociatil norm for girls to tell guys that they are attractive. We are the stuffed in the box as the non feeling non needing pillars, and if you need, well then your weak. But im a person and i have feelings just the same as she does. Idk i guess ive always had a hard time seeing things in temrs of men and women, im a person, shes a person, i miss feeling pretty, especially when i try so hard to fix my hair and clothes for her. She does say its cute when i send her a pic, thats good i guess.

  11. Bethany Murray Avatar

    Really great Blog! Enjoyed Internet dating back in my 50’s and had a great time! I am now married to the love of my life whom I met over the Internet. My motto while I was Internet dating was, “The Internet Changes Everything.” Women no longer have to sit around or go to bars looking for their next friendship. I loved it!

  12. […] manipulate. Interestingly, “No compliments, ever” does reinforce my findings in “Why men don’t tell you you’re pretty.” So since midlife men are employing some of these, clearly these rules have been around for […]

  13. hunter Avatar

    to Kat Wilder,

    ….compliment my you know what…that made me smile just thinking about it.

  14. hunter Avatar

    ….most men don’t know, that,,,, sometimes,,,, compliments make a relationship sizzle. I like to give the high heel compliment. If she is wearing nice shoes, and taking short steps, she gets my wolf call….

  15. Ralph Avatar

    Ya know….telling a girl she is attractive is a tricky thing sometimes. I honestly think that honesty when complementing is the way to go. I try to find something that is unique and attractive to complement on. The not just the smile, but the way she smiles, sort of thing. But when a woman is pretty sometimes you just gotta tell her. I think most women can tell when a guy is genuine in their complements. BTW loved your speech this weekend.

  16. hunter Avatar

    to Ralph,

    …you are correct there, “complimenting a pretty woman” can be a sensitive issue, only because she, most likely gets compliments all the time….

  17. […] Related posting: “Why men don’t tell you you’re pretty.” […]

  18. iakot Avatar

    The first response from LA is interesting. It reminded me that different people have different Love Languages. For the lady with Verbal Appreciations, compliments are essential. So, how do you know what her love languages are when you first meet her? It seems like complimenting a lady on her looks can be work for or against the guy.

    Maybe the guy should be careful on the first date. Seek out other ways to compliment her: intelligence, personality, etc. See how she responds. I think if a beauty compliment is not the first thing the guy says, then it seems more sincere, and is less likely to be taken in a dismissive way.

    That said, it is a good reminder to us guys that, once in a relationship, regardless of her love language, we should compliment the lady on a regular basis.

  19. Some Chick Avatar
    Some Chick

    I know I’m hitting this convo way late, like a couple of years later, but I have to say this…I hear “You’re pretty, you’re beautiful” all the time and I have no idea if I really am or not. Guys say it to absolutely everyone. Hell, if you don’t hear it from many guys, just get on an on-line service and every guy will tell you you’re pretty/beautiful/gorgeous, even if you look like Herman Munster’s & The Thing’s love child. I only *ever* take that compliment seriously when I hear it from a woman; that’s when I know that I must be looking really good, because women are just more honest with each other about this stuff. Men just say this s**t to every woman they see and IMO it doesn’t mean anything and it also doesn’t mean you’re god’s gift either.

  20. Maevine Avatar

    Haha, this is great! I never would have guessed it, but now it seems so right.

    The one time my ex-boyfriend has ever brought up my appearance was upon my telling him that I didn’t think he wanted to hang out with my because I was ugly. In his response, there was a hesitant stutter, and then “… yeah you are… I mean…urr…”

    On the other hand, my fiance won’t shut up about my being “So much more beautiful than [insert whoever here]” and “Absolutely magnificent”…

    Though I understand not wanting to lie, and also not wanting to become annoying or overbearing, I think the best guys out there (for me at least) will suck it up and praise you anyways… I never dreamed I was desirable until I had gotten sick of hearing it!

  21. late comment Avatar
    late comment

    I’m a woman who agrees with the men in your article. A man won’t generally pursue a woman he doesn’t find attractive. I say generally, since this limitation doesn’t apply to males between the ages of 15 and 25. I get compliments from men sometimes, but I find the best compliment is being pursued. Compliments from men (especially early on in the dating process) often just feel like unnecessary flattery. And flattery is often used to get something one wants without really having to work for it… I think most gals realize what that “something” is. So, while it’s a confidence booster to hear that I am attractive, I’d rather be asked for a date. Then I know the guy really does think I am attractive, and on a date I can concern myself more with not tripping on a rug or saying something totally stupid 🙂

    Maybe it’s weird to think that way, but that’s my 2¢.

  22. mdee Avatar

    I pointed out to him that he never gave me a compliment or said if he thought I was pretty. His answer? “Well I don’t put a bag over your head ….” I was 19 at the time, he was 26 and married to someone else.

  23. Kiki Gurl Avatar
    Kiki Gurl

    My husband used to tell me I was pretty all the time. He was ill w dementia, but his male-female sensibilities never seemed to diminish much. One month before he died, despite nearly having lost all of his speech, he told me in his native language that I was pretty.

    At 56, 8 months later, I started online dating, and it’s really hard to look at all those pictures, but on the advice of my friend, I was encouraged to go to a couple of meetups. So I figured I’d try to get thru 5, and I really liked the first one I met, who I’m still dating 1 month and some later. (I did go on some other meetups). He doesn’t say I’m pretty. And he knows I was only interested in a casual relationship, so maybe he’s not trying to be too deep, but I agree that if either party looks good, or you like what they are wearing or their hair, tell them. Everyone likes compliments. And it doesn’t have to be about appearance, I like the way you think, you know your way around a grill, you have a great sense of humor, I think any of that is good.

    I’m so frustrated, I want to start showing up in baggy sweats and a stained tshirt and feel that my efforts to look nice for him aren’t appreciated. So I’m still not sure how to tell him. I read an article that said a guy should compliment a girl 1-4 times on a date. That would work for me. Someone above said “you know, it would be very nice to hear if you find me attractive and desirable once in awhile. It isn’t going to go to my head.” I think that’s nice. Also, how do I look is nice. I hadn’t seen him for a week as I was visiting at the beach, so I asked to go out for our first date after, and I had on heels with a tan and looked pretty good. I saw him checking me out, and that’s nice, but it would still be nice to hear “I see you got some sun, you look great”, or something along those lines.