Believe it or not - and why wouldn't you believe it? - this is one of the frequent questions I deal with as a therapist. Almost everyone who comes to therapy is struggling with this issue in one way or another. Whether its conflictual expression takes the form of self-deprecation - "I'm not smart enough, thin enough, young enough, rich enough..." - or as a desperate search for the "perfect" love object who is enough and more, one thing is certain: pursuing gratification in love based on external or superficial notions of "attractiveness" is a losing proposition. In 30 years of practicing therapy, and 50+ years of living, I have yet to meet even one person who found happiness in a relationship by trying to have the criteria of their "checklist" met or lived up to, either by themselves or another. Not even one exception.

Why not?

Well, it's complicated, but let me try to uncomplicate it.

It starts with the problem of "unconditional love."

Most people have heard about the concept of unconditional love, and most people have some personal notion of what it means. And most people are wrong. You see, unconditional love is the only kind of love there is, so to make it as if it's a special kind of love is erroneous to start with. Love for another, love of any kind - romantic, parental, between friends or family members or pets - is not based on the attributes of the beloved. Love is a soul force coming through the one who is loving, and received, or not, by the one being loved. One doesn't decide to love another based on anything external or superficial, in spite of ego notions to the contrary. You don't love someone because they're handsome or smart or rich. You love someone because you do.

Now, one can actively interfere with the expression or reception of love, which is a function of defenses and character structure issues. A narcissistic person, for example, once put it perfectly in a session when he said this: "I want to be the special person of a special person." Problem is as soon as said "special person" chooses that guy who wants to be chosen, the special person isn't special anymore. So the torturous loop must go on, with the idealized, fantasy love object always remaining just out of reach.

The point is when you're imagining that the unconditional love you want, which is really just love, is based on superficial aspects, then you can become desperately hooked on images of what "attractive" is.

So, then, what is attractiveness really? Chemistry? Destiny? Compatibility? And is anyone inherently attractive?

Hmm... yes, yes, yes, and... yes! But here's the thing - you can be attracted to someone because of the ways in which the desired person will provoke you into feeling something you've been suppressing, like sadness or anger. You can be attracted to someone in order to be moved to a new place in any given lifetime through conflict and loss or ego deflation. Or you can be attracted to someone because they're your soul mate and you're ready for the big orgasm!

It all depends, in other words, on your level of personal development. The more open and connected you are to your deepest, highest self, the more you will see the totality of another person - mind, body, spirit - and the more attraction will be based on the dictates and vision of the soul. And likewise, "beauty" will be seen as a measure of openness and connectedness in another, not as some arbitrary arrangements of body parts or bank accounts.

It's in the eyes, folks, where the soul can shine through, in the suppleness of facial self-expressions without a mask, in the centeredness of one's heart and in the positively charged-up genitals. That's a perfect ten! The very notion of shrinking down a nose, pumping up breasts or tightening up abs as a road to finding the love that you're internally resisting is as ludicrous as putting an expensive rug over a floor being devoured by termites.

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