By David Steele
- She’s so hot!”
- “He’s a hunk!”
- “Men/Women are only after one thing.”
- “Why can’t men/women see past my body/bank account?”
Women commonly dislike being evaluated or pursued by men solely for their physical attractiveness, and men commonly dislike being evaluated or pursued by women for their job or money.
When we don’t know someone, it is natural to focus on the outside packaging. It is also understandable to be attracted to something that is very important to us, such as looks or money. Deep down we know that potential partners, like us, want to be viewed as multi-dimensional beings, not just a body or a wallet. Yet, in dating, whether straight or gay, young or old, unconscious singles commonly focus on the one big thing that attracts them, and then wonder why their relationships don’t work.
The “Packaging Trap” is one of Fourteen Dating Traps covered in Chapter Three of my book Conscious Dating.
In our culture we objectify people by focusing on their age, gender, race, clothes, hair, weight, job, finances, and other external characteristics, and make generalizations about who they are as a person. When scouting for potential partners, it is common for some singles to focus on the packaging first, then not see much else beyond that. This works both ways- rejecting some people because of their packaging, and pursuing others because of their packaging.
Focusing on packaging can interfere even when you don’t intend to. True personal story- Maggie and I met on Match.com only after she had the smarts to modify her search criterion when she wasn’t finding anyone compatible. My search missed her because I selected 5’ 2” as my minimum height (Maggie is 5’ 1 ½”) and she selected her age and older (I’m 18 months younger). Neither of us intended to discriminate based upon such external packaging characteristics and reject potential partners younger or shorter! When Maggie modified her search criterion to include men a few years younger she found me, and I’m very glad she did.
It is understandable to have preferences and reactions to external packaging; however, if our goal is an internal experience, such as to be happy, loved, and fulfilled in a relationship, we may need to balance our attraction to the outside packaging by paying more attention to the person inside.
I recently had a conversation with a single friend who, after completing our Conscious Dating Relationship Success Training for Singles program (RESTS), has been working with one of our relationship coaches for several years. He was frustrated about getting involved in relationships that appear promising in the beginning then don’t work out. He and I have had an on-going debate about his weight requirement- no more than 5 pounds overweight (I could never figure out how he would measure that!). Body shape was his first and primary sorting tool, pursuing women with great bodies (who were usually not attracted to him) and immediately rejecting women who were not slender.
Still single and nearing retirement age, he was despairing of finding a partner. I like him a lot, wanted to see him happy in a relationship, and really wanted to help. This time, our conversation focused more specifically on the Law of Attraction, and how his weight “requirement” may be interfering with his success.
Remember, the Law of Attraction can work for you or against you. If you objectify others by focusing on their packaging, then you will probably be objectified in return. As a man objectifying women by their appearance my friend might be attracting women who objectify him by his appearance, job, money, car, or other external packaging characteristic, and might not be capable of the kind of relationship he really wants.
In our Conscious Dating RESTS program, we specify that Requirements are almost always behavioral events in the relationship, not traits of a partner. This has been challenging for many singles that are used to making a list of what they want in their ideal partner. I like to say, “you can make a list of a hundred traits or qualities, find someone that meets all of them, and STILL be miserable.”
We help singles refine their list and translate their requirements from traits of a partner into behavioral relationship events by asking “What does _____ mean to you?” and“What must happen in your relationship to be _____?” Any personal trait or characteristic can be transformed into a behavioral relationship event, such as “Good listener” into “Good communication” or “Deep listening to each other.” The more specific and bottom-line- the better. Most requirements go both ways and involve both partners, such as “good communication” and“addiction-free.”
Balance is the key. RCI coach Mike McCartney said “JUST the outside without the inside won’t work. JUST the inside without the outside won’t work for the vast majority,” and I agree. It is natural to have some requirements related to packaging, such as race, height, age, and even body type or weight, but I prefer to de-emphasize focusing on packaging that doesn’t have much to do with a quality relationship, and emphasize what is required to have the life and relationship you want.
In practice, very few external characteristics pass the requirements test- “If you were totally in love and really wanted this relationship to work, would you break it off because of _____?”
The 2001 movie “Shallow Hal” has a great example of this. Jack Black as Hal, a single guy obsessed with external packaging, was hypnotized to see only the person inside and pursued Gwyneth Paltrow’s illusionary slim character. Then, when the hypnotic spell broke and he saw her actual obesity, he decided that her weight didn’t interfere with his love and desire for her.
My friend held steadfastly to his weight requirement, fearing that if he let go of it, he would end up with someone he was not physically attracted to. I tried to reassure him that with the Law of Attraction “like attracts like,” and if he let go of focusing on weight he might be opening the door for his soul mate- a wonderful woman who is attracted to him, to whom he too will be attracted.
At the end of the evening, my friend still seemed skeptical, but he said I gave him a lot to think about. I hope he can let go and give the Law of Attraction a chance to work for him- at this point he has nothing to lose!
PACKAGING TRAP: Focusing on outside packaging, such as someone’s body, looks, job, wealth, material possessions, etc, overlooking the reality of the person inside. Opposite of the Marketing Trap; instead of seeking to sell yourself with attractive packaging, you focus on the packaging of others.
SOLUTION: Define your requirements for the life and relationship you really want and seek to balance your attraction to the packaging by paying attention to the reality of the person inside.
© 2005 by David Steele / http://radical-dating.com