The Science Behind What Your Ex Means When She Says You Look Good


One of the most confusing moments after my first breakup was when my ex-girlfriend said I look good. What was that supposed to mean, I wondered? Did she want me back? Was she just playing games?

Some context is important here. It had been a few months since the breakup, and it had been nothing but mixed messages since. From several drunk texts we had traded, I knew she was seeing another guy. I was seeing other women in much the same way – which I’m sure she gathered from my frequent social media posts.

So color me confused when she just happened to bump into me at work, right before closing time. I worked at a watersports rental shop. I was shirtless, tan, and in the best shape of my life.

Read More: Why You Should Be Lifting After The Breakup

She said hello to me, and I was cordial. I mostly ignored her because of my own feelings. I was still hurting from the rejection she had served me several months before. My pride smarted.

She hung around for an hour, talking to several of my coworkers that she was friends with.

Her body language gave her away. She made eye contact with me as often as she could. She was paying attention to what I was doing even as she talked to my co-workers. I knew she was there because she wanted to talk to me in person.

But I didn’t know why. The little clues would make sense shortly.

Because when it was time to close up, she came up to me and we started talking. And then she admitted something to me that made my heart flip. She wasn’t seeing the other guy anymore. They had broken up that morning.

5 Minutes Later…My Ex-Girlfriend Said I Look Good

excuse me gif with black woman wearing pink shirt

And like most guys, I was confused.

On one hand, I desperately wanted to see the compliment as a positive sign that she had feelings for me still.

On the other hand, I was incredibly confused. I didn’t want to play games. Was she just pulling my leg? Seeking validation? Teasing me? My current relationship was good, and I wanted to tread carefully.

That night, I went home with her. We spent some quality time together, caressing one another. It eventually led to sex, tears, regret, and a whole jumble of other strong feelings on both sides.

It took me several years to really understand what she meant that day – long after we had both moved on.

I wasn’t a mind reader, and neither are you. So instead of assuming that she’s interested and she’s missing you desperately, let’s get into what she really means when she tells you that you look good – and what you can do about it if you want her back.

The Biology Of Attraction: Why We’re Attracted To Certain People

The holy grail of understanding what your ex-girlfriend means when she says you look good starts by understanding the biology behind physical attraction.

Biologically we are only attracted to a very narrow spectrum of people. Most people we see, we are not attracted to. We like to think we’re open-minded, but almost all of us have a type.

Germine et al. (2015) conducted a two-part study where 35,000 people rated faces for attractiveness. Previous research has shown that people with symmetrical faces are generally perceived as better-looking.

facial rating scale of attractiveness with a female face on a black background and a 1-7 scale
An example face from the study. How would you rate her? (Credit: Credit: media.pri.org)

Combined with other factors including personality preferences, socioeconomic factors, culture, and many others. Combined, these factors account for 48% of the judgment of attractiveness according to the study.

But what about the other 52%?

In part 2 of the study, the researchers studied over 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of fraternal twins to determine their facial preferences. By studying identical twins versus fraternal twins, the authors hoped that they would be able to find whether nature (genes), or nurture (environment) explained the variation in what people find attractive.

The results were surprising.

The study showed that even identical twins who were raised in the same environment had vastly different facial preferences. [1]

If it’s not nature, and it’s not nurture that determines the other 52% of what we’re attracted to, what is it? It’s likely the personal experiences you have growing up. Because these experiences are so personal – they are unique and can be very different from someone who is supposedly very similar to us.

Fortunately, prior research can point us in the right direction for the other 52%.

Past research has shown that when we associate something positive with a face, that face looks more attractive. And then faces that are similar to that face look more attractive, generally speaking. So as you grow up, make friends, develop crushes, and have relationships, these people that you’ve had a positive relationship with can shape what facial characteristics you find attractive. [2]

And then, people that look similar to them end up appearing more attractive to you.

The takeaway here is really fucking simple: she has a type, you have a type, and I have a type.

nancy pelosi giving campaign speech with pink shirt on
Live look at my type telling me more about how she inside- “outperforms” the market (Source: Encyclopeadia Britannica)

We’re Not As Attracted To People Outside Our Type As You Think

And even though we like to pride ourselves on being “open-minded” and “accepting” of all people, races, and cultures, what we are actually attracted to is much different.

Look no further than a 2014 analysis by OKC Cupid. Even though roughly 65% of respondents answered that they were open to dating someone outside their race, actual swiping behavior indicated a strong bias for the opposite sex of their own race. [3]

A 2014 FiveThirtyEight article also took a look at eHarmony in 2014 and found the same parity.

538 study of eHarmony User's ethnic preferences showing that we overwhelming prefer our own race
Credit: FiveThirtyEight (it’s an excellent article)

The data doesn’t lie folks.

We say opposites attract – but that’s really a whole heap of bullshit. We prefer to date people that fall inside our type, and not much else.

The truth is – we are only attracted to a small subset of the general population. Some of it is biological. Some of it is environmental.

Everyone has a type, and they rarely are attracted to, or date outside of it.

That doesn’t make any of us racist. We can’t control who we are attracted to. Attraction is stimulated by chemicals in the brain that we have 0 control over.

The takeaway here is simple: even if she doesn’t want to date you, if she was attracted to you once, she likely still finds you physically attractive – because you are her type.

But what does that mean for your chances of getting her back?

Great! She’s Attracted To Me. Does This Mean She Wants Me Back?

Before you start jumping for joy because she’s still attracted to you, hold you need to take a deep fucking breath and chill out.

It’s possible that she’s open to getting back together with you. But just because she told you she still thinks you look good does not mean anything. Attraction alone does not mean your girlfriend wants you back. Most women will tell you that there’s a whole hell of a lot more to it than that.

And the science agrees.

While there’s been a lot of debate over the years between psychologists and anthropologists, humans seem to have two primary mating strategies: short-term (multiple partners, little investment) and long-term (one partner, maximum investment). [4]

For short-term partnerships, most women tend to prefer the masculine cluster of traits, which include:

  • Physical attractiveness (square jaw, well-defined brow ridge, stubble, muscular)
  • Dominance and aggression;
  • Ambition and confidence

These traits are signs of evolutionary fitness, specifically of high testosterone. High testosterone in men is a good sign to women that the offspring from that partnership will inherit strong genes. [5]

Attraction is an adaptive response to produce the strongest offspring, so no surprise that women are attracted to guys that seem to have the best genes.

So if you’re stressing out because you don’t have the perfect face (I sure fucking don’t) I have some good news for you. Looks ain’t everything.

Women who want long-term relationships are looking for a completely different set of traits. Traits like:

  • Kindness;
  • Sense of humor;
  • Trustworthiness;
  • Understanding
  • Dependability;

Do these characteristics have anything to do with how good you look?

No.

Sorry man.

A committed relationship takes a lot more than physical attraction. They require you to spend quality time together, bond with one another, take care of one another, and so much more.

A lot of men (especially the traditional conservative/red pill / PUA types) overrate how important attraction is during a long-term relationship. It’s important – but it’s not the cake.

I’ve been a relationship coach for over half a decade at this point – and I can’t tell you how many men I’ve worked with that get fixated on a comment about looks – as if it’s a bigger sign than things like her opening up to you, her coming to you for reassurance, etc.

Part of the problem is as men, we are so intensely visual. Think about the last time you complimented your ex-girlfriend’s looks. What was on your mind? Sex? Physical contact of some kind? Bonding? Getting her back?

Women don’t work that way. It’s about the experience for them – how the connection feels, how they feel.

So take this to heart: her being physically attracted to you doesn’t mean she wants to restart your relationship.

With that in mind, it could be a sign that your ex-girlfriend wants something more. But on its own, don’t read into it.

Don’t Read Into Your Own Feelings – Pay Attention To What She Does Instead

You don't know what you are talking about with attraction gif

Good morning motherfucker – I’m about to wake you up to the truth.

How you feel about her, or even what you think about her has nothing to do with whether or not she actually wants you back.

The most reliable sign that your ex-girlfriend wants you back is not one or two backhanded compliments. It’s how she behaves.

Let’s revisit my story for a second.

When my ex-girlfriend told me I looked good, I was confused. But her beauty got the better of me. My thought process went something like this…

“Oh, the new guy is out of the picture? Great! She’s ready to start dating me again”.

That line of thinking led me to completely disregard:

  • The fact that she had gotten dumped that morning and was likely emotional;
  • That she had taken no initiative to contact me until after he left her;
  • How she told me she saw no future for us together at one point;
  • That our relationship had felt strained for months;

All I cared about was my own attraction – not what was going on in my ex-girlfriend’s mind. Or how she had treated me.

Many of my clients make this same mistake multiple times. They let their feelings take precedence over what their ex-girlfriend wants.

Read More: Don’t Chase. Let Her Come To You If You Want Her Back

If you want to get your love life back on track, you need to stop thinking about how you feel and start paying attention to where she’s at.

If she’s interested in getting back together with you, she’s likely going to drop hints. Not all women will breadcrumb you like this – some are more straightforward and will tell you straight up how they feel. Either way – you need to concentrate on the big picture. One backhanded compliment is not the big picture.

We talk more about the big picture, including the 8 key signs that your relationship can be saved in my course The Fundamentals so I’m not going to dive into every single sign that your ex wants you back here.

Now that leaves only one question: how do you turn physical attraction into her wanting you back?

Can You Turn Physical Attraction Into A Second Chance At A Committed Relationship?

It depends on why your relationship ended, and what your current relationship is like with your ex-girlfriend.

It’s definitely a good thing that your ex-girlfriend still finds you physically attractive. That can’t hurt. Lust (physical attraction) can grow into attraction (romantic love) and attachment over time.

But physical attraction itself is often not enough to overcome toxic patterns of behavior that need to be acknowledged, addressed, and fixed.

I’ll give you an example.

Cheating, Lies, and Communication

I recently worked with a client whose girlfriend left him after she discovered that he had been cheating on her with 2 other women. My client had gained weight during the relationship, and his girlfriend stopped having sex with him.

Neither one of them was willing to address the problem at hand, and eventually, my client decided he needed to go outside the relationship. When she discovered evidence of his affair on his social media accounts (she read his messages on Facebook and WhatsApp) it went kaboom. Their relationship ended rather quickly.

After the relationship ended, he started hitting the gym and watching his diet. He dropped almost 20 pounds and started dressing better. 4 months after the relationship ended, he ran into his ex in person at a local club.

They talked, and her body language was open and flirty. She was touching him, telling him how good he looked. He could see the jealousy in her eyes when he started chatting with other women.

They went home together and everything clicked. The sex was great.

All good, right?

Not quite.

The next day, his ex-girlfriend was full of regret even though she enthusiastically gave herself to him during sex. The trust issues bubbled back up, and almost immediately they fell into a negative pattern of communication from their relationship. She verbally attacked him, and he got defensive and tried to justify his behavior and make excuses. Without realizing it, he said one of the “Shut Down Phrases” that I talk about in Module 6 of my course The Fundamentals.

And just like that – what could have been a moment of openness where her walls came down got turned into a familiar fight that only reinforced her conviction that she needed to stay away.

So before you start worrying about whether or not she’s attracted to you, you should instead worry about whether or not the problems in your relationship are fixable. If you need more help with this, pick up my newest course The Fundamentals.

It has 3 modules designed to help you diagnose where you went wrong, fix toxic patterns of communication, and rebuild holistic attraction for a sustainable long-term relationship.

Because the secret to getting her back isn’t how physically attracted she is to you.

It’s how you make her feel.

Talk soon my friend,

Coach Jack

PS: Got a burning question about your ex-girlfriend or your unique situation that you want my expert advice on? Click here to learn how I can help you.

References:

[1] – https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(15)01019-2

[2] – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3130383/

[3] – https://www.gwern.net/docs/psychology/okcupid/raceandattraction20092014.html

[4] – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2019.00230/full

[5] – https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-23255-006

Coach Jack

I'm Coach Jack, the owner and founder of Men's Breakup. I help over 1 million men a year radically transform their lives for the better after being dumped. My breakup recovery method for men combines science, first-hand experience, and critical analysis to show you how to either get her back, or get over her by building a life of long-term, masculine happiness.

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