We don’t have an exact science around attraction. We know that we have energy flows between people, but no one has been able to fully explain how attraction works. I have been very interested in attraction, and have I have paid close attention and learned a lot over the years. Here’s what I have noticed in my work:
- We are attracted to what is familiar. We often like a person of the opposite sex who reminds us of our loved ones. This is where Freud got some of his ideas about us being secretly attracted to our parents. This also explains why some people are not attracted to certain ethnicities or races; it doesn’t make a person racist, but it may mean that he/she has not been around a variety of cultures. Same concept with socioeconomic status, etc. We are attracted to what we are most familiar with, and of course as our experiences change, so might our “taste”.
- TIME is of the essence! In high school the guy I dated a guy who was a bit of a womanizer. He told me that “any guy can have any girl, he just needs to spend enough time with her”. Over the years I have noticed that his game plan wasn’t wrong. If we spend a lot of time with anyone, we start to look at him/her differently. When that person dresses up, we notice. When we get closer to someone in a more personal way, we sometimes start to think, maybe I could be with this person. It doesn’t ALWAYS happen (many girls have been disappointed), but it does happen a lot. This is where we get the idea that being friends first is ideal, although I don’t think that’s always necessary.
- Attraction is a fickle beast. We might initially find someone attractive, but as he/she talks, we begin to feel differently. For example, I remember a client telling me she was Face-Timing with a potential mate, and “he accidentally slipped that he supported Trump”- boom- she was done. As mentioned in the point above, the opposite can also happen; maybe I didn’t initially find you attractive, but you’ve grown on me over time. Then there are different types of attractions, such as “I just want to have sex with you”, “I like your personality a lot”, “I feel comfortable and safe with you”, and more. Just because we find someone attractive or interesting, does not automatically make them a potential partner. Finally, over time even the most attractive people become less attractive to us over time, because we are all imperfect and have annoying character defects. That’s part of why gorgeous celebrities get cheated on! Attraction changes!
- Sex, hormones, etc. can affect how we view others. For example, they say ovulating women are more sexually appealing to men, even when everyone involved is unaware of the ovulation. People who are sex or touch deprived often lower their standards to satisfy that sexual urge/need. Therefore, during a dry spell, we might find ourselves attracted to someone we wouldn’t normally consider.
- Alcohol can also cause us to think we really like someone when sober us disagrees. I remember a client telling me that who he slept with was dependent upon who was at the bar. If a 10 was present, he would go for that, and if no one else was around and a 3 was showing interest, that’s who he took home. A lot of people call this “beer goggles” but I tend to think it’s just the lack of inhibitions combined with other things.
- Finally, and probably most importantly, there are a lot of unconscious things involved in attraction. For examples, domestic violence victims oddly find themselves attracted to people who are abusers, or people who are afraid of commitment might find themselves most attracted to someone emotionally unavailable. Things of that nature happen. We can’t explain it logically, because normally we have no information about the person we find attractive, and it isn’t until later that we realize who that person really is. The good news here is that who we are attracted to can change. As we heal from our past, we can change (whether conscious or unconscious) who we find attractive.
As you can see, attraction is layered and complex. Men and women alike often think that attraction is purely physical. People say it to me all the time. It’s NOT true people! If you really analyze yourself, I’m 99.9% sure you will not find a common thread in ALL the people you’ve found attractive. Some people say they have a type, but my experience says that’s usually not true either. People like people, and we are all poor predictors of what we really like/want (which is why we can surprise even ourselves). There are a variety of factors that contribute to why we feel or don’t feel attracted to a person, and a lot of times, we can’t even explain it ourselves (due to the unconscious factors). Therefore, STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELVES PEOPLE! You work on being the best you, and someone will find you attractive just like that! Is it hard? Absolutely. I won’t lie about that, but my grandmother used to say (and I have seen it to be true), “There’s someone for everyone.”
FAQ: Understanding the Complexities of Attraction
How does familiarity influence attraction?
Familiarity plays a significant role in attraction. People are often drawn to those who remind them of loved ones or are similar to what they're accustomed to in terms of culture, socioeconomic status, etc. As experiences change, so can preferences and tastes in attraction.
Does spending more time with someone affect attraction?
Yes, time is a critical factor. Spending a significant amount of time with someone can change the way you perceive them, potentially leading to increased attraction. This is why friendships can sometimes evolve into romantic relationships, though it's not always necessary or guaranteed.
Can initial attraction change over time?
Absolutely. Attraction can be fickle and may change based on various factors like conversation, personal growth, or behavioral traits. Even strong initial attractions can wane over time as imperfections and character flaws become apparent.
Do unconscious factors play a role in attraction?
Yes, unconscious factors significantly influence attraction. For example, victims of domestic violence may find themselves attracted to abusers, or people afraid of commitment might be drawn to those who are emotionally unavailable. As individuals heal and grow, their patterns of attraction can change.