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Dear Caitlin No 10: How important is attraction in relationships?

Dear Caitlin, 

How important is physical attraction in relationships? All of the men that seem really interested in me I'm not physically attracted to. I get pursued by men that I am physically attracted to but they always end up losing interest or they end up just wanting me for sex. I think about giving the men I'm not attracted to a chance because they seem a lot more interested in me than the men I am attracted to, but I worry that I'll have trouble being physically intimate with them because I'm not attracted to them, and I don't want to end up hurting them and wasting their time. I know physical attraction isn't everything, finding someone with good character and someone I connect well with is also very important to me, but I know physical intimacy is also important in a relationship. Only dating men that I'm physically attracted to isn't getting me anywhere, I just keep getting hurt over and over. Is it possible to fall in love with someone I'm not physically attracted to? Should I give the men I'm not physically attracted to a chance or do I need to just keep waiting for someone I am physically attracted to to come along?



Dear Stuck,

These are such important questions so I’m glad you asked!  Physical attraction is important, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, attraction isn’t static. A person can become more attractive when you get to know them and you like them. The same person can become less attractive when you get to know them and you dislike them. You can fall in love with someone you don’t find attractive at first. You can also fall out of love with someone you found attractive at first. I recommend you give men you’re not attracted to a chance. Spend time getting to know those men. Go on several dates, as long as you enjoy the dates. You may find that you go from not being attracted at all to wanting to kiss one of these men. As you continue to go on dates, you may find yourself wanting more kissing. Eventually, you may want to go even further. Let dating be a journey and don’t worry about the final destination. You have to take your time. Even if you’re in a rush, getting into a relationship isn’t something rush-able. 

Second, if by, “men you’re attracted to,” you mean men you feel, “chemistry,” with, then my answer is a bit more complicated. People think if they don’t feel what’s often referred to as, “chemistry” or a “spark,” right away, that they’re not physically attracted to the person. Let’s talk about chemistry. Chemistry is a red flag.   Chemistry is another way of describing good old-fashioned LUST. Lust happens when we sexualize someone, rather than seeing them as a whole person. Lust is physical attraction mixed with sexual objectification. You will feel chemistry right away with a guy if you see each other as sexual objects rather than whole people. If you leave a first date feeling excited and you can’t wait to hear from the guy and see him again, that’s lust. You don’t know the person after one date so you’re not excited because the guy is such a great partner to you.  On the other hand, if you’re on a date with a nice-looking guy who sees you as both physically attractive AND a whole person, you’re unlikely to feel “chemistry,” simply because those men will treat you differently. They treat you with more respect because they’re not objectifying you. It’s those men who are emotionally available and relationship material. If you’re not used to this, it will feel wrong, boring, or like there’s nothing there. In reality, you’re just not used to a budding relationship that is based on more than just lust. Not feeling much after meeting someone once is much more appropriate than feeling so excited you can’t wait to see them again. Feeling, “chemistry,” with someone feels fun, flirty, and HOT! If you’re looking for sex, chemistry is a green flag. If you want a relationship, “chemistry,” is a red flag. It’s confusing because you’d think something that feels great would be a good sign. But once you understand that you feel chemistry because you’re objectifying the person and they’re doing the same to you, it starts to feel different. Once you understand it’s a red flag, it stops feeling as good.  People who struggle to merge physical attraction with who a person is, tend to have the experience you’re having. Like you, the men they’re attracted to are emotionally unavailable, and they're not attracted to men who like them and want a relationship with them.   Chemistry or lust are not bad things. They’re normal healthy things we all do. They’re necessary for evolution. However, if you want a relationship not just a hookup, you and the men you go out with have to be able to be attracted to each other AND see each other as whole people.  Not everyone can do that and those who can’t are not ready for the relationship they want. Those are the emotionally unavailable people. You too may be emotionally unavailable if you’re struggling to be attracted to emotionally available men.  If that’s the case, it just means there’s a need for more healing. Once you’re ready for the relationship you want, you will look back at the men you were into, and thank goodness you didn’t end up with them. You’ll wonder why you ever liked them in the first place. You’ll be able to see the red flags emotionally unavailable men show up with because being sexually objectified will no longer feel good to you.  In my single days, I remember being attracted to the wrong type of guy. It took me a long time to realize that the type of guy I was attracted to was emotionally unavailable but good on paper. It felt good to me to be with a hot, charming, successful guy because I had low self-esteem, and I thought that kind of guy validated me. The attention felt good. But it was never who the guy was that I liked. I couldn’t see it at the time, but the men I liked were all ASSHOLES. They’d take days to text me back, for example. They thought so highly of themselves that they could take days to respond to a text and I’d be there waiting. I thought so low of myself that I did exactly that. When they finally did text me back I’d be relieved. I didn’t see (or care) that they weren’t nice or considerate men. I thought they were like that because I wasn’t enough. It took a lot more healing work before I realized they were like that because they were inconsiderate, selfish jerks. I was always enough, and so are you. Like you, I wanted a relationship back then, but I didn’t want any of the men who wanted one with me. I thought those men weren’t hot enough or good enough for one reason or another. Now of course I see that I wasn’t ready for the relationship I wanted. I went for emotionally unavailable men because I had intimacy issues. It blows my mind that I thought the nice guys who liked me weren’t good enough, but the supposedly hot, charismatic guys who thought their shit didn’t stink and were assholes were good enough. Now, I would never give those men the time of day. Back then, I had more healing to do. Over time and with lots of healing work, I slowly but surely stopped being attracted to emotionally unavailable men. It took some time before I started to find nice and emotionally available men attractive, but I got there. I started to be drawn to the nice guys who treated me well and made me laugh. Long story short, I ended up marrying the best man I’ve ever met and I find him incredibly hot and sexy! He treated me like a queen from day one and still does. The same is 100% possible for you! When you stop objectifying potential partners and you start seeing them as whole people, feelings of attraction get stronger as the relationship develops. It’s a process and a journey, rather than an instant thing like, “chemistry.” And when you’re ready for that journey, the love, attraction, and life you can create is better than what you can imagine from here. That’s why it’s so important not to give up! To start healing and moving in the right direction, go on dates with men you’re not attracted to. At the end of the first date, you want to feel “fine” about it. Maybe even “nothing” about it. Those are green flags. There should be no, “spark,” after spending a couple of hours with a perfect stranger unless you’re objectifying him or projecting things onto him. The only thing you can know after a first date is if you want a second one.  Most importantly, let yourself be uncomfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing. In time, discomfort turns to comfort and you land in a new and better place. Xo,



Need advice on dating, relationships, self-worth, boundaries, break-ups, or mental health? Send your questions anonymously and Caitlin will answer in an upcoming Dear Caitlin column! Fill out the application below!


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