The couples that come to therapy usually come in with a laundry list of complaints associated with their needs that are not being met by their partner. Communication slows when criticisms are flying and the receiving party puts up their shields. It’s essentially a war zone and no one comes out alive. It’s a far stretch from the rosy picture each couple paints when I ask them how they first met and what initially attracted them to their partner.
Most would describe physical attraction as being a powerful cocktail for the initiation in approaching their romantic interest. However, as partners begin to get to know each other a deeper kind of attraction ensues called attachment. Dating sites today plays by those rules, too. They usually require a picture with your profile and that’s usually the first thing you see when you’re shopping around the site. But what about those people who report that physical attraction for their partner grew with time? Can we learn to be attracted to someone?
New age philosophy preaches the “law of attraction” as a secret to success. The basic notion is that when you envision what you want in life, you will attract those things. Voila! I agree that having a positive viewpoint directs your attention to the good things happening around you. As a result, it increases the likelihood of you engaging in them but there’s more to the equation when it comes to love. What is attractive is also not always “good” for you. When we go for someone who is incredibly attractive to us, it distracts us from the entirety of the person. However, when we go for someone who is a safer choice, partners often report a sense of boredom and frustration.
Jordon is a 28 year-old man with a professional career. He’s dated for years and tried everything from nightclubs to dating online. Nightclubs served as an easy way to find someone he was attracted to. But let’s face it, you can’t exactly hear someone in that setting enough to get to really know him or her. The relationship that he had with women often ended after one date or they often fell short of an emotional connection and ended up as just a sexual relationship.
When Jordon’s friends introduced to a girl that they thought was a perfect match for him, he wasn’t immediately sold because she didn’t knock him off his feet on the attraction front. Even though Jordon dated her for two years and even moved in with her, he eventually felt bored and began to initiate fights between them that ended the relationship. Jordon said that he may have loved her but marriage would be out of the question because he couldn’t imagine his forever with someone who didn’t give him butterflies created by immense attraction.
So are we all going to be stuck with either settling or never gaining true intimacy? Not necessarily according to psychotherapist Ken Page in his recent article he wrote on attraction. He believes that by dating within a moderate range we may be able to find higher success in meeting someone that complements our needs.
Imagine attraction being on a continuum from one to 10. When we date on the low range that’s where we often find low attraction and these partners often make you feel comfortable and “safe.” At the high end of the continuum, we find a high level of attraction that often represents the hot and fiery kind of pull to the other person. When we date on the low end of the continuum, we may find ourselves becoming bored and frustrated. When we date high on the continuum, we find ourselves unable to gain comfort. Dating high can also trigger insecurities and distract us from looking at whether that person exhibits traits that will make them a good partner. By dating mid range between the extremes, we may be able to find a partner where the level of attraction is conducive to growth.
I think psychologist and writer Dr. Ben Michaelis said it the best to imagine relationships similar to a scenario at a nightclub. Love is just the entry fee to get in the nightclub but once you get in, that’s when the true action starts. So make wise moves and don’t get distracted.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to email@example.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.