Attraction is both physical and psychological.
Psychologically we may be attracted to people for many reasons. We tend to be attracted to people who: have the same or complete opposite personality traits as we do, seem familiar because we see them often, or remind us of one of our parents. We may also be psychologically attracted to certain people based on our culture or religion. Unfortunately, if we have been abused as a child, we can be attracted to people who abuse us.
The Beginning Phase of Romance
In the beginning phase of dating, the hormone oxytocin and the brain chemical dopamine leave you feeling high. Just like a drug, you physically yearn for this other person and may find yourself thinking about them often. This is the lust phase. During this phase, your body might overrule your brain. During this phase, it is easy to fall in love with the person you think you are dating, rather than who that person truly is.
During this phase, do not rush into a relationship. Ask your partner questions about who they are and their background to get a better sense of who they are as a person. How do they cope with disappointment, and manage other family and peer relationships? Do they have the same ethics as you? Do they want the same thing out of a relationship as you do? Does this person leave you feeling drained or energised? What does this person expect from you and what do you expect from them?
The Transition Phase into Love or Loss
At some point, your hormones and dopamine levels stabilise, and you begin to analyse the other person as a romantic partner. If you have had a history of abuse or low self-esteem, this phase may frighten you. You may seek to desperately cling to or avoid your new romantic partner. If your new romantic partner is also feeling avoidant, this partnership will most likely lead to loss rather than love.
Here is a scenario to illustrate this point: Frank is a man who recently got out of a long-term relationship. His heart is broken, and he is scared to get into a new relationship. However, he has been dating Sally for the past four months because he is attracted to her physically. At first, the chemistry was great, but now he finds that Sally wants to settle down and have children. He has told her that he does not want that. Now Sally has become clingy and texts his phone constantly to see where he is. She is concerned that he is with another woman. She fears that she is going to lose him. Sally does not believe that she is worthy of love because she grew up in a verbally abusive home. Frank is normally secure with love, but since he just got out of a relationship, he is afraid to get into another relationship. The more Frank avoids Sally, the more clingy Sally becomes, and the more clingy Sally becomes, the more avoidant Frank becomes.
In an ideal situation, both partners would feel that they are worthy of love and that their partner is worthy of love. Both partners would recognise that both individuals have needs within and outside of the relationship. Both partners would want the same thing out of the relationship as the other. For example, both are ready to commit, or both just want to be friends. This is the situation that is more likely to lead to love rather than a loss.
Love and commitment are not always the same. For a committed relationship to take place, both people need to be looking for commitment. Both people need to accept the other person for their strengths and flaws. This is often easier said than done. Often in relationships, the fear of losing the other brings our insecurities to the surface. If both partners can communicate effectively, this can bring two people closer together. Love is saying “you are a person, not a possession. I respect your needs as I respect my own. I will not ask you to change your personal identity to fit mine, and I will not change my personal identity to fit yours. I am an individual, but I am a member of your team, I am on your side.”
Biologically we may be attracted to someone based on their pheromones. These pheromones are released through our sweat and give information about our genetic make-up. Biologically we seek romantic partners who have a different genetic make-up than us because this ensures our children will have a stronger immune system. We also seek romantic partners who have clear skin, bright eyes and are physically fit because this also indicates that our children will be healthy. Usually, in animals, the male is the one with the bright colours in their fur or feathers to attract the female. In humans, women use make-up and hair dye to attract men by showing they are healthy and young, which indicates fertility. Some men and women believe that dressing seductively will attract a partner. This dating strategy is good if you are looking for a short-term partner. If you are looking for a long term partner to settle down with, it is better to dress more maturely to show that you are a good provider for children.
Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment. Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: email@example.com