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Should I Date Someone I’m Not Attracted To?

Dear Yana,

I met a girl on a dating app. It was sort of an accidental swipe, but we started chatting and met up. She was really cool to hang out with, but physically, I didn’t find her very attractive. We kept talking and started spending time together.

Now it has been a couple of months, and I’m having some reservations. Even though we really enjoy spending time together, I’m just not attracted to her physically, and it is starting to take a toll. She’s getting more attached, but this is becoming more of a mental block for me. I feel like Shallow Hal, and if it wasn’t for the lack of physical attraction, things would be great.

How do I get over this? Am I just being shallow?

— Getting Too Deep in the Shallow End

Dear Too Deep,

For most people, attraction is an instant, uncontrollable urge that tends to be physically motivated. Emotional attachment and intimacy, however, is usually a slower burn. If your initial attraction sticks as you get to the know the person, it can fan those emotional attachment flames, or perhaps your automatic attraction will fizzle and fade over time.

Or maybe you’re like so many of us in the Happy Valley, and you sleep with a lot of your friends, as friendship ripens to sexual attraction — the kind of attraction that creeps up ivy-style between you and your bros when you least expect it (even though, let’s be real, everyone else around you totally expected it).

Let me get to the point: It’s okay not to be attracted to someone. And it’s okay to feel attracted to a person initially and have that desire grow or fade over time.

But there is something inside of you that’s not sitting right, Too Deep, a little piece of you that feels like maybe you’re being an asshole. I’m guessing that this woman you speak of does not nestle neatly into the box labeled “beautiful” by conventional standards?

Are you an asshole if you dump this girl? I’m not sure if that’s for me to decide. But I can tell you how I make sure that I’m not being an asshole…continue reading…

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The Rules of Attraction

I’m a single hetero guy in my 60s. Since my divorce some years ago, I haven’t dated much. What I truly want is a loving, long-term relationship with a partner and to be a loving, giving partner in return.

Here’s my problem: I’m short and not terribly good-looking (at least I don’t think so) and I realize that no matter how attractive a person’s character and values may be, or how fun they may be, if there isn’t at least a spark of physical attraction, there won’t be sexual attraction even if you might wish for it.

Whenever I find myself in the presence of a woman whom I find physically and sexually attractive, I shrivel up inside just a little, feeling, “Oh, she won’t be physically attracted to me.” Of course, this is just what can make you come across as even less potentially attractive than you might otherwise be.

Do you have advice for people who may have this problem? I had a physically and emotionally rejecting mother (working on these issues in therapy) and I know that’s got something to do with it, but when I look in the mirror, I’m not terribly happy with what I see.

Thank you for this tender question! Professional therapeutic help in working out some negative messages you may have received during your upbringing is a great step. In some ways, your thinking about this is right-on; assuming that you are not attractive or, worse yet, worthy of others’ attractions, won’t inspire attraction to you. But let’s shift some of this other negative thinking.

The consumerist culture we live in feeds off of our self-hate like a yeast infection feeds off of glycerin-laced lube. Mass media bashes us daily with limited views of beauty (in terms of body weight, height, wealth, skin color, etc.), telling us that if we exist outside of this particular, minuscule box called “beauty” we aren’t deserving (of attention, jobs, happiness, sex) and therefore we should buy, buy, buy in order to “fix” ourselves. You aren’t broken, Shy Guy — the way we’re taught to assign sexual value to our appearance is.

So let’s talk about physical attraction and sexual attraction. What we consider to be physically attractive in other humans is evolutionarily informed, with multiple studies showing the importance of subconscious influences such as a person’s smell, hormonal cycle, body posture, and facial symmetry to our level of attraction to them.

A 2014 study found positive personality traits to have an influence, too, when 120 participants rated photographs of female faces in neutral expressions as more attractive when associated with positive personality descriptions like “kind,” “honest,” “funny.”

Then, there’s sexual attraction, which you have mixed up with both physical attraction and simply wishing for it to be so. Come As You Are author Emily Nagoski has done incredible work to show the difference between desire and sexual response. Her Dual Control Model is digestibly illustrated in a comic by Erica Moen on thedirtynormal.com, showing the difference between our sexual response’s gas pedal (physical attractiveness, trusting your partner, falling in love) and brake (body image, trauma history). …continue reading on ValleyAdvocate.com…