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The Many Faces of Attraction -- What Makes Us Attracted to Someone?

They say that love is blind, but is it, really? What makes us attracted to one person and not another?


Many years ago I met a man who had studied Gurdjieff. He told me that there were four different types of attraction: emotional, intellectual, sexual and physical. I believe there’s more to it than that, but let’s have a look at those first.

Emotional Attraction

If you meet someone who fulfills your emotional needs and vice versa, you find yourself attracted to them on an emotional level.

Intellectual Attraction

If you meet someone who intellectually stimulates you and vice versa, you find yourself attracted to them on an intellectual level.

Sexual Attraction

If you meet someone who fulfills your sexual needs, you find yourself attracted to them on a sexual level.

Physical Attraction

If you meet someone whose body you are attracted to, you find yourself attracted to them on a physical level.

Beyond the Different Types of Attraction

Having written about dating for many online dating sites, having read a fair amount of books about it, I’ve discovered a few other things. First of all, that emotional attraction, isn’t always what we believe it to be.

The Dark Side of Emotional Attraction

Have you ever met someone who keeps dating men who physically abuse them? Or men who emotionally abuse them? Or have you ever met someone who only dates flaky women? Or who always picks the cheaters?

Ever heard of the Oedipus complex? It’s the ancient story about a man who killed his father and married his mother (not knowing they were his mother and father). What modern psychologists argue is that we tend to date people who treat us as our parents. In short, we’re attracted to the emotions that shaped our childhood.

Sometimes that means we’re attracted to our emotional wound.

That means we aren’t attracted to people who fulfill our emotional needs, we’re attracted to people who treat us how we’re used to being treated. (Simply what resonates with our own self-image.) On the surface, they may appear different from everyone in our past, but often they reveal themselves to treat us in a manner that makes us feel as we are used to. They don’t necessarily treat us exactly the same way, but we end up with the same feelings.

If you heal your wounds, you are suddenly attracted to people who fulfill your emotional needs instead.

I always refer to it as a genuine attraction to someone’s heart and soul, v.s. attraction to our own emotional wound. Genuine compatibility, v.s. wound compatibility.

When Attraction Overrules Logic

Ever felt ridiculously attracted to someone? Mhm. But what you’re attracted to can be physical, intellectual, or sexual. Basically, the person can be a right bitch or bastard, but you ignore all logic due to the intense attraction you feel. An attraction that may very well fade very quickly.

This could be a biological thing — probably under physical attraction falls the people our bodies react to biologically. Your body deems them a biological fit.

Male and Female Polarity

Men and women are equal, but they aren’t the same. Women, by nature are driven more by emotions, men by logic. Men are more driven by visual stimuli. The list goes on.

That means that when a man steps into his masculine energy, is confident, even demanding, women tend to want him more. The strong, protective guy that can fight a dragon (to retort to stereotypes). The truth is, it works. Maybe it’s a biological knee-jerk reaction thinking he can protect you from the wolves, but how many alpha males have you not seen who scored with women?

The same holds true for a woman who steps into her feminine essence.

This kind of polarity appears to hold true even for gay coulpes — the polarity needs to be there, even if it's more fluid in the who plays what role. It can shift. As it can with straight couples, we all use different energies at different times. Women have masculine energy and men feminine energy. 

You could argue this is physical/biological. You could also argue that it’s emotional. Whatever way around, it sparks attraction.


Human Psychology

Then there’s the herd mentality. If everybody else wants something, it must be good. Look at famous people. Even the ones who are famous for being famous appear to end up with an endless number of lovesick fans.

Likewise, look at someone who goes on stage and sings beautifully. When someone does something well, it’s as if everyone around melts. I read somewhere that different parts of the brain light up when people are being creative and it’s somehow related to reproduction, or falling in love, but how crazy is that? Does our biology believe they’ll make better babies?

Then, there are the outside factors. Ever read about “the questions that make you fall in love?” They did an experiment with strangers where they found that if people had to go through a list of questions together, that were fun, but some also that dug deeper so they opened up emotionally and finished it by looking into each other’s eyes for several minutes, they ended up attracted to one another.

Other experiments have been done to show that adrenaline fuels attraction. Do something together with a date that gives you an adrenaline kick and you’re both more likely to fall in love. Or, I’d argue: in attraction.

Past Lives

You could argue there are things like past lives too. Maybe our souls already know each other. I have no idea, but it sounds romantic enough for me to entertain the potential it exists. It kind of rocks my entire model for attraction if it does though…

Attraction v.s. Love

Attraction is instant. It’s either there, or it isn’t. Sometimes attraction grows though, as emotional attraction isn’t always immediately obvious, while physical attraction is. And sometimes other things may overshadow the overall reaction we’d normally have to someone. They do something that really ticks us off and we focus more on that, than the rest of the package.

The problem with attraction is two-fold:

One kind of attraction can overshadow the rest. A strong physical attraction can make you think you’re in love with someone that is perfectly detestable. Likewise, someone who’s able to fulfill you emotionally, may seem very attractive, particularly if your biological clock is ticking and you want to settle down. But if you aren’t attracted to them very much on the other planes, you’ll soon end up bored.

Even if the attraction is there on every level, it has nothing to do with love. Love means you’re committed to serving another soul. That you are willing to do what you can to make a relationship work. That you’re willing to care for someone.

I believe, if you’re extremely attuned to yourself, you can pick up on whether someone is right for you, or not, straight away. However, most of us aren’t sitting meditating when we meet new people. We see them and we either fall in attraction, or not. We are led completely astray by our feelings. And they have little to do with whether they are a loving and caring person, who’ll be perfect for us in a relationship.

Relationships Take Work

While we may succeed in healing ourselves, or finding someone who will go on the journey with us and do it and thereby snag a great partner, relationships still take work. Commitment is exciting, because anything worth doing requires commitment to get it done. It leads to something amazing.

Ever heard of a book called The Five Love Languages? It’s basically talking about how we need five different things to feel loved. Different people require the different things in different doses. I, for example, don’t much desire gifts, but if I don’t get to spend quality time with people and receive physical touch, I don’t feel loved. Others need compliments, or have love shown through acts of service, such as washing their car, or taking out the rubbish.

Even if we’re emotionally compatible in other ways, we still need to be shown love.

A lot of couples end up in a negative circle of blame, because everyone does something to annoy you at one point. And in close relationships, that list usually get pretty long, pretty fast. Instead of praising people for what they do right, so that they do more of that, we focus on blaming them for what they do wrong and end up creating more discontent. Speaking our mind is important, but encouraging another person to be their best version of themself, is just as important.

And remember the thing about adrenaline, as well as asking intimate questions to foster attraction? People in longterm relationships sometimes stop doing new and exciting things together. They also stop asking each other questions. This results in boredom and a lack of attraction.

Whatever grows stagnant dies. As people and as couples we need to explore new things. Grow. That brings excitement to life and relationships. 

That's my take on attraction. What's yours? 

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