More than just “attraction”

I can clearly remember the first time I felt attraction towards a boy. I can remember the rush of adrenaline, the sinking feeling in my stomach, the way I couldn’t meet his eyes and my tongue turned into rubber and I went home that night and hid my head under the pillow. How I felt a simultaneous feeling of, “oh, so this is what the poets write about” mixed with, “I don’t ever want to feel this ridiculous again.”

I was just a kid. What I felt was not in the least sexual in nature. I wasn’t thinking about kissing, even, just about holding his hand and talking to him and having him really pay attention to me. It wasn’t physicality, but a young girl’s concept of what a relationship could be. I wanted shared trust and secrets, togetherness, whatever it is that kids think relationships are.

In fact that sexual part of me was pretty crippled. I would end up being eighteen before I ever pursued a relationship, and even then the physical aspects of that relationship would be bribed and forced from me, because what I wanted wasn’t sex. What I wanted was interest, shared reasoning, walks to the store, companionship, someone to call at night just to unwind before bed. Attraction for me still wasn’t based off of physicality, it was based off of emotion. Even my relationship with my husband started out not as romance but as intimate friendship, the romance being an unexpected side effect that rather shocked both of us. Our mutual attraction could not have been further removed from sexuality, it had far more to do with similar goals in life, similar alienations and friendships, shared literary and musical interests, both being obsessed with movies and culture…

I think we underplay the importance of attraction when we portray it as a purely sexual function. We downplay the importance of romantic relationships when we excessively exaggerate the role sex plays in them. Not that sex and sexuality are not fundamental parts of the human experience- but who we are is far, far more than who we have sex with. The true value of attraction is not found in the sexual aspect, but in the emotional and personal components of what attraction mean. Ask the average person what attracts them to a life partner and often times you won’t hear physical features listed, but instead things like “compassion, drive, humor, wit, shared interest, similar life goals”, etc. Because what we want, at the end of the day, is more than a nice bounce on the mattress. We all want someone with whom to share our lives, someone to witness our everyday existence, someone with whom to spend both the good and bad hours of the day, to share with in misery and joy, someone whose hand we can hold and whose butt we can kick when needed.

No one wants to live a life alone.

Sex is just the cherry on top.

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9 thoughts on “More than just “attraction”

  1. OK, I’ll just get right down to brass tacks and say that I think the kind of “attraction” you’re talking about is really vital to any good, longterm relationship. That’s something that tends to be forgotten or just left out of the equation when we’re overtaken by “falling in love,” but… I don’t think any of us can really do well without these things to sustain us over the long haul, regardless of whether we’re talking about friendship, marriage or… [fill in the blanks to suit].

  2. Been reading a bit since I remembered to subscribe. Love the blog and your writing.

    I can honestly say that sex isn’t the issue for me. It’s a lack of love and affection. No-one to love, hold or cuddle with. Or simply enjoy hanging out with because you connect with the person on a human level rather than chronology or geographic proximity. The way your marriage evolved is what I hope happens to me. Until then I concentrate on serving God as best I can even if I feel alone every now and then.

  3. Before I met my wife, I had a relationship that was pretty much purely physical, at least for me. I won’t mince words– the sex was mind-blowing, and it was on a near daily basis. But it still felt so lacking. I didn’t feel like there was much else in common, and it tore me up inside, not to mention I knew it wasn’t the way to go.

    My relationship with my wife went a lot different. I started running at first– she’s a very touchy-feely sort of person, and it was easy to misconstrue. But once she slowed down a bit, and we had a chance to develop a friendship, it felt like a warm campfire. No fireworks, no head-over-heels, although I had a very strong prompting that she was the one. I marveled that everything geeky I liked she liked too, sometimes actually putting me to shame.

    Becoming part of the family wasn’t perfect. I still feel alienated by her brothers, and her sister and I have kind of a love/hate sort of thing sometimes. But my father-in-law and I could talk shop for days, and my mother-in-law was much more considerate and respectful of boundaries than my own mother. I got a fairly good package deal, all things considered. Oh yes, I still felt way out of my league at strange family reunions and such, but as long as things were good with Cimmy and my in-laws, I was satisfied. The brothers-in-law rarely visit, and the sister-in-law is around often enough, and is pleasant enough when she is. Holiday visits are a joy, when those with my own family-of-origin, so to speak, are strained at times.

  4. Relationships based on sex and sex alone don’t last longer than the flame that started it. How true what you say, without a strong foundation anything will fail. I can honestly tell you I don’t mind being single, I actually enjoy the freedom until I meet someone that compliments it rather than takes it away.

    Perhaps I am just a commitment phobe 🙂

  5. Hi Lindsey.

    We think alike on this issue. 🙂 I only explicitly discovered this after my 5 year relationship broke up, and reflecting on it, I found what was important to me, and what I felt I had lost. And it is just like you describe.

    Redwinegums, I understand totally what you mean, and how you feel in the loneliness. My prayers are with you.

    I have recently formed a close friendship with another SSA Catholic guy who lives quite far from me (about 270miles, or 450km), but we are developing strong feelings for each other. We are talking every day on the phone, and we are planning to catch up when he is in Sydney in late June. We have discovered we have a lot in common, and all this without sex. The most important thing is we have an emotional bond that is able to exist despite the distance. And distance isn’t the constant factor, for he is planning to move into Sydney in the coming year. Who knows where it will end up?

    But it does prove that attraction is a lot more complex than is often acknowledged.

  6. I almost hate to say it but here it is; men and women are “wired differently”. Men most always are (initially) attracted to a woman because of her looks. Women on the other hand need to be romanced.

    If either person is focused inward they are doomed to failure and pain.

    It is difficult at times to love properly and too see the “big picture” but that we must do.

    Attraction sometimes can be as simple as loyalty. Not like your dog but a deep forgiving kind of loyalty. Too know that the person you are with is more than what has happened and in spite of the season you find yourself in you can not help but still be attracted (on some level). Mad as hell, sure but you know that in spite of it all everyone will come out at the other end.

    That kind of attraction is unbelieveably strong… once that season passes.

  7. men and women are “wired differently”

    Physiologically and neurologically speaking, yes. But psychologically speaking, I think that’s overly simplistic.

    No, I would say this is more of an anthropological concern, particularly in the area of gender roles. Different societies exhibit exceptions and variations of what you have described here.

    Even if I can assume you are speaking of Western society at large, it is still a bit of a gross generalization. It is old-school thinking at best, and I do believe that society has changed enough that such supposed differences are no longer clear as they once were. We can laugh about the “sensitive new age guy” and the “liberated woman”, but I am sure that personal written accounts, at least, would suggest that exceptions abounded, and now, there is less social pressure to suppress expression from said exceptions.

    Dichotomies, once again. And since we have been speaking of sexuality already, such factors would make this line of “hard wiring” seem a bit absurd. Would you claim these traits apply only to the heterosexually oriented? “Butch” and “femme” (masculinized and effeminate), in my mind, would seem to point more to gender roles as a social construct, than a hard wiring…unless the parameters were changed.

    I can tell you that my marriage was constructed primarily on friendship, as Lindsey’s was. Does that make me less of a man? Oh wait, it must be because I am not strictly heterosexual. See where it begins to fall apart? Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen dichotomies like this used in change/reorientation therapy, but many heterosexual folks seem to think cultivating traits from both sides is ideal and does not threaten their sexuality.

    We have had some readers already say that they actively discouraged such exceptions to the dichotomy as a means of determining who is supposedly homosexual, and who is not. In fact, I would be so bold as to say change therapy seems to strongly suggest that certain looks and mannerisms cannot influence sexual orientation, and that there must be deeper fundamental shifts, if such is possible (never mind the disagreement on that last point).

    I would also say that such is part of Lindsey’s reasoning for the post– that attraction cannot be reduced so simply to how it is expressed, and counter-intuitively used to define those that express it.

  8. Wow, what a very nice article! You made many good points here and I found myself nodding in agreement the whole time. Sex isn’t what attracted me to my husband. I loved his wit and sense of humor and the way he acted like a total gentleman to me. We were such great friends, and we knew we’d be together forever. Now that we’re married, the sex is indeed wonderful!! But it wasn’t what started our relationship 😉

  9. “to share with in misery and joy, someone whose hand we can hold and whose butt we can kick when needed. No one wants to live a life alone. Sex is just the cherry on top.”

    I think, as a society, we place too much emphasis on sexual compatibility. While we are all able experience that sort of intimacy well into our later years now, thank to the “little blue pill” that part fades over time. At the end of the night, you need to be able to sit across the table and be able to have a conversation with the person or sit on the couch and watch a movie together. If that connection isn’t there, the relationship is pretty much over before it even starts.

    I have a question for you if you don’t mind: What happens when you have a deep, intimate, non sexual connection with someone other than your spouse? The same sort of feelings you described above, yet not embodied in your spouse/significant other? I know it may sound trite and cliché but what if this person is your “soul mate” but you still the same deep connection with your spouse. Do you think you can have this type of relationship. You said that sex is the “cherry on top” but what if you don’t want that cherry?

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