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Love

Why Attraction Isn’t Always Necessary

The first time I saw my husband, I was unimpressed.

We met in a bookstore parking lot. He was wearing plaid shorts and a yellow T-shirt and looked about five years younger than me. Needless to say, I wasn’t interested.

Even as our friendship grew, I wasn’t drawn to him physically. He wasn’t my “type”—and I wasn’t his. In fact, until shortly after we began dating, we weren’t physically attracted to one another at all.

Does this story seem odd to you? That’s probably because our culture presents a one-size-fits-all version of relationships. The idealized version we see in the media presents attraction as absolutely necessary for a relationship to begin, much less to last. But is this reality?

Interestingly, only in recent times did attraction become a prerequisite to lasting love. Before the Roaring Twenties, courtship and marriage were very structured and intentional. Many times these relationships were not based on attraction, but on financial or social obligation for the rich and the poor alike. Marrying for “love” (as the world defines it) was not as common as marrying for necessity, common good and mutual upbuilding, and you either learned to love the person you were with or the marriage failed. Interestingly, the rate of successful marriages was higher then than it is now, when attraction is considered absolutely necessary before even going on a date.

However, this doesn’t mean that people in the good old days did everything right, and it doesn’t mean we should revert back to arranged marriages. But it does prove false the point our culture is trying to make: that in order to find lasting love, you must first be overcome with physical, emotional and sexual attraction. This is simply untrue.

The initial attraction expected in relationships can be defined as infatuation. Infatuation means being consumed with a person or the idea of being in a relationship, usually without sufficient knowledge of the person himself. This is the fundamental problem with an attraction-based relationship: It’s based on a limited knowledge of each person therein. As the couple grows in knowledge of one another, the initial attraction—the infatuation—fades, and reality sets in. Attraction is not enough to make a relationship last; you need something more. You need commitment.

Commitment is the foundation of true love. God, who created and embodies love, proves that faithfulness and commitment are necessary to its existence. So while emotion is a part of love, it is not a prerequisite for love to happen. Instead, love is a conscious choice that requires intentional action. Love is consumed with doing what is BEST for the other person, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Because of this, love contains emotion, but it is not based on emotion.

The amazing thing about relationships that follow God’s design is that attraction grows as love deepens. That’s why my husband and I are married today! I loved Josh not because of an intense mutual attraction—though that eventually came to be. I loved him because he chose to love me through his actions as a friend. He loved with no promise of return. As he loved me and I loved him back, the attraction caught up with us.

The most powerful emotion is vitally connected to the deepest love. For some couples, attraction does come at the beginning. But that may not be your story. Don’t rule out an otherwise wonderful, godly young man because you don’t initially find him attractive. It’s the inner qualities of the heart that beautify a person. The man with the greatest capacity to love is capable of an attractiveness beyond the greatest expectations.

 

Read more in Phylicia’s posts:

Stars and Butterflies: Why Attraction Isn’t Necessary

Is It Love or Infatuation?

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2 Comments

  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by jac on August 3, 2016 at 03:39

    ” Interestingly, the rate of successful marriages was higher then than it is now, when attraction is considered absolutely necessary before even going on a date.”
    What do you mean by this? Simply that the divorce rate is lower? Not getting a divorce is not the same as a successful marriage!

    I wouldn’t go out with someone I’m not attracted to because it’s a complete waste of their time and mine, and possibly a good way to hurt their feelings, but then, you’re defining attraction as solely physical, which is obviously not the case. We are all attracted to different things. Apparently you weren’t attracted to your husband’s physical attributes, but obviously there was a reason you were friends and kept seeing each other- like interests? Common beliefs? Personalities that compliment each other? That’s all part of attraction too.

    • phyliciadelta

      Posted by phyliciadelta on August 15, 2016 at 09:17

      Jac,
      Divorce is not God’s plan for any marriage (though He allows it in the event of unfaithfulness and abuse). I’m making the point that there was a higher success rate of marriages staying together – people actually making it work – in a society where attraction was not the “rule of thumb”. I am not saying every marriage reflected God’s priorities, but there was a fundamental difference in how marriages operated based on how people viewed love.
      Attraction should not be the first thing a man or woman looks for in a spouse. The first thing to look for should be common values. If you base your interest in someone on attraction, you do not have a solid foundation with which to base a lasting commitment. However, attraction can and SHOULD come as you do know one another’s values and personalities. But it is not necessary in order to know if you should go out with someone, nor is it a “waste of time”. Sometimes it takes a few dates – or weeks – to get to know a person’s true heart, and only then will you know if you are attracted to them.
      This isn’t the case for everyone, but I encourage young women NOT to limit themselves, overlooking a perfectly wonderful man just because she’s not a fan of how he looks.
      My husband had nothing in common and no interests shared. We weren’t attracted to each other physically. But we shared common values and built a friendship on that. Love and attraction came with time – and it does, for many people, resulting in marriages that last on that foundation.