Where Exactly Does Attraction Come From

Attracted to someone you shouldn’t be? Not attracted to someone you wish you were? Anywhere in between? Where exactly does attraction come from?

500 Days Of Summer
Source: Fox Searchlight

The laws of attraction remain one of the biggest mysteries of relationships. What is it exactly that draws two people together? What is it that pushes them apart? Why can one be so attracted, and the other completely repulsed? What is the magic moment where two people experience mutual attraction to each other, and how does it come about? How can two people see the same person entirely different? There are many different schools of thought in the discussion of attraction.

It would be worth first defining what we mean by attraction here. In its simplest form, it’s that longing of wanting to just be with someone. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean you have to be doing anything with them, you just want to be near them. It has its varying degrees, whether they be emotional, sexual, or even just conversational.

But I think there are some aspects of attraction that don’t always get talked about, and are usually involved in causing attraction to happen (or to disappear).

Single people approach the topic of attraction often with a lot of angst. They’ve known what it is to value someone and not have their feelings or thoughts reciprocated. Why did you even get so attracted to them in the first place, you may be wondering. Maybe you keep finding yourself attracted to a certain type of guy or girl, and you’re sick of it. Maybe you’re trying to work out how to win his or her heart, and how to get them to be attracted back to you. You’re looking for that moment where two hearts collide and decide they want the same thing.

Married people also have to battle with issues of attraction. There is a myth that exists that once the rings go on, your feelings will only ever be for each other. And yet many married people find themselves looking where perhaps they shouldn’t be looking in some of their other relationships, and find themselves desiring someone besides their spouse. Just look at how many divorces we have on our hands where exactly that happened – he ran off with the secretary because all of a sudden she is the most attractive person to him (or vice versa).

I think this reality tells us a lot about attraction, and while it isn’t an exact science, perhaps we’re not very realistic about a few aspects of what makes it happen.

Your love map

I had a number of friends who went through a course known as Valiant Man. On their particular variation of the course, they would discuss what they call a “love map”. The idea is that there is a particular “type” of person that they find themselves more naturally attracted to, whether the qualities be physical or otherwise.

It’s an interesting idea. If you’re finding yourself repeatedly attracted to the same “type” of person, this would explain why. Maybe there is something within you that is driving you on.

Perhaps part of this is innate. Maybe there are preferences you have that you were born with, and maybe it’s a way you’re looking for them.

Or maybe you and I have had our love maps set by our upbringing – what our parents were like, the way we saw relationships growing up, the movies or stories we liked and watched. Maybe the “type” we look for is shaped by insecurity or past experiences -where we have felt unsafe or hurt, we now look for qualities we deem stable and necessary. Maybe this means our love maps can change.

I would say I’ve definitely seen love maps change in my friends over time. Where people were so adamant about having a certain aspect of character or certain skin colour or muscle tone (or lack thereof) in their partner, they moved over time to work out what they really viewed as important, and their ideal man or ideal woman took on a different form. Other times people have found exactly the person they dreamed of since they were 5 years old. For others, this person was even better than any expectation they could ever have. Everyone’s love story is different.

The bottom line with this idea I think is to recognize that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will you know if you’ve found it? How do you define suitability for yourself? If you aren’t sure (or are unaware) of your definition and what you’re looking for, it may make decisions more difficult or confusing.

Time together

This is something Hollywood has aptly recognized in storytelling. Time together usually brings people together.

Just even thinking about a few movies – Blended, In Time, The Holiday, Aladdin, Tangled, Mulan, The Proposal, You’ve Got Mail, and pretty much any action movie or rom com ever – they all have the formula downpat. The two main male and female characters are faced with a challenge, and after spending a few minutes/hours/days together, they are ready to head off into the sunset. The same thing happens to people in real life circumstances all the time – family issues give two people a lot of time together, or some people go on a missions trip together, or spend New Years talking, or go on a shared holiday and find some time away from others – attraction develops, and relationships form.

This is why we go through the process of courting and dating before progressing much further. It’s that time together that helps us build bonds with each other. To discover mutual interests, and to develop mutual interests together.

And perhaps it is reality that is what may be tripping us up in our singleness or in our marriage. If you’re married or dating and have an attraction forming to someone else, perhaps you need to review how much time you’re spending with certain people who aren’t your spouse. Maybe your husband or wife isn’t as attractive as they once were because of the lessened time you’re spending together, and your increased time with other people. If you’re single, perhaps it’s because you’re avoiding spending time with someone that they haven’t had a chance to convince you otherwise. Not saying you have to fall in love with anyone who wants to hang out with you, but if you’re a guy who only hangs out with other guys, or a girl who only hangs out with the ladies, there’s no chance for anything to develop.

How are you spending your time?


Ultimately it’s a little bit more than just the time we spend together, isn’t it? Time together usually leads to the other big T of relationships – Trust.

Proverbs 31 recounts the qualities of a virtuous woman, and one interesting quality it notes is that “the heart of her husband trusts her without reserve”. Wherever a heart is allowed to trust without reserve, attraction usually follows.

Why? Cause you’ve given a piece of your heart to that person. That’s why if you start flashing around your deepest darkest issues that you’ve never told anyone on the first date, you’ve already fallen in love with the person you told. Because you trusted them. You’ve already given them your heart.

The dance of trust is so delicate and difficult. It’s the bridge that takes years to build and moments to break. Look at the people you’ve been attracted to (or are attracted to) in your life, and recognize that trust is playing a big part in that.

And maybe your marriage isn’t doing so great. Perhaps the trust between you and your partner has been broken. This is where you two will need to work together if you’re going to stay together. To work out where the hurt has come from, to earn that trust back again, and to move forward together stronger.

What you see (or won’t see)

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s really true. Have you ever looked at a couple and wondered, “Why the heck is she attracted to him?”. “What is it that he sees in her?”. Usually they can give you an answer on that one. They’re usually seeing and valuing something that others aren’t.

So what do you see when you look at people? When you see your partner, what catches your attention? Or what was it that did catch your attention?

I guess this would be the practical application of the “love map” – trying to see if this person exemplifies what you’re looking for. This really is a double edged sword. In some cases, you may be reading into this person things that aren’t there. In others, you may be ignoring some really big problems because you’re blinding by your opinion of them.

On the other hand, you may have found exactly what you’re looking for and it’s staring you in the face.

And sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to see the good things in others cause we have other things going on. Maybe we feel it’s bad timing, perhaps we’re more concerned with some of the other aspects they don’t have, maybe they’ve hurt us and we can’t see anything else but the pain they’ve caused (whether they know it or not). Maybe we’re off in our own thing, not really paying attention to the people around us.

If this is the case, attraction may be more about dealing with our own issues than it is about bending someone else to an image. Maybe if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we should stop being so critical of the “beauty” in focus and make sure we have eyes to see.

If your wife or husband is right there with you, if you made the decision to be with them, if you have made them your one and only, remember why. See the beauty in who they are.

Your decision

Ultimately, attraction really is a decision. It’s a decision to be or to stay attracted to someone. Perhaps you may have been one of those people to have “the spark” moment, where you just knew that was the person you wanted to go for and you’ve had quite a bit of help to help you make that decision. That doesn’t always happen for everyone though – many people develop attraction over time after considering the wisdom of the right friends and spending time in prayer and spending time with the person.

No matter the start though, we all have to make a decision to continue to see this person as an object of beauty.

Every person was made in the image of God. Imago Dei. There are aspects of greatness in every single person. It’s up to you and me to be grateful for the people we’ve been given in our lives, and to see greatness in everyone we meet.

And with that special person in your life, let them be the target of your greatest affections, the highest use of your time, the best investment you can make with your words, your finances and your life.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Over to you, what do you think causes attraction? Is it an exact science? What have you found along your journey? Join the discussion below.

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