I’ve often wondered why it is some women seem to pull me to them like a magnet, and others – however beautiful and interesting they might seem to be in physical terms—just don’t seem to have that kind of effect. I’ve found there are only really two ways I can be ‘attracted’ to somebody. Initially, it’s usually at an instinctive level: ’chemistry’, ‘falling in love/lust’—a sometimes inexplicable desire which is provoked by some combination of how they look and act, but not necessarily because of who they are. It can lead to great sex for a while—a fling, full of projections and fantasies—but this attraction generally doesn’t last very long. The basis for it may be a genetic compatibility that would lead to healthy offspring (and on three happy occasions, beautiful children have been the result), but no more than that.
This initial ‘pull’ can expand to include the second, longer-lasting kind of attraction, which is when I’m drawn to someone because of a compatibility between the personal, cultural, social, intellectual aspects of we are. This level of connection takes longer to ripen, but when it’s been there, the more I get to know someone, the more attractive they become. If there’s been no chemistry to go with it, this type of attraction can lead to some lovely and long-lasting friendships.
(A third type of attraction has happened when I’ve been manipulated into having feelings which were not mutual or based in reality, but I’ve learned to guard against this. A good rule of thumb I’ve found is if someone seems too good to be true, they probably are—and the best protection is having healthy self-esteem so you won’t be sucked in by any nice-sounding flattery!).
If there is that ‘chemistry’ with someone, but personal compatibility wasn’t part of the picture, I’ve found it was important to share and acknowledge that, recognising and accepting the limitations of this attraction; and ready to move on without regret when it inevitably begins to fade—rather than be tempted to create an entanglement with both of us pretending it was a deeper kind of relationship because of wishful thinking or needing it too much. Which, at best, can only end in tears.
On those marvellous if rare occasions when the ‘instinctive’ and personal types of attraction have been combined, sex has evolved into the richer/deeper experience of love-making which was the foundation for a longer-term intimate relationship when there has been enough commitment and maturity on both sides—and it was the right thing at the right time in both of our lives. Insecurities and buried fears inevitably come up when there is this kind of real intimacy, but by working through them together, we’ve reached a deeper level of mutual and self-understanding. This is the most rewarding kind of relationship, and it’s one which I’ve found needs to be nurtured and grown like any living thing, rather than left to ‘fate’ – a mistake I’ve made sometimes from a fear of ‘over-controlling’ things.
When either of us has lacked courage or awareness, our relationship has either become dysfunctional, or one of us has left. But this hasn’t always been terminal; sometimes a failing relationship can be healed with counseling, or the ‘leaver’ chooses to reconnect with the relationship once they realise what they have given up and why. If there’s been enough learning on both sides, this can work out.
Although it’s been hard for me to understand know why I feel, or don’t feel, an attraction to someone. I suspect it has a lot to do with my history: parents, childhood and past experiences—all things that have nothing to do with the other person’s intrinsic appeal. Maybe it’s luck as much as anything else which determines when and with whom we can grow the special kind of two-level attraction; put down roots and flourish together. Meeting up in a social setting, rather than in online, increases the likelihood because there will already be a shared social context for the encounter, and the opportunity for non-verbal signals to convey if there is likely to be ‘chemistry’ and compatibility, even before a single word is said.
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