Is attraction enough?

Once, I sipped a water in a cruise ship bar and made eyes with a cruise ship drummer.

A good looking cruise ship drummer.

Who wasn’t wearing a wedding band.

Whose eyes’ contact with mine resulted in warm and fuzzy feelings.

This, I think, is the coveted “love” at first sight (which, to clarify, isn’t actually love).

It is instantaneous, inexplicable attraction. It is why when I met the cruise ship drummer after his set, I didn’t care that he hardly could speak English. It is why I wasn’t embarrassed by my embarrassing opener: “I don’t speak Spanish.” Not much matters except for attraction when we think the existence of attraction is enough.

But attraction alone doesn’t matter much. It is neither warm feelings nor fuzzy ones that deem the pursuit of a relationship necessarily advisable. Which is why I am mildly alarmed by the frequency with which relationships are pursued based solely on warm and fuzzy feelings.

This is when we are self-focused daters. When we want what we want because it feels good, not because it is good. When we date someone because we are attracted to him or her.

This is not to say we should date people to whom we are not attracted. (Awkward!) It is to say that attraction is not enough (especially if it’s inexplicable).

It is never enough.

The outcomes of self-focused dating vary. Maybe you get lucky and wind up with somebody good. Maybe you fight to sustain or revive an irrational relationship. Maybe you marry a person who, outside the attraction, you don’t even like.

But I can’t even tell you how much this hurts my heart.

My hunch is, in a culture as distracted as ours, most of us are satisfied when looking at, being near, talking to, or sleeping with him or her feels good.

Which is why few people probably stop to consider the magnitude of the self-focused pursuit and maintenance of relationships; to consider what it means that we are more concerned with how good somebody makes us feel than with whether he or she is mature enough to be a spouse.

Than with whether we become better or worse people by being with each other.

Than with whether he or she would be a good parent.

Than with whether we are being fair to our future kids when our future kids will grow up and turn into one of us.

My attraction to you and yours to me doesn’t render us prepared to be spouses or parents. My attraction to you and yours to me is necessary but insufficient for a functional relationship.

“But it feels good.”

But “it feels good” isn’t enough.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nice. Obviously, the fuzzy feeling and instantaneous surface level attraction certainly can’t be the only criteria for a relationship. That said, I think that in addition to rational deliberation, there is something to being emotively attracted to non-physical qualities of another person. If everything is working right (and often it isn’t) we will be attracted to the parts of another’s character that are virtuous. Considered this way, attraction is enough, so long as our own desires are formed properly (a big if). Mere sensory pleasure is never enough, of course.

    • Agreed. You would like Pope John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility (on which I am doing a blog series… next post should be up Saturday or Sunday).

  • I found the bit about attraction being equated to “love at first sight” not quite right. I think they are two separate things and that yes, some people do equate the two but not necessarily always. I was young, 18, and not yet a Catholic when I met my husband. I was, of course, attracted to him but I also fell in love with him which was different. If I am being honest, I am still attracted to men from time to time, that doesn’t mean I am falling in love, it just means that their physical presence and pheromones must be attractive to me. It still isn’t the same thing. I knew almost immediately that I would marry my husband and I did a few years later and we are still very in love 16 years later. I agree – feeling good and being attracted isn’t necessarily love – but real love at first sight can happen!