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How important is initial attraction?

How important is initial attraction? Can it develop after the start of an intimate relationship?


Four years ago as a freshman in college, I met a girl in my class whom I became friends with. She was sweet and fun to be around, and we shared a lot of the same interests. However, as a busy and distracted student with lots of “options,” I spent my four years at college distracted and attempting to pursue other women that, in appearance, I found more attractive. My friend always had a romantic interest in me that was easy to see, but I never pursued it.

Now as a college graduate, we have gone our separate ways, but I have been keeping in contact with her online. We continue to have great conversations about what is going on in our lives. However, I am unsure where to go from here.

My question is this: How important is initial attraction? Can it develop after the start of an intimate relationship? If we were truly right for each other, would I have known it before?

Falling in love seems so simple for most couples I see, but am I deceiving myself? On every other level, she is perfect for me. But I am afraid of making the effort to pursue her in hopes that the chemistry I did not feel before would develop as time goes on.


It sounds to me like the chemistry is developing as time goes on. What you are describing is exactly how many friendships grow into serious relationships. It’s also how many girls (and guys, too, when the roles are reversed) get their hearts injured by thinking (hoping?) there actually is something going on. For more on that, see Joshua Rogers’ recent article on Boundless, “Your Friendgirl Deserves Better.”

“We’re continuing to have great conversations about what is going on in our lives…” If you are having great conversations with one another about your lives, then some kind of relationship is going on between the two of you. I wonder what she thinks it is.

To your specific question about initial attraction, the answer is a loud YES! Attraction, both physical and emotional, can grow tremendously as you spend more time with someone. The reverse is true as well; attraction can decrease as you get to know someone. It’s all about getting to know the other person.

Sometimes initial physical attraction gets the ball rolling with a relationship, but not always. There are countless thriving marriages that have as part of their story, “I really wasn’t all that physically attracted to her/him when we first met…” or even, “I really didn’t care for him/her much at all when we first met…” But the more time spent with that other person, discovering his or her personality, spirit, character and any number of other things that make up who that person is, the more attraction grows, or better stated, the more our eyes open to the beauty of who he or she is.

Based on what you’ve described, I’d say that you are experiencing at least a little of that already. You’re not just trading information; you’re having “great conversations.” That’s more than what appeared to be going on between the two of you not long ago.

That also answers your question about would you have known it from the start whether you were right for each other. On the contrary, you rarely know much of anything from the start. That script works in Hollywood but no so much in real life.

Another thing at play here is how people really do change as they move out of college mode into the next season of life. As you said, priorities change, we mature, and with that what we consider attractive can change as well. It might happen that we come to the realization that our definition of “beautiful” was a bit boy-ish (or girl-ish) and immature, and suddenly we see beauty in places where we hadn’t before.

My advice either way is that you make a decision soon about what you’re going to do, and do it. Move it forward or throttle back. You might unwittingly have her in a holding pattern while you’re trying to decide what to do with yourself.

Ask yourself how your heart would respond if the next “great conversation” you had with her was all about her excitement over meeting this great guy who is crazy about her and out of respect for him she needs to scale back her interaction with you. Would that sting a little? Would it make you want to step up and fight a little? If so, then don’t wait for that to happen. Fight for her now.



Copyright 2012 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

John Thomas

John Thomas has been a Boundless contributor since its beginning in 1998. He and his wife, Alfie, have three children and live in Arkansas, where he serves as executive director of Ozark Camp and Conference Center, a youth camp and retreat center.


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