In Part Two of this series, Ken Page, LCSW, discusses the difference between sexual attraction that stems from deprivation and attraction that comes from inspiration. See Part One here.
Learning to Squint Like an Artist
If you’ve ever seen an artist working on a portrait, you’ll notice that oftentimes they’ll squint as they work. I asked an artist about this once and she said to me,
I squint because it helps me focus on the essence of my subject and it doesn’t distract me by their harsh outlines.
We need to do that in our dating life.
It’s so easy to get lost in that hard and rigid and instant assessment of someone’s imperfections, but it serves us better to simply sense their spirit and notice and taste the connection with them. And if it’s a good one, and you keep noticing it and riding with it, that is what makes attractions grow. As we start caring more deeply about someone, invisible tendrils begin to grow, in our thinking, in our sexual imaginings and longings and in our growing sense of dependence on this person. Our psyche, our sexuality, and our heart begin to create an attachment to that person. And to make him our own, or her our own.
When we build the muscle to exercise, our bodies need to create new capillaries to feed it. When we create new love, something similar happens. New neural pathways and emotional pathways are formed. New rituals and new sense memories are created. There is a new appreciation for sense and touch, for sexual activities and emotional needs. An entire web of new connections gets created inside of us as our hearts allow this one stranger to become our loved one. So we become specialized in them in so many ways. And that’s why breakups can hurt with real physical pain because these lovingly billed tendrils are just ripped out. That’s an experience of anguish.
Inspiration or Deprivation?
The point that I’d like you to consider is this: When you choose someone whose character is truly solid, who is good and decent and able to manage their life, who really cares about you and with whom your soul feels safe, you are decreasing the chances of that horrible pain occurring for you.
Remember that in the end, it really does come down to character. I speak about this more in other podcasts, but in a very binary way, there’re two kinds of circuitries of attraction that we have.
Attractions of Inspiration
There are attractions that I call “attractions of inspiration.” That’s where we get attracted to someone because of their goodness, their decency, their creativity, their solidity, the way they live in the world, the way they curate their lives, and their stability and their availability. And those are a different kind of stuff. That’s a different kind of circuitry. It grows slower. It roots down deeper and it t brings much more joy. And it’s the rock upon which you want to build love in your life.
Attractions of Deprivation
There are also attractions of deprivation, and they’re sexy and hot as hell. And those are attractions where somebody almost loves you right and is almost ready to commit, and almost doesn’t neglect you, but they keep reverting back to that. And these people can be archetypes, for the reasons I talked about before, and it can feel like real love, and God knows, those attractions of deprivation just grab at us and pull at us.
But once we know the distinction between the two, and we reach a point where we make a choice to only choose attractions of inspiration, our world changes. But, in those attractions of inspiration, it could take time for your attraction to build. And at those times, it can be difficult to resist the impulse to flee, in search of something where you know you’re instantly turned on right away. So as a result of that, many, many potentially wonderful relationships are cut off before they’re even given a chance to grow.
What You Focus On, Grows
So let’s talk about this now. Let’s talk about what you do when you meet someone who is like an attraction of inspiration for you and there’s some attraction, but maybe not full on attraction yet. Well, here’s a piece of instruction that will make a real difference with that. The more you focus on the things that trigger your desire and your connection with that person, the more your attraction can build.
So, if you are attracted to someone in the way I just described, the first step is to give yourself space, to recognize that no matter how wonderful this person is, you are not obligated to be one drop more attracted to him or her than you are. Forcing your feelings is only going to block the natural flow of attraction. Pressure and demand is death to new Eros, well maybe not death, but it’s kind of kryptonite.
Reflect on Your Attraction
So instead, what I would encourage you to do is allow yourself to reflect on what attracts you to the other person. What turns you on? Notice what you appreciate. And when you do that, you’ll be building these new pathways of attraction and connection. When you do that, think emotionally.
Think about how he is with his dog. Think about how she is in her career or about how he laughs, and how good that sounds and makes you feel, how it makes you laugh.
And think sexually, too. Take time to let your fantasies unfurl. The fantasy that you have could simply be, it would be nice to kiss, or I’d love to hold hands at the movie, that would be so nice. Or just gently to touch. Or maybe your fantasies are more sexual, maybe they’re long, lazy sex or quick, hot sex or kinky sex or tender sex.
Allow yourself to honor whatever you’re imagining in your own head, and, as appropriate, and I’ll talk about that in about one second, see if you can ask for what you want, if the relationship develops, because that’s how we grow passion. And to listen to the same from our partners.
When to First Have Sex
And here’s my advice around this question of when to have sex.
When we desire someone and postpone the sex for at least four or five dates, we develop surprising new pathways of attraction. It’s a great way to grow passion.
And more important: Having sex too early is like miracle growth for fear of intimacy. It makes us want to flee, or it makes us want to cling and grab. Neither of those things is good in early relationships.
So, go slowly on the outside. But inside allow yourself free reign in your fantasy life. And, if your desires are more sensual and sexual, that is fine too.
I know someone who met a guy who lived in Europe and she knew she liked him, but she wasn’t attracted enough to want sex. She just wanted to cuddle with him. He invited her to visit and she didn’t know if she should make the trip. And she was speaking to a friend of hers and she said, I don’t know if I should go all the way to Europe just to cuddle with someone. Her very wise friend said, Really? I can’t think of a better reason to go to Europe. So my friend took the trip, and over time she fell deeply in love. And she was wise enough to take all the time she needed with this guy. And he was wise enough to let her.
Attraction is About Chemistry, and That Can Be Grown
See, research shows that it’s so much less about the person you think is your exact iconic type, and it’s so much more about the chemistry. What I’m teaching here are tools that most of us are never taught. They’re the tools about how to grow attraction. They’re the deeper skills of intimacy.
I know I spent decades chasing people who didn’t want me. They were ultimately people I couldn’t end up being with because maybe I didn’t respect them enough, but some internal bell was ringing and saying, this is what attraction is. Thank God I learned better.
There’s a Greater Journey
As you learn this approach, you will find that the pain of dating and the ugliness and the disappointment that we can experience in dating, diminish. You’ll feel a growing sense of wisdom and sanity in this crazy world of dating when you practice these things. And you’ll feel more of a sense of hope.
But most importantly, you will see real changes in your search for love. You will find your attraction growing for the right people. You will, over time, lose your taste for people who chip away at your sense of self-worth. And you’ll find yourself more and more likely to meet people like that, to find them interested in you, and to be interested in them back. It’s amazing how that happens. But that’s the why is there a path to understanding our attractions.
Transcript Notes: This article is essentially a direct transcription of my talk or interview. Subscribe and listen to the podcast here.
This is Part Two of a two-part series. Find Part One here.