Dynamics of Attraction

As mentioned in the previous post, there are several major things working against people getting married, those are trends that the church has to fight. What about at an individual level? I’d like to look at the dynamics of relationships and what the pitfalls are. There are many different kinds of men and women out there, so it’s impossible to cover every scenario, but let’s look at a few basic dynamics.

The most important issue is that of attraction. What causes one person to become attracted to another? I believe group dynamics are very important to the process. In general, I see a pyramid phenomenon at work in groups. In any group there is one person that is considered the most attractive person (MAP) by the corresponding group of the opposite sex, and vice versa. This leads to the phenomenon where 10 guys are after one girl, and 10 girls are after one guy. Because of this people do not naturally “pair off” that easily.`

How do people end up getting together then? Well first, in many cases it’s not 10 to 1. It’s often more like 10 to 3. There are different personality types, so not everyone will find the most attractive person to be the most attractive to them. That improves things, but he problem still remains that it is a many to few scenario. Next, the “most attractive person” changes over time. Few people can stand the limelight indefinitely. Someone else will enter into the picture and change the dynamics. Also, if the most attractive person dates, they are usually taken because they are in high demand. This leads people to consider other options.

Now, I want to say that I do not consider the “most attractive person” phenomenon to be Godly. I believe it’s actually a kind of idolatry, but you need to see it to know what is going on. This “king of the mountain” phenomenon is damaging to the people on the top and on the bottom. The people on the top can think that the world revolves around them, and that everyone loves them. They may also get frustrated from attracting lots of people that they are not interested in. The people at the bottom get frustrated from not being seen by anyone, and frustrated from the long term and repeated rejection they experience.

You have to break this idolatrous “crowd” phenomenon. In reality once you stop chasing the “most attractive person” you will find that there are actually a lot of people of the opposite sex that are not only available but who have wonderful qualities and are attractive to boot. It is rarely the case that there are not enough people of the opposite sex and right age, unless we’re in a prison camp. It is usually the case that we have ignored or otherwise weeded out everyone who could be a potential mate from contention.

Those are some of the hidden group dynamics, what about the individual dynamics? Mystery and unattainability are actually major factors in attraction. You want what do not know about, or what you can not have. This is why siblings are naturally not attracted. There is no mystery. So we want someone we do not know about, but generally only the ones that we see as “above” us or at least roughly equal. We do not naturally consider those who we do not see as less attractive than ourselves.

Additionally, men and women tend to have different psychologies of rejection that develop. Men basically are the pursuers. So if you are not a proactive man it may feel like life literally passes you by as it regards women.  Regardless if you are the man you have to go after the girl you want and face rejection. So the phenomenon of being a man can be an exercise in repeated rejection. If you are a woman, the rejection is usually a little more passive. You are waiting for someone to “pick you” and you have to do a lot of things in order to get picked. This is very rejecting because the message is that you have to be someone you can’t be. You have to be better looking, but you just are what you are, how do you change that? So I think the standard psychology that women develop is that they are not likable enough. It’s permanent rejection.

In addition, because of the “mysterious” phenomenon, deception can play an important part in attraction. In Genesis 6:2, the “sons of God saw that the daughters of men were good” and so they took them. This is the same language as the tree in the garden of Eden. She saw that the fruit was good and she took it. The issue was that the fruit was not actually good! Lust is essentially when we believe the lie about someone. Normally a woman or a man that inspires a strong lustful attraction it is because there is something unhealthy about them. Now, please do not get me wrong, a lustful person can lust after anything and anyone, but it doesn’t just cut one way. I’m pointing out that there are people who can stir up lust in an otherwise “normal” person. It’s not because that person is actually physically more attractive, it is because there is a spirit associated with their own lust that presents itself as “good” to others. When you believe in your heart that the person is “really hot” or likewise, it’s because you are believing that spirit. We get pulled in by this spirit and this person, and then we get consumed. In essence, you are attracted to the person who spiritually speaking is LEAST attractive.

The first part of developing Godly attraction is repenting of this. You see it’s not even an issue of inner versus outer beauty. It is an issue of you assigning beauty to someone because of something unhealthy. If there were identical twins dressed identically, and one was pure but one was not, the one who was not would appeal to you if you’re not healthy. You have to develop an attraction to what God finds attractive, and then you will ascribe beauty to what God finds beautiful. In addition, you have to be able to see potential in people, the way God see potential in you.

But how do you go about finding someone if you have already crossed these bridges? Can a singles group do the trick? Usually the answer is “no.” Singles ministers often set these groups up intentionally to keep people from meeting someone there. They say “we’re not a meat market.” So the people who want to meet people aren’t there! Can you do online? The problem with online is that it bypasses the natural process of attraction. You learn all about someone’s vital statistics first and eliminate the mystery! You end up with someone who looks great on paper but who you are not really attracted to. I’m not saying it can’t work, I’m just saying it is harder than it sounds. Also because of the stigma with “online” dating the people who are there are sometimes there because they are a difficult match for some reason or another.

You need to meet people in a natural setting. Where can you do this? Ask yourself, where would I be if I were my potential mate? Don’t look for him or her at the singles meeting, she/he’s not there for the same reason you’re not. He or she is serving at the soup kitchen, or on a mission trip, or taking classes. That natural setting allows for you to have a natural attraction. For guys, once you meet a potential, you need to take your big step. For girls, you may need to do more than “send signals.” Some guys don’t get them. You may need to engage an older woman at the church who can help you asses the situation and figure out if there is a way to make it happen.

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  1. There are a lot of good points here, but I think singles should focus less on the “mystery” of a relationship, and on the relationship of a relationship. The before and after perspectives of marriage are so very different. The mystery evaporates very quickly, and if that’s what your attraction was based on, and there isn’t a solid, real friendship, it’s very very difficult to keep a meaningful relationship going for years and years. I know your point was not to override friendship altogether, and that you were talking about mystery in terms of attraction, but here’s my take.

    After you get married you realize that it’s nothing like you expected, for most people. You realize it involves a tremendous amount of work and self-sacrifice, just to keep it alive, much less happy. You realize that compatibility issues are paramount. No matter how attractive someone is before marriage, that will not get you through the difficult times ahead.

    In my view, the ideal time to begin dating someone is after you already know them really well. Once you enter “dating” into the equation, a person automatically puts their best, most attractive side forward, and it is usually based around physical attributes. If you first really get to know a person, however, you tend to find out who they really are, what they really believe, and how they really respond to life, without trying to impress others. That’s when you know if you can live with a person.

    I’m not a proponent of online dating, but one site seems to me, from what I’ve seen, to be particularly useful. eHarmony.com was founded by a Christian marriage therapist with tons of experience in compatibility, and he made up these questionnaires that each member fills out honestly before even signing up for the service. The questions attempt to get at the heart of who you are as a person, what is important to you, and your views of the world. Then it matches you with people who are compatible. You don’t see a picture or meet a person until you have talked to them for awhile, gone through several layers of the process. Not foolproof, but it’s the best example i’ve seen of an online version of the process. Also, I think people who get on eHarmony are more likely to have an eye to marriage and commitment, which brings the level of seriousness up a notch.

  2. Hey, thanks for your thoughtful commentary here. I agree with the “realist” perspective of what marriage is about, the difficulties associated with making it work, and the preparation that should happen before you jump. think I was trying to explore a specific aspect of meeting someone that I hadn’t before that is logically prior — which is how you meet someone and why are you attractive to each other?

    Lots of Christians do use eHarmony, and actually find tons of great “paper” matches. I think my observation though is that while this makes a lot of logical sense, it doesn’t work as well as one would think in actually getting people together — because it reverses the attraction process that causes two people to be willing to pursue one another. I think actually for online to work better there would be some kind of “social” component. Where people join “book clubs” or something like that where they can “hang out” as friends and develop some interest.

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