You know that feeling that suddenly hits you. You’re traipsing around town and notice someone who gives you a jolt. Or, it could be your partner coming out of the shower, smelling irresistible. Or, all of a sudden your best friend feels sexy…What you feel is – instant attraction.
As a sex therapist, I often talk about sexual desire. The reason for this is that desire for sex is fundamental to many of us. It’s also because it’s one of the most frequent reasons clients seek my help or the help of other sex therapists.
A related concept is attraction. What’s so exciting about attraction is that it often seems mysterious, and difficult to define. You know when you experience it, but you don’t always know why you experience it.
In this blog post, I’ll be focusing on why we feel an instant attraction to some people and not to others.
Why We Feel Attraction
Research says that it takes less than one second from meeting a person to decide how much we like that person, and whether we’re attracted or not.
It sounds like a very short time – and it is – but the important thing here is realizing that it’s about the initial feeling.
How much we like someone and how attracted we are to a person may of course change with time.
For some people, attraction appears after years of friendship. All of a sudden your colleague or close friend may seem incredibly attractive.
At other times, it may go the other way, and the attraction to your partner, for instance, vanishes into thin air, only to reappear – just as unexpectedly – a couple of months later with a vengeance.
When it comes to that instant attraction that many of us can identify with, we usually ascribe it to things we are aware of, such as the way a person looks. It’s not unusual for us to have a ”type”, and that’s what determines that first jolt of attraction.
But, there are in fact many other factors involved at the same time, which may actually affect attraction more than just looks.
A person who’s written quite a lot about attraction is sex researcher Justin Lehmiller. In his book, The Psychology of Human Sexuality, Justin has compiled research on attraction and how it works.
He lists the following factors as some of the more essential ones for us to feel attracted to someone.
It’s more likely that we feel attracted to someone who’s closer to us geographically – such as someone who lives in our area or a person at work.
It’s more likely that we get attracted to someone who’s more similar to us than not. Being similar does not, however, predict the longevity of the relationship or how happy we are together.
3. Physical Excitement
When we meet someone we don’t know and are physically aroused (for example, have a higher heart rate as a result of an adrenaline rush), it increases the chances we’ll feel an instant attraction.
We like people who make us feel good. We like other people more when we ourselves feel good – even if it wasn’t the other person who made us feel good.
When there are fewer potential partners to choose from we tend to view the ones present, as more attractive. Moreover, when these partners appear more difficult to catch, we become more attracted to them.
People of all gender identities are more attracted to people they find good looking. But the attraction we feel may depend on whether others perceive that person as attractive, and the context we are in (that is if there are other attractive/less attractive people in the same room). A person’s looks tend to be more important at the beginning of a relationship compared to later on in a romantic relationship.