Why Chasing Attraction is a Losing Strategy in Love

I have a guy friend who is perpetually single. He’s got everything going for him. Advanced degree. Successful. Funny. Social. Ambitious. Good values.

And yet every time I talk with him, it’s the same old story.

Another woman just broke his heart.

When I ask him for the details of the latest debacle, it usually comes down to the fact that he’s a nice, relationship oriented man, who earnestly follows through and communicates his feelings… and she’s an aloof woman who tries to consider him as a romantic partner, but ultimately would rather chase an unattainable jerk.

It’s classic, really.

But when I ask my friend what makes him fall for these emotionally unavailable women, you know what he tells me?

“I like them because they’re smart and they’re hot.”

Got it.

You can’t help what you’re attracted to. But you can acknowledge that the men you’re attracted to aren’t always good long-term relationship partners.

Objectively, wouldn’t you tell this man that perhaps “smart” and “hot” aren’t necessarily the best criteria to evaluate a lifetime romantic partner?

Of course you would.

You’d tell him to appreciate her inner beauty, her warm smile, her generosity, her sense of humor. All the things you appreciate about your own girlfriends.

Yet when you look at your own life – at your consistent pining for tall, handsome, brilliant, fascinating men – you do the exact same thing.

Worse, you defend it in the same way that my friend does:

“I can’t help what I’m attracted to!”

You’re right. You can’t help what you’re attracted to.

But you can acknowledge that the men you’re attracted to aren’t always good long-term relationship partners.

You can acknowledge that attraction can be blinding and allow you to overlook a man’s flaws for way too long.

You can acknowledge that attraction isn’t either a “10” or a “1” – that there’s usually something in between.

And you can acknowledge that, for my guy friend, his addiction to smart, hot, aloof and inaccessible women isn’t really working for him.

By the way, I’m not telling you anything that I haven’t considered in my own life.

As a man who’s been married for three years, I’ve finally started to get into a rhythm with my wife.

We’ve got a house.

We’ve got a kid.

We both work from home and spend a lot of time together.

And unless something changes, you know what we spend most of our time doing?

Working.

When we’re not working, you know what we do?

We figure out how we’re going to decorate the house.

We plan weekends out of town to visit family.

We throw dinner parties, karaoke parties, and wine tastings.

We go food shopping and make chopped salads with beets.

If 95% of your life is spent on matters that are neither “brainy” nor “sexy”, wouldn’t it make sense to find a partner who is compatible in all those other areas?

We watch “Castle” and as many minutes of “Dancing with the Stars” as I can tolerate.

We retreat to our offices where she watches funny YouTube videos and I obsessively manage my fantasy football team.

We go upstairs, wash our faces, talk about our days, tell each other we love each other, and snuggle before drifting off to sleep.

It’s a WONDERFUL life.

You know how much time we spend having sex? A couple of hours a week.

You know how much time we spend talking about string theory, or Proust, or what happens to us when we die? A lot less.

So if 95% of your life is spent on matters that are neither “brainy” nor “sexy”, wouldn’t it make sense to find a partner who is compatible in all those other areas?

Rather than finding the smartest, hottest guy imaginable who doesn’t want to throw dinner parties, doesn’t want to see your mother, doesn’t want to let you choose the furniture you want, and doesn’t want to raise a family together?

I think so.

Naturally, you have to find your partner attractive and intelligent, but he doesn’t have to be THAT attractive or THAT intelligent to have a very happy life together.

As a dating coach for 8 years, I’ve long advocated for putting compatibility on the SAME level as chemistry, instead of making chemistry the most important factor in your decision-making.

Because, as you know, you can get the smartest, hottest, tallest, richest guy in the world… and you’ll most likely discover that he’s a selfish narcissist who’s just not that into you.

Thus, there is wisdom in compromising a little on looks and brains in order to find the HAPPINESS that has eluded you when you exalt “attraction” above all.

Believe me, I did not settle.

Neither should you.

Just consider the relative importance of a chiseled jawline and a Masters degree vs. the ability to love you unconditionally and the desire to make you happy.

I think it’s clear what should win out.

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Comments:

  1. 31
    Heather

    This article depresses me a little. I’m in a great relationship, at least I think I am. But I still wonder if sexually he wants me as much as I want him? He says cute to bra pics…I mean really? I must be the fifty…not eighty…

  2. 32
    Fiona

    I think I have a massive problem because either I find men attractive or I just don’t – there are no degrees in between. Objectively I know that some of my exes are attractive to other women and some are not so it is not just about how they look. I don’t know what it is. Worse, it does not get better on the second date, the third date or a month. Like a female panda, it is either there or it just isn’t. I am not really sure what I can do about it if anything. The thought of kissing someone I don’t find attractive is abhorrent, let alone sleeping with them. I had a date last night with a friend of a friend who was really nice, clearly likes me having texted me on his way home, and has already asked if we can meet up again. This happens on most of my dates I have not met in real life – they want to see me again. I enjoy their company but there is no attraction. In real life I don’t have this particular issue as I don’t accept dates unless I find the man attractive. The man I met last night is not objectively unattractive – he’s average – but I am just not attracted to him so not sure it is even fair to meet up again even though I really enjoyed his company. Sometimes I wonder if maybe attraction is there for a good biological reason.

  3. 33
    Theo

    Karl hit the nail on the head in writing: “I have many female friends who don’t want to have sex with me. I enjoy them as friends. I just don’t want to spend months courting a woman (and getting my hopes up), just to find out that we’re never going to be anything more than friends.

    Men push sex because it provides clarity.”

    Men don’t push for sex because they’re constantly horny. Rather, as Karl wrote, we do it because sex is the essential sign of attraction or arousal from a woman. Every man has had experiences of dating or seeing a woman intensely, falling in love with her eventually, to painfully realize after months that the romantic feeling was not a mutual one, not reciprocated, but rather one-sided: “Let’s just be friends.” Men hate it!

  4. 34
    Carmen

    Pierce Brosnan is a very happy man with his UnHollywood-looking wife, a testament to your point.

  5. 35
    Lisa

    I think the difference between men and women is that for women it is more about chemistry and men it is more about looks.  For women chemistry can grow and attraction can develop. It is often said that women decide on a first date whether they will absolutely not sleep with you, but not if they will.  Whereas a man decides if they will.    I have met many men whom I was not crazy attracted to at first glance who for sure grew on me over time and became more attractive, but with men from what I understand that just does not happen.  There has to be some sort of initial attraction for that to work out.  This is why you often see really hot women with less attractive guys but you don’t frequently see the reverse.  It is also why most men can agree on rating women on a scale of 1-10 whereas most women are all over the place when it comes to rating guys.  I have had chemistry with guys of all looks, sizes etc.  Some look like models, others have pot bellies,  many are average Joe’s, some are fair, some tall and dark, you get my drift.  But the common factor is I feel chemistry and I feel it early on.    The problem you run into Evan is that once you have had that chemistry or that strong attraction it is hard to settle for something less.    The only scenario I can think of where this may happen is maybe work, or school or something where you had a chance to repeatedly be exposed to someone who you may not have initially been attracted to in a non dating situation with no expectations and then it developed.   I can see this happening for a woman to a man, I don’t see it happening from a man to a woman.  I think for a man it either is or it is not.     The problem is that we all do online dating now, so we are dating with expectations and we do not have chances of prolonged exposure to people without expectations.   If I continued to hang out with a guy beyond three or four dates just to see if some chemistry developed you can rest assured he would be furious when he found out that was going on, and to be honest there are 25 other guys in line behind him that I may have chemistry with so it would seem like a waste of time.  FYI I have tried this many times and this is exactly what happened, nothing developed  and the guy got mad and said I wasted both of our times.   So what does one do?    If I don’t feel attraction I think its time to move onto the next person?

    1. 35.1
      Willowandy

      Maybe I’m unusual, but it can develop for me by talking to somebody (and it can also go the opposite way by talking to somebody). Also, to me seeing somebody at least 3 times if in doubt is a much better approach for something serious, but then it appears to me that most women are faster to decide than that!

      1. 35.1.1
        Lisa

        I agree with you that seeing someone three times is a much better approach unless  you are utterly repulsed the first time.  If  you have great conversation with the person and enjoy their company give it some more time.  I say if you don’t look at your watch the entire time and enjoy yourself give it a shot! But like I mention above in online dating things are different and many people feel like you are wasting their time.    I do believe that men face a lot more rejection  with online dating than women.  So you find a lot of angry bitter men in that dating pool.  So when I have done this and realized hey there still is just no connection, but I wanted to give it a shot I have faced nothing but really negative responses and the response I got was well you should have never continued to see me if you did not feel it on the first date, so I thought okay I won’t then.  I also think men get angry because they are spending money on dates versus women.  But I always offer to pay or split the bill so I don’t get men being angry at me when they turn me down.    I suspect you are not one of those men.    I think dating is all about experiencing different people and sometimes you do get hurt, but maybe some men have been so much this is how they act?   I am no longer dating, I am engaged.  But I think the reason women may cut things off so early on in online dating is in large part due to not wanting to deal with this.

  6. 36
    Kimberly

    I just got dumped today for the third time with a guy I was totally attracted to.   Apparently, I am a slow learning.   This article came at a great time.   There has to be something there but physical attraction isn’t everything.

    1. 36.1
      Karmic Equation

      You need to follow this rule, Kimberly:

       

      Don’t take back a man that dumps you. No matter how hot the chemistry.

      Now, if YOU dump him and he wants back, that’s at your discretion. But I would suggest that you DO NOT take him back unless he escalates the relationship to the next milestone AND he becomes an exemplary partner. If you’re dating, he suggests you move in together. If you had lived together, he proposes. And if he does propose, you make sure you set the date for a year or more away and continue to evaluate his efforts to make you happy over the course of that year. If he fails, dump him. And never take him back again.

  7. 37
    Nisha

    This is exactly what I needed to hear right now! After beginning to read your material, I am grasping the concept of what type of guys I say I want to date and the type I spend all my time crying over. I am so attracted to one type of guy… we got along so well, things seemed so perfect right from the beginning, they were ambitious and hot – and then gone. The consistent, stable guy who I am less attracted to…hmmm that has been a struggle for me. I say that is what I want. But I think it is too easy. Perhaps boring. But I think I am learning it is what I need. What is more appropriate. And what is the stuff of long term relationships. Anyhow, thanks.

  8. 38
    Gina

    I agree 100% because I had a wonderful man who was great he loved me he was kind he worked he was handsome ,he owned his own home he had it all.Then I found myself uncomfortable and i felt myself looking to find something unattractive about him and I ran away from him into a passionate broken addicted man who I chased and chased who was a total opposite of what I had in my last relationship. It has been the same for every relationship I have had since all the men are broken and have an addiction to something that they are trying to recover from and are at a stage in life where they are not totally available emotionally. Reading Evans articles I have come to understand my ways,and this article just sealed the deal for me and gave me so much more insight. Now that I am older and wiser I want all those things that I had with my first realtionship the good guy so to speak.

  9. 39
    danny

    Great article, hope more women read this and see how they do or did the exact same thing while ending up with nothing.  Guess those who are shallow shall be punished, and I think too many people know this all to well.  So who is to blame, nature?  Hmmm  Nurture?

  10. 40
    Brooke

    Evan, this article is confusing. Were you attracted to your wife when you met her? I would probably guess yes. I can’t think of anything worse than being with someone or even having sex with someone I have zero attraction to just because they make a good life partner. If this is about having unrealistic physical standards for a partner or basing your dating life just upon looks and attraction, then his makes sense and I agree 100%.

    But what I hear a lot through family members or dating articles is specifically directed towards women telling us to marry/date the guy who will commit and wants a relationship and that we look for the wrong type. Often the men wanting a relationship are the ones who are attracted to us (and would love to have sex with us) but when there’s no attraction on our end, we are being too picky. Are men the only ones who get to be attracted to their partner and women are left with these men because they’re the ones who want a relationship and would be good life partners and help with laundry? Maybe you you aren’t implying this at all, and maybe this is just something I and a lot of other single women struggle with so we automatically assume this is what you mean.

    1. 40.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I’m always confused by these questions, but since they keep coming up, I’ll keep answering them.

      1. Yes, I was attracted to my wife. But I wasn’t hitting on her. I wasn’t thinking of hooking up with her. I’ve been more attracted to other women. So when you come out and say “zero attraction,” you immediately misinterpret what I’m saying. In fact, you put words/thoughts into my mouth that aren’t even implied.

      2. Similarly, when family members/dating articles tell you to marry the guy who wants to commit – and you interpret that as “GIVE UP ON ATTRACTION” – you are again inferring things that are not even implied. “Marry the guy who wants to commit” means ONLY “Marry the guy who wants to commit – as opposed to the selfish, avoidant, Peter Pan, charmer who values freedom over commitment. Anything else you’re putting on that statement is a false interpretation.

      3. No one said you are “being too picky” by passing up men that you’re not attracted to. I have 100 blog posts that insist that you need attraction to have a happy marriage BUT:

      a. Attraction is not sufficient to have a relationship. Chemistry doesn’t keep couples together for 40 years.
      b. Attraction often allows you to put up with poor treatment from men.
      c. Attraction to your mate doesn’t have to be the HIGHEST it’s ever been – it just has to be sufficient for a healthy sex life with a man who pleases you.
      d. Attraction can grow. I would never tell you to go on a second date with a “3” in attraction, but MOST of my happy clients started with a 6 that turned into a 9.

      So your interpretation that “men are the only ones who get to be attracted to their partners” is patently FALSE. I have not said it. Nobody else has ever said it. It is a black and white slippery slope argument you’ve created in your head because dating is tricky. In fact, all the dating articles/happily married people are all saying some version of the same thing: attraction is a small (but important) piece of a much larger puzzle. You will have a happier marriage with a 7 chemistry and a 10 compatibility as opposed to a 10 chemistry and 3 compatibility. The 3 attraction model is something that no one has ever advocated.

  11. 41
    H. Jackson

    Mutual attraction is THE most important aspect in order for a relationship to get started.  If you begin a relationship from your “head” with the internal script of “attraction will grow over time”, be prepared for a shallow relationship void of the heart to heart connection only mutual attraction can provide.  Mutual physical attraction is a wellspring both couples can go back to in the early stages of a relationship to keep them together on equal footing while they both decide if the other elements are present which will lead to a longer relationship.

    A different type of love certainly does evolve over time via mutually shared life experiences.  But it is extremely  important all of that is built on top of mutual physical attraction with a partner who is “your type”.

  12. 42
    MH

    Let me tell you a personal story.

    I was in a 6 and a half year relationship with my ex fiancé. To me she was a 5 and I was an 8 but I didn’t care. I met her through beings friends for years and one day we just really clicked. She was never my type as she was a bigger woman and my type would be slim. But it was the companionship that made us special. I even got abused by my friends (not friends anymore) because she wasn’t drop dead gorgeous. But as time went on everybody admitted to being jealous of our relationship or that we would be together forever. We went through so much together I honestly cannot give her enough respect or credit.

    But nearly a year ago I destroyed my life. Some super hot 10 started working at my place and started to try get involved with me. Iv had girls hit on me before and its not bothered me. Yes she was hot but I wasn’t interested as I was with my fiancé. But then colleagues told me that I was stupid and they couldn’t believe how lucky I was that this woman fancied me. So I replied to one of her Facebook messages and tried to keep it as friendly as possible. BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER! I mean what the hell was I thinking this could only ever end badly.

    Why did I even message her. I had no intention of cheating or pursuing sex so there was no need (In hindsight it was probably an ego trip and I did like the attention).  I began to realise when she was messaging me everyday saying how much she liked me that this was getting out of hand. So I told her to stop messaging me (should of blocked her). Then a few weeks later I get a message saying she is in hospital. I couldn’t help but ask why. She told me she had dumped her fiancé because she loved me and she even told him she was messaging some other guy. He then put her in hospital. I got found out I was messaging with another girl and my fiancé split with me.

    So my head was a complete mess and I didn’t have a clue what to do so I did the worst thing possible. Yep you guessed it, I ended up dating this complete psycho bitch.

    Not going to lie she turned out not to bad although I  glossed over how we met and that she manipulated everyone to get what she wanted but I refused to see that because I was with a super sexy woman everyone fancied. I’m still with her but I have realised that I miss my ex more and more everyday (we still talk and remain best of friends as we have a beautiful son together). the feeling was good at first because it masked the pain of breaking up with my ex. Then it was good because a lot of guys were jealous of me. I loved it when she got attention off guys up town and she would turn and kiss me.

    But as time went on it becomes unbearable. I have a trophy girlfriend and that’s it. Nothing more. Nothing in common, don’t see eye to eye and no compromise. Her way or no way. For a long time I have wanted out but just couldn’t do it because of the fear of there is no one out there that looks like that. But I still miss my ex more than anything. It was never about looks it was about love and understanding. I could do my things and she could do hers. we always compromised. We hardly ever argued. We looked after each other and had each others back.

    Now I am under the thumb by a woman who I cannot see past her beauty ( I am by no means saying that all beautiful woman are like this). I cannot go out on my own or do anything without her approval. If I offend her some way she says its because I do not respect her. Tonight is the night I end all this and finally break up.

    Sorry for the long post but I lost what you had. I did not have the most attractive partner ever but we were perfect together and happy. I now have the attractive partner now and its hell. I miss the things that my ex had. The companionship the understanding and the love. Attraction does not hold a relationship together its the other stuff that does that. I am only young at 24 but I learnt the hard way. I miss my ex and I will struggle to find anyone that will understand me like she did and how happy she made me. Attraction is just that, it attracts us to one another and that’s it. It will not keep you together if you don’t have the more important stuff.

  13. 43
    Di

    I agree with you 100%, but and its a big but , in that circumstance I just don’t feel I’m being myself  or honest in that relationship, I think I’d always be looking for that spark or emotion of love and caring.

  14. 44
    shar

    Attraction was what led me to talking or dating them but sadly they never last. Don’t know if it’s me or them and to be honest, while all of this is confusing, when I do stop talking to them I feel like shit. But then I think that maybe there are other guys out there. I’m always stuck in this stage.

  15. 45
    Sal

    Tremendously depressing in the name of finding “happiness” through a 95% life of non-brainy and non-sexy matters.

    Some of us aren’t built that way.

    Of course “compromising a little on looks and brains” isn’t settling—when a settled life is the desired outcome.

    But since when is this the definition of happiness that applies to all?

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