While it’s a universal feeling, human attraction can be tricky to understand. Read on to learn about the types and importance of attraction and how to identify and deal with it.
What Is Attraction?
Attraction is the sense of closeness, interest, or desire you feel toward someone. You may have heard the term "attraction" used mainly in sexual or romantic contexts, but attraction isn’t restricted to these categories and is of many different types.
You can experience attraction in multiple ways. This can include things like admiring or taking an interest in the subject of your attraction and wanting to connect with them.
Attraction varies with time and is affected by many things. As you may have experienced, sometimes it doesn’t take much for your feelings or preferences to change, and this is perfectly natural.
Attraction can’t be put into a one-size-fits-all box. It’s an individual experience and is all about connecting with other individuals in any healthy way that makes everyone involved happy.
How Does Human Attraction Work, and Why Does it Matter?
Understanding how human attraction works is important because it plays a key role in interpersonal chemistry and relationships. Knowing what you like also helps you develop a stronger sense of self-awareness. Finally, it enhances your understanding of how to deal with and what to expect from relationships.
Attraction is critical to building a sense of connection, especially when meeting new people. Once you understand the complex nature of attraction, you’ll get insights into your own feelings. This can help you set boundaries that protect your comfort zone. You’ll also be able to better respect and relate to others' feelings and expect the same in return, resulting in rewarding interpersonal experiences.
What Are the Types of Attraction?
Attraction is usually classified into five main types:
1. Sexual attraction. This involves an intense desire for intimate sexual contact with others of the same or different genders. It’s subdivided into:
- Subjective sexual attraction: when you have sexual feelings toward a specific person based on your personal experiences with them, such as in relationships.
- Objective sexual attraction: when many people find someone sexually attractive (e.g., a movie star) but you may or may not do so.
- Lust: when you experience intense feelings of sexual desire, passion, and sometimes affection toward a person.
Sexuality describes how people express their sexual feelings. Sexual attraction helps you identify your sexuality. For example, asexuality is when you don’t experience sexual attraction, whereas pansexuality is when you experience sexual attraction toward multiple genders.
2. Physical attraction. This involves the desire for physical contact but not in a sexual or romantic context (e.g., hugging or petting a dog). It’s subdivided into:
- Intimacy: when you’re simply looking for a feeling of physical closeness or connection between people.
- Sensuality: when you have the desire to touch or be touched by someone but not in a sexual manner.
- Subjective physical attraction: when you experience physical desire, admiration, or affection for someone based on your interactions with them.
- Objective physical attraction: when several people consider someone physically attractive, but you may not necessarily be attracted to their physical appearance.
3. Emotional attraction. This involves a desire for closeness or connection that may not include any physical contact. It’s subdivided as follows:
- Alterous is when your desire for emotional closeness is neither completely romantic nor completely non-romantic.
- Attachment is when you have a special emotional bond with someone (e.g., family members).
- Intellectual is when you’re only attracted to someone’s intelligence.
- Love is when you have strong or deep feelings of emotional connection and attachment with someone.
- Passion is when you have intense feelings of desire toward someone.
- Platonic is when you want to be in a non-romantic and non-sexual relationship with someone (e.g., friends).
- Protective is when you want to take care of someone (e.g., pets).
- Social is when you’re popular and usually liked by most people.
- Squish is when you want a strong emotional but non-romantic relationship with someone (i.e., the non-romantic version of a crush).
- Zucchini (queerplatonic) is when you have strong, committed but platonic (non-romantic) relationships with two or more people.
4. Romantic attraction. This involves a combination of physical, sexual, and emotional feelings toward someone. It’s subdivided as follows:
- Aromantic is when you don’t have any desire for a romantic relationship.
- Autoromantic is when you experience romantic feelings towards yourself.
- Biromantic is when you have romantic feelings for people of more than one gender.
- A crush is when you have a strong desire for a romantic relationship with a specific person.
- Demiromantic is when you can only experience romantic feelings after building an emotional connection with someone.
- Grayromantic is when you experience romantic feelings extremely rarely.
- Heteroromantic is when you experience romantic feelings toward the opposite gender.
- Homoromantic is when you experience romantic feelings toward the same gender.
- Panromantic is when you experience romantic feelings toward all genders.
- Polyromantic is when you experience romantic feelings toward multiple, but not all, genders.
5. Aesthetic attraction. This involves feelings of admiration for a person’s appearance without any physical, sexual, or romantic desires toward them. This attraction type often goes along with other types of attraction in relationships. For example, you may like someone’s dressing sense and also be physically attracted to them.
How to Deal With Attraction
Attraction can have a significant impact on your behavior and decisions. For example, you’re likely to have positive expectations about the personality traits of someone you find physically attractive. This is called the halo effect.
Because of its complex nature, attraction can often be confusing. Therefore, having a clear understanding of your feelings is critical to making good decisions. Here are some tips to guide you on how to process your feelings of attraction and behave wisely:
Develop awareness and acceptance of yourself. Give yourself enough space and time to make peace with your preferences. This will help you clarify your priorities and choices, making you less likely to mislead someone else or to disappoint yourself.
Have a clear understanding of your boundaries. Setting and maintaining personal boundaries early on can give you a sense of security in a new relationship. It can also help the other person understand your expectations and avoid doing anything that makes you uncomfortable.
Establish clear goals. Plainly communicating what you want increases your chances of success in relationships because you minimize the chances of misunderstandings or mismatched expectations.
Don’t follow the template. There’s no “right” way to be attracted to someone or build a relationship. Any preference that respects yourself and others is valid. Don’t try to follow anyone’s lead, and always rely on your own feelings for accurate guidance.
Be prepared for changes. Your or your partner’s desires and preferences may change over time. Be adaptable, and communicate openly to avoid any emotional backlash.
If you’re struggling to cope with your feelings or manage your relationships, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Guidance might bring you clarity and improve the quality of your social interactions.