Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 12:13 am
Sparks and recreation
I am a 32-year-old woman who has never been in a relationship with a man I’m actually attracted to. The men I’ve ended up with really pursued me, and they were all smart, funny and kind, so I thought it was shallow not to date them because I wasn’t that into their looks. Depressingly, each time, I eventually found myself repulsed by the guy and eyeing other men. Of course, that brought things to an end. How important is physical attraction in a relationship? – Lukewarmed
When you’ve got a position to fill – in your life or the workplace – it’s important to bring in somebody who meets the essential requirements. So when the overheating thingy on the nuclear reactor needs fixing, you put out a call for a certified nuclear mechanic; you don’t just go “Okay, whatever” when the nicest mariachi band roadie comes in looking for work.
Of course, sexual attraction isn’t everything. But without it, you and another person are best suited for a relationship like “friends,” “neighbors” or “people who give each other a friendly wave in the carport.” Experimental psychologist Gurit Birnbaum finds evidence from across social psychology and evolutionary psychology that the “sexual system” (sexual desire) and the “attachment system” (emotional bonding) work together. In fact, she explains, it seems sexual desire “has been ‘exploited’ by evolutionary processes” to promote enduring emotional bonds between partners. Basically, evolution bribes romantic partners with nooky so they’ll stay together and care for their kids, improving the chances that the little buggers survive to pass on their genes.
It’s important to find somebody you have serious hots for from the start, because maintaining a sex crush on your partner is actually vital throughout the relationship stages. Birnbaum explains that sexual desire motivates partners to keep “investing resources” in each other and the relationship – beyond sexytime. Additionally, after the initial hottity-hots die down, still wanting to get it on with your partner seems to provide a “buffer” for poor communication skills and less-than-desirable personality traits, such as emotional instability. (“Whoa, that mood swing nearly gave me a concussion!”)
So, no, you wouldn’t be “shallow” to date only men you’re attracted to. You’d be doing the wise (and kind) thing: keeping yourself from yet another doomed relationship with some nice but meh guy where the sweet nothings you whisper are along the lines of “Please don’t touch me unless it’s medically necessary.”
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