March 18, 2008

Is strong attraction necessary?

By Anthony Buono *

Dear Anthony,
I just met with someone I have been writing to and I just was not attracted to him though he is very nice and has great qualities. I guess I was expecting to be more attracted to him than I am. If it’s not there, meeting again doesn’t make sense, right?
Just to be clear, I am assuming you mean “physically” attracted to him, because it sounds like you have a lot of attraction for him because of the great qualities you suggested you find in him. So it is possible to be very attracted to a person that you have no “physical” attraction to.
And therein lies the dilemma of the modern single person, including Catholics. Everyone wants to marry a person who has it all: great personality, good character, wonderful qualities, and (of course) great-looking! It is the “great-looking” part that has so many Catholics concerned.

On one hand, they want to believe that they are not so shallow as to need a great- looking person when it should be what is inside a person that matters most. On the other hand, there is something unexplainable but very real that is inside them that will resist moving toward intimacy if they just don’t feel a strong attraction to them physically.
Ultimately, you have to be physically attracted to the person you marry. And frankly, this is actually the primary way God designed how marriages take place and babies come into the world. What I am referring to is the use of our sexual gifts. God has brilliantly designed us so that we would desire a member of the opposite sex and that desire would provide a natural movement toward intimacy that will lead to conception of babies and the bonding of the two persons engaging in those physical- union experiences. The brilliance of this design is that He knew that if we did not have the “desire” or “passion” as part of the sexual experience, then people would not do it and babies would not be conceived. He also brilliantly commanded that a man leave his father and mother and cling to his “WIFE” and the two shall become one flesh. In other words, his plan is that mankind marry and bond permanently and indissolubly in order to lawfully ACT on our sexual desires and passions.
Our sexuality is very much connected to our whole person, not just the inside. In fact, it is a very “sacramental principle” to be attracted to another person sexually. Just because a person is a strong practicing Catholic does not mean you could marry them. There is more to it than religious conviction. Just as the Sacraments and Sacramentals use externals to draw us toward an inner and hidden mystery, so it is with how two people come together toward the intimacy of close friendship, and ultimately in marriage.
The person you marry will be one person who has come along in your life that becomes someone you desire to know better and have a deeper relationship with. It is a person about whom you one day say, “I cannot imagine living my life without that person in it.” Physical attraction plays a major role in that mystery of how two people come together in marriage, because there is a desire to want to be physically close to that person (i.e., sexual desire). That movement is what should make two people contact the local pastor of their church and make wedding plans.
Now the tricky part. Should you have this physical attraction immediately for you to know whether to continue seeing a person or not? The answer is no. In fact, many people do not have physical attraction kick in until the other attractive aspects of the person turn into something that makes you more attracted. In other words, spending time with a person is how deeper attraction grows, and that deeper attraction of the person’s qualities that are within and displayed in personality and character can spark (because of the mystery of love that comes from God) a physical attraction that was not there before.
Call it an “unveiling”. Everyone in a relationship (especially the woman) wants to feel like they are unique, special, one-of-a-kind. And when intimacy takes place (close friendship), this is in fact what happens. And for a man and a woman, becoming close friends naturally leads to a desire for more. But again, that desire for more often times is an awakening; a realization of something you did not know before; recognition of something you did not see before. The heart moves and speaks, and the eyes open to mystery that goes beyond mere material physical attributes. The physical attraction is now there. And it is unique to the two individuals.
That is what is so hard about objective physical beauty. How do they know when someone is “really and truly” interested in who they are, not just what they look like? It can be a real curse to be objectively beautiful. I have had solid Catholic women who are very gorgeous tell me heartbreaking stories of their difficulties finding true love.
And it makes sense. A gorgeous woman is attractive to “every” guy. So what? What does that tell her? What does that tell the guys? Only that nature is working. But it tells nothing of the mystery of love.
Attraction toward marriage is about a unique experience of two people for each other that does not desire an ending, but rather longs for what is next. Time tests this, and a mind open to people who come in our life that God sends is imperative. In addition, the prayerful work of dismantling any distorted approach we have to physical attraction is needed for many. Too many single people, especially men, have too dangerous of a tendency to make physical objective beauty the benchmark of their determination of another. This is a mistake!
So many have been surprised by love in their life with a person they came to discover they long to be with, and that the mystery of love’s movements stirring in the heart over time caused them to have physical attraction that perhaps was not there, or was not as strong as they would have liked.
Time is the answer. Give people “time” before you make a final conclusion about attraction. You might be surprised whom you discover is really in your midst. Your vocation to marriage may very well depend on this cautious approach to love.

Anthony Buono is the founder of For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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