Relationship Advice: The Importance of Emotional Attraction
When you first meet someone, physical attraction plays a large role in whether you would be interested in dating and pursuing a deeper relationship. However, another type of attraction — emotional — is also just as important. While physical attraction may draw you to someone, emotional attraction is what makes you stay. Feeling emotionally attracted and connected to your partner is one of the key elements to sustaining a satisfying long-term relationship.
Emotional attraction means much more than sexually desiring your partner; it has to do with being drawn to their entire being. Relationship expert and Gottman Institute contributor Ellie Lisitsa describes it as being attracted to someone’s heart, mind, and dreams. “It means valuing them for who they are and what they stand for. While you may be sexually attracted to your partner’s physical appearance, developing deeper emotional attraction will make these feelings much stronger,” said Lisitsa.
When you are emotionally attracted to someone, this attraction moves beyond what you see and depends more on how you feel when you are in someone’s presence. There are four main ingredients that contribute to emotional attraction.
One component of emotional attraction that must be present is friendship. A strong friendship provides a foundation on which you and your partner can build a lasting relationship. Once the romantic feelings wane and physical attraction fades, this bond helps reinforce your relationship so that it doesn’t fall apart at the slightest hint of friction. Friendship creates a support system you can rely on when life’s stresses start to overwhelm you.
Regular communication can help diffuse the daily stressors that often find their way into a relationship. It’s important to talk to your partner and share the concerns that are affecting you. This helps strengthen the union and increases emotional attraction. Psychologist John Gottman recommends couples engage in daily stress-reducing conversation. This is because outside stressors have a way of depleting the emotional attraction within a relationship.
Gottman’s research also addresses the importance of making and accepting bids for connection. The way partners respond to a connection request either causes a couple to become closer (turning toward), drift further apart (turning against), or remain stagnant (turn away). The result of a successful bid for connection is that both partners feel seen, heard, desired, and loved. Whenever one or both partners says they feel the connection is gone, they are likely referring to missed opportunities to fulfill each other’s basic seeing, hearing, desire, and love needs. Over time, as these needs go unfulfilled, the partners become starved for affection, often leading to emotional withdrawal or an extramarital affair.
4. Sustaining emotional attraction
Relationship coach Ron Capocelli said it’s important to learn to read and respond to your partner’s emotional cues. Failing to do so can gradually lead to a relationship breakdown. Emotional attraction can be dampened or bolstered based on how you respond to your partner’s daily needs. There are five basic factors that can help strengthen this bond. Expressing your desire and attraction for your partner through physical touch, verbal affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and small gifts of appreciation can further enhance your emotional connection. Author Gary D. Chapman refers to these as love languages. In The 5 Love Languages, Chapman said:
[T]here are five emotional love languages — five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics, a language may have numerous dialects or variations. Similarly, within the five basic emotional love languages, there are many dialects. The number of ways to express love within a love language is limited only by one’s imagination. The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse. … Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse’s primary love language, I believe that you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage.
If you want to enjoy a love that lasts, work on nurturing both physical and emotional attraction. You’ll both feel fulfilled and experience a richer, deeper union.
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