Let’s say you’re dating the perfect man (or woman). He calls when he says he will. He takes you on interesting dates. He texts back in a flash. He’s kind, considerate, smart, a great personality. All your friends think it’s an excellent match; maybe they’re even borderline jealous that you scored such a person. And you laugh uncomfortably when they say it, because you think something must be wrong with you.
The problem? You’re just not totally attracted to this person. You enjoy your time. You feel you should be into them. But there’s some kind of chemistry disconnect. You can’t put your finger on what it is, exactly, but you’re not yet completely excited about the relationship.
My friends talk about this a lot. “How attracted do I need to be in the early days to keep going?” is the magic question. Looking around on online discussion boards, like Reddit, my group of friends is not the only one asking these questions. On Reddit full threads are devoted to questions like; “Great first date, no attraction; am I doing the right thing?”; “Dating someone when you don’t feel much physical attraction”; “Would you go out with someone you’re not attracted to?”; “Have you ever fallen in love with someone you weren’t attracted to at first? How’d that happen?”
This is a delicate matter, because attraction can grow. We’ve seen it with our friends’ relationships, and maybe older people in your family tout that very wisdom … but sometimes, attraction just doesn’t. And when you date someone knowing you weren’t really into it at the beginning, and you have to end it, you feel horrible; almost like you should have acted sooner and not caused a totally respectable person unnecessary hurt.
When you’re weighing whether or not you should move forward, ask yourself some questions.
What else has been going on in your life? (attraction killers / just wanting a relationship)
When it comes to attraction, two sets of circumstances can trip you up. First, sometimes, attraction to a person can be confused with desire for a relationship. In that case, you just might not feel it for someone — even though you really, really want to. That can be confusing. (Because you want to find love!) So, always ask yourself whether you just want someone, or you want this specific person.
Another issue that can stunt attraction is emotional distraction. Have you just been through a divorce or bad breakup? Have you been struggling at work, buried under stress? Have you just experienced a loss in the family? If so, you might need to clear your emotional slate before you can take on new feelings. In this case, be honest with the person you’re seeing.
How much do you like their personality?
I have seen attraction light up as time passes, where two people get to know each other better and really like how those feelings evolve. However, I have never seen “meh” attraction grow into something relationship-worthy unless the questioning person is very into their prospect’s personality. Most people are looking for a romantic partner who is also a close friend (if not best friend), and you typically choose a friend based on personality.
If you’re not sure if you’re into your dating prospect, ask yourself if you really enjoy your time with the person. Do you have similar senses of humor? Do you love to talk about the same things, but still find intriguing differences? Does time pass easily, too quickly almost? Look for someone with whom you have a great rapport. You want someone who “gets you.” That’s long-term attractive.
How long have you known this person?
It’s very common to not see someone romantically when you first meet them, and you’re still getting to know them. You haven’t seen them in various situations that might cause attraction to grow — like in a crisis, under stress, around other people. You’re probably mostly interacting one on one, in the best of circumstances (i.e., preplanned dates).
Let the person show more facets of themselves before dismissing them outright. Seeing someone’s emotional side, especially how they handle conflict, disappointment, support, encouragement — can boost attraction completely. Sometimes, it’s like a veil of hotness drops over their entire person. Allow for that.
Do they have things you deeply value?
Part of giving the relationship a little time to grow is to see if this person has things you deeply value, and vice versa (of course). What do you want that’s hard to find? What will help you grow as a person? Maybe it’s just the right sense of quirky humor, or a unique blend of paradoxical values. Or maybe it’s someone who has compatible knowledge or a complementary skill set; you’re the book-smart one, he’s the socially savvy one.
Over time, you’re going to realize how rare some connections are — but since we believe there should be a snap, crackle, pop! of connection right away, we forget to look at the bigger picture. I think of attraction like a trifecta; emotional attraction, intellectual attraction, and physical attraction. Intellectual builds the rapport, emotional keeps things stable, and physical provides the spark. Intellectual happens quickly, emotional takes time to see in full, and physical can be instant or arrive dead last.
Ultimately, it’s best not to commit to a relationship with someone until you feel attracted to the person completely. That said, it’s totally OK to date and see if connection and physical chemistry grow. Initial attraction is like the first chapter of a book. It’s the start of a story. It means something; you need to feel interested enough to want to read on. That said, some books start slower than others.
It’s completely possible for a book (or person) to pick up steam as you flip those pages and find out more. Give yourself, and the mysterious ways of attraction, a little time.
Jenna Birch is a journalist, a dating coach, and author of The Love Gap (Grand Central Life & Style, January 2018). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo every Monday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, send an email to [email protected] with “YAHOO QUESTION” in the subject line.