Usually the first few minutes of contact between two people is enough to allow each person assess a physical attraction. As shallow as it may seem we all make this assessment with people of both sexes, young and old. However, upon meeting and getting to know the person, this attraction can either increase or decrease depending on how attractive we find their other attributes. These include sense of humour, kindness, intelligence, level of social status and whether or not we feel a connection.
But men and women tend to look for different things. Women are more likely to prioritise emotional intimacy while men tend to prefer sexual and experiential intimacy. “Intimacy is generally viewed differently by males and females in relationships, and this may impact on the development of it in a relationship due to the differing expectations. Women like to discuss emotions and are able to identify when their emotional needs are not being met, whereas men tend to be more pragmatic looking for solutions to problems as they occur.
Often two people can be physically attracted to each other but don’t emotionally connect. Connection, often referred to as chemistry, because adrenaline-like neurochemicals are released into the body, is one of the first steps towards intimacy. Another is mental stimulation. While you may be physically attracted to someone, do they stimulate you mentally? Mental stimulation is a factor that can help a friendship develop into intimacy but is also a factor that can help maintain the friendship within the relationship long term. A good sense of humour and equal or great intellectual ability are examples of what can stimulate the other person.
‘Opposites attract’ has been the old adage bandied about and repeated for generations, but is it no longer true? When we meet someone with similar interests, opinions and tastes, does it not endorse our own personality and in turn heighten our self esteem? Recent work challenges the ‘opposites attract’ approach claiming that individuals who are more alike will end up together creating a new ‘likes attract’ approach. This new research shows that if an individual rates him or herself high on physical attractiveness for example, then they will desire a partner who also scores high in that area.
In his best selling book ‘Getting the love you want – a guide for couples’, Harville Hendrix says when we meet we “size each other up as coolly as business executives contemplating a merger, noting each others physical appeal, financial status and social rank, as well as various personality traits such as kindness, creativity and sense of humour. With computer like speed we tally up each others scores and if the numbers are roughly equivalent the trading bell rings and the bidding begins”. He calls this the ‘exchange theory’. He says that we select mates who are more or less our equals. As we are attracted to those who make us feel good many of us also like those who simply like us and make an effort to get to know us.
Not all relationships are meant to last forever but every relationship will help you grow and learn more about yourself. The one relationship that will last forever is your relationship with yourself. Nurture this and watch all your other relationships flow.