How important is physical attraction?

attractionWhen I saw her, I was immediately attracted to her. She was in the back of the bus. Blonde, naturally curly hair. Yellow spring jacket. Bright eyes. Perfect smile. Years later, married, with two kids, I still find her strikingly beautiful (not to mention the myriad of other ways I find her attractive).

As a pastor, I have weekly conversations with people eager to be in a relationship. Amongst other topics, physical attraction is often discussed. To my surprise, in many of these situations, the words would hardly qualify as fawning. Rather it seems to be quite the opposite. There is a lack of physical attraction.

It goes like this:

Two people click. They click spiritually. They click emotionally. They have fun with one another. Their backgrounds are healthy and their futures look bright. Their friends and families see it as a fit. But it lacks that “spark.” There isn’t a click with physical attraction.

If I hear something once I will forget it. If I hear it a second time I might make note of it. But I have experienced this more than a dozen times in recent memory.

It surprises me.  

Do you have any thoughts on why this could be? Has this always been the case? Could there be some cultural factors at play? Do we put to high an emphasis on physical attraction?

I’d be eager to hear from couples too. How important was an initial physical attraction in your relationship?

Question: How important is physical attraction?

Posted on by Cor in LIFE

30 Responses to How important is physical attraction?

  1. Brittany Sprague

    When I first met Ben (my now husband) he was the older senior guy and I was the freshman. I didn’t think of him as a potential boyfriend/husband, and his attractiveness really wasn’t even something I contemplated. We became friends, he later asked me to date him and I turned him down-There were several reasons why yet I don’t remember “I’m not attracted” being on the list. At the very least it wasn’t the main reason. I don’t think the ‘spark’ really happened in our relationship until much later-when I began to consider him as a potential husband a year or so later. We had been friends for near two years at that point. Once I started to think of him as a potential man-to-marry I was TOTALLY attracted, but I knew his character, his personality, the way he treated others, etc.-which all factored into my perception of him. My conclusion? Stud. Now, being married two and half years, I’d say that attraction continues to grow as I know him more. He’s a man among men.

    All that to say, I DO think it an important element in a relationship. I dont think a couple should get married if they aren’t physically attracted to each other. That would be a sad marriage. But based on most of the conversations I’ve had or been a side participant in, Men and women a like seem to set somewhat unrealistic standards for themselves and others on what that means. Then, based on these warped assumptions, determine if a relationship should progress based on those standards. This seems to lead to a lot of insecurity by both parties and a lack of pursuing each other.

    Ben would say he immediately thought I was ‘cute.’ Perhaps it is much more of an issue immediately for men than for women? I dont want to throw guys under the bus for saying “Yes, I hear you-but I NEED to be attracted.” I agree with them. You do need to be, she’s your potential bride and will have to be your standard of Beauty for life. Same for Women-You need to find him as your standard. So, digging his/her looks on the get-go may be important. I suppose my question would be how we define attraction. Are we looking for a physical image that causes us to get jittery and twitterpated the minute we lay eyes? A love at first site? And if that doesn’t happen we move on? Is that the best way? I think that’s what our culture would say we should look for. In my case, I’m glad i didn’t base it on that-or I would have lucked out big time.

    • Brittany Sprague

      Just re-reading your post and I realize you give an example of someone who HAS gone through a friendship and still lacks that spark. Id say there may be a heart issue-perhaps unhealthy standards of what beauty is-but it may just be that She/He isn’t the one. Id say, as a blanket reply-if you don’t have attraction, then it isn’t a good idea to be in a relationship. No girl wants to be with a guy that doesn’t think she’s beautiful. I assume the same for guys. I’d just really examine the heart as to what about her or him isn’t attractive, especially if EVERYTHING seems to line up except the attraction.

      • Vicki

        Completely agree with this 100%. Well said.

  2. Steve

    I think the situation has ben complicated by the ubiquitous sexually suggestive pictures that bombard our culture. From a young age, people are shown images or see people of the opposite sex in varous states of undress and are able to say, “that’s what I like,” or “I don’t like that so much,” thereby objectifying other people. So if we find someone that is such a good fit in so many ways, but doesn’t fit the mold we’ve created in our mind of the physically perfect woman or man, it changes our viewpoint of that person. I think that physical attraction is important, but it has been informed for us by all that we’ve seen (and that which we should not have seen). Now a breast or a bicep captures for us what an eye or a smile could have otherwise.

    I think people may be able to overcome these skewed standards of attraction, but I think it takes a lot of purposeful thought and intention (rewiring the brain on what is attractive). Certainly there needs to be a rejection or removal of any competing stimuli that might substantiate problematic standards(read: beach visits, pornography, style magazines, etc.) Otherwise it can create problems in the relationship later.

  3. Andrew

    “How important is physical attraction?” – Since God made our bodies, gaves us eyes to see those bodies and himself speaks of beauty and pleasure… I have to believe physical attraction is part of the mix.

    That said, we live in a specific time, place and culture with many versions of beauty which don’t necessarily reflect God’s good design. I know it affects me. In some ways its probably okay. In others, not so much.

    “How important was initial physical attraction in your relationship?” – Prior to marriage I was physically attracted to my wife before we started dating but after we met. That is to say, we knew one another and had a friendship long before dating. For me, the total package was what attracted me. As I learned more about her as a person I was more attracted to her body. And vice versa. .. In a totally appropriate for unmarried people kind of way :)

  4. Vicki

    I have been doing a lot of reading on dating and singleness and differences between men and women lately. One over arching theme is that for men attraction starts with physical, then comes intellectual, then emotional and finally spiritual. For women the order is intellectual, emotional, physical and then spiritual attraction. In my own life I have seen this play out over and over. I have found men attractive physically but as soon as they open their mouths, they become ugly. And men who I have not found physically attractive suddenly become HOT once I get to know their hearts.

    To echo Brittany, I think it would be a very sad marriage if there was no physical attraction. God gave us these physical desires and attractions. Why shouldn’t we embrace it? I think one of the reasons so many couples in the church get to the point that Cor described is because the church has done such a good job of suppressing sexuality and sexual attraction. We’ve been training ourselves and our kids to suppress physical attraction and that if the other 3 areas are perfectly aligned then the physical attraction will eventually show up.

    I wonder what would happen if we (the church) started embracing the natural order in which God created us – to embrace what HE created us to be. Perhaps couples would be more passionate and more marriages would survive and the divorce rate in the church – or in the unchurched – wouldn’t be so high!

    For those interested I have been reading, “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldridge, Mars and Venus on a Date by Dr. John Gray, Emotionally Health Spirituality by Peter and Geri Scazzero. Wild at Heart by John Eldridge is the men’s counterpart to Captivating.

    • Heidi

      Thanks for the book suggestions, Vicki! (I think you and I are living parallel lives at Hope, learning about dating, singleness, and the church!)

      • Vicki

        Heidi – we probably are! The journey God has me on has shown me that just about every confident and amazing woman I know and have met has the same struggles as me! I’m currently going through “Emotionally Health Spirituality” by Peter and Geri Scazzero!

        I’d offer to grab a coffee with you sometime, but sadly I live in Michigan! Hope was my home for the 8 years I lived in MN and will always be my home church though! But you can always email me if you want! nicholsvj@gmail.com

    • Valerie

      I would also recommend “Mars and. Venus in the bedroom”. Matt and. I read it together during our first year of marriage and it was awesome. Ironically, the church and women’s bible study I am part of is very open about sex. In fact, it was in my bible study I first heard of the idea of a sex jar. :). But I do think that in an attempt to keep people pure until marriage the Church can sometimes start to demonize sex or make it seek unimportant.

  5. Dave Nelson

    Cor – I’m very curious: of the “dozen” or so times that this has recently happened for you, how many of the times was it the man who said he wasn’t attracted physically?

    Tim Keller points out in “The Meaning of Marriage” (which is an awesome book, you should all drop everything and go read it right now) that men tend to overvalue physical attractiveness in a potential mate and women tend to overvalue financial stability.

    So anyway, to answer your questions, I’d agree that we (men) tend to put too high a value on physical attractiveness, and I think while it’s always somewhat been the case (see Jacob with his desire for Rachel over Leah), I do think the ever present media images in our society make the problem worse as they constantly present airbrushed images of models, as Steve pointed out. But I guess I’d be surprised if women do this very much. Women seem to usually be attracted much more to men based on intangible qualities. That’s of course a generalization, but I’d be extremely surprised to hear a woman say she liked a guy spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise but just wasn’t interested because she didn’t like the looks of a guy.

    And on the flip side, it kind of surprises me that you’d hear much from men on this because I think they’d refuse to go out with a girl in the first place if they didn’t find her physically attractive. Men kind of are famously reluctant to be set up on blind dates – at least without a picture – but perhaps you’re talking about 2 people who met in a circle of friends but perhaps never went on formal dates.

    • Cor

      It has gone both ways. Slanted in favor of the men like you presume. But still hearing it from both genders.

  6. Steven Macks

    There is a glaring issue with this question: we aren’t self -aware enough to really be able to say what weight our subconscious gives each factor. I know I have many filters that help me identify potential mates, but I cannot say which one gets the most weight. I could not date a woman I didn’t find attractive; I also couldn’t date a woman I didn’t find to be kind, either.
    So what is the factor that separates women I find to be objectively beautiful but would not want to date from those I find intensely attractive — even if they may be somewhat less physically attractive? There’s no clear, immediate answer.
    Certainly there are some men (and women… Come on, ladies: Channing Tatum doesn’t get film roles because he can act) who have unrealistic standards of beauty. But I don’t think this is widely true. And I don’t think many of us are really capable of differentiating which elements caused what level of attraction.

  7. Anonymous

    This is a conversation that frustrates me to no end.

    Can it go to extremes?

    YES!!!

    Does attraction matter?

    YES!!!

    Is it different for men and women?

    YES!!!

    at the single men’s Ed. hour several senior men in the church including an elder all told us that they found their wives attractive when they met them.

    What can the pastors do? Step one, listen without putting yourself onto people. Maybe you were holding out for miss America. Maybe you do have a porn problem. Maybe you are a “victim of society” or, “a product of your times”. That doesn’t mean that everyone is.

    Women look to their guy to be defined. Some want the “jock”, some want the “band guy” some want the “nice guy”, etc.

    But, for some reason we can’t celebrate our differences. I told my mentor about a girl I was attracted to once. He told me he never noticed her until I said I was into her. C’mon. Its okay, actually preferred if you think she’s hideous.

    As far as what guys like? Again, I’m disappointed in lack of taking a stand for individuality. There has been innumerable times where someone tried to peer pressure me into dating a woman. Which, is met with logic. “Oh, that’s great that you’re into her. I will be a good wing-man and do things that might help you find favor with her.” What do girls have control over? Since I’m posting as anonymous, you can be honest with yourself and your friends about your bodies. Perfect? No. There is no such thing, different men have different tastes. But, try to maintain a healthy weight, don’t look to ridiculous fashion to feel pretty. Don’t judge your looks on how you feel. And, take relationships seriously in your youth.

  8. Anonymous

    After psoting, I was trying to think about how to be more helpful in my posts. Maybe if we could be honest about needs vs. wants in a relationship.

    Has anyone read about the choister effect?

    “Today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings approach life and love very differently than past generations. The explosion of choices now available has impacted our desires and expectations, and led us to reconsider traditional decisions. Young men and women are increasingly reluctant to make the ultimate commitment and get married, and much of
    that is due to all the other glittery options out there competing for our attention – friends, professional success, 30 Rock, the people in the world you haven’t yet dated.”

    http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/06/09/choice-effect-why-are-you-single/

  9. Bhavya

    Instead of quoting my thoughts let me share my experience:
    We knew each other for 5 years…. we were connected emotionally, intellectually, spiritually..Our values, lifestyle, dreams all matched. We enjoyed each other’s company. We started dating but I was not physically attracted to him..thus our relationship didn’t head anywhere. We broke up in few months…now we realize that it’s best to be friends.
    So I believe if all connects well between 2 people it’s also very very important that both are passionately attracted physically to each other in-order to go ahead and have an amazing married life.

  10. anonymous the second

    Of course attraction is important! On that point, I can echo everyone above. But, also echoing, there is so much emphasis on it that I think a lot of people are missing out on meeting great other people because of it. Yes, I’ve met men who haven’t been superattractive, but if we started talking and they had a brain…or a sense of humor…or we just clicked…well, suddenly the attractiveness factor shot way up. I’m sad to admit that I have definitely mentally written people off before getting to know them, and that’s even more shameful because I feel like I have experienced it on my end, and there’s no reason for me to do the same to someone else. As a side note, let me add a piece of practicality: Many times in my life (at least twenty I can think of) when I have been hanging out with another woman (or a small group of women) in which she is exceptionally attractive, we have ALWAYS been approached by men who just want to say hello. Most of them pay attention only to her. None of them ever want to “just say hello” when it’s just me. There is nothing to kill your own feeling of attractiveness like impromptu scientific study that, indeed, repeats its sad results over and over. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, but I would like to say this: scrap that picture of “perfect” because it doesn’t exist; treat people like people and you’ll be surprised at the treasures you might find. And if you ever, ever greet a member of the opposite sex, pay attention to his/her friends at that moment, even if it’s just saying hi, making eye contact, etc.

    • Anonymous

      Hi fellow anon,

      I don’t think its bad if instantly write someone off that you find physically repulsive.

      But, if you walk into the community room on Sunday, and see two guys that are Abercrombie models, and everyone else instantly isn’t good enough, that’s a problem.

      If there’s a guy who looks like Mick Jager, (who, I guess Ke$ha is into, a lid for every pot I guess?) and the thought of him without a shirt on gives you a cold shiver, I think its okay to write him off.

      As far as your friend, and the situation you speak of, I have been the guy in that situation many times. You admit something that is very key.

      “she is exceptionally attractive, we have ALWAYS been approached by men who just want to say hello. Most of them pay attention only to her. None of them ever want to “just say hello” when it’s just me. There is nothing to kill your own feeling of attractiveness”

      I like feeling attractive, everyone does. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. I think that we can make an idol out of our emotions and emotional satiation. This will lead us to the sin of jealousy. There are some exceptionally attractive women who are Christians. Some of them even complain of not having a mate. Much of the time their “friends” are playing gate keeper to get fulfilled emotionally.

      We should be able to celebrate the good things God has put into our lives. Are you happy for your friend that she has physical beauty? I have many times (I’d even venture more often then not) met a group of girls and found one to be more physically attractive. But, if given time to get to know her and her friends, have found another of the group of friends to be a better complete package. This never happens when there’s a bitter girl in a huff sulking in the corner. Sure, if the guy was super Suave he’d know not to go into it with tunnel vision, and be a bit more considerate of her friends. But, there is a place for managing your emotions and being gracious. If you want men to not judge you and write you off solely on a physical basis, you might have to show similar consideration with social faux pas.

      • anonymous the second

        Wow, okay, my comment was not supposed to come across as though written from the sulking corner. In real life, I’m not at all the type of woman you describe (it’s a bit appalling to be thought of as one who can’t manage her emotions and be gracious, but heck, it’s the internet; maybe I deserved it.). Of course I’m glad for my friend, and of course I’d also be lying to pretend I’m immune to jealousy now and then. That wasn’t the point I was getting at, however.

        I meant that I (and not just I, but lots of great Christian friends who are pretty but are not the most attractive people in the room) often feel lost in the shuffle–and while we DON’T respond by turning bitter, there’s still hurt inherent in the way we are treated by others, especially Christian brothers. What does a child begin to believe about himself when he’s constantly picked last to play a game? What does a woman begin to believe about herself when she enters a college Sunday school class and no one says hello, yet all the guys make a point of introducing themselves to the new hot girl who enters a minute later? This is a deep pain I have talked about with other young women over and over again, woman who have certainly been considerate of unintended rudeness but still hear subtle messages about their worth based on a man’s posture toward them, his indifference to or complete rejection of them based on nothing except the fact that they happen to be in the same room with someone more attractive. This is NOT primarily about jealousy. It is about worth, which can’t be based on man’s opinion but is, sadly, too often informed by it. Since I don’t know how to write anymore in a way that won’t seem like it’s overflowing from a festering wound, I’m going to stop writing on and on and reiterate my original point: Be willing to get to know someone beyond their face. Be open. Be kind. Let the lenses of expectation widen further than you might normally be comfortable with.

        • Valerie

          I think you both are talking about two different situations. The confusion I had was that when you described hanging out…I pictured social scenes. Parties, restaurants, etc. In those situations, first impressions are huge. But in your second comment it seems you were talking about recurring events: Bible studies, church, etc. If you see the same people every week and still ignore people you find “less attractive” that’s a different situation.

          For me attraction is in two stages. There is the eye candy..people I find attractive. Physically they look nice…they improve the scenery. ;). But I have different qualifications for people I was attracted to. That went much deeper. This was mentioned before but as you get to know someone they will become more or less attractive based on what they are like. My husband happened to be both for me,,,but he went from cute guy to sizzling sexy man because of how awesome he was. If that makes sense.
          My only other comment is cliche and so take it with a grain of salt. Guys who ignore you week after week in favor of your friend aren’t worth your time. It’s cliche to say so, but doesn’t make it any less true. But it doesn’t make it any easier to believe either.

  11. Sara

    I’ve heard Steve use the phrase, “Let your spouse become your standard of beauty,” which has given me a lot of peace on the subject of attraction. Beauty fades, so even if you are 100% attracted to your spouse at the alter, what about 30 years later? I totally believe that God can use, mold, and shift your idea of attraction, that it is not a static thing.
    So, yes, I think attraction is important. But I think God can shape that.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for bringing up a common female worry Sara.

      If its okay for guys to have physical attraction as a criteria for dating and marriage, what about when she’s 60? This is a logical question. The answer came today while talking to a friend of mine, now in his 30s who was 21 when he married his wife after her freshman year of college. They were both virgins at the altar, and talked of the emotional attachment that happens during sex. How many people get into a bad relationship, but can’t leave because of the attachment?

      I think if most men in their sixties were brutally honest, they’d say that women in their late teens and early twenties are the most physically attractive objectively. But, after growing together for 40 years, you’re not going to betray your aged wife if you’re both growing spiritually, and have a good marriage. Also, men’s testosterone levels drop as we age. So, the horny 19 y/o guy that’s all about the physical won’t be as much when his wife doesn’t have it anymore. I looked up Proverbs 5 tonight. It pretty much predicts the consequences of the sexual revolution and the baby boom generation. Definitely worth a read.

      • Valerie

        My parents have been married for 32 years. They went through all kinds of crap, Broke for 12 of those years, two drug rehabs, a relapse, losing jobs, homes, etc. One comment my dad made was this: “After all these years together, and all we’ve been through, no one knows me better or is more easy to be around than her. She can take the hours in an airplane (they were traveling a long ways for a vacation) and make it a joy”
        I have found after 9 years of marriage this is true. No one else knows all my strengths and weaknesses. No one else knows my little quirks. We just drove 32 hours in a car with three kids under the age i0of 5 and it was enjoyable.
        So sure, the puppy love disappears but if you’ve really taken the time to invest in that relationship you end up with an attraction that is so much deeper.

  12. Tim L

    All right, here’s my go. And hold on, because I found this to be the more constructive activity tonight as opposed to watching football.

    So…

    I’d be surprised for any couple if physical attraction didn’t factor in for both parties involved in the relationship, and would also probably find out how to get a hold of John Connor for non-human investigation.

    Come on, people. Men and women were MADE to be physically attracted to each other. That’s why we never find ourselves (no matter how great of a personality they might have) attracted to rocks.

    But in all seriousness, I’m thankful God made men and women different in their own beautiful ways. To keep my reasons simple (and also cliche): Opposites attract. Or rather they fit better with each other (like a puzzle).

    Still on the fence whether this includes the physical aspect?

    Ever wonder why, as far as comfortability goes, it sucks to sit guy-guy-guy in the back of a taxi instead of gal-guy-gal or (if she’s feeling adventurous) guy-gal-guy?

    Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best example to prove my point, especially if you’re not that keen on ride share (can I get an “AMEN!” from all you Taco Bell enthusiasts?).

    The point is that both genders were MADE FOR each other in EVERY regard. And we should celebrate that (appropriately). The main point for going about it is to not let the physical and outward aspect of everything be the main driver in your quest (for a lack of better word, since I’m tired and still reeling from the end of the Vikings’ season) for “true love” (or whatever Zale’s is calling it…).

    The main filter is that, if outward appearance and looks are ONLY things you’re going on, then life usually sorts that all out through how peoples’ personalities are wired.

    (Me? I’m decidedly introverted, and that is a MAJOR factor in almost every aspect of my life and decision I make. But that is another completely different subject to save for later.)

    So no, I don’t think to be attracted to someone physically is wrong and it shouldn’t necessarily be written off.

    I’m guessing, Cor, that those who said it wasn’t a factor were probably modest about their spouse and weren’t thinking about it.

    I mean, no one wants to sound shallow. This is especially so when they are trying to tailor how they speak about their spouse in front of a PASTOR… or really even their local Home Depot sales team member.

    “My wife has a GREAT [reciprocating saw].”

    WOAH. Dial it back, buddy. Maybe lay off the ultra-superficial next time (but bonus points if she’s from Milwaukee).

    Commending your wife’s stellar physique isn’t discouraged, guys. However, I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you mentioned it to HER, as opposed to your recreational softball team.

    For example…

    “Is what I’m wearing draw too much attention to my [tile grout]?”

    Correct answer: The answer doesn’t necessarily have to be “yes” or “no” (tread lightly when deciding which one). But if it doesn’t include anything with the words “you” and “beautiful” and a positively reinforcing verb in between, you should just exit the room and go work on your coloring book.

    Hey, since we’re talking about talking-up our spouses or, in my case, future spouses…

    Would it be against the rules of the comment section if I made an outlandish declaration? Okay, maybe it’s not THAT outlandish, if you know me as a person (and it is the internet, after all). But let’s give this a whirl…

    MY FUTURE WIFE IS GOING TO BE SMOKIN’ HOT.

    (We’ll pause for all of you who were scrolling down to the bottom whose eye I just caught to scroll back up to actually read the comments.)

    “Hey. WOAH, Tim,” you may say. “There’s no need to get all Pentecostal in a mostly baptist internet blog comment section. What HAS this world come to?”

    Geez, people. I didn’t plan on digging myself a hole without having a way out. Good thing I wasn’t talking about [reciprocating saws]…

    I’ve made that statement various other times (once, someone thought I said “pot”), and I’m usually given the judgmental look as if I’m just as shallow and superficial on the planet, and in the most unjustifiable way possible, if we’re talking about “eye pleasing” physical appearance.

    Sure, I’ll I’m not the “best looking” (no matter what standards you base your judgement). And I’m not quite the physical specimen I used to be before my knee started to degenerate. And what I think is “fashion sense” probably would only work in 1970’s Portugal.

    And, on top of it all, I’m probably even more messed-up beyond what catches the eye.

    I get it.

    Usually, the progression of my friends (male and female) usually goes something like…

    1) Judgement of the outward appearance (“EWWW. Are those KNEE SOCKS?”).
    2) Realization that I am, in fact, a semi-decent human being (“OK. So this guy is all right.”).
    3) Realization that I am, at best, a semi-decent human being (“Wait. This guy has PROBLEMS?”).

    At this point, they have two options in determining the progression of our friendship…

    1) Should I stay?
    2) Should I go?
    3) Could I ever really stand to let you go?

    Okay, that third one shouldn’t be in there. But you get it, right?

    Remember the movie Shrek? Of course you do. Half-decent movie that put Dreamworks on the map in 2001 (although they pulled a Disney and made a few horrible sequels)? Yeah, you know it.

    Anyways, there’s a well-known (to me, at least) dialogue between Shrek and Donkey talking about layers of a person (or rather, an ogre in this fairy tale’s case), and I sometimes compare myself to an ogre (SHUT UP!), with an edit to the conversation.

    “Ogres are like onions.”

    “They stink?”

    (Here’s where I drop-in.)

    “Yes. And as you peel-off the layers, you discover more about it, and that it is more beautiful and complex of a plant than what you would see on the outside. However, it still stinks.”

    Obviously, as evident in my eloquent word-usage, I should write screenplays.

    “Okay… Layers… What does that have to do with anything?”

    Seriously? Metaphors. I, like anyone else, has layers to their appearance and personality. Some peoples’ are more complex than others. I like to consider myself on the far end of the complexity spectrum… and not necessarily in a good way.

    Remember? I stink.

    So for ANY potential wife, they have to get past, put up with, and CARE for ALL of that onion-ness that I am. To me, that’s beauty. And if I’m not attracted to that woman in EVERY WAY, then there is something wrong with me, and I give you the freedom to slap my future self.

    So bringing us back to the original statement…

    I (admittedly) largely say that for the shock value, in that I mean “smokin’ hot” as “extraordinarily beautiful.” So I guess a reasonable amount of the point I try to make gets lost in translation. And that’s where the explanation usually begins.

    So let’s rephrase it: “To me, the woman I eventually end up marrying will be the most beautiful woman in the world in every way possible, and no one else will compare.”

    In summary…

    (Why on earth did you bother reading all of this stupid “comment”? You could have just read this last part.)

    There’s no harm in factoring in physical attraction when finding special gff or bff (make sure they’re not married already). Just don’t let that be the only factor (e.g. if she/he is a extremely self-confident model, then there MIGHT be some personality clash). If you have found someone who exemplifies true beauty then you will have no shame in bragging about them (appropriately in public) and calling them…

    SMOKIN’ HOT.

  13. Heidi

    “So, yes, some people are going to pass you over for others. But, as anonymous the second alluded to, you’re hypocritical if you do not allow others to reject you, but still reject others.” Oh, man, so true. Thank you for sharing this!

  14. Ruth

    I wanted to make this anonymous, but will be brave. :)

    “That’s why we never find ourselves attracted to rocks.” Haha!!

    I think what you have heard could be the downside to a good thing. Christ followers might be striving to look beyond the physical, which is temporary, to see the real spirit within people. We also might recognize that looks fade. Finally, we take to heart the instruction to let love grow. I think these are good phenomena, and they may show how people are spiritually-minded, realistic, and visionary. However, it may works well with some balance to remember we are also human and attraction is part of God’s plan to have us be together. It isn’t everything–and I know there are marriages around the world between people who did not have attraction (or possibly not even the opportunity to develop attraction) but have developed a partnership and are honoring God through their marriages.

    I recently read “Boy Meets Girl,” which is the follow-up to “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” (My complete recommendation on this book is mixed.) The author talks A LOT about the right character, history, trajectory, that your potential partner should have. I think he mentions just a couple of times that attraction should be part of it. As a result of this lack of emphasis, it does not seem to be as important in the mix. However, when he does mention it, it is in a “duh, obviously” kind of way. Could it be so easy for us to gloss over that important factor when we are seeking diligently to focus on the real, true, and lasting things in relationships?

    Some random thoughts…

    – There are people who I have felt compatibility with and where lack of physical attraction was maybe the main thing that stopped something from growing, at least in my mind. However, there were also other things in place that might have been obstacles.
    – How attractive someone seems for me often changes upon knowing them better. If you have an amazing heart for God and you talk about concretely going after God in your life… that is going to be HUGELY ATTRACTIVE. If you apply it, WHOA. If you hang out with your grandma… put others above yourself… ditto…
    – I can count on my hand the number of people who have had that WOW ATTRACTION effect on me. Enough to know that it exists.
    – I have never met one of those people and then had an attraction to their internal self follow.
    – I have never met someone where literally everything except the physical side lined up, but I am inclined to think that in that case, if God willed it, the attraction would come. It really is based on so many things other than looks. If I’m crying and I need a hug then I won’t even have my eyes open, so will it even matter? If I am remembering how you supported and led me (or whatever, insert your preference here), won’t that spiritual vision occupy my mind more than something physical that is in front of me? (Married people, is this idealistic?)
    – “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” One day, our spouse may not be attractive by worldly standards. However, through continual renewal of our mind to God’s standards, and some intentional thoughts and actions on our part, we can continue to find them attractive. For example, I have seen my attraction to people wane and grow depending on how I think about them.
    – I have known people for a year or more and then, out of the blue, been attracted to them. Okay, this has only happened once. I believe nothing will come from it. But it really made me sit up mentally, thinking of the human capacity for emotion and attention and change. This reinforced my trust that God can change us if he really has a plan for us to be with someone.
    – I think God is faithful to bring what is needed to any relationship, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan and pay attention to cues that he has given us to know his will and know what is good.
    – Bringing that together, I think the ideal is that my spouse would be someone who was on my “one-hand WHOA OMG list” but also had the qualities that would merit disregard of the physical.

  15. Ruth

    To clarify… I define attraction sort of broadly. I think you can objectively find someone attractive without being attracted to them and so I was also talking about that…

    I also mentioned people who have had a “WOW ATTRACTION” impact when I saw them. To clarify from the previous point to this, which deals with spiritual beauty, this one is only referring to physical appearance…

    I feel like I am a little bit lost at describing how things work in a long-term relationship/marriage, but hopefully this conversation is helping some others to clarify their thoughts as it is helping me.

  16. Bryan Freeman

    Really appreciate your post on this topic Cor. It’s seldom talked about so directly but seems to come up often. For those who want more on the topic, I’d recommend this discussion on singleness by Tim and Kathy Keller: http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/sermonlist/237. (Note that there’s a bit of frank discussion about masturbation at the beginning, and after that it gets directly into singleness, dating, and attraction.) It’s one of the few times I’ve heard a pastor try to address this question from a biblical perspective. I think there’s a lot here that is spot on.

    What does Scripture say about physical attraction? I’m sure others can add to the mix, but two different ideas come to mind: (1) per Proverbs 31, a spouse’s primary beauty is in his/her fear, reverence, and love for the Lord–a concept that is consistent with Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians 5; (2) per Genesis 2 and Song of Songs (i.e., ch. 4) sex is good and a spouse’s attraction his his/her mate (including physical attraction) is a good thing. Thus, I think we have to put (1) and (2) in our proverbial pipe and smoke them at the same time.

    I do keep asking myself though, if the goal of marriage is for a man and a woman to be ministry partners and show off God and the gospel in relationship (Keller likes to call it “gospel reenactment”), what does physical attraction have to do with that exactly? Could it be that the gospel changes us in a way that (2) above follows after (1)? As Jesus and the gospel become more and more attractive, should that not shape what we find beautiful in others? As a married guy, I will say that the more I live married life and the more my wife and I try to pursue God together, the more I am attracted to my wife for things have nothing at all to do with physicality.

    I admittedly come at this from the cheap seats, but however we do business with God on this issue, it seems like an arena in which it is awfully easy to both communicate and receive messages inconsistent with the gospel–that God loved us when we were at our most unattractive.

  17. Roger Messner

    Freeman For The Win!

    Is physical attraction important? Certainly.

    Should it be the bedrock of a relationship? Certainly not.

  18. Joey

    Is physical attraction important? Certainly.

    Should it be the bedrock of a relationship? Certainly not.

    That’s fantastic! It sums up this discussion very nicely.

    My wife and I weren’t attracted to one another when we met. We weren’t repulsed by one another by any stretch, it just wasn’t love at first sight, or even lust at first sight. This goes for both physical and personal characteristics.

    We’ve been married for almost 6 years now and yes, we’re physically attracted to one another.

    But guess what? We’re also physically attracted to other people!

    We’re also attracted to other characteristics in other people. My wife isn’t the only person who is compassionate, funny, friendly, has a servant’s heart, challenges me, etc. Other people have plenty of qualities that I find attractive in my wife.

    Being attracted to something in someone other than my wife doesn’t make me want to leave my wife. I can even think that another person is funnier, in better shape, or more compassionate than my wife. That still isn’t enough to put my marriage on the rocks.

    When I think of Pastor Steve’s “standard of beauty,” which has been referred to a couple of times in other comments here, I don’t think only of physical beauty. I think of the whole package. I think all we usually see in that comment is physical beauty, but I’m not sure that’s what’s intended.

    My wife’s physical standard of beauty does not need to be a bald guy for her to be attracted to me. It’s okay for her to think another guy with hair is more physically attractive than me!

    So yes, physical attraction matters, but as part of the whole package. Physical attraction is far from absent in my relationship with my wife, so I can’t say that it doesn’t matter at all. But it wasn’t even an afterthought for either of us when we met, so I don’t think that initial “spark” is necessary for it to develop, and I hardly think you need to get to a point where you find no one else more attractive than your significant other before you can agree to marry them.

    (I realize that everyone has different temptations, levels of security, relationship needs, and things that make them tick. My experience may not be applicable to all situations. Others may need to feel that their spouse really thinks they’re the hottest thing that ever happened to planet earth. That just doesn’t line up with my experience.)

  19. Anonymous Couple

    Interesting comments, I like Ruth’s especially. Here’s the perspective from this long-term wedded couple. Him: Very important, and he would say so if he’s honest. Her: For marriage? Very important, unless they never plan to get phys or have kids the traditional way. Those could both be sad circumstances.
    On another note, for us, we do also try to be and maintain, as much as possible, what we know is most phys. attractive to each other. Being each others’ standard doesn’t mean that we just let ourselves go even after a decade has passed.
    It’s not clear what was not phys attractive in the scenarios above — Hygiene? Physical features? Gait? It seems that most things physical can be changed these days if that was really the only obstacle. But that’s probably not the point here – maybe the concern is the prevailing idea that physical and worldly things should not be so important to Christians in general?
    I also agree with the comments that differentiated physical beauty from phys attraction. There are certainly other factors in attraction. For example, there was an interesting study where, for some men, women that smiled were considered more attractive than those that did not, even if their actual features were not considered to be as beautiful. If you don’t think personality is entirely separate from such physical manifestations, it could be hard to comprehend everything else lining up except phys. attraction.

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