What Is Romantic Attraction How To Recognize And Better Understand It

Updated October 8, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The phrase "I'm not attracted to anyone, but not asexual either" may initially seem confusing. But, as we delve into the concept of different types of attraction, it can begin to make more sense.

Romantic attraction is complicated, figuring it out is not always easy, but know that you are not alone in these emotions and questions! One great place to start to digest romantic emotions you may be feeling is in therapy, here a counselor can help you understand your emotions, behaviors, and actions. Other than that, a therapist can help you find ways to empower yourself to live the life you want to live.

Romance is something that has been so prevalent in our society, and yet many still don't understand how to demonstrate romantic love. The media portrays it one way, with two lovey-dovey couples whose relationships survive all odds, while in real life, it's a little more complicated than that.

Whether you're a teen or even an adult, it's hard to figure out if your feelings for someone are truly romantic, if you just have a meaningless crush on someone, or if you're just sexually attracted to them. Many people use their heart to guide them through life. Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference between sexual and romantic attraction, and knowing them can help you navigate your thoughts and feelings better, analyze what those past relationships meant, and develop your personal growth into a healthy relationship.

I Don't Know If I'm Romantically Attracted Them

Read on for some elucidation on several fun questions. While we can't get in your head to know for sure if you're experiencing romantic attraction, we hope to educate you so you can make better decisions about your relationships by learning about the two main types of attraction that people can experience, starting with romantic attraction. 

What Is Romantic Attraction?

Romance is a complex subject, and we could do an entire article on the definition alone because there is a spectrum. Generally speaking, it is not often depicted accurately in the average reality tv show or some dating advice blogs. Romantic attraction is when you have a deep, emotional attraction to an individual of any gender. Humans are known for having emotional bonds with people, such as a best friend or other strong personal relationships, but the romantic attraction is beyond that. It's in our nature. You connect with the person, such as with deep conversations. You are yearning for them. There is a huge sense of adoration, infatuation and fondness with the other person.  You are on the same page with emotional support. You're willing to stay with them for the rest of your life. If there is trouble in your relationship, you're going to try to fix it as much as you can. It can feel like you are soul mates.

The language is similar, but this is not to be confused with sexual attraction. Many individuals think they're romantically attracted to someone when in reality, they're just sexually attracted. Crushes happen when you start to feel a sense of romantic or sexual attraction to someone else. Romantic attraction can happen with any gender, but it usually happens with the gender you’re normally sexually attracted to or desire close relationships with.

What Is Sexual Attraction?

As you probably guessed from the name, sexual attraction is when your attraction to someone is based on sexual desires, better known as lust. Your sexual orientation is the gender you are attracted to sexually. 

This isn't to say that you can't get along; you can be good friends with the people you have sex with. However, the emotional bond, the feeling of wanting to be with them for as long as possible, just doesn't exist.

Many people confuse romantic and sexual attraction with one another. Schools usually don't teach you about different types of relationships or attractions, leaving people to learn by themselves and still not fully understand the difference between a sexual and romantic connection. That attractive person you're in a relationship with may only be a sexual bond not real deep intimacy.

Is this a bad thing? Of course not. As long as it's between consenting adults and you practice safe sex, having casual encounters and sexual flings aren't bad and can make your experience with relationships grow. It just isn't good for relationship material.

If you're getting together for someone just for the sex, the sex is going to fizzle out. 

You must be smart and know whether the attraction is sexually and/or romantically inclined. And yes, it definitely can be both. You can be with someone for a long time and still have an awesome sex life.

Here is one way to put it. When you think of your next date night, do you think of dinner, where you discuss an embarrassing moment at work, a boyfriend or girlfriend’s past, and ask many personal questions? Or, do you think about what might come after dinner? Or, both?

A Brief History Of Romance

Romance has evolved in the last few thousand years. The ancient Greeks created different concepts of romanticism. Eros was romantic love, while Storge was family love. Philia was brotherly love or friendship. Then there is agape, which is the feeling of spiritual love to the god you worship.

During medieval times, the idea of chivalry was born. Concepts such as the man buying the woman dinner or helping her out of the car come from this concept.

The idea of getting together with someone because you're romantically attracted to them is a relatively new idea in the lifespan of humankind. The idea of marrying based on love became mainstream in the 18th century. Marriage beforehand was based on mutual interest, from financial reasons to family reasons. There may have been a sexual and romantic attraction in the marriage, but it wasn't the focus of it.

As you can see, there isn't one straight depiction of romance. It's something that is always evolving and will continue to evolve. Romantic questions change from place to place, time period to time period. That will survive until the end of time.

I Don't Know If I'm Romantically Attracted Them

How To Spot Romantic Attraction

If you're together with someone, how can you tell if the person is romantically attracted to you? There is no straight answer, as everyone has different signs of romantic attraction towards persons that fit their preferences. Determining romantic attraction is a key part of dating and dating advice. Here are some general signs of romantic attraction with a few ideas and random questions:

  • You'll feel an emotional connection. In other words, you're attracted to them as a person and not because of their body. You like their imperfections, opinions, mannerisms, and so on. While physical attraction is still important in a relationship, your emotional connection is more important.
  • You like them for their personality. While friendships and even sexual relationships can be based on personality too, a romantic relationship brings personality above anything else.
  • Are they a positive influence on you and your life?
  • You like hearing their opinions. Even if you disagree, hearing this person out makes you happy. You like their weird questions or serious questions.
  • You just want to be physically close to them all the time, even if the feeling isn't exactly sexual. Sometimes you just want to cuddle up to someone.
  • You'll find yourself smiling at them, even if there's no reason for you to be smiling. Someone you're only sexually attracted just to make you feel this way.
  • You feel complete with them. Your overall life feels better than it was before. Some friends and partners can make your life better, but if you feel like your life has skyrocketed, then it's a romantic attraction.
  • You want to go to them whenever you want someone to cry to. They're your support system, no matter what you're feeling. You feel comfortable expressing every single emotion you have to them.
  • You want them to succeed, and your partner wants to see you succeed too. Your boyfriend or girlfriend’s life, work, family, and whatever else is important to them, is important to you and vice versa. Bonus points of your ambitions can be compatible with one another.

Love In The Brain

Romance is something that many say is more than cerebral, but if you're scientifically minded, you may believe that romance comes straight from the chemicals in the brain. This doesn't devalue the power of romantic attraction but just explains it.

The brain is complex, and our understanding of how it works is still evolving, but when you fall in love, you'll experience a rush of chemicals that are associated with reward. You may experience an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, during the beginning of your romance. This can explain why you're so worried about losing your romantic partner in the beginning.

There will be a rush of dopamine, another euphoric chemical, as well as oxytocin and vasopressin, which are involved in nursing and pregnancy. Oxytocin may be released during sex and make you and your partner feel closer to one another. Pleasurable chemicals can be released with something as simple as cute questions.

Ever heard the phrase, "love is blind?" This may be due to chemicals in your brain that lessen the parts of your brain responsible for more negative feelings, and this is why some people in love won't listen to people skeptical of the relationship.

If it's true love, the stress chemicals will lessen over time, but there will still be passion.

This is just a brief explanation of the brain function during a romantic attraction; it's even more complex than that. Emotions are complicated and even explaining them as chemicals in your brain doesn't do them justice.

Can A Person Not Experience Romantic Attraction?

Some people have been in dozens of relationships and yet have never experienced any romantic feelings for their partners. They may be good friends and care for the other person, but that feeling of romanticism just isn't there. Have they just not found the right person?

The truth is that it's possible not to experience romantic attraction to anyone. The term has only been recent, but aromanticism applies to someone who experiences little to no attraction and romantic feelings for someone.

They can still be sexually attracted to someone, and be good friends with the person, but the emotions that make them want to be with that person forever just aren't there.

If you feel this way, there's nothing wrong with that. The human brain is complex. Some may not experience the same chemicals that determine romantic attraction. The romanticized (pun not intended) depiction of love doesn't have to apply to anyone. You can still have a good sex life and good friends without being attracted.

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