What Is Romantic Attraction How To Recognize And Better Understand It
Updated December 20, 2018
Reviewer Laura Angers
Romance is something that has been so prevalent in our society, and yet many still don't understand it. 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.
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.
What Is Romantic Attraction?
Romance is a complex subject, and we could do an entire article on the definition alone. Generally speaking, romantic attraction is when you have a deep, emotional attraction to someone. Humans are known for having emotional bonds with people, but the romantic attraction is beyond that. You connect with the person. 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.
This is not to be confused with sexual attraction. Many think they're romantically attracted to someone when in reality, they're just sexually attracted.
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. The two of you are attracted to each other's appearances and may have great sex with one another, but the romantic, emotional bond the two of you share just isn't there.
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 confuse sexual attraction with someone with romantic attraction. Schools usually don't teach you about relationships, leaving people to learn by themselves. That attractive person you're in a relationship with may only be a sexual bond.
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 may enjoy the sex, but the two of you aren't going to be able to stay together because the two of you don't share that romantic bond.
You must be smart and know whether the attraction is sexual or romantic. And yes, it definitely can be both. You can be with someone for a long time and still have an awesome sex life.
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 an attraction in the marriage, but it wasn't the focus.
As you can see, there isn't one straight depiction of romance. It's something that is always evolving and will continue to evolve. One thing stays the same, though, and that's the fact that you're sharing an emotional bond with the person that you don't share with anyone else. That will survive until the end of time.
How To Spot Romantic Attraction
If you're together with someone, how can you tell if the person is romantically attractive to you? There is no straight answer, as everyone has different signs of romantic attraction. Here are a few general signs though.
- 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.
- You like hearing their opinions. Even if you disagree, hearing this person out makes you happy.
- 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 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. 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.
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 romantic attraction to 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.
If you're still uncertain if you're experiencing romantic feelings, or you need a counselor to help you with your relationship, why not talk to a professional? Whether it's face to face or online, a counselor can help you with any questions you may have due to a relationship.
Romance is a complex subject, and we feel like we can't do it justice in a short article. But we hope we helped you to understand it better and figure out if what you're experiencing is a romantic attraction or not. Good luck with your relationship, or future relationship, and be sure to stay happy no matter the circumstances.