Two summers ago I was in a rough spot emotionally in terms of dating. I’d worked through a lot of my personal stuff and had been on quite a few dates via online and set ups etc. But I just wasn’t excited about any of it. It’s not that some of these ladies weren’t great but I just wasn’t into it. I joked that my give a shizz was broken.
One night while hanging out with my brother, his wife and some other friends this subject came up. My sister in law said basically, “well marriage isn’t all about attraction. I mean it’s tough sometimes and really it’s a decision. You don’t always ‘feel it'”
Now those are true and wise words. And in a sense there is an even deeper truth – you could marry anyone and if you are committed great stuff could happen. But, as I pointed out that night, that is not how we typically start out and almost no one marries someone they aren’t attracted to. No woman wants this as a proposal:
“Hey Sally. These last few months have been ok. I know we don’t really have much spark but I think we match up pretty well. I know we’d both be committed. We love Jesus and could learn to love each other. So what do you say? Let’s get married.”
Now I’m not saying that it couldn’t work. Heck, I’m not even saying that it shouldn’t work. But what I am saying is that is not the world we live in.
Here’s a question we need to ask in the Christian dating scene. Does attraction matter? Or better asked, is attraction a secular phenomenon?
There are some in the Christian culture who would say, it’s not about attraction. Now there is some wisdom in this. It’s important for people to gain an understanding that marriage is not all about sexual attraction. This is where the secular idea of romance has led us astray. The secular model implies that you must always feel this or something is wrong and you should end it. That is consumer dating/marriage and it is for sure wrong.
But, in the Church, often times we act as if attraction shouldn’t matter or at the very least, we don’t know what to do with it. We know that it can’t be the only thing, but we don’t seem to know what role it should play. Often in an attempt to push back against the secular idea that we must always be attracted, we end up negating it almost completely.
I think this is a huge mistake. Attraction has to be part of the conversation. We can’t just attack the secular version without owning the reality of attraction.
It’s a mistake we make all of the time. Too many times throughout history the Church has denied the obvious. We’ve basically said that science or reason or philosophy is wrong, just because we don’t like the reality. Or, maybe worse, we acquiesce parts of the battle and fall back to a defensive position. In so doing we end up with a God of the Gaps. In the science example God becomes the God of the stuff we can’t explain by science.
The biggest problem with this is that God owns it all, including science and in this case, including attraction.
God created us and he gave us the feeling of attraction. It’s not a bad thing. It is part of what makes us want to get married. Yes the secular world has perverted it. But that doesn’t mean we get to ignore it, we have to instead take it back and put it in it’s proper place.
We don’t get to just say that it’s not all about attraction and move on. We have to actually deal with what healthy attraction looks like.
I get that “back in the day” there were arranged marriages and you got what you got. (In fact one of the theories about the origin of not seeing the bride before the wedding was so that the neither party would make a run for it because they weren’t attracted). But unless the Church is willing to go back to arranged marriages (future blog) then we are going to have to deal with attraction.
The truth is we need some serious help here. There are some who unless they are “perfectly attracted” won’t commit. That’s completely unrealistic and we need to step in. There are others who don’t know how to handle themselves when they are attracted and we need to step in there as well. Finally there are those who unknowingly keep making themselves less attractive. In true community we need to have the guts and honesty to help them as well.
We need to own and understand attraction because God does. It’s not the problem, our response to it can be.
What has the Church (your Christian community) taught you about attraction? Has it helped or hurt your singleness and/or marriage?
I think the issue is not understanding that attraction and commitment are two totally different things. When you confuse the two you risk not understanding how important attraction is. In other words, you could assume that if you and your spouse are commited, then it’s no longer important (i.e. a way to love your spouse) to work on staying attracted/attractive. If we want people to want marriage, show us married people who stay hot for each other and celebrate it!
That’s a great point, Mellissa. They are two different things and both so important. After 17 years of marriage I’d be really sad if my husband and I weren’t attracted to each other but just stayed together out of some sense of duty since we made a commitment. At the same time, that commitment is a bond that holds us together when things get tough.
“We don’t get to just say that it’s not all about attraction and move on. We have to actually deal with what healthy attraction looks like.”
THANK YOU, exactly. I have gone the route of minimal-attraction relationships, and I can say that, while it makes you feel super noble, and leaves plenty of room for focus on God, it ain’t pretty and it ain’t sustainable. To be in a relationship where that je ne sais quoi of attraction is present and palpable is simultaneously liberating, secure, and SCARY. It can be very distracting. So yes, we’re still left with the question, What does pre-covenantal, healthy expression of desire look like? The kind that legitimately leads to a healthy, Godly commitment. Like, in the nitty gritty of physicality. After all the non-sexual stuff regarding personality, spirituality, heart, mind, outlook, goals, vulnerability, emotional honesty, etc. etc. has already been covered. I don’t know how to get into it without going too far, but seriously, I wish we could talk about this. Maybe this is a naive reduction to 9th grade sex ed, but How Far Is Too Far?
Good thoughts bluesky. This has to be part of the conversation. It’s not just whether we are attracted but what do we do with it.
One thought I would say is if you’ve covered all of those things, (heart, mind, outlook et al) then it’s time to get married. One of the problems is that we figure it all out and then often are still afraid to pull the trigger.
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I’m relieved I can find some down to earth, solid advice here. Following God the church and other people left me feeling like I’d marry someone I am repulsed by. But I don’t want to get married any longer seeing how Christian women are no different then worldly women. But it’s nice to know I can in fact find women beautiful, and I do not apologize for being attracted as a man.
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