people wedding parisWithin moments of meeting someone, we make all sorts of assessments about them, including their physical attractiveness. When it comes to evaluating a potential relationship match, many people will use this quality to evaluate and determine whether they should pursue someone. We all know physical attraction is important in dating, but is it everything?

The answer is not so simple.

Physical attraction is important in any relationship. Who doesn’t want to be physically attracted to the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with? Many people feel like physical attraction is directly correlated with sexual attraction, and there is some truth to this. However, science has uncovered that there are many unexpected factors like face shape, voice pitch, even smell are also important factors in determining who we’re attracted to. Though subtle, these factors can play a powerful role in our assessment of attraction.

Relationship therapist, Dr. Laura Berman says attraction results from the unique information gathered by all of our senses. Ever wondered why you were extremely drawn to someone you just met and couldn’t put your finger on why, or you felt a strong sense of attraction when you smelled a familiar cologne? Dr. Berman points to a concept created by Dr. John Money, a psychologist who specialized in research into sexual identity, biology and gender known as “love maps”. These love maps are a result of early childhood experiences delivered to us via the five senses. According to Dr. Berman, our love map is activated by those very same senses when we are adults.

Sight is a powerful factor.

“Studies show we tend to be attracted to people who look like our parents and even ourselves,” Dr. Berman says.

Smell is also a factor that plays a role in attraction.

“Pheromones, the smells that fly below the conscious radar, alert us to compatible mates and make us feel lustful, without quite knowing why,” Dr. Berman says.

These factors play a major role when it comes to reproduction. “We are capable of discerning 10,000 different scents consciously. But then there’s a whole realm of unconscious scents that we’re not even aware that we’re smelling,” Dr. Berman says. People can tell when a woman is fertile and when a man’s testosterone levels are high through this sense. They can then determine whether a person is ready for reproduction which is a part of the survival of the species, she says. In simple terms, we determine if they are pro-creation worthy through our senses.

However, we can’t wrap initial reactions and compatibility all up in someone’s attractiveness. Science says people decide nine things within seconds of meeting you, from status to intelligence and promiscuity. These too play a role in determining compatibility.

Physical attractiveness is mostly subjective. While many of us can look at the “Denzels” and the “Angelinas” as being universally attractive, who I may find to be physically attractive may not be who you find to be physically attractive. While science has looked at facial symmetry, and other factors to determine attractiveness and beauty, there are other factors that play a role in our attraction. Attraction can also change over time. Your initial reaction when you first meet someone could be “Wow, they are drop dead gorgeous” but once they open their mouth or you spend some time with them, really see the jerk coming out of them. In those moments, those strong feelings of attractiveness can really start to diminish. On the flip side, our attraction for someone can grow over time. Your gut reaction may have been that the attraction wasn’t strong, but getting to know them revealed another side of them that made them more attractive to you.

While physical attraction isn’t everything, it is still an important factor when it comes to relationship workability and if it’s not there for you, trouble will ensue. Physical, along with sexual attraction rarely grows over time. For men, it is rare for this to happen, and for women, there is often a connection with her feelings about her man. But there has to be a foundation of attraction from which those feelings grow. If there was no attraction to begin with, there will be no room for attraction to grow. Some women (and men) who aren’t initially attracted to a person will try to come up with excuses for why the relationship can still work. But if your inner voice keeps you telling you you’re not physically attracted to them, your resentment towards that person (and the relationship) will continue to grow.

Physical attraction is not the total baseline for determining relationship compatibility; however, it must be present for you to have a healthy relationship. If you’re not physically attracted to the person you’re with, you’ll never be happy and if you’re telling yourself you will, you’re in denial. There is nothing wrong with not being physically attracted to someone. This doesn’t make you superficial. You’re human and shouldn’t have to talk yourself into being with someone. However, don’t make judgments solely based off a person’s exterior. Remember, looks do wear over time.

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