Occasionally, people find the blog through search terms that bum me out. You can ask me about why people ghost until the cows come home and I won’t bat an eye, but as soon as you ask about the imbalances that can happen in dating, I’ll admit, it can get a little depressing.
We’ve all been in a dating situation in past where you’ve got almost everything you’re looking for, but the one thing that’s missing seems critical. Maybe you love someone who won’t commit, or maybe you’re obsessed with someone who lives in another country, or maybe you’re in love with someone, but you’re not physically attracted to them. I’ll save those other topics for a later date though. Today, let’s talk about what it’s like to love someone, but not be all that attracted to them.
Let me start by telling you that this isn’t all that uncommon. I’m incredibly fond of the Triangular Theory of Love posited by Robert Sternberg, mostly because it’s simple to explain, and also because we share the same birth year. The theory can be summed up this way: There are three components of love, and different stages of relationships can be categorized by the differing strengths of each of these types of love. Relationships built on only one type are more likely to fail than those founded on two or all three types of love. The three components of love are Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment. These components can be combined in various ways that produce different forms of love, as seen below:
The form of love that probably accurately describes a love that is lacking in attraction is one that is Companionate, which is described as:
“An intimate, non-passionate type of love that is stronger than friendship because of the element of long-term commitment. This type of love is observed in long-term marriages where passion is no longer present but where a deep affection and commitment remain”
Now while the description seems to imply that passion was there and is now gone, I don’t think it’s impossible to have this sort of love in the beginning of a relationship.
So, what do you do if you’re in a relationship where you’re lacking attraction? Before I answer, let me tell you why I mentioned the theory and included the graphic above. On each end and each side of the triangle is a type of love. I think it’s fair to say that most relationships start on either one side of the triangle, or one end of the triangle. Infatuation or Liking, can later develop into Romantic love, and eventually the goal is to add Commitment to develop a Consummate love. But, whose to say that a different approach to dating and love can’t work as well? It’s not impossible to start a relationship based solely on Commitment, like an arranged marriage, and eventually develop all the other characteristics of Consummate love as the relationship progresses. It’s also not impossible to start a relationship based on Intimacy alone, and work to build a more complete love. If you’ve ever entered into a relationship with someone because it felt like you’ve always known them, this should sound pretty familiar to you.
I say all this to say, if you love someone, but you don’t necessarily feel a certain amount of physical attraction to them you CAN wait to see if attraction develops. What we’re attracted to changes as we grow, and it’s entirely possible that you will grow to become more attracted to your partner the longer you’re with them. How we feel about our partners changes and evolves as we get older, the way that our bodies change. How you feel about your partner at 25 years old is not going to be the same as the one you feel for them at 70 years old.
That said, I don’t think it’d be fair to say you absolutely, 100%, should wait around. While the theory sounds good as a framework for understanding how we love, it doesn’t account for how each individual prioritizes the sort of love the need. While the diagram above shows an equilateral triangle, it’s safe to assume that for many people, the way they prioritize the components of love they need in a relationship is likely to be a triangle without equal sides. If you’re only looking for intimacy and passion, commitment won’t be a component of love you’re concerned about. If attraction is an extremely low priority for you, maybe you only need commitment and intimacy. While many people do just fine with only commitment and intimacy, some cannot.
Ultimately, you need to figure out what matters to you, how long you’re willing to wait for a component of love to develop, and how willing you’d be to stay with someone you love in a Companionate way, without attraction. Personally I’d rather be single than to be in a relationship with someone who I may love, but don’t love passionately, but I’m an all-or-nothing sort of guy. This advice holds true for any sort of imbalance you might be feeling in a relationship. If you’ve got an incredible amount of passionate love for someone, but they refuse to commit to you, you need to figure out how important that is to you, how long you’d be willing to wait around for them to commit, and whether or not you would be happy with just passion for the rest of your relationship.
If you’re a bit more patient than me, maybe give your love some time to grow. It’s a risk that might be worth taking. But, don’t be afraid to give up a love that doesn’t feel complete in your search for a Consummate love.
Good Luck Out There.