I was at a bar with a friend a while ago and we were talking about who we found attractive in the room.
This is not something that I normally find myself doing, at all. It was a random night. And I found it near impossible to decide who I was attracted to just based on physical appearance alone.
I said this to my friend: I can’t really tell who I’m attracted to based on looks alone. I kind of just want to know that the person is nice.
“Nice,” though, is not enough. It’s a bland word: mandatory for any acquaintanceship, but not nearly enough to encompass the traits required for a full-on relationship. Most people that I know or would choose to spend time with are nice enough.
But full-fledged attraction is about so much more. I’ve been trying to get a handle on what that is, for me.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s some combination of these things (in no particular order):
1. Emotional security.
The capacity to be vulnerable—emotionally but also intimately—is huge. It’s about a willingness, space, an exchange of acceptance. It doesn’t mean we let our entire guard down all at once, that we have no boundaries. But an understanding of why openness matters is key.
2. Compassionate exchange.
Generosity, giving, kindness. Showing the other person that you are thinking of them and wanting to help, knowing that this give-receive exchange feels generally energizing rather than draining.
Of course the way everyone gives and receives love is different; part of life and love is in an ongoing journey of figuring it out. But the point is that other people matter—not just the other person in the relationship, but that the person cares deeply about other beings (including themselves).
3. Self awareness.
By this I mean willingness and capacity to grow and learn and figure things out, an understanding and appreciation that change and transition are a part of human relationships.
4. Confidence in life (especially the unpretty stuff).
Confidence…ahhh, we always use this term. But really, it’s vague.
We typically think of confidence as “self” confidence, the capacity to walk into a room and ‘own it,’ to project charisma, or a certain comfort in yourself in most situations. That’s great, of course. But to me part of confidence is acknowledgement and acceptance of the moments that that we’re not so much feeling that way: the days where we are mad at our boss, the days where we aren’t being a great partner.
It’s also about how we handle our own egos when they flare up (especially when it comes to the big stuff, like career, family, relationship).
I see confidence as something that extends beyond the ‘self.’ It’s about a certain capacity to hold ourselves and accept situations—especially the imperfect ones. And to ask questions, to wonder, to accept the times when there is only a non-answer. Perhaps this is expressed as a good balance of faith and flexibility, resilience and adaptability, self-forgiveness and other-compassion.
5. No show (but some mystery).
The ‘no show’ idea alludes to authenticity, of course. And at the next level, the older I get the more I realize how important it is to feel that there is zero expectation for either person to entertain the other or otherwise be anything different than themselves. Personally this stems from being an introvert who needs a lot of alone time. So if I can sit with the person and ‘feel’ as great as I can when I’m alone, or just do my own work/writing/stuff while they are there, that’s huge.
That said, it’s not about being passive. There has to be a sense of wonder, learning, evolution. There has to be a bit of an urge to challenge each other, a wanting to get to know the other person at a deeper level, to see each other as new.
I’m not going to say that looks don’t matter at all, but looks are a part of the whole package: how we carry ourselves, how we treat ourselves, our loved ones, the world.
I find it hard to say exactly what about looks do or don’t matter because in the end it’s more about being with someone, about how people are together. And that is an energetic thing, push-pull dynamics which often take time to become established. So this is part of the adventure.
These are all basics in solid friendships, to start. Sexual relationships might vary or have different priorities, but at the end of the day if the relationship is going to last in any form the above must apply.
(Note: all of the above crosses over into the bedroom, too.)
So: do you think I’m asking too much?
Inspired by / Relephant:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Photo: Kylie Allan at Pixoto