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Love is blind, says the popular proverb—or at least sexual attraction is.
In other words, we don’t get to choose the people that we are sexually drawn to. We call this magnetism “chemistry”, and because of it we attract certain people rather than others into our beds (or sofas, or kitchen tables).
Chemistry is a process that we seem to think acts of its own accord, without our intervention; just like a chemical reaction.
But what if we could have a say in our sexual attraction, instead of being ruled by it?
To a certain extent, popular wisdom has a point. Indeed, there are some powerful forces at play in the game of sexual attraction and repulsion. These energies act at a level that is far below (or beyond) our rational mind. Moved by forces that we don’t fully understand, we tend to think that they’re “out there”; external to us.
The Romans had a beautiful image to represent the blind power of erotic desire: Cupid. This little winged brat spends his time shooting his arrows of desire and aversion around, causing all of us to feel erotic attraction or repulsion depending on what hit us.
And a pretty chaotic job he does, being blindfolded.
Yet, attraction isn’t all that blind, but rather it follows certain patterns. If we spend some time and energy discovering and studying these patterns, then with a little effort we can change them — even if just a bit.
This is good news indeed; if chemistry were immutable, people who are constantly attracted by abusive partners wouldn’t have much hope.
But abusive relationships aren’t the only dead end in to which blind chemistry can lead us.
Some of us, for example, are only attracted by men or women that match a certain physical standard of height, figure, etc. When that happens, a powerful pattern is playing with us, and we end up unconsciously “selecting” our lovers based on their adherence to those physical canons.
We may not even notice the people that don’t match those criteria.
These limitations can make our love life incredibly difficult. How many chances are there to meet someone who matches our strict physical standards and that we get along well with? Although not impossible, this is a bit like winning the lottery.
I have experienced this myself: For many years, I was obsessed with dating people that matched a certain physical stereotype, and my love life didn’t thrive because of that. It was only when I managed to “loosen up” those physical requirements a bit, that things started rolling in a different direction.
After a few years, I found that I was much more able to find beauty in all sorts of different people. I had expanded my erotic standards and while some would say that this is plainly impossible, reclaiming control of my patterns of sexual attraction was a real game changer.
Yes, chemistry can be influenced, within a limit. Doing so, however, takes patience and perseverance — like breaking any old habit. It requires being bold, challenging ourselves, and leaning out of our comfort zone.
How? For example, by smiling back at the apparently unattractive man or woman that smiled at us — setting chemistry aside for a second.
If you think about it, millions of people have already experienced that changing one’s tastes is possible. Ask a vegetarian who used to love meat, and now can’t stand the smell of a steak. Or anyone that learned to appreciate painting, or classical music, because a loved one did. Things are not all that different when it comes to erotic preferences; with perseverance and effort we can change almost anything about ourselves, so why should sexual attraction be an exception?
The first step in reclaiming some degree of control over our chemistry is to stop taking our tastes for granted, and instead question them in order to understand where they come from. We might find out that we like cold, distant men because our father was that way, or that we are drawn to petite women because they remind us of our mother. We might discover the powerful influence of popular culture, movies, family expectations or pornography on our preferences.
Bringing to light these hidden motives is already half the work, because once they become conscious, they stop having so much power over us.
The other half is leaning outside the comfort zone.
For example, if we discover what patterns draw us towards aggressive men and this is not serving our purpose anymore, then why not call back that sweet but “unattractive” co-worker that left us his telephone number a few days ago? That same person might seem much more attractive tomorrow, after we have spent a nice evening together.
Experimenting with chemistry can be scary, but what do we really have to lose? The worst we can expect is an awkward evening spent furtively looking at the clock, hoping that time passes quickly.
On the other hand, with a bit of luck, we have a lot to gain. A date with an “un-attractive” man or woman could be the beginning of a new relationship, one that takes us out of our rut and into fresh, unexplored territory.
Have you ever altered your own chemistry? Leave a comment and share your story!
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Author: Raffaelo Manacorda
Editor: Erin Lawson
Image: Flickr/AJC // Flickr/Josh Hallet
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