Sure, physical attraction is fun. It piques your interest and makes you excited about someone new — the love at first sight effect. But if you're looking to take things to the next level with someone you're into, experts say the secret really lies in emotional attraction. Most people understand that true romantic chemistry isn’t defined by just physical attraction, but the idea of emotional connection can often seem like quite a lofty and loaded subject. What is emotional attraction, really? Is it something innate, or can we work to build it with someone?
"All successful romantic relationships need both emotional and physical attraction," relationship expert Emily Mendez, M.S. Ed.S., tells Bustle. Physical attraction is the easy part. A study by the Journal of Neuroscience found that it can take mere seconds to decide that you’re interested in someone romantically, and in terms of neurology, it takes just a fifth of a second for the neurochemical reaction associated with love to fire off. The problem with this is that it can be fleeting. "Physical attraction can change," Mendez says. Emotional attraction, on the other hand, endures.
Emotional attraction means that you are attracted to a person’s personality, mind, dreams, and heart. As Mendez says, "It's what keeps both partners engaged and invested in the relationship over the long haul." In fact, a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that emotional accessibility is more important in romantic relationships than sexual accessibility — although sexual intimacy shouldn't be downplayed either. For both men and women in the study, not being able to connect emotionally often led to breaking up.
When you're emotionally attracted to someone, you're more likely to invest your energy into pursuing a relationship with them. "For example, when you find yourself suddenly sexually attracted to a long-time friend, it's usually because the two of you developed a solid emotional connection first," Mendez says. That deeper connection makes you want to keep that person in your life, in comparison to someone you just have a surface-level attraction to.
Here are 14 expert-approved ways to build emotional attraction.
Similar to physical attraction, doing any or even all of the above can't guarantee that the person you like is going to feel emotionally attracted to you. But these things can open up the possibility of having a bond that goes beyond the surface-level stuff. So, if you're interested in having a more emotional connection with someone, stay open, relaxed, and fully present whenever you're around them. You may be surprised to see where that takes you.
Additional reporting by Lexi Inks.
Cooper, J. C., Dunne, S., Furey, T., O'Doherty, J. P. (2012). Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex Mediates Rapid Evaluations Predicting the Outcome of Romantic Interactions. Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (45) 15647-15656; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2558-12.2012. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/45/15647
Ortigue, S., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Patel, N., Frum, C. and Lewis, J.W. (2010), Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta-Analysis Evidence toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7: 3541-3552. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01999.x
Wade, T. J., & Mogilski, J. (2018). Emotional Accessibility Is More Important Than Sexual Accessibility in Evaluating Romantic Relationships - Especially for Women: A Conjoint Analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 632. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00632