A Psychotherapist Shares How To Cultivate Romantic & Sexual Attraction
As a psychotherapist specializing in the search for love, my single clients often face these three major sticking points:
- Why am I so intrigued by unavailable people?
- Why do I get bored by stable, available people?
- Why are the bad boys and bad girls so exciting?
And I get it. These were the very things that kept me single for much of my adult life. But sadly, most popular dating advice offers us no real leverage here. Why? Because it relentlessly focuses on one thing: making yourself more attractive—a fixation that can lead us down unhealthy paths.
That kind of "fix-yourself" dating advice may seem seductive and practical, but in the end, it's just self-criticism in a sexy outfit. It leads us away from love and straight into insecurity.
To speed and ease your path to romantic love as well as self-love, I'm sharing two potentially life-changing truths about attraction. These insights will help you cultivate sexual and romantic attraction to people who are kind, respectful, and available.
Even if you've been relentlessly attracted to bad boys or bad girls—or to unavailable people—you can still develop this capacity. And these are not gimmicks; they are the lifelong skills of romance and intimacy and the very same skills you should use to keep passion alive in your next relationship.
Insight 1: Your attractions reveal the deepest truths of your being.
When we encounter someone for the first time, our psyches and our hearts begin an astonishingly complex scan. We pick up obvious cues, like physique and facial structure, but also take note of subtle cues, like body language, facial expression, the contour of the lips, the nuance of the voice, and the muscles around the eyes. We instantly process this information without even knowing it. All we feel is desire—or the lack thereof.
Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., illuminates the above phenomenon in a way that sheds light on our entire intimacy journey. He teaches that we're most fiercely drawn to certain types of people because they embody, in part, the worst characteristics of our primary caregivers.
In these fierce attractions, our conscious self is drawn to the person's positive qualities. But our unconscious draws us to the qualities that wounded us the most in our lives. Instantly, we're drawn back to the scene of the original crime to get this new person, an unconscious proxy for those who haven't loved us fully, to finally love us right!
This is why it is so important to truly, carefully unpack the negative attributes we keep getting drawn to that end up hurting us again and again. In my Deeper Dating book and course, I teach staged processes to help discover and shift these patterns of attractions so we can finally begin to make wiser choices.
Insight 2: By healing your relationship with your Core Gifts, you elevate your sexual and romantic attractions.
Here's another profound dynamic that has the power to shift our future: Each of us has deeply vulnerable parts of our beings. These parts feel most tender, most authentic, and most passionate. Here, we fully feel the beating heart of our humanity, which can be inspiring but can also be immensely challenging.
These are the parts of ourselves where we feel the most alive, the most inspired, and the most connected, but they are also the parts where we can be hurt the most deeply. From an early age, we learn to hide and cover over these passionate and tender parts of our being, which I call Core Gifts.
In my decades of work with thousands of people, this is perhaps the most inspiring truth I've had the opportunity to witness:
- The degree to which we honor and cherish these Core Gifts is the degree to which we become sexually and romantically attracted to people who are good for us!
- The degree to which we feel shame around those existentially tender "inner petals" of our being is the degree to which we will be attracted to people who don't treat us right, are unavailable, and who can't treasure us for who we are.
As we learn to name and dignify these orphaned parts of our being, our attractions actually begin to change. We find ourselves losing our taste for people who are bad for us and finally desiring people who honor us for who we are.
This is where the path to romantic love and self-love fuse together to heal our lives and guide us to a more love-filled future.
When we make the commitment to lead with our deepest authenticity and to only choose people who honor our Core Gifts in an essential and consistent way, our dating lives shift on their very axes. We find ourselves meeting kinder, more available people—and we find that we are finally capable of sustaining these new, healthier relationships.
This is why the search for love can—and should—be one of the greatest spiritual adventures of our entire lives. And it's why the path of authenticity is the most powerful path of all.
In the end, the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy. And those are the greatest skills of all for a happy, meaningful life.
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Ken Page, LCSW received a degree in social work from Columbia University and works as a psychotherapist, specializing in love and relationships. He is the host of The Deeper Dating Podcast, and co-founder of DeeperDating.com; a wiser and more inspiring way for single people to meet. He is also the author of the bestselling book Deeper Dating. He has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and more. Ken is passionate about helping people understand the search for love as one of the greatest spiritual adventures in life, and he celebrates the inclusion of the LGBTQ community into the banquet of wiser relationship advice. Ken lives in Long Beach, NY with his husband, children, and their pets.