What attracts drives attracted to someone else?
Sexuality and Romantic Identities
Sexual and romantic identities are complex and often fluid. It is important to acknowledge that each individual is the only one who can decide how to describe their own sexuality and romantic inclinations. The following terms and definitions may be helpful for you to find words to describe your feelings with regards to sexual and romantic attractions.
About Sexuality and Romantic Identities
Aromantic: An individual who experiences a lack of romantic attraction or a lack of interest in forming romantic relationships.
Asexual (Ace): An individual who does not experience sexual attraction or experiences such a low level of sexual attraction that they do not consider it to be notable. Like any other sexuality, asexuality is diverse, and each individual may experience asexuality differently. Asexuality exists on a spectrum and includes people who experience no sexual attraction or have any desire for sex to those who experience low levels and only after significant amounts of time.
Grey Asexual (Grey A): An individual who identifies as Grey-A typically does not normally experience sexual attraction but may experience sexual attraction sometimes, experience sexual attraction but has a low sex-drive, experience sexual attraction and has a sex-drive but not enough to wish to act on them, or it may be someone who can enjoy and even desire sex, but only under a very specific and limited circumstances.
Bisexual: Most commonly, bisexuality is seen as an emotional and/or sexual attraction to two genders. This definition includes the fact that some individuals who identify as bisexual are sexually and/or emotionally attracted to more than one gender but only form relationships with one. Another commonly used definition is a sexual attraction towards the same gender, and gender(s) different than your own. This attraction does not have to be equally split or indicate a level of interest that is the same across the genders or sexes an individual may be attracted to.
Demi-romantic: Someone with a lack of romantic attraction, desire or need for an intimate or physical nature. This differs from the Aromantic identity, since those who are Demi-romantic have the ability to develop feelings of romantic attraction for someone only after getting to know them, and understand them as a person, usually built out of an initial very close friendship.
Demi-sexual: Someone who identifies as Demi-sexual does not experience sexual attraction until they form a strong emotional connection with someone. In general, people who identify as Demi-sexual are not sexually attracted to anyone of any gender, but if an emotional connection is formed with someone else, they may experience sexual attraction towards the specific partner(s).
Gay: This term can be used as an umbrella for anyone who is sexually or romantically attracted to someone of the same gender. The second definition is used to exclusively refer to someone who is male-identified, who is romantically or sexually attracted to other male-identified individuals.
Heterosexuality: This is a sexual attraction to the “opposing” sex/gender. Typically this means a female/women attracted to male/men, and vice versa. Also known as straight.
Lesbian: A female-identified person who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other female-identified individuals.
Pansexual: Pansexuality is a sexual orientation used to describe an individual who feels they are sexually and/or romantically attracted to all genders, based on an individual’s personality.
Polyamory/Polyamorous: refers to the practice of, desire to, or orientation towards having ethically, honest, consensually non-monogamous relationships (i.e. relationships that may include multiple partners). This may include open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves more than two people being in romantic and/or sexual relationships which is not open to additional partners), amongst many other set ups. Some poly(amorous) people have a “primary” relationship or relationship(s) and then “secondary” relationship(s) which may indicate different allocations of resources, time, or priority.
Queer: This is an umbrella term for anyone who is not heterosexual, gender-binary and/or heteronormative.
Questioning: an individual who is unsure about or is exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity
This list is nowhere near exhaustive, but merely describes some of the better-known sexual and romantic identities. The links below contain a variety of other identities and expressions. Remember that, in every case, individual people are the only ones who can define their own identities, and it is completely fine if these identities change and fluctuate over time.
Scent & Attraction Psychology — Why They Are So Connected
A lot of factors come into play within the laws of attraction. That said, one of those elements is a little less known then others, but it’s can truly make-or-break an initial connection: scent. Yes, external items like deodorant and perfume or cologne can mask or even permeate one’s smell, one’s natural pheromones and au naturel scent is what we’re talking about here. In fact, there’s substantial research supporting the theory that one’s smell can have an impact on everything from emotions to sexual attraction.
“Smell plays a more significant role in the way we make decisions about what we enjoy than we think,” Dr. Joanne Frederick, licensed mental health counselor and author of Copeology, tells TZR in an email. “The perception of a potential partner’s body odor can subconsciously help one decide if they’re attracted to them or not. When you’re attracted to someone, you’re more likely to be drawn to their smell.” Some say that we release pheromones (oxytocin), also referred to as “love hormones,” when there’s an attraction — causing one to be drawn to someone’s smell, she explains.
Jennifer Stelter, psychologist and CEO of NeuroEssence at the Dementia Connection Institute, elaborates. “Olfactory stimuli has a direct impact on a person’s limbic system that houses the amygdala, responsible for generating emotions, and the hippocampus, responsible for forming memories,” she tells TZR in an email. “Therefore, if the stimuli is positive, or is attractive to the person smelling them, then this can influence the person to feel and associate positive feelings and memories with that person.”
In fact, one 2018 study conducted by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology instructed female participants to smell three scents — their romantic partner’s, a stranger’s, and a neutral scent — after which they were then exposed to an acute stressor. Their perceived stress and cortisol levels (also known as the “stress hormone”) were then measured throughout the study. Perceived stress was lower in women who were exposed to their partner’s scent while cortisol levels were increased in women who were exposed to a stranger’s scent. So, on a subconscious level, the women were more attracted to their partner’s scent, the one they found familiar and safe.
But what exactly triggers these responses in our brains and bodies? Read on for the science and reasoning behind the strong connection between scent and the laws of attraction.
Scent Is Scientific
Amy Galper, certified aromatherapist and author, agrees that aroma triggers how our limbic system (the unconscious part of our brain) responds to external stressors. “So if we smell something pleasant, our body responds by producing hormones and chemicals in our body that tell our body to rest and relax,” she tells TZR in an email. “The molecules that make up a volatile aroma (a scent) actually trigger a response in our olfactory nerve cells in our nose that then sends a signal to the emotional part of our brain.”
In action, think about when you smell delicious food cooking. “The molecules that make up that aroma trigger a signal in our unconscious brain to produce the chemicals that get our digestive system ready to eat and digest food,” she says. “In turn, we experience that by ‘feeling hungry’ — producing saliva and triggering other hormonal responses that prepare us to eat. So the same thing happens when we smell someone that arouses us — it triggers responses (the release of hormones) in our reproductive organs to prepare us to ‘mate.’” That’s why we can “smell someone” and immediately feel attracted without knowing anything about them — the scent triggers a reaction in our unconscious mind, she adds.
Scientifically, we are programmed to search for partners who have a different gene configuration to our own. “Our noses can act as a compass to find suitable partners for two reasons: pheromones and MHC, the genes that compose a significant part of our immune system,” Frederick says. These genes then produce certain molecules, she explains, which define our unspoken, and unconscious, attraction to others. So while one’s natural scent definitely plays a role in how they smell, it can be masked by perfumes, body washes, colognes, you name it.
Speaking of external fragrances, Frederick says someone’s “smell” can sometimes be a combination of everyday things — like the aforementioned deodorant, body wash, laundry detergent, and/or perfume/cologne. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker if you don’t like how your partner smells,” she says. “It can be as easy as suggesting they try a different soap, body spray, or switch up their detergent and fabric softener — and see what happens then.”
How To Change Someone’s Scent
So, as you can see, all hope is not lost if you don’t like or respond positively to how your date or partner smells. But how do you broach the topic in a non-insulting way? “Different people find different things attractive; I’ve always had memories of a good cologne and smelling it even now brings back memories of old boyfriends,” Stef Safran, matchmaker and dating coach, tells TZR in an email. “If someone has bad breath or body odor, you need to say something rather than pretend it doesn’t exist. The better you are at communicating to people about your needs, the better the chance that your attraction to them has the ability to become a relationship.”
She continues, explaining that if you can’t articulate your feelings — even the ones that make you uncomfortable — how are you going to deal with situations that deal with other areas, like intimacy? “There seems to be a reason that deodorants, perfumes, colognes, mouthwashes, breath mints, and even feminine products are constantly telling us to smell good,” she adds. Even though you can “accidentally” wander through a cologne or body wash section of a store with your date and pick out some products for each other, it’s best to be open and honest. You can start by telling the person everything you love and appreciate about them before broaching the topic of how they smell. That way, you won’t hurt their feelings.
Galper adds that if it’s a scent that is naturally emitted, the person can try using essential oils to mask the natural odor, which will trigger more arousing feelings in you. She recommends oils like jasmine, ylang-ylang, patchouli, or sandalwood. Alison Angold, founder of aromatherapy platform Beauty Taming The Beast, also suggests using essential oils — and not necessarily to wear. “You can create a massage oil, using aromas such as bergamot, rosemary, orange, or lavender, and suggest giving each other a massage, or using it in the bath,” she tells TZR in an email. “The aromas, while potent, are natural and will linger on the skin, so they’ll help a person to smell better — these oils act as natural deodorants.” (Plus, it can be a romantic experience, too!)
At the end of the day, it all boils down to how these little elements, like scent, make you feel and react to your partner. So, trust your gut and let your nose be your guide.
So, You’re No Longer Attracted To Your Partner. Now What?
A loss of attraction is common in long-term relationships. But it shouldn’t be ignored.
Updated: March 15, 2023
Originally Published: Feb. 10, 2022
In the early days of a relationship, it’s easy to feel attracted to your partner. Everything is new and exciting, each day an opportunity to learn more and more about them. A spark is obvious. As you establish a long-term partnership with someone, however, you exchange the rush of excitement for comfort and routine. Discouraging as this may be, it’s certainly not unheard of to find yourself not as attracted to your husband or your wife as you once were. In fact, couples therapists say that feeling is quite common.
“Loss of attraction tends to develop over time when partners no longer share new or exciting experiences,” says Rebecca Phillips, a therapist in Frisco, TX. “When you’re no longer curious about your partner, you can feel stagnant and bored.”
Every couple is different: For some, the loss of attraction is purely physical. Maybe your partner is in a sweatpants-all-day mode and you’re just not feeling the same spark. For others, though, the fading attraction has to do with other natural-but-hard changes in their relationship.
Parenthood can make attraction feel even harder to come by. Stress and lack of sleep are major factors. There are new responsibilities and busier schedules. Perhaps you feel like your kids stole your partner’s attention, which is another common issue. Such changes make it more difficult to physically and emotionally connect like you used to.
If you don’t address the awkward-but-important elephant in the room, marriage and family therapist Desiree Basl says you might start to resent your partner — which can make it even harder to find them attractive.
Fortunately, if you’re no longer attracted to your husband or wife, it’s absolutely possible to get your mojo back. It requires commitment to the work it takes to get there. Here are five steps to restoring attraction in your relationship.
1. Figure Out The “Why”
Before you can rekindle the flame, it’s important to figure out what caused it to go out in the first place. What has made you become less attracted to your partner? Something physical? Something emotional? Does the relationship feel emotionally distant? Just. boring? These questions aren’t easy. But if you don’t answer them honestly you’ll be navigating this rocky terrain without a map. “You can’t address the problem unless you figure out why it happened, and if you try, you’ll be frustrated when it doesn’t work,” says psychologist Tanisha Ranger.
Think back to the last time you felt attracted to your partner, and what changed after that. Are you missing the excitement of your dating relationship? Hurt that your partner’s prioritizing the kids over you? Resentful that they’re not putting an effort into their appearance? Whatever you pinpoint will ultimately drive your next steps, Ranger says.
2. Take Initiative
It might be easy to blame your partner or the relationship when attraction goes MIA, but it’s important to reflect on how you’ve contributed to the problem. “If we wish to get our relationship mojo back, it’s important to begin looking at the underlying issues to help us identify if the trouble is in the relationship alone or within ourselves,” says Basl.
For example, you might be pining for more excitement, but when was the last time you initiated a date night or tried to make your partner feel special? If you’re feeling resentful about your partner not meeting your needs, have you spoken up about what you want? According to Ranger, taking initiative is crucial to prevent resentment, which can indirectly boost your attraction.
Just as importantly, Phillips says stepping up “takes the emphasis off of your partner and empowers you to create more passion.” A bonus: As you make the effort to restore attraction, your partner might be inspired and follow suit.
3. (Carefully) Address the Issue
Doing your part to restore attraction might be enough, but sometimes, things won’t improve without a conversation. This can be a delicate conversation. So, before you speak up, Philips suggests crystalizing your specific concern so that you don’t unnecessarily hurt your partner. Processing the issue with someone else, whether a trusted friend or a therapist, can also help prepare for the conversation, she says.
Once you’re ready to dive in, be honest and respectful. Share what you’ve observed, how you feel, and focus on your desire for closeness with your partner rather than their issues, suggests relationship therapist Jennie Marie Battistin.
For example, you could say: “Lately, I have been feeling a little disconnected from you on a romantic level. I think it might be due to a breakdown in our communication and our busy schedules. I’d like to explore ways to rekindle this attraction. Would you be open to finding ways for me to feel more connected and attracted to you?”
4. Make a Plan
After you broach the topic, it’s a good idea to have specific ideas for restoring the spark — and to work together to find ways to bring back the attraction. Your action plan should ultimately depend on the cause — for example, maybe you make a plan to work out together and cook healthy meals if you’re discouraged by physical changes or plan weekly date nights to keep things exciting. No matter what the cause, a few practices can help any couple reclaim their mojo.
Phillips recommends breaking up your weekly routine with as much spontaneity as you can allow. Checking out a new restaurant, trying out a new activity, or even going somewhere neither of you has ever been could remind you of the excitement from earlier in your relationship, along with showing you a side of your partner you may not get to see too often in the doldrums of daily life.
Do your best to remain emotionally connected, which can restore attraction. It’s tough to remember what attracted you to your partner when you only talk business — kid stuff, bills, and other logistics. Janay Holland, a psychologist and marriage and family therapist suggests creating designated times and spaces where you only talk about each other, no “business” allowed. For example, maybe you decide to avoid money and parenting talk at the dinner table, or you plan to only talk about yourselves in the evenings after work.
Lastly, spend regular time reflecting on why you felt attracted to your partner in the first place, whether their sharp sense of humor or their amazing smile. “Instead of focusing on what isn’t attractive about your partner, observe what it is you do like about them,” Phillips says.
5. Consider Outside Help
If nothing else seems to help – or if you just want an expert’s input — a couples therapist can help you identify the issues beneath your lack of attraction, communicate it without damaging your relationship, and brainstorm ways to rekindle it.
You may not think you have big enough problems to see a counselor with your partner, but couples therapy isn’t just for big issues. Holland says many counselors see clients a few times a year to check in and work on connecting in deeper ways, both sexually and emotionally. Plus, it’s a lot easier to fix problems when they’re small.
Think of couples therapy as performing routine maintenance on your car. “Don’t skip the oil change until your car doesn’t run anymore,” Holland says. “Instead, work in advance to build a solid foundation so when bigger issues do come up, you have something to build on.