Monday, June 24, 2013

Physical Attraction

(Below is a written dialogue between myself and blogger/friend, Bryn Clark...he's a he, in case there's any confusion. Check out his blog when you get a moment!) 

BRYN:
So here's the thing: physical attraction matters...doesn't it?
It's not shallow to want to be with someone you find attractive, right?
It's okay to have a "type"...a certain physical body-type that you find particularly good-looking...true? 

In the world of Christian dating, marriage and general shenanigans, physical attraction is a touchy subject. The world tells us that attraction and compatibility are all that matter. Our Christian sub-culture, on the other hand, tells us that looks are fleeting and true beauty is to be found inside of us. So is it shallow not to want to be with someone because of their looks? Do looks matter at all?

The truth is that God created sex and sex inherently involves arousal which is physically (not emotionally or mentally) created by attraction. The Bible is full of allusions to the attraction between a man and woman; Songs of Solomon mentions that a man is to be raptured with the beauty of his beloved breasts. In the words of Timothy Keller "There's no getting around that one". Attraction is a necessity in a relationship, and it's not shallow to admit this.

That being said, there should be a difference between how Christians treat physical attraction and the difference is that we don't idolize it. Attraction should never be the bond that holds a relationship together, nor should it be the fuel for the fire that ignites it. Could it be the spark? Could catching the eye of a sexy-someone across the room lead to a healthy, Christ-centered and God-honoring relationship? Absolutely. But if physical attraction is the only thing getting a relationship off the ground, then it's going to fall really quickly. In our sex-crazed culture, especially one in which visual stimulation is momentarily accessible whether we want it to be or not, it will not be long before we find a physical blemish in our significant other. A pimple there, maybe a scar or crooked tooth, perhaps a little too much or even too little weight- the list goes on and preferences vary. 

I find this to be an issue, generally speaking, more often with men than women. Men are visual beings, it's part of our wiring and physiology. This is why pornography entraps men a little easier than women; and even in cases in which women struggle with porn it's usually for different reasons than men. When you combine visual stimulation for men with a consumeristic society that is entirely infiltrated with pornography, it's almost guaranteed that a man will have trouble always finding a woman attractive. This is why, for guys particularly, attraction is important but it needs to give way to commitment. 

Emotions, attractions and desires come and go, but a relationship based on commitment is one that will be enhanced not dictated by attraction. When this happens, true attraction takes form, both sexually and emotionally.

What are your thoughts, Debbie? Is this the same for girls? 

ME: 
Yes. 

You bring up some good points, and I do think it's easier for most women to become attracted to a man over time as she gets to know him, even if she wasn't attracted to him initially. 

Here's a little confession from yours truly, though.. 
I have the tendency, upon meeting men, to immediately put them into a category based on their physical attraction (yes, I'm shallow at times). They either stay in the, 'Maybe this could be more' realm, or they are immediately cast into the 'Friend Zone'. Granted, those that are in the friend zone can come out of it (and have). Because, physical attraction is important...but it's not the most important. And yes, it's fleeting and it isn't the thing to base a relationship on... but if it's not there, it's not there. 

There have been a few times when I tried to force it though, and I found myself trying to convince myself of all the reasons why I should date a certain guy, even though I wasn't really physically attracted to him. But, I don't think that we should have to convince ourselves. I think there's this combination that's necessary, a combination that creates attraction/arousal... a combination that's good to hold out for. I would never encourage a woman to marry a man just because he was great if she had no attraction toward him. Could it work? Actually, it probably could...

So maybe the whole attraction thing is bogus and a product of our society. I could throw in a Fiddler on the Roof reference and talk about arranged marriages and how physical attraction doesn't seem essential at all to a long-lasting marriage. That maybe it's all about commitment and choosing to love each other day in and day out, no matter what. That maybe our desire for physical attraction is a superficial, shallow thing that we place entirely too much focus on (myself clearly included). 

Check out these lyrics from Fiddler on the Roof (I decided to go look them up after I thought about the song "Do you Love Me?'). An older couple's daughter is about to get married out of love and, while they are reflecting on this newfound idea for their culture, the husband (Tevya) asked his wife (Golde) if she loves him: 

(Golde)
Do I love you? 
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

(Tevye)
Golde, The first time I met you 
Was on our wedding day
I was scared

(Golde)
I was shy

(Tevye)
I was nervous

(Golde)
So was I

(Tevye)
But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?

(Golde)
I'm your wife

(Tevye)
"I know..."
But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

(Tevye)
Then you love me?

(Golde)
I suppose I do

(Tevye)
And I suppose I love you too

(Both)
It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know

It's this beautiful picture, to me, of what love can look like. What commitment can look like. And how dating, perhaps, can easily influence us into breaking up with people simply because of the little things that we are unattracted to in another person that hold absolutely no significance. 

Because..
What really matters

As much as we let physical attraction matter...
I'm not sure it should. 

I think I've just convinced myself of that.. 

What if we were truly able to be people who aren't so quick to judge the surface? If you're anything like me, let's seek to not be so quick to cast people into "dateable" and "undateable" solely on physical attraction. Can we be willing to go deeper? Can we be willing to see them in the fullness of who they truly are? Can we be willing to not let what others think matter (because, let's be honest, sometimes we don't want to date someone just because we fear others won't think they're attractive at all...)?

Maybe we're too broken and our society has engrained too much junk into us to fully escape the desire (and need) for being physically attracted to our significant other... but let's not be people who define our relationships by it. Let's not jump out of relationships because of something external. 

Let's be committed, let's honor the other... for who they are, not just what they look like (blemishy, fat, skinny, crooked teeth, grey hair and all). 

Because it is fleeting.
And the other stuff just matters more.

Let's live like it. 

Your entries will remain anonymous

7 comments:

  1. I think this is a really important subject to talk about and discuss! I agree that our society puts so much weight on the idea of physical attraction that it is hard to discern what is healthy and what isn't as a Believer. My statement about this is that I can definitely say that I am attracted to someone who is obviously in shape and athletic, but my reasoning behind this is that it shows that this person is seeking to keep their Temple healthy. When I see overall good physical condition (fitness, hair, etc.) it shows me that this person desires to honor the Lord in not letting the Temple in which He (or she) has chosen to dwell in fall into disrepair. That is huge, in my opinion. We need to be in good physical condition so that we are prepared to do anything that the Lord may ask us to do, whether it be just play with kids, teach, counsel, or climb a mountain. I think just biologically we (as women) are attracted to people who show signs of being good providers and protector, and ebfore the age of cars and computers, outward physical health was a good indicator of that. Am I making sense? haha

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  2. Sorry, not *(or she)*. misprint.

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  3. As a married gal, here are my two cents...the other stuff does "matter more", but it sure does make life better when you are madly attracted to your lover! I think physical attraction is a huge component to the married life - and it honors your spouse when you do things like wear things they find attractive, do your hair they way they like, etc, and when they do similar things for you. I think the physical side can be a beautiful expression of your love and as Christian women I think we down-play it in dating and then struggle with it in marriage. Its a beautiful thing to be madly attracted to your spouse, and to also be attractive to him. (I know there's an unhealthy side to this if you take it too far, but in its pure form I think its really beautiful). I mean, if that guy's gonna be looking back at you in everything from your own bed to every cherished photo...why not try for a man you like looking at? :)

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  4. In one of my classes last semester we talked about porn for a couple days from a "biblical ethical" POV. One woman theologian stated, "It used to be that a woman had something to offer a man. It was a big thing to see a real woman naked. Now, it's just bad porn." i think she was on to something- there's this standard for beauty and attractiveness we've all been fed- but the truth is no one is there. So mostly, when we caution men and women to be weary of basing a relationship on whether you're attracted to someone, it's addressing the lie that someone must be 'beautiful' by society's standard in order for you to be happily married to them. And I think Debbie has a point in saying that women can become attracted to someone over time. The truth is- so can men. Because Lord knows there have been men who entered arranged marriages with women who weren't their "type"... I'm not bashing people who are married to people they find attractive. I'm just saying, maybe we're not as limited in our attraction as we think.

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  5. I trully think guys more so let society tell them who they should be attracted to so for e.g the guy is hot and he attracted to a fat girl but he wouldnt date her because society tells him he should be attracted to the halle berry's of the world (in some cases)

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  6. I agree with both authors except for one point- Bryn says "e truth is that God created sex and sex inherently involves arousal which is physically (not emotionally or mentally) created by attraction". For men it may primarily involve the physical however for ladies to be aroused we NEED to feel emotionally and mentally connected. An abused woman for example would not want to sleep with him because of his body looks

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    ReplyDelete