Why Isn't the Person I like Attracted to Me?

Written by
Michael Wells

Why Isn't the Person I like Attracted to Me?

Exploring Sexual Attraction

Written by
Michael Wells

Why Isn't the Person I like Attracted to Me?

Exploring Sexual Attraction

Written by
Michael Wells
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QUESTION
"I love a girl very much but she doesn't want to accept me as her boyfriend. She wants me as her best friend, but that is difficult for me. What should I do?"

Relationships, love, and connection are about far more than sex- but for this article we're going to focus directly on sexual attraction itself.

Sexual attraction is an amazing thing, seemingly with a mind of its own. It is a razor-sharp sword that psychologically divides our social world into "people I like to be around", versus "people I want to have sex with."

A person we like can be both categories for sure, and this person could be a great choice as a girlfriend or boyfriend... however, it's at least as common for someone to be strongly in one category or the other.

  • Either, we like them a lot as a person, but we have no interest in sex with them.
  • Or, we find them very sexually appealing, but don't really know them well enough to know if we'd like them, and whether they'd be a good friend or romantic partner.

Sexual attraction has such a tremendous impact on us and our social world, that it's worth getting a firm understanding of.

Let's see what we can learn.

Who are you sexually attracted to, and why?

I am a white guy... by heredity, I'm half Italian, and half German.

Yet, for some reason that I can’t explain, I find myself strongly attracted towards Asian women.  Women who are of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Filipino, Vietnamese, or Indian descent... wow, somehow these women stand out to me in a way that Caucasian women don’t.

If I measure my own personally subjective attraction towards someone on a scale of 1 to 10, I notice something intriguing...

I am close friends with wonderful Caucasian women who are everywhere on my "personal attraction scale", including women who I find amazingly attractive in many ways. These women easily rank as 10/10 in attractiveness to me.

But for some reason, Asian women get an automatic extra +3 points, no matter where they are on my personal attraction scale. That means…

  • Someone who is at my personal attraction level of "1," who I'm not really attracted to at all, becomes a "4," who I'm somewhat attracted too.
  • A woman who I feel a moderate level "5" attraction towards, becomes an "8," and I feel strong attraction.
  • A "10," who is as attractive as my brain can even imagine, becomes a "13," and my brain just implodes.

And I simply cannot explain where this came from.

Everyone has their "thing."

The emotion of attraction is all about dopamine, the neurotransmitter in our primal reptilian brains that defines attraction & desire. It's incredibly powerful and it drives our attention intensely towards the things that your brain thinks are good for us.

Dopamine says "GO GET IT NOW"...

But our sense of attraction is also heavily personalized.

Look at your tastes in food... do you like pizza? pasta? chicken? What about ice cream? chocolate? Thai food?

Why do you love some tastes, but someone else can't stand that same thing?

Attraction is not a choice

Why does my brain think that Asian women are somehow a better choice for me?

I have no idea...

It was probably influenced by genetics, my childhood, social influences, maybe movies I've seen or people I've met- a giant cocktail of nature and nurture that runs deep into the lowest levels of my psyche.

I didn’t choose this, and I appear to have virtually zero control over this aspect of my psychology.

But the impact on me is huge.

In fact, this "Asian" effect is so intense for me, that I'm really not interested in Caucasian women.

I can absolutely feel intense attraction, yes... but it pales in comparison to the attraction I feel towards Asian women... which kind of sucks when a beautiful, wonderful Caucasian woman finds me attractive.

But I'm OK with that. It's just how my mind works, and I've learned to accept it.

I'm not broken. There's nothing for me to explain. I'm just "wired" that way.

In the same way, everyone I talk to has their "thing."

For each of us, there are certain qualities, or characteristics of people, that affect our attraction levels in huge ways - both positively and negatively.

The Rules of Sexual Attraction

Let's nail this understanding down firmly.

Our sexual attraction is not a choice we make.

Our brain makes it for us, deeply programmed by nature and nurture.

Our sexual attraction entirely subjective.

It is not a measurement of the value of that person in any way, or their sexual attractiveness to others. Someone else will likely have a completely different level of sexual attraction towards them.

Not every woman finds Brad Pitt sexy, and I never understood, why people think Julia Roberts is cute.

Sexual attraction and "liking someone" are very different things.

We can like and respect someone tremendously, think they are the coolest and most awesome person on earth, and still feel zero sexual attraction towards them.

Likewise, we can despise someone as a person, and yet our reptile brain still can't switch off the sexual attraction towards them.

It can be bloody confusing.

We have only a limited understanding of our own sexual attraction.

Sexual attraction is about sex, and as such it has very, very deep roots in biology and reptile-brain psychology, which we may never understand, even about ourselves.

It involves a million ingredients. If you can't fully explain yours, don't expect someone else to understand theirs.

How to accept sexual rejection

Sure, it stings a bit when you want someone, and they don't want you back.

But that sting should be nothing more than a mild feeling of disappointment.

"Ah well, she / he doesn't feel quite the same. That's too bad, I think that might have been amazing."

If you're feeling more than that, emotions like;

  • Frustration
  • Self-loathing
  • Anger
  • Resentment

Then you're not seeing things clearly.

If this is you, stop and reread the sections above, and reflect on where your thinking is off.

When you understand how your own attraction works, you'll understand this well...

When your sexual interest is rejected by someone, it has very, very little to do with you. Don’t take it personally... because it's not personal at all.

It has everything to do with their tastes, cultural programming, biology, psychology… all things that person has virtually zero understanding of, or ability to change.

How to respond well

Let's suppose you tell someone that you find them very attractive, and you'd love to go on a date with them... and they respond "no, thanks, I'm not interested."

First, simply accept it.

Recognize that their sexual attraction is not under their control. They didn't choose it, not even fundamental things like whether they like men or women... or both...  or neither.

Recognize that their sexual attraction has nothing to do with you. It is not an evaluation or measurement of you, and it does not define you in any way.

See it as no different than asking someone "do you like pizza?"...

Their tastes are simply their own. Embrace their right to like what they like.

Don't challenge it, or try to change it.

Don't waste your time - or theirs - trying to understand those attraction-dynamics in someone else.

Your desire to understand might be genuine, but it's  entirely unreasonable to expect someone else to be able to tell you why they feel or don't feel sexual attraction towards you.

Most especially don't try to change their attraction.

No matter how great you think you are, or how much you've invested in this friendship, or "how perfect the two of you might be as a couple", simply respect this person.

Respect means recognizing their right to be themselves, with absolutely zero pressure or shaming from you.

Appreciate their honesty, and vulnerability.

It's not easy for someone to let someone down. Generally, good humans don't like making other good humans uncomfortable.

Appreciate their honesty, an thank them for being honest with you.

Let go of that fantasy, and move on.

Everything you're imagining about your sexual connection with this person is a fantasy. If you've never been sexual with them, what exactly convinces you that it would be great?

Letting go is a decision, and it's quite an easily one. All it means is letting go of that fantasy itself.

Simple recognize that...

  • A sexual connection with this person isn't possible, because they're not interested.
  • Clearly, this sexual connection wouldn't be great, because they're not feeling the same way. Even if you could manage to convince this person to explore a sexual relationship with you, it would be pretty boring for both of you. They'd be at best mildly engaged, because none of that dopamine is flowing. You deserve a better connection than that, and so do they.

Simply choose to let go, and move on and find someone who is a far better fit.

Your life is much better spent finding a partner who is naturally attracted to you, than chasing one who isn't.

How to deliver sexual rejection

I've no doubt that this situation is far more common for women, but most men will experience this a few times in our lives as well.

There are a few things you can do...

Thank the person for their appreciation of you

Be genuine about this.

It's nice to be noticed, and it means a lot when someone risks rejection in their expression of attraction towards you.

Make it very clear that you're not interested.

The worst thing you can do is be unclear or ambiguous about your response.

You might think it's compassionate but when you're vague about your feelings, you're locking that person into a torture chamber called "maybe..."

It's OK to not be sure, but express that clearly...

"Wow, thanks for asking. I'm... not sure really, I'll need a few weeks to think about this."

Make absolutely sure to follow up with a legitimate answer within that timeframe, because they're going to be locked in that "maybe..." torture until you do.

When possible, if you know, a simple, clear yes or no is best.

Set a firm boundary, if you must.

Some people will struggle with rejection. The world is pretty emotionally immature these days, and men in particular.

If they are struggling to understand why you're not attracted to them...

"Yeah, I wish I understood attraction too, it's quite a mystery."

If they become rude, or pressuring, or disrespectful, let them know that's not ok.

"Hey, I've said thank you, and I've given you my answer. Please show some respect."

If they persist...

"Thanks but I've said everything I can."

And just exit the situation.

How to protect your friendships.

If you are good friends, and you want to protect the friendship.

"This is really frustrating for me too. You're a great person and I really like you- our friendship means a lot to me.
I wish I understood attraction too... but I just feel like that's not the relationship I want for us."

Sharing why you're not attracted

There may be times when you might know specifically what it is that makes this person sexually unappealing to you.

With someone you know and trust- sharing this respectfully, and compassionately, can help them see themselves through the eyes of others in useful ways- particularly if it's something they can improve on.

You can share these details, if you have them and if they want them- but make certain you're skilled at communicating compassionately, and that they're skilled at dealing with their own emotions about it.

This type of honesty can be very confronting for some.

But, here are some simple examples to consider...

Perhaps they're overweight, and you find a more fit body type attractive...

"For some reason, I find fitness especially attractive."

Perhaps there's an essential quality you're looking for...

"I particularly like women/men who X."

Maybe they're too promiscuous for your taste...

"For my life, I'm looking for someone that I can feel uniquely special with, who doesn't have as much sexual experience as you do."

Maybe your eye is on someone else...

"Thanks but right now I'm actually interested in someone, and I need to figure out what's happening there first."

In a close friendship, honesty and openness are central, and full disclosure of your thoughts and feelings can be incredibly powerful.

However keep in mind that this will be a very emotional time for them, and they're likely to have built up a lot of fantasy about "what could be..."

Be deeply aware, and deeply compassionate, and you'll both grow through the experience in amazing ways.

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First published on 
November 26, 2018
. Last updated on 
November 29, 2020

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      Addendum

      Originally answered on Quora.

      There are many different things we could explore in this situation -  persistence & patience, vulnerability and deepening the relationship, self-reflection and understanding the feeling of love, how attraction differ in men & women, and the difference between liking someone, and wanting a relationship with them.

      So, so many things. I picked one...

      My answer focused on helping the asker understand attraction better.