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"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 much, much more than sex... however, in this article we're going to focus on sexual attraction itself.
Sexual attraction is a powerful thing, that seemingly has a mind of its own. We don't really seem to choose who we're attracted to, or who is attracted to us.
Like a well-honed sword, it sharply divides our social world into "people I like to be around", versus "people I want to have sex with."
And most of us never really stop to ask why our mind works this way.
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... 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... 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.
But recognizing this truth has lead to some very interesting investigation into how my brain works, and why.
Everyone has their "thing."
The emotion of attraction is all about dopamine, the neurotransmitter in our primal reptilian brains that defines attraction & desire. Dopamine is incredibly powerful and it drives our attention intensely towards the things that our brain thinks are good for us.
"Go get it now"
But our sense of attraction is also heavily personalized.
Look at your tastes in food... do you prefer pizza, pasta, or chicken? What about ice cream? Chocolate? Thai food?
Why do you love some tastes, but someone else can't stand that same thing?
The complexities of "taste"
Why does my brain think that Asian women are somehow a better choice for me?
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 much at all.
I'm OK with that. It's just how my mind works, and I've learned to accept it.
And I notice I'm not alone in having "strong preferences" for a very specific kind of partner.
For each of us, there are certain qualities, or characteristics of people, that affect our attraction levels in huge ways - both positively and negatively.
- Do you like tattoos, or not?
- Does hair color, or eye color have a big impact on your attraction towards someone?
- If you're attracted to women... do you prefer large breasts, or a more athletic body shape?
- If you're attracted to men... beard or no beard? Long hair or short? Curly or straight?
- What about voice, or accent?
We all have our thing.
The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly
Why do we crave some things, but not others?
The way our brains work, including what we like and dislike, evolved to maximize our chance of survival.
Your tastes in food is a good way to see this in action.
How awesome does fat & sugar taste?
Your brain knows it has the highest calories, thus it’s quite good for your survival. Evolution programmed your body and your brain, to prefer fat & sugar all the way down to your tastebuds.
How bad does rotten food smell?
Even if it's your favorite dish on the planet- your brain knows it’s full of dangerous microorganisms, and would be a very bad idea it eat. Even the thought of eating it will make you feel revulsion and nausea.
Everything about your tastes is based on optimizing your survival & success- and this includes sexual attraction.
The Differences Between Men & Women, in Attraction
Here's where things get interesting...
Men & women have distinctly different attraction algorithms.
Sexual attraction is about sex, and as such it has very, very deep roots in biology and subconscious psychology, which we may never understand, even about ourselves.
Here I need to differentiate gender psychologies, but I want to be clear on two points;
- Where I use the terms male and female, I'm referring to psychology here, not physiology. It doesn't matter if you're straight, gay, asexual, or transgender, it's likely that you can identify more strongly with either a masculine or a feminine psychology in this section- or some combination of both.
- Many psychologists now embrace the concept that gender identity is more of a spectrum, than a binary reality. You will probably identify with both mindsets, to different degrees, and that's absolutely normal.
If you're psychologically male
If you're male, your evolutionary psychology has optimized to lean towards signs of fertility and reproductive health. Men tend to feel attraction towards signs of youth and fertility like long dark hair, ample breasts, a nice curve to the hips. We are wired for these things.
The same is true for how you perceive faces… the face has a huge amount of information about someone’s genetics, and what you find “pretty” is strongly connected to indicators of genetic quality, such as facial symmetry.
The male brain is wired heavily towards physical attributes of health, youth, fertility, and good genes- because these are the things that evolution decided will give you the strongest and healthiest children.
If you're psychologically female
Women have an attraction algorithm too, but it’s encoded differently.
The female attraction algorithm is also seeking the best chances of reproductive success and healthy children- but in the pursuit of this it is designed to solve for different problems.
Women seek a much broader range of qualities in a partner;
- Good genetics, identified through face, body, and physical attractiveness.
- Strength- physically strong and able to protect & provide for her
- Confident & courageous, willing to confront problems
- Tough, unwilling to back down
- Popular, liked by the tribe
- Wealthy, or smart- able to provide
- Capable, good at solving problems
- Smart, able to create a good future and work around difficulties
- Committed, and reliable in a relationship
- Accepted, liked by her friends
That's quite a list, eh?
Remember, the question from the perspective of evolution is the same-
"How do I choose the best partner who will maximize my chances of having healthy children- and raising them successfully to adulthood?"
But the variables for a woman are vastly more complex.
Her man needs to be fertile, but also strong, protective, a good provider, well-connected in society. Her situation and needs will strongly influence what attracts her.
Moreover, different women will seek different things depending on their culture, their upbringing, their own family experiences, the influences of their friends, and their current life circumstances.
This is why you see a wide variety in what kinds of men women choose...
- Some women prefer tough, tattooed, scarred guys who might not fit the traditional definition of “good looking.”
- You've probably seen a beautiful women with short, out-of-shape guy, who has amassed some wealth and is a good provider.
- A woman who wants children is likely to be more attracted to a man who is fertile, and has good fathering qualities.
- A woman who has won the lottery is less likely to select men for their "provider" abilities.
- Or the cute girl with the average-looking but super-confident guy.
What understanding this matters
Understanding the evolutionary psychology of attraction can give you a clear direction to go for maximizing your attractiveness as a partner.
For men, it really comes primarily to looks. Women know this, and so does the makeup industry, the fashion industry, the gym industry... the better and younger you look, the more of an attractive effect you will have on the average male.
For women, attraction is significantly more varied.
Men often miss this reality.
Most men are worried about their looks, but for most women, that’s not the most important thing.
Find your strength.
Are you the smart guy? The good provider? The tough guy? Mr. Social or Mr. Confidence? What's your strength here?
Where are you weak? Go to the gym. Develop your self confidence. Build your circle of friends. Develop your career and income.
Invest in yourself.
Now, go spend time growing your friend circles and community relationship so that you're hanging around groups of people like you.
Why? Because people you connect well with will be attracted to those groups too, and you're far more likely to meet people there who find you attractive.
You may not be able to make yourself attractive to a particular person, because she'll have particular things she's looking for.
But you can easily make yourself more attractive to women overall.
This article is part of the series
This series is under development and further articles will be added soon.
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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.
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 just as common for someone to be exclusively 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 as a person, and whether they'd be a good friend or romantic partner.