A frustrating aspect of my work as a Jewish matchmaker is witnessing intelligent, successful and experienced Jewish singles walk away from good people and potential long-term partners because of the ‘instant attraction’ illusion. What is the instant attraction illusion? It’s the illusion that if someone is ‘right’ for you, you will feel physical chemistry and sexual attraction after seeing their photo or profile, or during the first phone call, or on a first date – and if you don’t feel it, it’s an indication that you will never feel it, so you decide this person is ‘not for you’ and continue looking.
I’m not sure how this illusion got started, but I’m convinced it materialized along with the popularity of online dating and the superficial and ‘instant’ way of judgement that helps us make a quick determination of whether or not someone is datable by reading a couple of paragraphs about them and glancing at a few (often bad) photographs. And we think this is an effective method of evaluation!
Certainly our experience of romance didn’t begin this way. Think back to your high school romances…were they sparked by an instant chemistry and intense physical attraction or was there simply some guy in your class that you thought was ‘cute’? So you found a way to speak to him and discovered he was nice, or funny, or sweet? And it seemed he felt the same about you so he asked you on a date and you went out and you had a nice time so you went out again, and pretty soon you were crazy about him and thought he was the most handsome guy in town. Does this sound familiar? You can switch pronouns and switch scenarios but most of my relationships started in a similar way – not with fireworks and ‘we can’t keep our hands off each other’ but with the thought that ‘he seems nice’ and taking it from there.
As a matter of fact, the relationships that began with intense physical attraction fizzled out and died just as quickly. I might have found my date physically attractive when I first met him, but the guys with whom I felt an electrifying and irresistible chemistry with burned out quickly. I don’t know what causes that type of attraction, but I know from experience that it isn’t based on genuine emotion nor is it a sign that you’ve found your ‘soulmate’. Soulmates are two old souls meeting up again and connecting on a much deeper level than merely physical chemistry allows for and it often takes some time spent together before realizing that this person is a soulmate. You might know it early on, but not because you can’t keep your hands off each other – more because you feel comfortable and ‘at home’ with this person.
I’ve also had many long-term relationship start with no physical attraction at all – it develops only after I get to know the guy and his character. The more I see in his behavior that triggers feelings of respect, admiration, and trust toward him – the more physically attracted I become.
But this takes time, spending time learning about one another, and it absolutely cannot be determined in one or two dates. I once dated a guy for an entire month while being unsure of whether or not I even wanted to kiss him! But I could see what a good, decent, and honest person he was so I gave those feelings time to grow – sure enough, after our first kiss I was hooked! We went on to have a three year relationship that was a growth experience for both of us and although we finally ended our romantic relationship, he is like a member of my family now and I’m so blessed that he is in my life.
Love comes in many different forms, but it is not hidden in instant sexual attraction. If you want to stop the revolving door of dating, you’ve got to stick it out for more than a date or two. Unless you see some serious behavioral red flags (potential abuse of any kind), give people a chance to get under your skin. Dating used to be about getting to know another person so that you could make an informed decision as to whether or not he/she is relationship material. Dating is not a relationship. Dating is the prequel to a relationship – the due diligence, if you will. These days, we mistake dating for a relationship, so we expect to know from our first face-to-face meetup whether or not we want to continue a ‘relationship’ with this person. Talk about unrealistic! So we keep crashing and burning, and the revolving door keeps spinning.
Grow up. Be fearless. Talk to a few of your potential suitors and choose one to focus on for four weeks. Go on dates, talk on the phone, hang out casually – be yourself and be honest about what you are doing – getting to know the person. After four weeks, if you don’t feel anything more than friendship, share your feelings with no blame, but with appreciation for time spent together and the opportunity to get to know someone new. Repeat this process with someone else. Eventually you will end the four weeks falling in love with the person you’ve gotten to know and vice versa. But the instant attraction illusion? Leave it where it belongs, in the dustbin of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy – nice concepts, but nothing to ‘believe’ in.