This was a letter asking advice (sort of), but I thought it would also make a great topic for conversation, so I’m framing it (and answering it below) thusly.
I’m so used to relationships with avoidant men, where I am having to pursue them at times and prove my worthiness, and I see where this comes from in my history of love and really don’t want to perpetuate these unhealthy patterns. He is a lovely man and we have a lot of have fun together (he’s also not in the dark about these feelings I’m having, though he doesn’t know I’m unsure about the physical attraction factor); I really don’t want to mess this up because of my own attachment issues.
I am not sure the problem is that I’m not used to being loved so easily and that with continued self-work I can get over this block, or if I’m really just missing that chemical attraction? Do you think that is a really important thing to have right off the bat with someone, or do you think it can be fostered? — Wanting to Be a Healthy Partner in a Healthy Relationship
Short answer: I think attraction can be fostered (to a degree), but I don’t think chemistry can. It’s either there or it isn’t. Chemistry is different than attraction. You can feel chemistry with platonic friends or even colleagues and co-workers. It exists in mentor-mentee or special teacher-pupil roles, and even between a caregiver and the person being cared for. You know chemistry when you feel it. It’s what makes things “click.” It’s what make you feel like you’ve known a person forever even if you’ve only met recently. It’s what makes you feel so comfortable together. Attraction, on the other hand, is what makes you want to make out. You can cultivate that, but, if you don’t have chemistry, there wouldn’t be much point.
So, the first thing you have to figure out is whether you do have chemistry. Nothing you’ve written indicates how you feel about this one way or another. You certainly seem to feel adored and cared for. But that’s not the same thing as feeling chemistry. Do you feel like you get each other? Does your connection feel natural and easy? Do you genuinely enjoy his company? You mention not being as “effortlessly into it” as he is; is it the physical part that takes more effort, or simply being together at all? Because if it’s the latter, you don’t have chemistry. Chemistry really is pretty effortless.
What’s not always effortless is attraction. But you can foster it. Since you’re questioning whether your lack of attraction for this guy could have something to do with your pattern of falling for avoidant men, you could work through that in therapy while increasing the romance in your relationship which is a natural lubricant for attraction. Moonlit strolls, candle-lit dinners, picnics in the park, and lying in bed listening to music are a few ways you could foster intimacy and see if attraction follows suit. But if it doesn’t — and certainly, if you continue recoiling at his touch — you need to do the kind thing and break this off fairly soon. The cruelest and most selfish thing you could do is lead this guy on if you simply don’t feel it for him even after giving it some effort.
Finally, it’s great that you are aware of your dating patterns and want to break them and start setting more healthy patterns in motion. Dating someone who is the wrong guy for you isn’t going to do that though. Even if someone is wrong for you for different reasons than someone else was wrong for you, it doesn’t make the outcome any different: the relationship won’t work. The best way to start setting a better pattern in dating is to move on as soon as you know a person isn’t right for you. So, do some soul-searching about this guy and listen to your gut. Guys who treat you well and are eager to commit can be just as wrong for you as those who treat you like crap and don’t want a relationship.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.