Editor’s note: Sex and relationship advice columnist Yana Tallon-Hicks is currently on maternity leave. While she’s gone, we’re reprinting some of her best columns of the past several years, and are looking forward to her return in September. This column was originally published June 19, 2017.
I met a girl on a dating app. It was sort of an accidental swipe, but we started chatting and met up. She was really cool to hang out with, but physically, I didn’t find her very attractive. We kept talking and started spending time together.
Now it has been a couple of months, and I’m having some reservations. Even though we really enjoy spending time together, I’m just not attracted to her physically, and it is starting to take a toll. She’s getting more attached, but this is becoming more of a mental block for me. I feel like Shallow Hal, and if it wasn’t for the lack of physical attraction, things would be great.
How do I get over this? Am I just being shallow?
— Getting Too Deep in the Shallow End
Dear Too Deep,
For most people, attraction is an instant, uncontrollable urge that tends to be physically motivated. Emotional attachment and intimacy, however, is usually a slower burn. If your initial attraction sticks as you get to the know the person, it can fan those emotional attachment flames, or perhaps your automatic attraction will fizzle and fade over time.
Or maybe you’re like so many of us in the Happy Valley, and you sleep with a lot of your friends, as friendship ripens to sexual attraction — the kind of attraction that creeps up ivy-style between you and your besties when you least expect it (even though, let’s be real, everyone else around you totally expected it).
Let me get to the point: It’s okay not to be attracted to someone. And it’s okay to feel attracted to a person initially and have that desire grow or fade over time.
But there is something inside of you that’s not sitting right, Too Deep, a little piece of you that feels like maybe you’re being an asshole. I’m guessing that this woman you speak of does not nestle neatly into the box labeled “beautiful” by conventional standards?
Are you an asshole if you dump this girl? I’m not sure if that’s for me to decide. But I can tell you how I try to make sure that I’m not being an asshole. When dating and sleeping with people, never put them into sweeping stereotypes or categories and respect them as individuals.
Chances are if you dig into why you aren’t attracted physically to your date, and ask yourself why you feel this way, you’ll find that you’re creating restrictions for yourself and the people around you.
Whether someone is a jerk for saying “I went out with this great girl, but I’m just not attracted to her” can only be decided on a case-by-case basis. “I dumped this girl because she is too … (short, tall, orange, etc.) ” = You’re an asshole. “I dumped this girl because my sexual attraction didn’t click on around her” = Fine.
Finally, what might it feel like to you if you heard that someone was continuing to date you as she tried to muster up a shred of sexual attraction to throw your way, in order to prove to herself that she is not an asshole? No one is sexually attractive to everyone. And we are all sexually attractive to someone. And your date deserves to find that person, especially if it isn’t you.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.