How Important is Physical Attraction?
For our non-Catholic counterparts in the dating world, it’s probably pretty typical that “hotness” might be high on the list of priorities one is looking for in a date, with no qualms or second thoughts about it. But for us Catholics, the matter is not so straightforward.
It’s quite possible that some of us are guilty of similarly shallow standards in ideals of what we’re looking for in a date.
But then, maybe we start taking in to account the whole concept of charitable love of neighbor, and start considering that it should typically extend to our attitudes toward people’s physical appearances.
This might make us really look at our dating prospects in a different light, and we might like to think that, as good Catholics, we’re above being superficial. And yet, there’s no denying that physical chemistry with someone does seem to be calling for our attention as a significant consideration when deciding who to date.
Catholic Does Not Equal Prude
Most of the world thinks that Catholics consider sex to be some kind of necessary evil, but I have to think God is legitimately laughing and saying, “Hello, who do you think created it?”
Don’t believe me? Try diving into reading St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, or his Love and Responsibility if you’re ambitious. God created sexual attraction for a reason, or more accurately, multiple reasons – the ends of procreation and unity in marriage as the two most obvious.
So what is a Catholic to do, when deliberating just how important, or unimportant, physical attraction should be in a potential relationship with someone?
What Does Shallow Mean?
Let’s head briefly to the dictionary for some insight on Catholic dating, shall we?
Merriam-Webster defines “shallow” (after the obvious stuff about having no depth) as “penetrating only the easily or quickly perceived.”
So in the realm of one’s love life, we can take this to mean that we’re being shallow if we’re making a judgment on whether or not we want to date someone based only on the things we can gather quickly and easily about the person, i.e. their hotness.
So this is obviously something that we as good Catholics should be trying to avoid. We don’t want to fall into the trap of missing out on dating someone really great simply because the things we gathered about them in a quick, shallow judgment weren’t as great as we were hoping.
But is it Shallow if you’re Just Not Attracted?
What is shallow is to assume immediately that you can’t be attracted to this person. The difference here is whether or not you are willing to give someone a shot when they don’t necessarily have your dream body.
So, say you meet a new date, and you realize instantly that they do not look like your ideal mate. But you decide not to be shallow about it and you carry on with getting to know them. And you discover that their personality actually meshes quite well with yours. The two of you both enjoy yourself. So you decide to give this person a shot, and the two of you have a few more dates.
One of two things will happen. Either that spark of attraction that you didn’t feel immediately will start to develop as you get to know the person, and you’ll be extremely glad you didn’t take the shallow route of walking away before giving it a go.
Or, despite having lots of fun and getting along great for a few dates, you realize that you’re still not at all physically attracted to this person. You might even wish you were, since the two of you seem so great together personality-wise. But the reality is that you just can’t force chemistry.
When and Why to Break it Off
It can feel kind of confusing if you get along great with someone you’re dating but don’t actually feel physically attracted.
But the truth of the matter is that if a relationship is to go somewhere like marriage, there needs to be a physical attraction. Sex is important. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’re being virtuous or more holy by continuing to date someone you don’t desire physically.
There is a name for a relationship with someone you’re not physically attracted to. It’s called friendship.
Friendship is quite important in a romantic relationship, but it can’t be the sole basis of one. We are beings with both a body and soul and God intended marriage to be a reflection of this.
You’re Not Doing Anyone Any Favors
Continuing to date someone you’re not physically attracted to doesn’t actually do either of you any good. Sure, the two of you are having fun, but if you can’t see yourself someday having sex with this person (in marriage, of course – and by seeing, I mean in a somewhat veiled, non-dwelling-on-impure-thoughts kind of way), you should not be wasting that person’s time.
Just because you’re not physically attracted to him or her doesn’t mean that some other great person won’t be. So don’t fall into the trap of pity-dating, because you might actually be preventing them from finding the person they will have mutual chemistry with.
As Catholics, we want to be holy. We do want to avoid the shallow standards that the rest of the world worships, and we might want to think we are above prioritizing physical attraction. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the important role sexual attraction actually plays.
So, while we certainly should be well above our secular counterparts when it comes to shallow physical standards, sexual attraction is much too powerful an element of romantic love to be ignored.
Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic wife, mother, screenwriter, and blogger, as well as author of the Catholic YA romance novel SYDNEY AND CALVIN HAVE A BABY. She blogs about TV and Movies from Catholic perspective at Thorne in the Flesh: A Faithful Catholic's Guide to Netflix, Hulu, and More.