“I can’t help who I am attracted to”

Some people may think they are attracted to only a certain look and won’t even consider dating someone who doesn’t have those features.  They rationalize their perspective by saying that they can’t control who they find attractive, and why waste both people’s time by meeting.

At first glance, that may seem reasonable. But actually, it is a misconception. A basic premise of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is that distorted perception that gives way to unhelpful emotions which lead to rather unsatisfactory results.  Benny* has been wanting to get married for an extended period – but only to someone with a specific look.  Yet, marriage is elusive.   An insistence on only dating people with a specific type of appearance ceases to be a rational position once it is clearly not working.   (*This applies to both genders.)

It is worthwhile to question the thoughts that are not getting him to his desired results of marriage. This may not be what he wants to hear, he doesn’t want to let go of the vision he has had for so long. Too often, people don’t attribute their struggles to the proper cause; sadly, ignoring the reality doesn’t make the issue go away.

Often people get stuck on specific issue during dating because they miss one key point about dating for marriage:  how one feels about something as part of dating is not necessarily how that same person may feel about it in the context of a lasting relationship.  A classic example is that someone is looking for exciting dates and is turned off by what they may term a boring date. In a marriage, it is that stability and responsibility that are important than adrenaline and fun.

Back to attraction. Clearly, there needs to be an attraction between two people for a shidduch to work out. In the actual marriage, other factors are most likely going to play a much greater role.   Shared values, empathy, generosity, stability all are elements that are crucial for successful marriage.

Now, it is understandably difficult for someone to relate to how they may feel some time down the line. It is human nature to experience things in the here and now. But, let’s remember that the essence of dating is to explore the possibility of a lifelong partnership. Thinking ahead is the name of the game. It is simply disastrous to pay all one’s attention to how one experiences the dating, and overlook the question of how things are likely to play out in the marriage.

It is crucial to put short-term consideration vs long-term priorities into context of a happy marriage.  It would be a terrible idea to keep dating someone because you find them funny and charismatic, even though you are coming to realize that you have significantly different life goals. The dating may be great, but a marriage would be unhappy.

In this respect, the issue of attraction is no different. It cannot be allowed to affect one’s decision who to marry to a significantly greater extent than it would actually impact one’s marital happiness.

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