Love is believed to happen at first sight. Glances are exchanged across the hall and butterflies felt in the stomach. Conversations laced with the sweet nervousness ensue, paving the way for tentative courtship. With time, the individuals get more comfortable around each other and a friendship develops between them. They express their thoughts, feelings and opinions to each other, and take an interest in what the other has to say. Indeed, mental attraction, besides physical attraction, is often considered a prerequisite for sustaining any romantic relationship. This Valentine’s Day, Soulveda explores the concept of mental attraction and its role in romantic relationships.
For two people to share a mental attraction, they need to look beyond the physical attributes and regard each other on a deeper level. How can we tell if we are attracted to someone for their mind? According to psychologist Vani Subramanian, we will know there is a definite spark when we are attracted to their mindset, and their level of thinking and being, rather than their physical attractiveness alone. Such an attraction will be based on appreciation for the other person’s knowledge, maturity, compassion, and other such qualities.
When two individuals match on such profound levels, their relationship can turn out to be healthy, fulfilling, and lasting. Subramanian further explains, “Relationships serve several needs, physical intimacy being just one. Companionship and security require a certain level of maturity and compatibility that can only be found if two individuals share the same wavelength.” Indeed, when two individuals think and emote on the same levels, there will be less room for conflict.
While both mental and physical attraction are important for a satisfactory relationship, what may help keep the flame alive is emotional compatibility between the individuals. After all, when the chips are down, we all need someone who can understand and support us.
In the recent times, the term ‘sapiosexual’ has been commonly used in social media and dating sites. Those attracted to intelligence call themselves sapiosexuals. Interestingly, such attraction is not only mental, but also physical. A 2017 study conducted at the University of Western Australia says, “The value of high levels of intelligence appears to extend to speciﬁc sexual attraction, rather than restricts itself to potential survival and parental beneﬁts (i.e., partner beneﬁts). Furthermore, for some people, the perception of high levels of intelligence in another person is so substantial that it may induce sexual arousal, more so than any other attribute.”
While both mental and physical attraction are important for a satisfactory relationship, what may help keep the flame alive is emotional compatibility between the individuals. After all, when the chips are down, we all need someone who can understand and support us. This is where emotional intelligence and maturity come into play. “People who are insightful, empathetic and have awareness of their emotional needs may have greater desire to become close to others and share intimate relationships,” says a study published in The International Journal of Indian Psychology. It further adds that when such individuals find trust and reciprocation in a partner, they may form healthy, committed relationships.
Sometimes, relationships work for reasons that may not be so clear, even to the couple. Even in the absence of intellectual or emotional compatibility, couples may manage to stick together for years. Take for instance Asha Ravindran, a Bangalore-based artist, who has been married for two-and-a-half years now. After a rough patch of constant fights and bitterness about a year ago, she had almost decided on a divorce. “My husband and I are poles apart in every sense. I am a dreamer and he is a realist. I am very spiritual, while he is practical. At one point, I felt like we were not going to fit together at all. But then, we remembered our shared values and morals. With that common ground to work with, we made a few compromises in other areas, and here we are, giving it another chance,” she says.
We are all familiar with the ‘opposites attract’ trope often used in popular culture. We’ve seen many a smart, affluent female lead fall in love with someone poor and uneducated. The grounded, practical entrepreneur takes a fancy for the happy-go-lucky dream girl. Even though the individuals have nothing in common and seem to have no compatibility of any kind, we’re told that they somehow live together happily ever after.
We might think that such things only happen in fiction. But they can–and do–happen in real life too. Asha and her partner have–despite stark differences–built their relationship on the strong foundation of their shared values. Explains Subramanian, “While opposites attract to some degree and may be provide fodder for interesting debates, mental attraction works only when you can acknowledge and accept the other person’s core value systems. If you are at loggerheads with each other’s fundamentals, it’s difficult to sustain interest. It gets clouded by prejudice.” The bottom line is that people from starkly different backgrounds too can develop a mental attraction and build a relationship, provided they meet each other halfway and then go the extra mile to absorb each other’s experiences.
Needless to say, attraction–physical, or mental–can bring two people together in love. However, it is only through mutual effort and understanding that individuals can keep that attraction alive, as time passes by. Only then can two people understand, respect and support each other through thick and thin. Then, of course, warm and stimulating conversations can always rekindle the spark in a resilient bond that stands the test of time.