It seemed like I was always going after the “wrong types”.
The players who broke my heart, the emotionally unavailable men who were never going to let me in, the so-called “bad boys” who chew you up and spit you out.
Meanwhile, all the good guys — the ones who treat you with care and respect — I simply wasn’t into.
Until one heartache too many changed all that. I decided that I needed to learn to love what was good for me.
But can you choose to be attracted to someone?
Here’s what I discovered and how I finally healed my dating disasters to make better choices in love.
Is it a choice to be attracted to someone?
They say that you can’t help who you fall for, but is this really true?
There’s no doubt that attraction is incredibly complicated and influenced by a lot of things.
From my own personal experience, I have come to learn that there isn’t really a simple answer. If anything the answer is both yes and no.
What I mean by that is our initial attraction is largely governed by uncontrollable urges created by silent factors.
Our desire is to a certain extent pre-programmed by our biology, experiences, and beliefs. This subconsciously motivates us and pulls the strings behind the scenes.
But at the same time, we do have choices.
We have choices over which connections we decide to nurture and invest in. We have a choice to dig deeper into these silent drives within our unconscious and even begin to reprogram them over time.
In this way, you can do things that teach yourself to be attracted to the people who are good for you, rather than bad for you.
The complications of attraction
Attraction can feel a very mysterious force.
It can instantly hit you, it can come and go, and it can also grow with time.
The reason is that attraction is multifaceted. It can be based on physical chemistry and lust, but it can also develop from deeper emotional ties.
Lust and physical attraction are harder to control. We may be immediately drawn to someone simply because of the way they look.
But that isn’t where it ends. Have you ever thought someone was so good-looking until they opened their mouth to speak?
In a moment any initial attraction fades when you become totally turned off by their personality. The same can also work the other way around.
You might not find someone particularly cute. But as time goes on, when you really get to know them, it’s as if they become better looking in your eyes.
Your attraction to them is being influenced by who they are, and not just how they look. Here lies the power we do have in choosing to be attracted to someone.
What makes you sexually attracted to someone? The science behind it
I want to give you some insight into how attraction happens.
While attraction can feel like something magical and inexplicable, it actually has a scientific explanation.
When we are attracted to somebody chemical reactions are taking place within our brain. When you’re sexually aroused, your testosterone levels increase, which triggers the release of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is what gives us feelings of pleasure.
This means that when you’re physically attracted to someone, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel happy.
These chemicals include serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. These are all known to trigger positive emotions such as love and affection.
So that’s what happens, but it still doesn’t explain why it happens. And importantly, why does it happen with some people, but not others?
What drives you to be attracted to someone?
How much time you spend with someone
Being around someone a lot makes it more likely for attraction to grow.
Research has shown that proximity is a big factor in attraction. This explains why there are so many workplace romances and why friends so often turn into lovers.
Your “type” romantically speaking is shaped by the society and culture you live in, and its ideas about what is desirable. It is also molded by the family environment you grew up in.
So if your mum was quite a strong-willed woman, you may find yourself being attracted to girls who remind you of this trait.
Similarly, if your father didn’t show affection, you might go after guys who behave the same way. It’s all down to what we learn is “normal” and so feels the most familiar and comfortable to you.
Biology plays a few general roles in who we are attracted to. After all, Mother Nature has good gene pools at the back of her mind for when we mate.
We tend to find healthy-looking people more attractive. That means being youthful, and having certain physical characteristics (like face symmetry) can be more appealing.
How similar someone is to you
We’ve all heard how “opposites attract” but the reality is that isn’t true. We get along better with people who are like us.
Countless studies have in fact overwhelmingly concluded that we are attracted to people who we share things in common with.
That may be experiences, looks, background, education, IQ, values, or personality traits. Research has pretty much found that the more similar we are, the more likely attraction is.
I’ve lost count of how many dates I’ve had with great guys I wish I was attracted to, but I wasn’t.
When this happens we often put it down to that missing spark. We say that we just don’t have “chemistry”. And according to research, it seems there is truth to this.
Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher conducted a study into which neural systems dominate your personality and how that affects attraction.
She found that we all have chemically different personalities.
Dopamine-dominant personalities tend to be more curious, creative, independent, and adventurous. Serotonin-dominant personalities are more traditional, social, calm, and controlled.
Testosterone-dominant people can be quite strong-minded, analytical, and direct. Meanwhile, estrogen-dominant personalities are more nurturing, empathetic, and imaginative.
When it comes to attraction, her research suggests that whilst dopamine types and serotonin types are attracted to their own kind, testosterone types are more attracted to estrogen types and vice versa.
Can you control who you are attracted to?
Given the wide range of things that contribute to attraction, there are always going to be some unavoidable forces at play.
We obviously can’t change our genetic makeup or turn off our naturally evolved biological drives.
But there are clearly things that we can do to control attraction and gently shape who we find ourselves drawn to.
Determined to make better decisions in love, I looked toward the things that I could change.
Can you control your attraction to someone? I learned that to a certain extent, yes you can.
Here are 8 things I did that really worked for me:
1) I widened my definition of attraction
What became very clear was that lust can be an incredible motivator when it comes to attraction. But one that often wasn’t very reliable.
I had been following my instinct and going for guys that I found hot. But at some point, those flames of passion would get me burned.
We all want to be physically attracted to our partners. For me, it’s essential and what separates friendship from something more.
Lust is often the first type of attraction to show up. We make an instant decision about whether we think somebody is good-looking or not.
But it is by no means the only measure of attraction. So I began to think about all the things I find attractive in somebody (you can even make a list).
In it, I included personality traits, values, and beliefs.
I used this to remind myself that looks fade, and what we are left with is the genuine connection we have created with someone.
Lust and physical attraction is always going to be there, but it doesn’t need to be in the driving seat of your love life.
2) I made more conscious choices
Armed with my newfound determination to be less shallow in my choices, I committed to using that wider definition of attraction when dating.
What it practically translated to was not letting my heart (or initial sexual desires) make all the decisions. I resolved to let my head play a role too.
We have to be vigilant as it’s easy to go solely off looks. One dating study highlighted this well.
Researchers found that despite listing various characteristics that were important to them, participants ultimately wanted to go out with the best-looking people.
We get easily sucked in by our physical attraction to someone.
But if I wanted to make stronger and wiser partnerships, I knew I needed to police myself so that I could let my head and my heart work together to make better decisions.
3) I gave it time
Can you force yourself to be attracted to someone? No, sadly not. But can you grow to be attracted to someone? Yes, absolutely.
As we’ve already said, physical attraction can be instant, but to form a deeper (and usually more satisfying) attraction takes time.
Love doesn’t happen overnight.
Rather than discounting and dismissing a guy because I didn’t feel an initial spark or physical attraction, I gave it time. I gave them a chance.
If I knew I had things in common with a guy, and he had traits and qualities I do find attractive — I was prepared to see if there could be something between us.
Sometimes it leads nowhere, and attraction doesn’t grow. But other times it does.
Whatsmore, I noticed that with the people who grow on you, your attraction can even be more multifaceted and run deeper than just those instant sparks which can quickly fizzle out.
4) I stopped ignoring red flags
If the failing of my love life and attraction could be summed up in just one sentence, then the words of Aerosmith says it all:
“I kept the right ones out, And let the wrong ones in”.
No matter how I looked at it, I had to admit, I was creating the roller coaster I experienced in my love life by choosing which romantic connections to pursue.
And the reality was all too often I used attraction as an excuse to ignore red flags.
Whether it was disrespectful behavior or them simply not showing enough interest, I would hide behind my desire as justification for accepting things that were not good enough.
This had to stop. No matter how much I thought I wanted them, if they didn’t treat me the way I deserved I let them go.
5) I firmed up my boundaries
If it weren’t for the work I did on boundaries, I’m not sure I would have had the strength to address red flags in my relationships.
Boundaries are the rules we create and live by which protect us.
Knowing my boundaries helped me to stay true to myself when I was tempted to allow physical attraction to get the better of me.
They guided me to remember that I was looking for an attraction built on more solid foundations.
My relationship boundaries include things like:
- We have to put equal effort in
- They have to communicate with me (about what’s going on, how they feel etc.)
- I won’t tolerate disrespectful behavior (like going hot and cold, ghosting, breadcrumbing, cheating etc)
When my boundaries were crossed I drew a line and was prepared to walk away.
6) I questioned my initial feelings
A lot of what we call attraction is actually a story we have created in our heads. It is a projection of who we think someone else is.
I’m sorry if that doesn’t sound very romantic, but I think it’s true.
We give people a made-up value based on the way they look and who we think they are (their social status, intelligence, background, etc).
So, I started to mindfully question my initial reaction to people.
When I saw unhelpful patterns of attraction to the wrong types of guys pop up, I tried to question what was behind those feelings.
For example, that might mean acknowledging when ego played a role — like when I wanted someone simply because I couldn’t have them.
Or I’d admit that my attraction to someone was down to a fantasy image I had of them, rather than getting to know the real person.
7) I dealt with my baggage
When you question what drives your feelings, you start to dig deeper into your psyche.
This self-awareness leads you to plenty of revelations about why you go for certain types of people and not others.
Your emotional baggage will be unique to you, depending on your own circumstances and core beliefs.
Having an emotionally unavailable father, I was drawn to romantic partners who showed this same aloofness that felt familiar and comfortable to me.
But the problem was, it wasn’t serving me.
You can’t help how you feel but once you understand what drives it, you can choose different actions.
Learning to subtly shift my perception about what is desirable, profoundly shifted what I found attractive in a man.
If you have unresolved emotions from past experiences or negative beliefs, they can pull the strings behind the scene and keep drawing you into bad relationships.
8) I bolstered my self-love
It’s not always positive factors that drive attraction. Sometimes very destructive elements play a role too.
If we don’t think we are worthy of being loved, we can push away kind and loving people. The good news is that by building self-esteem, we can begin to see ourselves as worthy of love.
This helps us to recognize when we’re attracting unhealthy people into our lives. And it gives us the strength to say no to toxic people and not settle for less than we deserve.
When you’re dealing with attraction to the wrong type of people, it’s easy to become frustrated and even feel helpless. You may even be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on love.
I want to suggest doing something different.
It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me that the way to find love and intimacy is not what we have been culturally conditioned to believe.
In fact, many of us self-sabotage and trick ourselves for years, getting in the way of meeting a partner who can truly fulfil us.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way that ends up stabbing us in the back.
We get stuck in awful relationships or empty encounters, never really finding what we’re looking for and continuing to feel horrible about things like falling for the wrong people.
We fall in love with an ideal version of someone instead of the real person.
We try to “fix” our partners and end up destroying relationships.
We try to find someone who “completes” us, only to fall apart with them next to us and feel twice as bad.
Rudá’s teachings showed me a whole new perspective.
While watching, I felt like someone understood my struggles to find and nurture love for the first time – and finally offered an actual, practical solution.
If you’re done with unsatisfying dating, empty hookups, frustrating relationships and having your hopes dashed over and over, then this is a message you need to hear.
I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.