Attraction: Real Love or Just Feelings?


attraction or real love?

The journey down the pathway of love involves four stages: attraction, desire, goodwill and marital love. These are laid out briefly in Pope John Paul II’s book, Love and Responsibility. In this post we’ll look at the first stage of love: Attraction.

Attraction is not love, but the doorway that can lead to love. If the relationship pathway were likened to a staircase leading to happily-ever-after, attraction would be the first step. Without question, this stage of love can feel the most powerful, complete with all of the beautiful feelings and sensations that accompany it — butterflies in the stomach, the feeling of ecstasy, and floating on cloud nine. God made emotions and feelings good. Without them, I might not be married today.

At a birthday party, I was talking to a group of friends, when a light (who would be my future wife) entered the room. My whole world instantly stopped and shifted into slow motion as I glanced toward this very attractive lady coming through the door. Forgetting my current conversation, I crossed the room to “welcome” the new girl. Three years later we would be happily married.

These feelings are all wonderful and exhilarating, but they also have a tendency to be shallow and blind. Yes, they helped propel me toward my wife, but the real work of love was yet to be done.

The initial feelings of attraction don’t give you an in-depth look of who the person really is on the inside. Yet, some people invest in relationships based solely on these powerful feelings. The problem with basing a relationship on feelings is that when the feelings fade, so does the relationship. This is one reason why people “fall out of love.” That is why feelings, no matter how powerful, can never lead the way or be a relationship gauge.

In fact, sometimes feelings and love are opposites. A man, for example, might desire to have sex with his girlfriend. Despite how strongly he feels, to do so would actually be unloving and would take both of them to a place of sin. This is one reason why Pope John Paul II said that it’s impossible to tell how much you love someone based on feelings alone. Feelings are fickle and constantly change with the day, the mood, or the time of the month.

Like most people, I grew up believing that the more a girl generated strong feelings within me, and the more I day dreamed about her, the more it must be true love. Now, I realize that no matter how powerful attraction and emotion can be, they are only the first step of the staircase. Much more is needed: deep friendship, hard work, faithfulness, character, integrity, good communication, selflessness, and a mature desire to do what is good for the other person, even if it’s a sacrifice.

This first stage is often the most difficult to navigate successfully.

Basing a relationship on feelings alone can impede or even destroy love.Click To Tweet Over the next several posts we will examine the pitfalls and problems that many Catholics fall into.




  1. Carol-483674 January 28, 2015 Reply

    Thanks…great article!

  2. Andy-896770 April 3, 2013 Reply

    Ok, so you all are talking about when attraction is there but define attraction. I believe there are different kinds of attraction like physical vs. common interests. I find for me I can’t have both simulataneously. Either I’m attracted by her looks but not share any common interests or we share common interests but I’m not attracted by looks. If I have to choose between one or the other I always go for the common interests or personality first but it sure is difficult dating someone I don’t find physically attractive. what if the friendship is there but not physical attraction, will a serious relationship ever come of it?

    • Bryan M. April 4, 2013 Reply

      Andy, Great question! I don’t usually respond, but I was going to address this question if I had more time. I was even thinking about doing a whole separate article on it.

      So, you have attraction toward someone but no common values/interests with them OR you have common values and interests but no attraction. Which one should you go for? With qualifications, I would say neither. I say wait for someone who you are attracted to ‘and’ who shares your faith, interests, values, etc. That is the ideal. Physical attraction is an important aspect, yet the least important when it comes to the more important things.

      However, if you desire to go on dates until you find that person, then I commend you in choosing the seemingly more mature option. Many people merely make a choice based off looks and rush in on feelings, even though they have nothing in common and their value systems don’t match up. that won’t last too long. While more difficult, it is probably much better to go with someone who shares your faith, has the same values, and someone who has a sense of humor and can make you laugh, etc. People with beautiful hearts can become more attractive over time. However, you don’t want to end up on the other side either, pitying someone because they aren’t “good looking,” but feeling the need to date them because of the alternative. There is a third option: Wait! Wait until a person who is attractive also has the other qualities you are looking for. God bless you in your search, and always ask God to aid you in finding the person meant for you.

  3. Lauren-899072 April 2, 2013 Reply

    This is a great article. I look forward to the rest of the articles on the four stages!

  4. Diana-956573 April 1, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Bryan for the wonderful explanation and sharing a glimpse of your long and lasting Love with your wife. Will start with A-attraction on the pathway of Love. May God bless your relationship.

    Thanks Ron for the additional info. May God bless you in searching your True love.

  5. Veronica-674700 April 1, 2013 Reply

    TOTALLY agree with this article. Good one! Not just attraction but Much more is needed “deep friendship, hard work, faithfulness, character, integrity, good communication, selflessness, and a mature desire to do what is good for the other person”…idealistic…yeah maybe…but this is the only truth I think…

  6. Pedyne-248823 March 31, 2013 Reply

    Thanks Bryan. Wonderful article. The truth is that without the first stage (which I’ve found can’t be forced) attraction you can’t move to the other stages.

    • Courtney-885262 April 2, 2013 Reply

      Amen to that. We need the attraction, we can’t miss a step on this staircase. We cannot make ourselves attracted to someone else, or listen to “helpful” friends who insist we SHOULD be attracted to so-and-so. It’s either freely felt or not at all.

  7. Evan-851607 March 31, 2013 Reply

    That’s a great addition Con! Very insightful and helpful. Thank you.

  8. Con-888377 March 31, 2013 Reply

    I would only add one ingredient that would aide a stable and loving relationship. After the Fuzzies retreat and loose intensity with familiarity, there needs to be a substantial replacement and I would nominate hobbies and related activities that are held in common. This deepens the friendship and helps build up the couple through the harder times. Number one has to be compatibility in regards to the Catholic Faith, harmony in God should be the solid foundation that all the other bricks sit on. Only a solid foundation will support a home that will weather the storms. Relationships built on Fairy Floss and dreams mixed with sugar and spice will only lead to a sticky mess! Combined with train wrecked lives.

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