Be My Valentine: The Psychology of Attraction

Published By Justin Baksh, LMHC, MCAP
February 8, 2024


Have you ever met someone and just clicked with them? There’s no rhyme or reason to it, they just draw you in, and you can’t help but be curious about them. If so, you’re not alone. That little spark of interest between two people happens millions of times each and every day. But what causes it? Why are we attracted to some people and not others? What’s going on in our brains when we meet someone special?

A Recipe For Attraction

Forget butterflies and fireworks – attraction is a complex puzzle with pieces fitting together in surprising ways.


Physical Magnets

Evolution whispers to us. We’re drawn to features associated with healthy offspring, like facial symmetry and clear skin. It’s our ancient brain giving us hints.

Our senses also call to us… and pheromones play a starring role. These subtle chemical signals can influence how we perceive someone’s compatibility. Even the unique pitch and rhythm of someone’s voice influences whether we find them attractive,

Emotional Resonators

When someone mirrors our values, interests, and humor, it’s like finding a comfortable beat in our own internal rhythm. This resonance builds understanding and a desire to connect deeper. You are sharing a frequency.

The brain’s reward loop has a big part in this, too. Dopamine, the brain’s happy juice, gets a boost when we meet someone interesting. This chemical dance fuels curiosity and keeps us wanting to know more.

Speaking of dancing, the vulnerability tango can build attraction as well, as true connection often comes with sharing our vulnerabilities. This emotional risk-taking can build a deeper bond than just physical attraction.

Social Catalysts

When it comes to attraction, proximity matters. Frequent encounters, even casual ones, can increase positive feelings. It’s like the familiar face at the coffee shop – familiarity breeds attraction.

Mirrored reflections increase attraction also. When we feel attracted, we subconsciously pick up on subtle cues of interest from the other person. This “mirroring” intensifies our own attraction, creating a positive feedback loop.

Unspoken messages we receive through body language, gestures, eye contact, and even posture tell stories without words. These cues can also create a powerful undercurrent of attraction in us, sometimes before we even realize it.

The Chemical Ingredients

Attraction is a fueled with a powerful concoction of chemicals swirling in your brain.



This chemical reward fuels initial excitement. When you find someone intriguing, dopamine explodes, making you curious, energized, and eager to learn more. It paints their positive qualities in bright colors, creating a sense of euphoria and desire.



This bonding builder takes over as intimacy grows. It promotes trust, empathy, and
a deep sense of connection, like glue for emotional bonds. Oxytocin makes you feel safe, comfortable, and drawn closer to the person



This adrenaline cousin revs you up in the early stages. It raises your heart rate and sharpens your focus on the object of your desire, creating a buzz of nervous energy and excitement. Norepinephrine keeps you tuned in and engaged in the interaction.

This chemical play isn’t rigid. These molecules interplay, influencing each other and shaping the overall experience. Dopamine’s spark can open the door for oxytocin’s bonding, while norepinephrine’s energy might fuel the quest for a deeper connection.

It’s more than chemicals though. This chemical orchestra within your brain, is just one part of the beautiful, intricate puzzle of attraction. Your experiences, cultural background, and personal choices all play a role in how this complex dance unfolds.

From Spark to Flame: Nurturing Attraction into Deeper Connections

The initial spark of attraction is exciting, but it’s just the beginning. How do those butterflies in your stomach transform into a lasting connection? Here’s the key: fostering genuine connection beyond the initial physical or emotional pull.

Shared Experiences

Engaging in shared activities, from casual coffee dates to adventurous trips, creates positive memories. These shared experiences become anchors that strengthen the bond and bring you closer, building a foundation of shared laughter, challenges, and understanding.

Shared experiences don’t have to be grand adventures. Simply exploring each other’s interests, whether it’s visiting a favorite museum or trying a new cooking class, helps uncover shared passions and values, fostering a sense of connection and compatibility.


It’s important to move beyond superficial conversations and delve deeper. Share your thoughts, opinions, and vulnerabilities. Active listening and open communication build trust and understanding, fostering emotional intimacy and allowing you to connect on a deeper level.

Genuine compliments and expressions of gratitude are powerful relationship builders. Recognizing and appreciating each other’s qualities strengthens the bond and reaffirms your positive feelings towards one another.


True connection often requires vulnerability. Sharing your hopes, dreams, fears, and past experiences allows the other person to see the real you and creates a space for authentic intimacy. This vulnerability will deepen your emotional connection, and foster trust as you move beyond the surface level.

Vulnerability works best when it’s reciprocal. When both partners are willing to share their authentic selves, it creates a sense of emotional safety and encourages further self-disclosure, strengthening the bond and fostering genuine connection.

These elements don’t work in isolation. They intertwine and build upon each other. Shared experiences create opportunities for deeper communication, while vulnerability strengthens the trust built through open communication.

That initial spark, remember it’s a starting point. Developing deeper connections takes time and effort. It’s not always butterflies and rainbows, but a journey of navigating both joys and challenges together. Nurture it with shared experiences, open communication, and the courage to be vulnerable. By doing so, you may just witness a beautiful transformation – that spark morphing into a flame of genuine connection that lasts.

Debunking the Myths of Attracting: Unveiling the Realities

While the initial spark of attraction can feel mysterious, some common misconceptions cloud our understanding of what truly draws us to others.


Myth 1: Opposites Attract

This romantic notion rarely holds true in real life. Studies show we tend to gravitate towards those who share similar values, personality traits, interests, and even backgrounds. This “similarity breeds liking” effect creates a sense of comfort, understanding, and predictability, fostering deeper connections. One study showed that partners were more likely to similar on 82 to 89 percent of traits, from substance use to political party.

Reality: While some differences can add spice to a relationship, shared values and goals form a stronger foundation for long-term compatibility.

Myth 2: Beauty is Everything

Physical attraction plays a role, but it’s far from the whole story. What we find “beautiful” is influenced by cultural norms, personal preferences, and even our own experiences.

Additionally, research suggests that as relationships deepen, the importance of physical attractiveness diminishes, while factors like kindness, humor, and intelligence gain precedence. A 2013 study titled “Is physical attractiveness important in long-term relationships?” by Stephanie Cacioppo and John Cacioppo, and published in Current Directions in Psychological Science in 2013, explored the importance of physical attraction in long-term relationships.

The study analyzed over 40 years of research on long-term relationships. It found that while physical attractiveness is relevant in the initial stages of attraction, its importance decreases as relationships mature. Factors like shared values, kindness, humor, and intelligence become more important predictors of relationship satisfaction and commitment in the long run.

Reality: Beauty fades, but inner qualities like kindness and sense of humor have lasting power.


Myth 3: Love at First Sight is Real

This Hollywood trope can be misleading. While intense initial attraction exists, true love usually develops over time, nurtured by shared experiences, communication, and emotional vulnerability. The initial “love” might be infatuation, fueled by dopamine, but genuine connection takes time and effort to build.

Reality: Deep love grows gradually, fostered by shared experiences and emotional vulnerability.

Myth 4: You Will “Just Know” When You Meet “The One”

Finding “the one” isn’t like finding a perfectly fitting shoe. Healthy relationship growth depends on a shared commitment to invest time, energy, and intentionality from both individuals. Idealizing a perfect partner sets unrealistic expectations and ignores the importance of communication, compromise, and growth within the relationship.

Reality: Strong relationships require commitment, effort, and a willingness to adapt and grow together.

Embrace the Reality

Biology, psychology, and personal experiences all work together to create the complex experience of attraction. By ditching the myths and understanding the true drivers of connection, we can navigate the world of attraction with more realistic expectations and open ourselves to building deeper, more meaningful relationships.

Remember, the journey of attraction is unique for everyone. Embrace its complexities, focus on genuine connection, and don’t be afraid to explore beyond the myths.

Attraction is messy, confusing, and awesome all at once. It’s a complex mix of biology, experience, and your true identity. So next time you’re drawn to someone, don’t sweat the “why” too much.

Instead, be curious, talk openly, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Because it’s in those real moments that you discover not just them, but also yourself, and that’s where the real magic happens.

  • L, L. (2020). Physical Attractiveness and Romantic Relationships: A Review. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Research Study3(4), 1–2.
  • Study confirms it: Opposites don’t actually attract. (n.d.). ScienceDaily.

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