A couple weeks ago I got an email from one of our small group leaders. He asked me if we had written anything on the topic of attraction that he could share with his group members who have shared that they’ve lost some sense of physical attraction for their spouse. 

  • Was there any hope for these guys? 
  • How can they get that “attraction” back?
  • If not, then what?

And I’ll tell you this. These questions are not that unusual. Many men and women have asked these same questions in the past and most likely will do so in the future. But here’s the thing, I can’t give him, them, or you a simple answer. At least not from personal experience. And there is no checklist or 5 step plan for increasing one’s sense of physical attraction for another person. At least not that I am aware of.

But I can tell you this. 

Physical “beauty” does fade over time. There’s no way around it. As we get older, our bodies go through changes. Usually those changes do not add to one’s physical appeal. Physical beauty is as the old saying goes, “skin deep.”

But that’s Ok. I have good news for you!

Understand that physical attraction is related to many, many factors. Factors that go beyond the surface. These include some of the following:

  • Familiarity: People tend to find faces they are familiar with more attractive. This can be due to exposure effects, where repeated exposure to a face leads to increased liking and perceived attractiveness.
  • Cultural Influences: Cultural standards of beauty and attractiveness play a significant role. Psychological studies have shown that what is considered attractive can vary widely across cultures and can be influenced by media, societal norms, and cultural ideals.
  • Past Experiences: Positive past experiences with certain physical traits or characteristics can lead to a preference for those traits. For example, if someone had a close and positive relationship with a person who had a specific physical feature, they might be more attracted to others with similar features.
  • Negative Experiences or Trauma:  Negative experiences, such as abusive relationships or traumatic events, can influence physical attraction preferences. Someone who has experienced abuse from a person with specific physical attributes may develop aversion or avoidance toward individuals who resemble that person.
  • Psychological Associations: Past experiences can create psychological associations with certain physical traits. For example, someone who had a nurturing and supportive relationship with a person who had a particular hairstyle or body type may find that trait more attractive due to the positive associations.
  • Self-Image: Personal preferences can also be influenced by one’s self-image and projection of desired traits onto partners. For instance, someone who values fitness and athleticism may be more attracted to individuals with similar physical attributes because they perceive these traits as indicative of shared values and lifestyles.

Do you notice something about this list? Appearance is secondary to the emotional and psychological reasons we view someone as attractive. 

Which leads me to the good news I promised.

Physical attraction (and attraction in general) is far more dependent on how we perceive someone than what they actually look like. In other words, even if someone meets the standards set by some imaginary beauty template, they still might not be seen as attractive to you. 

And the reverse is also true.

If the emotional connection and intimacy is there, then attraction generally follows. Because ultimately emotional attraction has longevity and endures over time. While physical attraction may diminish or evolve with changing circumstances, emotional attraction can deepen and grow stronger as individuals share experiences, overcome challenges, and build trust and intimacy.

So if you are asking yourself, why do I not find my spouse as attractive, look beyond the obvious factors (wrinkles, weight gain, etc.) 

  • How is the quality of intimacy in your relationship? Can you work on that instead?
  • Is there something else that really bothers you like your resentment of the other’s perceived lack of concern for self-care?
  • Could there be other factors in play such as the impact porn has had on your neural pathways? 
  • Are you viewing that person as a human being, or as a body?

And maybe think about having an honest conversation if you think that things could improve. For Instance, if you both are letting your health go, talk to the other person about committing to a better diet and fitness regimen (together) to help you both improve.

The truth is this. Physical beauty will decrease over time. That’s life. But when the other psychological and emotional factors are optimal, it won’t pose as big a problem because truly… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.