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Attraction is not personal. A wise person said this to me recently. He is right, of course. We are either attracted to someone or we aren’t. It’s not personal. But boy does it often feel like it is. Imbalanced relationships are tough. When one person feels more than the other it can feel uncomfortable. If he’s just not that into you, might that change as he gets to know you better? When he sees your playful side? When you allow yourself to be vulnerable? Or is this just the way it is? If you’re just not that into him initially, but you like spending time with him, laugh at his jokes, and have lots in common, can the attraction grow over time?

I clearly do not have the answers to these questions. I have often taken it personally when someone isn’t attracted to me. Embarrassingly, I once called a guy shallow when he shared with me that the attraction just wasn’t there for him. We had enjoyed a really great long conversation on our first date, and he had immediately asked me for a second before sharing via email the next day that he had changed his mind. I commended him for being open, and possibly kept him from doing so in the future by insulting him for his reasons. The truth is, I was hurt, and in my sadness, I lashed out at his motives.

Recently, the tables were turned on me when I began dating someone with a similar level of spiritual understanding as me. Because I hadn’t necessarily sought out spiritual people to date in the past, this felt exciting. We practiced yoga together and felt comfortable with each other from the very beginning. I knew I didn’t have to try to impress him or pretend to be anything that I wasn’t. As we spent more time together it became clear that while I was very spiritually in sync with this man, I wasn’t romantically attracted to him. I began to worry a bit about what I needed to do about this. Should I say something? Would my feelings change? Grow? There was no pressure from him to do anything I was uncomfortable with, so I decided to keep spending time with him, because I really did enjoy his company.

After a date one night, I sensed something different in the way he was approaching me, and I asked him what was wrong. He said, “I had hoped this relationship would have that spark of romance that I’ve been looking for, and I’m sad that it doesn’t.” I told him I was sad about that too. Wow! That seemed easy. But a few days later, he was upset that I had allowed him to take me out to dinner and a show and pay for things if I just wanted to be friends. We had a talk about it. It wasn’t an argument, but a civil discourse. I asked him if he had thought I was taking advantage of him in some way, and he said no.

But here’s the thing: I was. I knew I didn’t feel attracted to him, and I didn’t think the relationship would go anywhere romantically, and I wasn’t straight with him about that. I did allow him to buy me things as if it were a date, when it really wasn’t in spirit – on my end at least. That doesn’t mean that I owed him anything other than honesty, but I should have said something to him before he had to intuit it for himself. If I had really thought there was potential for what we had to grow, I would have said so when he shared his feelings, rather than so readily acquiescing that the romantic spark wasn’t there.

I had been trying to force something that didn’t exist, which is like trying to force someone else to love you. It just doesn’t work. Relationships themselves aren’t always easy, but the attraction part should be. It’s either there, or it isn’t. Natural or forced. We often get into trouble when we aren’t straight about our own feelings for fear of hurting someone else’s.

In the past, I have even done this with online dating situations when someone sends me a message, and even though I’m not interested, I feel the need to begin a dialogue with them. The thought pops up, “Who am I to reject him without even chatting with him?” Then I would become overwhelmed because I just don’t have time to chat with everyone. As I began to get better about trusting my instincts and not wasting time communicating with people I wasn’t interested in, I got confronted all over again when guys complain on their profiles about the rude women who don’t respond. Do I owe them a “not interested” response, I wondered. Hmmmm. This can be complicated.

Here’s what I’ve realized. In online dating and in life, I can do it the way I want to do it. Sometimes that’s going to upset someone else, and then they have the right to stand up for themselves, and begin a conversation about it. If I am invested enough in the relationship (i.e. have actually met them and they’re not just a face on a page), I can engage back. I have been very conscious of other people’s feelings in the past, sometimes to the exclusion of my own. As I get better about setting boundaries and taking care of my own needs, other people may not like that. It’s all a negotiation. There is always a balance to be struck.

Trying to force something indicates that there must be something wrong with the way it is. It happens when we can’t accept what’s so. I have recognized recently that I do this a lot.

Mostly I make myself wrong: “Why can’t I be attracted to him? He’s really great.” And sometimes I make the other person wrong: “Why doesn’t he want to pursue this further? We get along so well.” And sometimes I just make the situation wrong: “Why can’t we seem to make this work? We have so much in common.”

I even had the thought recently: “If he is great, he won’t want me, and if he wants me, he must not be that great.” And I immediately made myself wrong for thinking that. I labeled this a sick thought rather than just distinguishing that this has been a pattern in my relationships. It’s not right or wrong; it’s just what is. Now that I have distinguished it, perhaps I can change it.

Nothing is ever wrong. We feel the way we feel. We think the things we think. Almost always these thoughts and feelings are the product of things that have happened to us in the past, and are created by our egos to protect us from getting hurt again in the future. It is only in hiding them because we find them shameful or attempting to force them to be something other than what they are that we cause pain for ourselves and often for others. If we can find the strength to be fully self-expressed instead, it allows for so much more.

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