Hey, beautiful people. Let’s talk about attraction.
Dating can be difficult territory to navigate, sometimes. It’s tough to find a partner who is devoted to God, intelligent, driven, and family-oriented. Throw a little something called “chemistry,” or romance, into the mix, and the whole process becomes as tricky as a chem lab experiment.
I think what baffles me most is that many people I encounter, both Catholics and secular folks alike, seem to view chemistry as something optional. It is intangible, therefore it must be some type of mythical animal, like a unicorn, or an idealistic (i.e. unrealistic) standard of a relationship. I was talking to someone recently about how arduous the process is to find someone with whom you not only share many things in common, but also someone you’re attracted to, and their response was one of puzzlement. They asked, “What kind of chemistry are you looking for? Intellectual?” I probably gave them somewhat of a blank stare as I struggled for the right words: “No… Just attraction. Physical attraction.”
Most of you reading this article are undoubtedly spiritual, faithful Catholics who want to spend their lives with someone who shares these attributes, but I’d also assume that the majority of you find the idea of a passionate, marital sex life appealing, as well. And I want you to know that this desire is perfectly normal. It is normal to seek out, or wait for, individuals with whom you WANT a physical marriage someday in addition to a God-centered, holy one—because God wants couples to desire each other physically as well as emotionally, provided that the physical desire is properly ordered and controlled. If nobody experienced true attraction, the world wouldn’t be nearly as populated as it currently is.
I would argue that it is not only normal but also necessary to feel strong attraction to your partner, especially as you consider marriage. I have watched solid Catholic marriages fall apart because neither of the people in the union ever really desired each other physically before they were married, but they both hoped the desire would grow with time. They based their decision to marry entirely on mutual interests and a strong devotion to God and the Catholic faith. What happened in their case was that each of them settled solely for compatibility in their relationship rather than equal parts compatibility AND chemistry, and the result was disastrous to their marriage.
Here is another anecdote: recently, a close friend of mine was dating someone who hadn’t even held her hand or hugged her six months into the “relationship.” When I pointed out that this was likely a red flag, her response was, “Well, I think we have more of a courtship than most secular couples in our society.” Thankfully, she is now with someone who exhibits normal displays of affection after an appropriate amount of time, but it worried me that she was so oblivious to how important attraction is in a relationship that could eventually lead to marriage.
Please realize that I am not advocating for chemistry to be the foundation of your dating relationships. I was in such a relationship for six years, and it ended painfully when I finally allowed myself to come to terms with the fact that this person I’d loved so much only ever truly understood me on a physical level. This is why chastity is so necessary and so important, even beyond the context of faith. Chastity gives us the opportunity to get to know people for who they are rather than the pleasure they can give us, because pleasure will only sustain us for so long before a true yearning emerges in each of us to be with someone who understands our souls. However, God created us body and soul, so please don’t neglect or undermine the desires that stem from either of these natures!
My ideal relationship, which I hope to find someday soon, will be with a man who loves God so much that he loves me better through the lens of his faith than he would outside of it. But it will also be a relationship where we both can’t wait to get married, experience our honeymoon, romantic date nights, and a lifetime of showering each other with physical affection. This “chemistry,” or “spark,” or romance—whatever you want to call it—is an integral part of marriage. It is not a fantasy notion, and desiring it does not mean that you’re being unreasonable or waiting for the extraordinary to happen. You simply are holding out for the entirety of God’s design for marital love: spiritual, sacrificial, and physical, all of which lead to successful and holy marriages.
My prayer for each of you is that you are patient enough to wait for it and not settle for anything less!
(Check out my book, Freedom to Love, to learn more about God’s design for the authentic love He’s destined for you.”)
Lindsey Todd graduated from West Chester University in 2016 with a B.A. in English, and currently works as a technical writer for Mars, Inc. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, singing, playing with her dog, reading, and exercising. She also loves art, fashion, and deep political and theological discussion. She has a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and a special love for St. Pope John Paul II. Lindsey is passionate about sharing the beauty of chastity with others, particularly as a Catholic writer. Her book about pure dating relationships, Freedom to Love, is now available on Amazon, Kindle, and the FORMED platform for digital Catholic media. Lindsey currently resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can learn more about her work at www.lindseytodd.net.