“Emotional Attraction” vs. “Physical Attraction”

Emotional vs physicalWhat is the difference between “emotional attraction” and “physical attraction?”  While there are varying opinions on this matter, I’ll share the general consensus from men I have asked to put their feelings into words.

Physical attraction is the desire to look and touch because what you see is pleasant to look at or arousing on a biological level.  Basically, your sexual desire is triggered.

Emotional attraction is a feeling that you want to kiss someone on the mouth and meld the story of your life with hers.  You want her to love you back and you feel a possessive romantic drive to be important to her–to share life with her.

Physical attraction is far simpler, and far less sustainable than emotional attraction.  It is more of a one-sided attraction (at least the way men feel it).  This may or may not be a surprise to you, but men can feel a sexual attraction toward a woman without necessarily feeling a need to posses her exclusively.  It’s kind of like he can feel a wild biological drive to have sex with a woman without much concern for what she does the next day (non-possessive physical attraction).

On the opposite side, emotional attraction is driven by the respect a man feels for a woman he would like to experience a two-way relationship with.  He wants her to think highly of him and respect him.  He wants her to value him above all the other men she could be with.  Emotional attraction is necessary for him to experience a true, deep sort of jealousy when her interest seems to be drifting toward another man.  It is a possessive desire for shared oneness.

While physical attraction can turn heads, it is emotional attraction that binds his heart to yours in a way that causes him to desire commitment.  If you’re not sure how to pull for that binding desire for commitment, allow me to suggest you start with my program on the unique way men respond to crucial relationship cues women do not pay attention to.  Click here to learn more about it.

I’m always rooting for your happiness.  I believe emotional attraction trumps physical attraction when it comes to finding the kind of relationship that yields the most happiness.  The good news is you can increase the odds he will feel emotionally attracted to you with a few tweaks to the way you approach men.  Talk to you soon!


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37 thoughts on ““Emotional Attraction” vs. “Physical Attraction”

  1. colleta nafula said:

    Hi, my name is collet and am happy to read your emails. they are very good and they are helping me to realize so many things about men. thank you so much, keep it up

  2. Absolutely!….thank your for the reminder…I just had someone tell me how attracted they are to me, and i know it is physical, which is, or can be tempting, but not what I’m looking for so I won’t sett;e

  3. Lori said:

    Ok, so I get the difference between the two attractions. Here’s my dilemma: I have been seeing this guy for almost a year now & while he always tells me how great I look & how sexy he finds me, we don’t have sex all that much even though he knows I would very much like it much more frequently. He is both emotionally & physically attracted to me as I am to him. He just recently told me he loves me & I NEVER saw that coming because he always said he is reluctant to use that word because of how hurt he had been in a previous relationship. The progression of this relationship has been over the past year & has taught me patience. But it just seems like we skipped right over that whole “honeymoon phase” where you can’t keep your hands off each other & want each other so much like you just can’t get enough of each other. I am so attracted to him & he always tells me the same. He’s a fantastic guy in all categories. We have our differences but I really have no complaints except that we hardly have sex. Is there anything I can do? Should be doing?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Lori. This may be a complicated issue better discussed in private coaching.

    • Lynn said:

      I have the exactly the same issue in my relationship

  4. barbie said:

    i think ur right in both ways,men can be shy and so can women be,respect for him and ur self is important, but emonital is the best way , don’t settle for less ,,

  5. I never have any lack of sex in a relationship, because I give my man the admiration and attention he needs. My last relationship before this, though, wanted me to wait for HIM to initiate and this one lets me initiate all the time (and with only one day/night that we always have together, I don’t like to put it off until starting sometime after dinner. If we have something cooking in the kitchen that does not need attention, then that is a good time for at least a bit of romance and sex. I know he enjoys my touch and I melt with his.

  6. Mary said:

    Is it possible for a man to start by being romantic and tender without being emotionally attracted? He said he was only physically attracted, and he doesn’t want us to get into a relationship. We had a short relationship years ago

    • James Bauer said:

      In a word, yes. He means he finds you physically attractive but he is not attracted to the idea of an exclusive relationship with you. I would not recommend that kind of relationship.


  7. Lissa said:

    I’ve been having an emotional affair with a guy for the last 6 months. He says he’s unhappy in his current relationship. I’ve kept my distants and had not met him until 6 days ago. We went on a date and had a pretty long make out session afterwards. I wasn’t going to sleep with him, because he is still in this other relationship. The last couple of days he has been a little distant. Did I make a mistake by getting physical with him?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Lissa. There’s a good chance getting physical caused him to feel the need to reevaluate what he is doing with you. Often people become a bit distant when they are trying to figure out whether it’s right to continue a relationship.

      I don’t know much about your situation, or the nature of his relationship with the other woman. But I want to caution you against doing something you would not be comfortable with another woman doing to you.

      If you would be uncomfortable finding out your boyfriend was in this kind of relationship with someone else, maybe you should ask him to come find you if he finds himself free in the future.

      • Lissa said:

        James, I agree. But, how do I approach this. I really do have strong feelings for him. And, would like to pursue him in the future, If he ends his current relationship. Do I keep the communication lines open or end it completely?

        • James Bauer said:

          Oh, definitely keep the communication lines open!

          Maintaining propinquity (frequent opportunities for interaction) will ensure that you are on his mind when he becomes free (or makes a decision to become free now so he can pursue you)

          • Sarah said:

            James, I disagree. You’re right that it will keep Lissa in his mind, but Lissa’s maintaining any kind of relationship with him will be actively undermining and breaking up his current relationship. If the relationship we’re talking about is a marriage, this is unforgivable. I’m sure his wife (or girlfriend) would not want him to have ANY kind of relationship with any other woman. Carrying on an emotional relationship with him for the past 6 months is likewise an injustice to his wife or girlfriend. It’s an emotional affair.
            The morally correct thing to do here is to cut contact with him completely. If it is meant to be, it will be even without Lissa’s adding fuel to th disintigration of his relationship. (Especially if it’s a marriage!). He is not the only good man in the universe. Dealing cleanly and respectfully with all involved is the way to go. Stay out of his way and let him repair his relationship.

  8. Kore said:

    Interesting article.

    This year I told a guy about my feelings to him.
    He told me he wasn’t looking for a serious relationship.
    He’s in a non-serious relationship with someone right now and would not want to start a second one as it wouldn’t be fair for either of us.

    I asked him did he like me and he told me he falls for my personality each time he sees me.

    What does that mean exactly?, is that a good thing for him to say?

    He’s expressed before and now that he wants to get to know the real me.

    We were good friends before I told him how I felt however after that time he’s been nervous around me and slowly becoming more affectionate physically and emotionally.


    • James Bauer said:

      Hey Kore. I would guess he was using a phrase that would lessen the impact of what he was really saying. It’s like the euphimisms people use when talking about something in public when they are not sure it’s “allowed” to talk about that taboo subject. He probably wants to say, “I fall in love with you more every time I spend time with you,” but that would be coming on too strong…so he says he falls for your personality instead.

  9. Megan Revell said:

    Hi. I have a guy who says he is physical attracted to me n loves me as person. But emotionally. I need help in this please

    • Megan Revell said:

      But not emotionally. I ment

  10. Gee said:

    Okay, my man is physically and emotionally attracted to me he says. And he keeps telling me hire I’m “the only one for him” or I’m the only one he’s”attracted to” but he also told me he would probably get turned on my a naked woman. He told me there is a difference than being turned on and being attracted to someone. I don’t understand what he means by that, because if you get turned on doesn’t that mean you’re attracted to what you’re saying? He told me it’s a human reaction to be turned on to something, but I really don’t understand what he means by that and how there is a difference.

    • James Bauer said:

      It’s not something you really need to worry about. It was ridiculous for him to even bring that up because it really has no bearing on your relationship. Technically, it’s true that visual stimulation is hardwired into a man’s brain in a way that will cause a physiological reaction that has nothing to do with the relationship. That’s why men can even have a physiological response to a cartoon drawing of a “sexy figure.” The body/brain is hardwired to react to sexual triggers even if the emotional mind has no attachment to the things triggering the sexual excitation.

  11. kiara said:

    Uhmm I’m a bit confused plz do help me with my so confused situation
    Ter is this guy I feel for…..
    Nd I blush everytime he is near me
    Sometimes I get vibe’s from his side but then I think it’s nly in ma head…he cares for me
    And last night he was a bit too cozy with me like we didn’t actually kissed but he was almost near ma neck nd can feel his breathin nd a bit much more
    He does remember everythin frm the day we met to everythin but that might be bcoz he has good memory
    And I really am confused that wht exactly is goin on between us
    Plz help me out

    • kiara said:

      Can u plz help me out with ma situation I’m still waitin for ur reply……

      • James Bauer said:

        Hi Kiara. For personal questions unrelated the blog topic, please submit your question to our professional relationship coaches. They will help you to sort through what the core of your question is and give you a personalized response.

  12. Nicole said:

    So this guy I have really strong feelings for says that he wouldn’t mind having a fwb kind of relationship but doesn’t want anything serious right now. Would pursuing this be beneficial and possibly allow him to have similar feelings as me or would it just hurt me?

    • James Bauer said:

      Your chances are better when you don’t give a man physical satisfaction before there is a relationship that warrants it.

  13. vil said:

    God has blessed u wt so much wisdom…

  14. Maria said:

    Hi i am a bit confused with a person who is my friend now we both find we like eachother . But as per his past relationships he doesn’t want a realtionship with me of gf or bf scene he want me as a girl who is with him emotionally and physically but not as his gf i dont know what to say or do :(

    • James Bauer said:

      Maria, it seems he has proposed a relationship that violates your sense of normalcy. Beyond that, he has proposed a relationship you would find unsatisfying. For those reasons I suggest you decline. I also suggest you tell him exactly why your declining. He wants a fling with no strings attached. You are looking for a relationship. Getting caught up in a pseudo-relationship will only prevent you from being open to receive the right person when he comes along.

  15. sandy said:

    Hi need your input in my relationship.. I have someone in my life it was supposed to be just physical relationship, he has a girlfriend since the moment I meet him he was always had problems with her and this is being going for over 5 years, I had boyfriends on and off all this time and he knew about them, now he wants to leave her and give it a try for us, but I’m confused, before he used to kiss me and touch me and now is just more physical all the passion is gone or I feel that way,, I’m afraid that if we get together as a couple the fun and excitement will die too,,

    • James Bauer said:

      What do you have to lose by giving it a try, Sandy? You have already burned through the initial honeymoon phase of physical affection. If he wants to build an emotional commitment, Do You Really Have Anything to lose? It seems this might turn into a real relationship. If it doesn’t, you’re just back where you started.

      • sandy said:

        I guess just scared that he wants me cause he needs to replace her, and not cause he wants to give us a chance, I feel that he is tired of her but don’t want to be alone, I told him if he wants to be with us because he wants that not cause he needs to replace her.. so confused

        • James Bauer said:

          I think that’s a fair request. If you have communicated it clearly, I take it he did not really give you a clear response…which is an indication you may be right about his level of commitment.

  16. Lucy said:

    Hi. I feel so lost. I need your advice. I’ve been in a commited relationship w/my boyfriend of 4 yrs. We’ve always had a strong relationship, a strong sexual attraction to each other although he had trouble communicating with me. He’s an introvert, reserved, a man of few words. I trusted him and he never gave me a reason to doubt his love until 6 weeks ago. I accidently found out he was having an emotional affair w/one of his facebook friends who lives down the street from us. I had noticed she would “like” almost every post he’d put up on fb for awhile now and also that he was constantly on his phone. I guess I was in denial and constantly rationalized what i was seeing. One day i decided to check our phone records and was shocked at what i saw. He had sent and received an average of 5,000 texts a month for the last 6 months, all to the same number. “Her” number. There were actual phone calls as well but nothing compared to the texts. They’d start texting each other as soon as they woke up and continued texting throughout the day, all day sometimes with no pauses. Every minute, every hour. It appeared to be obsessive. I was so hurt. When i confronted him about this, he initially denied it, but later confessed to having what he called a “conversation relationship”. She is a non-working married woman with 4 kids. He broke off all ties with her and has sworn to me that he loves me and doesn’t want to lose me. He says he was stupid and didn’t think of the consequences. He has begged me for forgiveness. I am so torn. I love him but have lost trust and faith in him. Honestly, i would’ve handled a one night stand better than this. I don’t know what to do.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Lucy. For highly personal questions like this we prefer to answer you via the private coaching platform. You can find it here if you’re interested in pursuing that route.

  17. Mindy said:

    I like your article and it makes sense, but wonder if it would work the same as for women. I often find physical attraction to a man without having a desire to be with or “melt my life” with him. We would flirt, kiss and engage in sexual activities which leave me a strong desire to repeat the experience and see the person again, but it doesn’t evoke a desire to for much more than sexual connection.

    Is it typical at all for women?

    Thank you!

  18. gace said:

    I have been with this boy now for 10 months and we 18 and he has dated before and I haven’t he is my first but he never dated lot of girls before me. He is very kind and loving person we were best friends and we then liked each other I never thought he would like me so I just ignored my feelings. He is a good looking guy so girls did rum after him and I was not interested in him like that until we got close and we then told each other we like each other and now we love each other its not just like puppy love or something its actually Love as in true love we have an emotional connection and its been there for really long I mean our families are aware and my mom thinks he is my future husband and so do I but the whole attraction things kills me because he likes curvy women and I am not curvy but not skinny either but there are times when he he is attracted to other girls physically and we honest with each other all the time so I do get heart sore that the person you love thinks about someone else. The last time he was attracted to this girl who was attracted to him so he pushed me away and we had like space for a few days so he could see if it was just physically or did he like her and I was really heart sore and didn’t understand how you say you love someone but this happens and I broke up with him but he fought with me and sid he is not giving up on us cause he loves me and he knows its just a physical thing but I know the girl and she likes him she just won’t say it cause she was a friend of mine and well before him and I she did tell him she likes him but he never likes her and told her he knows that she’s not his person then I came and I believe she still has a hold on him and they chat on watsapp but I don’t know how to feel cause I trust him a lot he tells me everything and so do I but she has something that I don’t I know its just physical but worries me because his young and boys are physical we have our times when he craves me and we attracted to each other but then there are moments like this. It has happened twice only but I don’t know all I know is it hurts. I won’t want to get married then he cheats cause I don’t have what he wants as a man but he wants me cause I have the personality nd everything else I am not ugly I am one of the girls who are seen as beautiful cause my personality shines out but I am seen as attractive. I just don’t know how to feel. He even has dreams about having sex with another girl he finds sexually attractive and we don’t have sex but we do things but we haven’t lost our virginity and don’t plan on until marriage so yes we do do other stuff but because we have the attraction at times and we just wanna make love cause its the person you love but then he has dreams of this girl and I hate it cause I want to be the girl he dreams about and he feels bad and pushes me away and we always come back cayse we really do love each other and we tired breaking up but there is always thet pull we have we just come up to each other. I guess I just wanna know how should feel.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Grace. While personal questions like this are better addressed by our private coaching service then on the blog, I’ll just mention one thing before referring you to our relationship coaches.

      The things that attract a man’s sexual attention and desire are genetically hardwired. It sounds like you feel you do not press his arousal buttons as much as some other people, yet there is still plenty of room for emotional and physical attraction in your relationship. The truth is, we would be hard-pressed to find any couple who could not say there is some person they have seen in the media or in real life who pushes their desire buttons more than the person they are with. That doesn’t mean we give up on the relationship and go chasing after someone else based purely on a desire for sexual gratification. We recognize the deeper value of the relationship with the person we truly resonate with and want to build a life with.


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