When You're Not Attracted To Your Partner ----- Part 2

Physical attraction is not a firm foundation on which to build a relationship, for the simple reason that it is never constant. It sets in motion a cycle of expectation and disillusionment that can go on and on. The person who lives in a world of fantasy will often blame the other for letting him down. Perhaps, for example, Juliet expects Romeo to come to her balcony every morning and launch into, “It is the east, and you are the sun . . . .” Three days after the honeymoon, she feels crushed when she is greeted at breakfast with nothing more romantic than, “Where’s the toast?” Many relationships sputter because of just such inflated expectations, which demand of life something that it simply cannot give. We should not feel that close relationships are beyond our reach, but they are demanding. Through experience, we come to realize that in love nothing comes as easily as we expected. Everything beautiful has to be worked for.”

– Eknath Easwaran’s Thought for the Day

The first installment of “When You’re Not Attracted to Your Partner” is one of my most popular posts. It seems that alongside the taboos of engagement anxiety and newlywed depression, there’s a red-hot cultural taboo about mentioning that you’re not always attracted to your partner or not attracted in the “right” way. What is the right way? According to the mainstream message, it’s heart-fluttering, consistent attraction. It’s always looking over at your partner and thinking he or she is the hottest thing to ever walk the earth. It’s the cultural message that says, “If you don’t always want to rip your partner’s clothes off the second he or she walks in the door, something is terribly wrong and you should leave.”

With courageous honesty, some of my clients admit that sometimes they look at their partner and think he’s ugly. Ugly is such a strong word, but when I hear those statements my first thought is, “I wonder how she’s feeling about herself in that moment. Is she feeling ugly ? Is she feeling bored or depressed or tired or hormonal?” As I’ve discussed extensively in various posts, much of how we relate to and regard our partners is affected by a psychological phenomenon called projection. Put simply, this means that when we’re not feeling open and loving inside and connected to our essence, we view our partner through this distorted lens. Conversely, when we’re connected to our being – which is naturally alive, pure, and beautiful – the veil of distortion is lifted and we see our partner through clear eyes.

What confirms that someone is in a projection is that in the next minute or hour she can look over at her partner and think he looks handsome. How can this be? Has the partner changed so much in a minute or an hour? Impossible. It can only be that her shifting internal landscape determines her perception. (This obviously applies to men with their female partners as well as same-sex partnerships.) When she’s feeling good inside, her partner looks “good”. When she’s feeling scared or off-kilter in some way, her partner looks strange, distorted or “ugly”.

During the free-ride stage of infatuation in the beginning a relationship, our open hearts naturally cause us to see our partners in their highest self. We’re connecting essence to essence, Being to Being. Eckhart Tolle says it beautifully:

Genuine relationships become possible only when there is an awareness of Being. Coming from Being, you will perceive another person’s body and mind as just a screen, behind which you can feel their true reality, as you feel yours.”

But once the free-ride ends, as it always will as soon as fear enters the picture, we have to begin the hard work of excavating the false beliefs and unrealistic expectations so that we can once again connect first to our own being and then to our partner’s. This is not a one time process; the ocean of fear runs deep and wide in the modern psyche and it requires a daily commitment to a process like journaling and/or mindfulness to prevent fear from sliding into the driver’s seat and operating your relationship car. But the more you shatter the fantasies about love and romance, replace the false beliefs with the truth, and learn to connect to and love your truest self, the more you will naturally regard your partner how you saw him in the beginning: as the beautiful, good, and honest man that he is.

10 comments to When You’re Not Attracted To Your Partner —– Part 2

  • Lucy

    Thank you Sheryl, a fantastic article and just what I needed right now. Thank you for sharing your insights, I’m off to work through my list of projections. With love x x

  • Carly

    Yes, thank you for this Sheryl. It is good to be reminded of the power tof projection on our perception. Long before I found my way to your work, I remember noticing that my partner was most attractive to me just after I had meditated or returned home from a yoga class! Clearly when I was feelig most centred and settled in myself, I was either not projecting at all, or if I was, I was projecting contentment and beauty (not fault and dissatisfaction) onto my partner. In a related way, it was only after I found myself in a truly loving and committed relationship, that I felt safe and loved enough to see myself as attractive to others – and to find them attractive too. Love was flowing in, so love could flow out more easily. When I was single, there were years when hardly anybody seemed attractive to me, and as soon as I was in a relationship, I suddenly saw a whole range of people as attractive. In a sense, I owe my ability to be attracted to my partner’s love. Curious. I wonder if others have had that experience.

    • “In a sense, I owe my ability to be attracted to my partner’s love.” And this is precisely the power of unconditional love. You’ve described positive projection beautifully in this comment, Carly: “Clearly when I was feeling most centred and settled in myself, I was either not projecting at all, or if I was, I was projecting contentment and beauty (not fault and dissatisfaction) onto my partner.”

  • Hannah

    I think you just stepped into my life!!This is exactly what I deal with from time to time and what I was asking about on my last comment. I go thru these same feelings and stop and think about the moment I first met the man I am with now and how I was instantly attracted to his essence. Even the first kiss was like no other emotion I had felt with anyone, I knew I had truly met my soulmate. But I let fear and insecurity creep its way in and have worked diligently to keep those at bay and find my inner peace. I have been reading Inner Bonding have such a clear picture, now! So thank you!!!

  • miriam

    Hi Sheryl,
    I thank you for writing this article. I have read part one months ago and go to it from time to time to refresh.I’m a newlywed, just married in May of this year.I have gone through some recent changes, some pretty life changing ones like losing 120 pounds. I am a different person mentally and physically. The battle I am facing now is the fact that i look at my spouse and I am no longer attractd to him. Sex has become a chore or something I do because I feel I owe him that. He is a bit on the heavy side though he is currently trying to lose weight with me and actually already had lost 4o pounds! But this has not changed anything on my part. I feel like I look at him and I’m angry at him because I see the old me and this causes me to completely shut down mentally and not want any intimacy with him at all. I often feel shallow and judgemental because I used to be where he was and now I have this new sense of life. But I just find myself wanting different things now, someone to be my true partner who works at this with me and encourages me to do better and be the best that I can. Not to say that he doesn’t but I want more. I don’t just want words, i want actions. I feel so wonderful now in my life, i’m confident and feel beautiful. He is proud of me. I want to be proud of him too. I find myself being more attractd to other men than I am to my own husband which makes me question if we have just simply grown apart or that I married the wrong man. I don’t want him to change for me, I want him to do it for himself and to truly want to. It’s such a horrible situation. Literally over night, i just switched like a light bulb in my thinking. I don’t even kiss him when he comes home. Conversations are awkward. How can I figure out if we have grown apart or if this weight loss has just completely changed what I find attractive now in my life. I’m so sad and I just don’t know what to do. Can my marriage be saved?

    • Whether or not your marriage can be saved depends on many factors and is more than I could assess in my response. Please contact me via this site so we can set up a complimentary consultation and discuss this in more detail.

  • Becca

    I caught myself doing this just yesterday. I’ve had lifelong low self-esteem, and have very prominent, strong features, dark coloring, and I can look a little masculine sometimes (or at least I think so.)My husband has softer features and lighter coloring.
    Yesterday, when I had my hair slicked back, glasses, and little makeup, I beat myself up much of the day for how “mannish” I looked. I came home that night and got horrible anxiety looking at my husband because I thought he looked “feminine.” Ordinarily, this turns into a thought-spiral that goes something like “I’m attracted to him but he sometimes looks feminine, obviously I must secretly be a lesbian or I wouldn’t be attracted to him…” and gets out of hand and then I’m in a quicksand of severe anxiety. I’m a huge projector and love to put my own insecurities and pain onto him.
    However, I’ve learned how to recognize when I’m in projection and it’s been huge. Last night was a small victory. I was able to actually catch and stop what I was doing, and realize why I was doing it. As I did that, he morphed back into the attractive self he’s always been, and I didn’t look so bad either.

  • Ibrahim

    Hi Sheryl,
    I would like to know your respond to miriam because I have similar issues because I’m engaged and I dont feel that I’m attracted to my fiancee (small breasts and eyes) and I always compare her to my exes and I feel like I used to care about my exes more although I was also stressed andhad a lot of doubts and they weren’t good to me as my current fiancee is.
    I need your help please.