Christian Living

Family Matters 10/16/14

Five Reasons You May Have Fatal Attraction

Have you ever met someone, been attracted to that person, but later find that what attracted you now annoys you? Researchers call this type of shift in the relationship a “fatal attraction”.  The very thing that drew you to that person becomes unattractive.

Dr. Felmlee at Penn State University coined the phrase “fatal attraction” about two decades ago. She was interested in studying both the positive and negative side of traits that attract couples.

She classified these traits in 3 categories: 1) Traits that were fun but now seem foolish 2) Traits that seemed fun, but now feel dominating 3) Traits that seemed spontaneous, but now feel unpredictable.

Here are five possible reasons for this shift in thinking:

1)    Couples don’t see the dark side of a trait until they are together long enough. This is why I tell people to date for a long enough period of time to see how the person reacts and acts under a number of circumstances. Negative traits can be easily masked or missed when initial attraction hits. The opposite attraction can feel like it is completing you but in the long run, may prove to be difficult to live with in a relationship.

2)    When a relationship becomes overly negative, one partner begins to see even positive traits in a negative way. This idea has been confirmed by the research of John Gottman and colleagues. When there is more negative to positive in a relationship, the relationship is perceived to be overall negative. Then, the partner discounts positives in favor of the negative view.

3)    Sometimes we are attracted to a negative, but opposite qualities we found tantalizing eventually bother us—think good girls attracted to bad boys! They may be intriguing to date, but terrible to marry.

4)    The positive trait can become overwhelming. Think too much of a good thing, like an accommodator who is constantly trying to please you. An overly attentive person can become suffocating.

5)    The opposite attraction takes its toll. You’ve had enough and want someone more compatible.

Bottom line, if you want to avoid a fatal attraction, think about the long-term effect of living with someone who has compatibility issues. Differences do attract, but when it comes to values, beliefs and attitudes, we do better with similarity.

Second, if your annoyance level is going up, talk about it now. Don’t let the negativity build. See if you can negotiate a middle ground for some of your differences. This is called accommodation and is a useful trait in relationships.

Finally, build the positivity bank of your relationship when you are not in a conflict or dealing with a difference. The more positive a relationship is overall, the better you can handle differences and not become a fatal statistic!