A modern woman’s take on this age-old question.
PHYSICAL ATTRACTION. The feeling that pierces the depths of our being, making us want to flee and never leave, all at the same time. This mysterious force drives us up the wall and renders even the most charming among us dumb and awkward. It can be our best friend and our greatest foe. Is it necessary? Can it be trusted?
Many people debate whether physical attraction is important when choosing a spouse. Some believe that qualities such as financial stability, having a common mission, and reliability hold more importance and should take precedence over physical attraction. While these are valuable qualities that your future spouse should possess, when it comes to ‘till death do us part,’ you must feel physical attraction for him/her. After all, the only difference between a good friend of the opposite sex and your spouse, is physical touch. Therefore, if we rely solely on reason to choose a spouse and ignore physical attraction (the touchy-feely component), then we ignore the one thing that differentiates a spousal relationship from every other relationship.
Let’s Get Physical.
Marriage is a sacrament. What does that mean? It means it is a PHYSICAL sign of something bigger than itself. That “something” is Christ’s union with his Bride, the Church, also known as you and I. In marriage, the physical union of man and woman points to this mysterious union. In other words, our bodies bring this mystery to life in the flesh.1 To learn more about marriage as a sacrament and the mysterious union that it signifies, read Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West. If marriage is a physical sign, and our bodies are the conduits through which this sign is expressed, then physical attraction is an essential part of a spousal relationship.
Instead of fearing physical attraction, pay attention. It could be your body telling you that this is YOUR PERSON!
Unfortunately, some people, especially religious ones, ignore physical attraction and may mistake it for lust. However, if we see with the eyes of God, then we see through to the heart and are attracted to the person as a whole: body and soul. We must be physically present to a person to experience true physical attraction. When we substitute the person for a photo or video, then we cannot experience his/her soul, and this is when we veer into the territory of lust. We reduce the person to a soul-less object and use them to satiate our desires. Lust is characterized by an impulse to take, whereas, physical attraction stems from a giving of self. So yes, we must discern where these feelings come from, but too often, we discount physical attraction in a relationship out of fear of falling into lust. If this is your fear, try instead to ask God to redeem your desires so you can approach your relationships with fearless purity! The fact is, physical attraction is our body’s way of talking, and rather than fear what it has to say, we should listen with discernment.
But Beauty Fades…
While physical beauty may fade, our view of it should age with our spouse. The love should mature with age: whether 27 or 70, he/she is always beautiful in our eyes.
Okay, so you still need convincing that physical attraction is important when choosing a spouse.
Through looking at the first human spousal relationship, Adam and Eve, what did Adam exclaim in the garden when he first encounters Eve? “This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2.23). Adam responds with wonder and awe to her body. He speaks of her physicality rather than her great personality. This happens before the fall, before original sin taints his desires. Adam is subconsciously drawn to her, physically attracted, and this is how he knows that God made them for each other.2
Many consider "Song of Songs," one of the most beautiful erotic love poems of all time, to portray ideal love between spouses. The poem opens with the line, “Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine” (Song of Songs 1.2). Immediately, we are immersed in the physical attraction between the lovers.
After the lover describes his beloved’s physical beauty, he says, “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; / You have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes” (Song of Songs 4:9). Listen to the powerful and evocative language used in this verse: ravish. To ravish is to fill someone with intense delight. One brief look from this woman fills the man with delight.
The language of "Song of Songs" speaks to the goodness and intensity of physical attraction. Again, the lover declares to his beloved:
“How beautiful you are, how fair,
My love, daughter of delights!
Your very form resembles a date-palm,
And your breasts, clusters.
I thought, let me climb the date-palm! Let me take hold of its branches!” (Song of Songs 7.7-9).
Wow, “climb . . . take hold”! The lover is obviously intensely physically attracted to his beloved.
Likewise, when the beloved is asked how her lover differs from all other lovers, she responds: “My lover is radiant and ruddy / Outstanding among thousands. / His head is gold, pure gold” (Song of Songs 5.10-16). The woman compliments his physical beauty. The physical attraction that she feels toward her lover sets him apart. In this erotic love poem, which speaks to the ideal love between man and woman, their mutual physical attraction is emphasized. And this poem, Ladies and Gents, is the Word of God!
The bottom line is, we tend to downplay physical attraction, whether out of fear or shame. Ideally, we are meant to experience physical attraction, and if we learn to love as God loves, then we can foster a healthy understanding of it. The union of our bodies is at the heart of the sacrament of marriage. Thus, physical attraction is extremely relevant and should not be relegated to an afterthought or a ‘nice-to-have.’
The woman in "Song of Songs" advises, “do not awaken or stir up love until it is ready” (Song of Songs 3.5). How might we know when it is ready? When our “innermost being tremble[s] because of him” (Song of Songs 5.4, emphasis added).
1. West, Christopher. 2018. Theology of the Body For Beginners: Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex, and Gender. North Palm Beach, Florida: Beacon Publishing.
2. John Paul II. 1979. General Audience: By the Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God. November 14. http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/audiences/1979/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_19791114.html.
All Bible quotes from NAB Revised Edition.
Christina Pineda is a film producer, fashion designer, and expert at giving her opinion.