The Relationship Attraction Factors

This Trinity Can Make a Difference

Susan and I are blessed with five amazing young adult children, 4 of whom are married. We had just spent part of the Mother’s Day weekend in and around the relationships our kinds have grown. After the festivities, my wife and I went out for an impromptu date night.

Over dinner we were reflecting on relationships past and present.

As were strolled down memory lane about other relationships we knew, we talked about the reasons some couples were stronger than others or why some failed early. After checking my thoughts, I struck upon three common attractions between man and woman that cannot go without consideration.

These three attractions are:

  • Physical
  • Functional
  • Friendship

Relation-triangle

When couples meet, all three elements get tested and run through some sort of analysis. The presence of each part can add greatly to the success of the relationship. When any part is weak or missing, well…..

Physical attraction is legend. Mass marketing blankets us with information that stimulates and sometimes stymies the significance of the physical part of relationships. Not wanting to delve too deeply in this area right now, I am going to assume everyone understands there is a physical attraction that is in play.

Clearly, having the ability to be attracted to your partner is vital to an ongoing relationship. Without spending too much time here, let’s just agree it is a factor for both parties.

Functional attraction is a newer idea, one which I have not heard described in the way I am going to describe it. The longer my wife and I discussed this particular element, it struck me that it is significant. Men and women often come together over nothing more than an acceptance of a functional benefit to being together. He provides for her or she provides for him. Needs (other than physical) are getting met. She’s a good cook, he’s handy with a wrench, things get done. Life seems to hum.

I know I am over simplifying the examples, but I hope you see what I mean. There are functional parts of our life that have to occur.

When couples click at this level, there becomes a functional bond; it’s an “us against the world” kind of bond. There is nothing wrong with this. Once a couple becomes an “us” there should be some functional benefit given to the world because these two are together.

Functional attraction has a dark side though. The need for functional fulfillment can drive people to “settle” for a mate. The young woman or man who has waited past their peers to get engaged feels a desperation. Finding a mate who can meet functional needs becomes a driving force in making a decision about marriage.

Once the partner is identified, the focus stays on functional fulfillment and the other two attractions can be given a back seat.

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The Friendship attraction is the last but certainly not least attraction to talk about. The happiest, most dynamic couples I know will tell you they are best friends. Perhaps they even started out as friends, I mean real friends, before the physical or the functional needs were introduced.

My wife and I were early adopters of Internet dating. We met via the Internet more than 16 years ago. In our case, we began a friendship phase long before we met in person. Our circumstances kept us from meeting for six months, yet we communicated via email and phone every day. When we finally met face to face, the friendship bond we had established was very strong. This is not to say we were disappointed about the physical attraction, quite the contrary. But to compliment the physical attraction, we now had a friendship that was the force and glue for us.

The foundation of friendship is the strongest of bonds from which the relationship can grow. The physical can fail or grow weary. The functional can change over time too. But friendship has the potential to keep growing.

I am sad when I hear stories of young couples going through the wedding process only to find they are not well matched in all three areas. Maybe the physical was the energy that drew them together, but as a couple, they fail functionally to make things work.

Or functionally they work well, but there is no spark. It’s just too mechanical.

If there is an absence of friendship, both the physical and functional will eventually fail.

The Big So What

My wife and I agree, we are very glad we don’t have to meet someone new again. We ache for young people who are still working through their relationship challenges. We pray for anyone just starting a new relationship that you find:

  • A physical attraction that gives the spark
  • A functional attraction that makes sense and accomplishes great things
  • Above all, a friendship attraction that stands the test of time.

Question: How are your Big Three relationship elements working right now? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Julie Watkins

    Doug, you’re great at straight forward observations. I totally agree with the Friendship piece needing to be the strongest while still maintaining attraction and functionality. As we age, things change and without the strength of a good foundation of friendship you may well be left with little. Illnesses can affect physical ability (not attraction but I think you know what I mean) and even functionality. But if you started and maintain a great friendship, all of that is minor. Thank you for this reminder.

    • Doug Thorpe

      Julie, thanks. Your add-on about the physical failing due to health concerns is also significant.