Emotional Attraction: The Stress-Reducing Conversation

Your relationship can build resistance to outside stressors by developing an attraction that goes deeper than the physical.

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Your relationship can build resistance to outside stressors by developing an attraction that goes deeper than the physical.

Your relationship can build resistance to outside stressors by developing an attraction that goes deeper than the physical.

Building off of maintaining desire in a long-term relationship, consider the importance of emotional attraction.

When you are emotionally attracted to your partner, you value them for more than just their physical appearance. Perhaps it’s sexy that your partner can carry out an intellectual conversation, talk about a novel, or discuss the news. This kind of attraction goes deeper than the physical. You desire your partner’s heart and mind and value them for who they are and what they stand for. While you may be sexually attracted to your partner’s physical appearance, developing deeper emotional attraction will make these feelings much stronger.

How to build emotional attraction

The way you communicate determines your emotional attraction to your partner. If you communicate well, you comfortably open up to your partner without fear of judgment. Daily dialogue (like asking, “how was your day”) can reaffirm this high level of intimate trust,  but it’s not enough.

The stress-reducing conversation

The stress-reducing conversation helps you manage the stress in your daily life (not caused by your relationship) so that outside stressors don’t spill over into your relationship.

According to the late Dr. Neil Jacobson of the University of Washington, one of the key reasons for couples’ relapse after problem-solving in marital therapy is “discord caused by stress from other areas of their lives.” In other words, problems at work or with friends or family members often come into relationships to fuel the fires of conflict.

Couples overrun by stress fail to talk about it with each other and subsequently see their level of emotional attraction drop—ultimately hurting their relationships.  On the other hand, those who talk about the stresses of daily life with one another and help each other to cope keep their relationships strong.

Timing is everything

When you have this conversation is critical. Some people want to unburden themselves immediately. Others need to decompress on their own before they’re ready. Come to an agreement on what time works best for both of you.

Stay on topic

The cardinal rule of the stress-reducing conversation is: only talk about stress outside of your relationship. 

This is not the time to discuss areas of conflict between you. It’s also not the time to instruct your partner on how to fix their problems. It’s an opportunity to support each other emotionally. Remember: understanding must precede advice. 

Though these conversations don’t center on your relationship, they directly improve it. They allow you to connect on an intimate level. How? Emotional attraction (and transitively, sexual attraction) grows when you feel your partner is listening to you, respecting and accepting your perspective, and expressing genuine care. 


Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute and editor for The Gottman Relationship Blog.