Dean Drobot/Shutterstock
Source: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

What makes a person sexually attracted to another will likely remain a mystery forever. I have studied psychology for 25 years, and neither my doctorate nor my years of experience working with clients has sufficiently answered the question.

What makes you sexually attracted to another person? While we have theories, we don't entirely know. We can infer that the object of one's sexual attraction is stirred by a mix of biology and past experiences, but that somehow doesn't feel sufficient. Studies of pheromones, too, don't explain it.

But when it comes to attraction, is it possible that a person can be too sexually attracted to another person? The answer, in short, is yes.

While I learned a lot from my undergraduate and graduate psychology training, I learned even more from my clients. But the person who taught me the most about human motivations and behaviors? My own therapist, who provided psychoanalytic therapy to me for over five years in my 20s. One nugget of wisdom he gave me when I was 25: "When you feel extremely sexually attracted to someone in the very beginning, walk the other way." Of course, he had to spend a few more sessions drilling that concept down, because, at first, it made absolutely no sense to me. Now, I understand.

You can be too sexually attracted to someone. You can meet someone who unleashes the most elaborate sexual desire, but that person is probably not someone you should pursue, because the intensity of your sexual feelings likely comes from a primitive — and dysfunctional — set of feelings and beliefs. Most important, meeting someone and feeling too sexually attracted often indicates underlying idealization. Sexual attraction that is too intense from the very start often indicates a distorted belief that this new person will provide a sense of emotional completion, fulfilling long-simmering emotional needs that have previously gone unmet.

People who feel extreme, I-need-to-have-them-now sexual attraction often have a history of psychological trauma or neglect.

What is psychological trauma? It could be a specific incident — a horrific incident with a family member or stranger. Or it could be an ongoing pattern of extreme dysfunction — for instance, a parent, peer, or another adult luring you into an ongoing relationship that is unhealthy or even physically or emotionally dangerous. Neglect is more straightforward — a parent or caregiver who isn't there when you need them and who doesn't make you feel like your thoughts and feelings are noticed or important.

Based on my anecdotal experience of seeing hundreds of clients, I can say with assurance that someone who feels extremely sexually attracted to a new person should be very careful, especially if they have experienced neglect or psychological trauma in their past. These individuals have gone without for so long that they may have started to develop a fantasy life, imagining someone "out there" who could rescue them or take away the emotional hurts they've suffered in the past.

People who feel extreme sexual attraction also often have addictive tendencies.

Intense sexual attraction can be so intense that the new person serves as a sort of drug or stimulant, and it is typically impossible to reach a sense of true satiation when such feelings get triggered. In other words, it never feels like enough. Men and women who struggle with addictive tendencies must be careful to see that these tendencies also extend to the way we seek out and relate to romantic partners in the beginning.

What's the ultimate goal in finding a romantic partner?

The real goal in relationships is to find someone who quenches your sexual and emotional desires on a consistent basis. Sure, sexual attraction changes over the course of a long-term relationship, but relationships that are successful include two people who feel that their partner is emotionally available. When you feel attraction that is too intense, it often means that you are responding to the sense that you need to consume that person entirely now, because they may slip through your fingers at a moment's notice.

If you have addictive tendencies or have any kind of psychological trauma or neglect in your history, beware sexual attraction that is extremely intense in the beginning. Go back to the basics, and focus on finding a person who is consistent and reliable, and who shares similar values to yours. Remember, every step you take away from someone who isn't good for you brings you one step closer to someone who is.

Feel free to explore my book on dysfunctional romantic relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve, or follow me on Twitter for mental health updates.

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