“Romantic attraction is an emotional response of one person towards another, which can be described as a yearning to admire and join with them,” says therapist Christa McCrorie, LICSW-PIP.
While romantic attraction is different for everyone, many people will experience feelings of wanting to protect and provide for another person, wanting to keep them cared for, enjoying their company, and wanting to take on a role of responsibility in maintaining that person’s happiness, she notes.
Some people see their romantic orientation—that is, how they experience romantic attraction and for whom—as a part of their identity separate from their sexual orientation. For example, someone can be homoromantic and bisexual, which means they’re only romantically attracted to people who share their gender but they do experience sexual attraction to people of more than one gender. Those who experience little to no romantic attraction for others may be referred to as aromantic.
Not all relationships need romantic attraction. However, in healthy relationships where romantic attraction is present, it serves as a force that pushes partners to continuously be intrigued and interested in each other with compassion, acting as the glue to keep the relationship connected even as partners and the environment inevitably change, says McCrorie.