14 Subtle Ways To Create & Build Emotional Attraction With Someone

Chemistry is more than just physical.

by Kristine Fellizar
Originally Published: 
Emotional attraction is the foundation of a lasting relationship.

Sure, physical attraction is fun. It piques your interest and makes you excited about someone new — the love at first sight effect. But if you're looking to take things to the next level with someone you're into, experts say the secret really lies in emotional attraction. Most people understand that true romantic chemistry isn’t defined by just physical attraction, but the idea of emotional connection can often seem like quite a lofty and loaded subject. What is emotional attraction, really? Is it something innate, or can we work to build it with someone?

"All successful romantic relationships need both emotional and physical attraction," relationship expert Emily Mendez, M.S. Ed.S., tells Bustle. Physical attraction is the easy part. A study by the Journal of Neuroscience found that it can take mere seconds to decide that you’re interested in someone romantically, and in terms of neurology, it takes just a fifth of a second for the neurochemical reaction associated with love to fire off. The problem with this is that it can be fleeting. "Physical attraction can change," Mendez says. Emotional attraction, on the other hand, endures.

Emotional attraction means that you are attracted to a person’s personality, mind, dreams, and heart. As Mendez says, "It's what keeps both partners engaged and invested in the relationship over the long haul." In fact, a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that emotional accessibility is more important in romantic relationships than sexual accessibility — although sexual intimacy shouldn't be downplayed either. For both men and women in the study, not being able to connect emotionally often led to breaking up.

When you're emotionally attracted to someone, you're more likely to invest your energy into pursuing a relationship with them. "For example, when you find yourself suddenly sexually attracted to a long-time friend, it's usually because the two of you developed a solid emotional connection first," Mendez says. That deeper connection makes you want to keep that person in your life, in comparison to someone you just have a surface-level attraction to.

Here are 14 expert-approved ways to build emotional attraction.


Give Them Your Undivided Attention


"Presence is powerful," licensed life counselor Julie Williamson tells Bustle. You don't necessarily need to have an in-depth conversation to establish an emotional attraction and connection with someone. "Being present and fully attuned to what the person you're interested in is saying can communicate genuine care and interest," she says.

So, whenever you're around the person you’re interested in, eliminate any distractions. Put the phone on silent and give them your full and undivided attention. It may not seem like much, but as Williamson says, it can help you listen better, which can lead you to ask more "intentional questions" to keep the conversation going.


Make Meaningful Eye Contact

Similarly, Nina Rubin, a life coach and relationship expert, tells Bustle that the foundation of an emotional attraction doesn’t need to be based on shared history, but rather based on shared feelings. "When you relate to the other person with genuine empathy and positive regard, an emotional connection can be made," Rubin says.

One way to do that is to make meaningful eye contact. Don't make eye contact because you think you have to — instead, do it because you're genuinely interested in what the other person has to say.


Move Beyond The Surface-Level Connection

As dating and relationship coach Laurel House tells Bustle, relationships that move too quickly can end up burning out if they’re built on superficial grounds. When you make your physical attraction the basis of your relationship, House says you end up falling in love with one one aspect of a person and not necessarily what lies beneath the surface.

That's why working on emotional attraction from the get-go is important. "If you want to build a love that lasts, think about a skyscraper — create a foundation first," she says. "Go down before you go up. Create your foundation down deep, then enjoy the superficial stuff later."


Turn Your Shared Interests Into Shared Experiences


One of the best ways to create emotional attraction is to turn your shared interests into shared experiences, dating coach Anna Morgenstern tells Bustle. For instance, if the person you're interested in is someone you see on your walk every morning, strike up a conversation. Turn that thing you typically enjoy doing by yourself into an experience you can share with that person. One conversation can turn into two, and then it can become a regular thing.

"After the shared experience, offer to grab some drinks and do your best to flirt," Morgenstern says. "Let them know you're open to taking the friendship to the next level by smiling, laughing and touching their arm every so often."


Don't Play It Safe When It Comes To Talking About Yourself

"The only way to create an emotional attraction is to make the decision to be vulnerable," House says. That means, you don't always have to stick to "safe" conversation subjects, such as your career, your pet, or how your weekend went.

"Get raw," she says. "Open up and share." Remember, emotional attraction is supposed to be deep. If you treat the person you're interested in like a casual acquaintance, they're going to keep seeing you as that even if they are interested in something more. If you want to pursue a relationship, don't be afraid to open up and be honest about your feelings.


Converse Outside Of Text

If you want to build an emotional attraction with someone you're interested in, online dating coach Andi Forness tells Bustle to utilize your five senses — that means meeting in person, or at the very least over the phone. For instance, if you want to build an emotional attraction to someone you met online, but haven't met IRL, try using your voice. Pick up the phone and call them, schedule a FaceTime hang, or leave voice memos back and forth. According to Forness, these can help to start increasing the emotional attraction between the two of you.

And if it's someone you see regularly, try to make sure the time that you do spend together is quality time. This can help build and keep a connection between you and the person you like. (But remember that a bit of space is also important in building a relationship with someone.)


Do Them A Favor


When you go out of your way to do something for someone, it indicates to them that they are on your mind in an emotional, thoughtful way — even if it is something small like grabbing them a coffee or their favorite snack before you see them. Jamie LeClaire, a sexuality educator and writer, previously told Bustle that doing something to make your romantic interest’s life easier “can be a great way to feel more connected to them, especially if you know your partner appreciates acts of service.”


Create Shared Rituals

If you want to increase your emotional attraction, building rituals and traditions with someone can give you both something shared to look forward to regularly. Even something small can be incredibly meaningful in establishing a sense of bonding.

“Creating a ritual of connection — such as going on a walk after dinner, or having coffee ready for your [partner] ... can be something you both look forward to as well," licensed psychotherapist and founder of Let's Talk Divorce Shirin Peykar previously told Bustle.


Hang Out With Other Couples

This may not seem like an obvious one, especially if you’re in the early stages of seeing someone, but hanging out around other couples will likely bring you closer together emotionally. As relationship expert Amy North previously told Bustle, “Studies show that spending time with another couple can make the two of you feel closer to each other."

Research from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology indicates that going on double dates and engaging in personal and emotional conversations with another couple will likely bring you closer to your own partner.


Enjoy The Moment


For the most part, people enjoy being around people who can make them feel comfortable and relaxed. If you want to build an emotional attraction with someone, just enjoy spending time with that person in the moment, Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Try not to think about the future or worry that they won’t become emotionally attracted to you," Backe says. "You’re more likely to form an emotional attraction with the person you want when you’re relaxed." In other words, don't overthink it.


Grow Your Relationship With Yourself

While forming emotional and physical connections with another person can be exciting and fun, the most important long-term relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. Putting yourself first isn’t selfish, and can actually increase the emotional attraction you have to others.

Whether it be picking up a new hobby or starting a consistent gym routine, taking time for personal development can make anyone seem more magnetic. As Quandra Chaffers, licensed couples therapist and certified sexuality educator, previously told Bustle, “In those places where you get excited or are growing, it gives your partner an opportunity to experience it through you. And that's usually where people spark desire.” If both you and your person of interest are intentional when it comes to the connection with yourselves, your emotional attraction together is bound to grow.


Establish A Foundation Of Trust With Them

Similar to vulnerability, creating a sense of trust in the relationship you have with someone can do wonders in progressing your emotional connection. According to relationship expert J. Hope Suis, fostering an emotionally safe space and feeling of security within your interactions does a great deal to strengthen your connection to that person — and your emotional attraction.

“You and your [romantic interest] must work on developing faith that you will always have each other’s back,” Suis previously told Bustle. Knowing that you can trust one another is certainly a great way to bring about closeness.


Consider Including Them Around Your Friends Or Family

If you’re trying to grow emotional attraction between you and someone you’re already seeing, you might want to consider letting them meet some of your chosen family or close relatives. Even in a casual setting, bringing this person into your social world can grow the feeling of emotional intimacy between both of you. “If you can imagine this person sliding into your daily life and being a complement to what you already enjoy doing and who you like spending time with, then you are more likely to feel this person is a perfect fit,” Dr. Dana McNeil, a licensed marriage and family therapist, previously told Bustle.


Try To Remember Things They Share With You

As you’re getting to know them better, your significant other is bound to share special moments with you or even smaller details about their life. Julie Krafchick, dating expert and co-host of the Dateable podcast, previously told Bustle that recalling and mentioning even the most minute details about their lives will make them feel like you “were paying attention and subconsciously investing in a future with [them]."

Demonstrating that you care enough to remember the things they choose to share with you could be super meaningful to your person of interest, and provide another stepping stone to a closer emotional connection.

Similar to physical attraction, doing any or even all of the above can't guarantee that the person you like is going to feel emotionally attracted to you. But these things can open up the possibility of having a bond that goes beyond the surface-level stuff. So, if you're interested in having a more emotional connection with someone, stay open, relaxed, and fully present whenever you're around them. You may be surprised to see where that takes you.

Additional reporting by Lexi Inks.

Studies Referenced:

Cooper, J. C., Dunne, S., Furey, T., O'Doherty, J. P. (2012). Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex Mediates Rapid Evaluations Predicting the Outcome of Romantic Interactions. Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (45) 15647-15656; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2558-12.2012.

Ortigue, S., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Patel, N., Frum, C. and Lewis, J.W. (2010), Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta-Analysis Evidence toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7: 3541-3552.

Wade, T. J., & Mogilski, J. (2018). Emotional Accessibility Is More Important Than Sexual Accessibility in Evaluating Romantic Relationships - Especially for Women: A Conjoint Analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 632.

Society for Personality and Social Psychology (2014). "Keep romance alive with double dates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily.


Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS, relationship expert

Julie Williamson, licensed life counselor

Nina Rubin, life coach and relationship expert

Laurel House, dating and relationship coach

Anna Morgenstern, dating coach

Andi Forness, online dating coach

Jamie LeClaire, a sexuality educator and writer

Shirin Peykar, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Let's Talk Divorce

Amy North, relationship expert

Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics

Quandra Chaffers, licensed couples therapist and certified sexuality educator

J. Hope Suis, relationship expert

Dr. Dana McNeil, licensed marriage and family therapist

Julie Krafchick, dating expert and co-host of the Dateable podcast

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