Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt like you’ve known them forever? Or become instantly drawn to another person without being that into them physically?
If so, you’ve likely experienced the pull of emotional attraction — being captivated by someone’s heart, mind, or humor instead of their physical appeal.
“Many people go on a date looking for a ‘spark,’” says licensed psychotherapist Rachel Perlstein. “The tricky thing about that feeling is that it’s often more reflective of a physical attraction or sexual chemistry.”
Emotional attraction is a different, deeper type of attraction, she explains, because it not only draws you to someone, but keeps you feeling connected in a lasting, meaningful way.
And unlike physical attraction, it’s often developed based on things like the other person’s values, their personality, and how they show they care.
Yes, emotional and physical attraction can be completely separate, explains mental health counselor, Lily Ewing.
“You might love someone for their humor or intelligence and just never get interested in them physically or sexually,” she says.
For instance, maybe you greatly admire and trust one of your colleagues or classmates but know you’d never want to date them. On the other hand, you might be physically attracted to someone but the emotional connection never happens.
Sometimes, people find themselves initially drawn to the person they’re most physically attracted to, notes Perlstein. But when there isn’t a deeper, emotional connection, they have a hard time continuing the relationship.
Appreciating someone’s personality doesn’t mean you have romantic feelings for them. For example, think about the bonds you have with your friends.
You’ve likely experienced the feeling of being drawn or attracted to a person at work or a social gathering more than others, Perlstein says, whether it’s because of their sense of humor, shared interests, or just the way they make you feel validated and heard.
“This emotional attraction really reflects this sometimes-instant ability to relate on a different level and connect, to feel understood and cared about,” she says.
Usually, if the emotional attraction continues, you’ll both become closer friends or be pulled into each other’s social circle.
Emotional attraction isn’t necessarily sexual, especially if physical attraction isn’t a factor.
“Sexual attraction builds as we see both emotional and physical attraction connecting into a stronger sexual draw,” Ewing explains.
For example, you might be emotionally attracted to someone but aren’t immediately drawn to them physically. Over time, as the emotional connection deepens, they may start to seem more physically attractive to you.
For some people (but not all), experiencing sexual attraction doesn’t happen without emotional attraction.
A person who identifies as demisexual, for example, may not feel sexually attracted to someone unless they form a strong emotional connection with them first.
“Our minds like balance,” Ewing adds. “So if we’re feeling the butterflies about someone who is funny, smart, and kind, we soon will start to appreciate more and more about their physical appearance. When both are in place, the sexual attraction sparks begin to fly.”
Being open and vulnerable with someone else and having them do the same with you is the basis of intimacy, says Carrie Krawiec, LMFT.
“It’s important because feeling safe, comfortable, accepted, and understood as a person is the root of attachment, connection, and intimacy,” she explains.
If you’ve ever been attracted to someone primarily for their sense of humor, intelligence, or the way they care for children or animals, says Ewing, you know that emotional attraction is just as powerful — if not more so — than a chiseled physique or mesmerizing eyes.
Emotional attraction is “also more important in the long run of a relationship and can create a stronger connection than physical attraction alone.”
Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when the emotional sparks fly. But other times, things can be a bit more confusing.
Here’s a look at some common examples of emotional attraction and how to spot them:
Feeling like they “get you”
If you feel seen and heard by the other person, it’s a sign you’re experiencing a deeper connection. You’re able to communicate easily and things flow effortlessly.
Being with the other person feels nurturing and like they understand you on another level.
Constantly thinking about them
You find yourself day dreaming about seeing them or thinking about what you talked about the previous night. Whether you’re at work or running errands, you constantly draw them to mind and remember the way they make you feel.
Long, late night conversations
If you’re on the phone, talking about things long beyond setting up plans for your next meet up, it’s a good sign of emotional attraction.
“Those long late-night conversations about your families, high school heartbreaks, and the like, are full of shared emotional experiences that deepen connection,” says Ewing.
Gushing over their qualities
You love their sense of humor or personality and can’t stop telling other people about it.
When you’re emotionally attracted to someone, you can’t help but absorb these small quirks or qualities and want to share them with others.
Your values are in sync
They welcome you into their personal life and you feel emotionally compatible. When you share similar views on family, work, and fundamental beliefs, your bond becomes stronger and can develop into a long-term relationship.
You never get sick of each other
No matter how much time you spend together, it never gets old. Even if you’re just hanging out and not doing anything exciting, you’ll still feel a sense of connection from their presence.
You’re comfortable being vulnerable
“Any time you’re sharing or listening to vulnerable personal details, emotional connection and attraction grow,” notes Ewing.
Opening up and revealing insecurities and private aspects of your life establishes greater trust between you.
Do you have physical attraction but want to strengthen the emotional side of things? Here are some pointers to get you started:
“Building intimacy is a little bit like the egg toss or water balloon toss game,” says Krawiec.
The gist, she explains, is that you start small and gentle with some reveals of personal information like hopes, dreams, fears, humiliations, and happy memories.
As you go back and forth with safety, nonjudgement, acceptance, and kindness, you can reveal increasingly deep or personal information.
Ask questions and really listen to the answers
There’s no better way to foster emotional attraction than by asking the right questions.
Older research has shown that you can create closeness and deepen your understanding of another person by asking meaningful questions and truly listening to their answers.
Be willing to self-disclose
When you’re first getting to know someone, you’re more cautious about sharing personal information. But Perlstein recommends being vulnerable, open, and honest about yourself when trying to deepen your connection.
Building any kind of successful relationship isn’t just about learning more about the other person. It also involves sharing your own hopes, thoughts, dreams, and fears.
Introduce them to friends and family
Introducing someone to your inner circle when you’re forming a bond is an important way of showing care and respect.
Inviting them to a family reunion or a friend’s birthday party, for example, are connection-deepening activities that can help increase emotional closeness.
Enjoy high-emotion experiences together
Offer your undivided attention in shared moments that elicit a lot of emotions.
“Bungee jumping, watching a belly-laughing comedy, or attending a wedding together are all high-emotion experiences of joy, fear, and excitement that can bond you together,” says Ewing.
Being physically attracted to someone is a thrilling experience, but it’s also fleeting.
When you’re going through difficult situations, having strong emotional ties is what helps you maintain longevity in your relationships. And it’s these shared experiences that ultimately bring meaning to our lives.
As Perlstein notes “emotional attraction is important because it’s reflective of deep connection and often happens when someone feels truly seen and heard by someone.”