Can You Date Someone You’re Not Fully Physically Attracted To?


My freshman year of college was one of the first times I tried to date a person I wasn’t sure I was physically attracted to.

It was a Friday night, and friends and I were getting ready for a frat party. A hall-mate had invited four of her guy friends to pre-game with us.

When they walked into the room, the tall one in back caught my eye. He was blond and dressed in a navy blue hoodie, paired with beige cargo pants. Boyish good looks. Gentle soccer player demeanor.

The guy and I — we’ll call him Noah — got to talking on the walk over. I remember thinking he was kind and easy to talk to.

People were downing tequila shots and playing flip-cup in the kitchen when we got there.

Outside, others danced and played beer pong. Music spilled out the door into the warm summer air. It joined the sounds of ping-pong balls — either clacking against the table when missed, or sinking into the frothy liquid when a shot was made.

I don’t know what sparked the transition, but by the end of the night, Noah and I were lying next to each other on a random mattress in the corner of the dance room. We weren’t touching or anything like that — just talking. We stayed talking there for a long time, looking up at an off-white ceiling where a patch of chipped paint peeled into the shape of a t-rex paw.

I remember it being pleasant, and that whatever we were talking about was really holding my attention.


Noah and I hung out more after that night. We played racketball at the gym. We studied in each other’s dorms. We rode our bikes around campus.

One night we showed up to a frat party together, me dressed as Cleopatra, he as a frisbee bro. A frat brother answered the door and walked us down the hallway with the air of a person who was about to introduce us to Usher or Nikki Minaj, which we laughed about later.

At the end of the night after walking me back to my dorm, Noah handed me a folded-up paper that I opened once I was back inside my room.

He’d written me a poem, with the last line basically asking (in a lyrical way) if he could kiss me.

It was flattering to read. Still, as my heart soared upon opening my laptop to a response from a girl I’d been messaging on a dating site, I wondered if I really wanted him in the same way I did her.

I liked spending time with Noah. I felt comfortable in his presence and enjoyed our talks. The thought of being physical with him though?

…Didn’t repulse me. But it also didn’t really excite me either. Truthfully when thinking about it, what I felt was more like…nothing.

What were he and I doing then? Was I leading him on? I wondered.


“What did you think about the poem I wrote you?” Noah asked me a few nights later. We were at another party, and had just sat down on a cushy magenta-colored couch.

“It was… really well-written,” I responded, before taking a sip from my jungle juice.

The red cup covered half my face; I left it there a few seconds longer than I normally would’ve before lowering it to my lap. “And I appreciated the sentiment.”

“Any thoughts on that last line?” he wanted to know.

I hesitated, taking another sip from my drink, and then another. Finally I responded: “About that…I, well I sort of like someone else.”

“Oh.” He stiffened slightly. “Is it anyone I know?”

“I’m not sure if you do. She lives in my building.”


I nodded and told him who.

“I’ve seen her around,” he replied. “I don’t think she’s into girls.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right about that…” After some hesitation: “What I mean is that I just really like girls.”

Noah placed his empty cup against the ground and turned his body towards me.

“You must like guys too though. I mean, we’ve had fun together. Do you not like me at all?”

“I do like you,” I replied. It was the truth.

Flo Rida pulsed from the speakers, the room spun, and Noah’s arms around me felt nice. I did enjoy spending time with him.

And he was also probably right about the girl — though truthfully, it wasn’t really even about her. At the time, my expression of interest felt like a way of letting Noah down more easily.

Looking back, I know I could’ve been a lot clearer and more direct about what I was fully feeling that night. I could’ve explained that I was pretty sure I was gay, not bi — and that regardless of the crush on my hall-mate, I didn’t see him and me together.

Still liking Noah as a friend though, and not wanting to disappoint him, I didn’t communicate this in the moment.


The following morning he texted saying he’d had a wonderful time, and when could we see each other again?

My stomach churned upon reading it. I knew then that I had to end things — or at least be a lot clearer than before, as to the type of relationship I wanted with him (ie, not romantic). Because I knew I’d never feel for him the way I did for my girl crushes.

Though hurt when I told him, a few days later he said he’d be open to a friendship — and within a few weeks we resumed hanging out. I was glad we were able to remain friends.

As it turned out, I didn’t want a relationship with Noah. I’ve since learned that my attraction to him was a combination of aesthetic, intellectual, and somewhat emotional — but not sexual or physical.

I know now that I don’t, in fact, want a relationship with any guy. But I didn’t back then. Comp het can make it hard to, for women especially — particularly when we’re younger. So can the fact that attraction can wane and fluctuate, as some people, those who identify as demisexual in particular, need time for attraction to grow.

Since I identify as a gay woman now, the ultimate reason I wasn’t into Noah might seem obvious. But similar situations have happened with women too.

In a quest to break a pattern of dating unavailable people, I tried dating “nice ones” I wasn’t fully physically attracted to. I hoped they would grow on me, but apart from one time, they didn’t — and I can see years later that these attempts led to me trying to force a relationship, stringing people along, confusing others and most of all myself.

Physical attraction is important. It’s not shallow or superficial to need this in your relationship. And at a certain baseline level, it’s either (to some extent) there or it’s not (exceptions exist with demisexuality, which I’ll do another entry on later).

If you’re dating or talking to someone whom you’re a maybe about when it comes to physical attraction, I’ve personally found it’s best to have boundaries. To not escalate into texting daily, flirting, or referencing multiple future plans. To not give them the idea that my feelings are anything more than what they currently are. I communicate minimally in between dates.

I’ve found that doing this benefits both the other person and me, as well as the future health of the relationship (be that friendship or more).

Back in college, for a bit of time Noah and I had a confusing relationship with blurry lines. More assertive communication and a clearer idea of intentions could have spared some of that.

These can be uncomfortable conversations to have — but I wonder if they have to be. Maybe that just means we need to normalize having them.

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