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Blog Mental Health Sexual Wellness Sexual Attraction Vs Romantic Attraction: What’s The Difference?

Sexual Attraction Vs Romantic Attraction: What’s The Difference?

When you see someone you’re attracted to, what goes through your mind? If you’re sexually attracted to them, you probably think something along the lines of, “Wow, they’re hot!” or “I’d love to go home with them!” On the other hand, when you see someone you’re romantically attracted to, your thoughts might be more along the lines of, “I wonder if they like me back?” or “I hope we can get to know each other better.” These different types of attractions — sexual and romantic — are often confused for one another, but they’re actually quite different. Let’s take a look at the key differences between sexual and romantic attraction (3).


Sexual Attraction

  • Physical and is all about the way someone looks or smells
  • Usually instantaneous
  • Often based on stereotypes and preconceptions
  • Intense and passionate, but can also be fleeting
  • Becomes less intense after sex
  • Can be felt for someone you don’t know well (or at all)

Read More: What Is Sexual Wellness And Why Does It Matter?

Romantic Attraction

  • Often develops over time
  • More than just physical, it may include features such as intelligence, sense of humor, and compatibility
  • Something you may be able to control (to some extent)
  • Can lead to love, but doesn’t have to
  • Can include sexual attraction

So, which one are you feeling? If you’re not sure, it’s probably best to be on the side of caution and take things slow. After all, it’s always better to get to know someone before you get too intimate with them!

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sexual attraction vs romantic attraction

The Psychology Of Attraction

Behind every encounter with someone we are attracted to is a complex psychological process. By understanding a few key principles of psychology, you can not only better understand your own attraction but also gain insight into the attractions of others.

The first step in understanding attraction is to recognize that there are different types. The most obvious type is physical attraction, which is based on looks. Another common type is social attraction, which is based on factors such as intelligence, sense of humor, and compatibility (2).

While physical attraction is often what brings people together initially. It’s usually not enough to sustain a long-term relationship– that’s where social attraction comes in. For a relationship to last, there needs to be more than just a physical connection.

The second principle of attraction is that it’s often based on stereotypes and preconceptions. When we see someone we’re attracted to, we often have a mental image of who we think they are (1). This image is often based on stereotypes and preconceptions, which can lead to disappointment if the person doesn’t live up to our expectations.

The third principle of attraction is that it’s something we can’t anticipate or plan for. Attraction is often an instinctive response that we can’t control. This can be frustrating, but it’s also what makes the attraction so exciting.

We can’t always control who we’re attracted to, but we can control how we act on those attractions. If we want to maintain healthy relationships, it’s important to be aware of our attractions and to make sure that we act on them in ways that are respectful and considerate of our partners.

The Bottom Line 

Lust vs. love or sexual attraction vs. romantic attraction– it can be difficult to keep all of these terms straight. But by understanding the key differences between them, you can not only better understand your own attractions, but also gain insight into the attractions of others. This can help you create and maintain healthier, happier relationships.

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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. 5 crucial discoveries about the psychology of attraction (2021, psychologytoday.com)
  2. Interpersonal attraction (2001, sciencedirect.com)
  3. The Social Psychology of Love and Attraction (2010, gvsu.edu)

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