Chances are, we've all experienced the low key (or high key) agony of being attracted to someone who we couldn't or shouldn't pursue, and the pain can be so real. Maybe you feel magnetically drawn to your boss who also happens to be married, or you get the most intense butterflies in your stomach when you lock eyes with your BFF's partner. In situations like these, can you stop being attracted to someone? According to Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., sex expert, and host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast, it's important to realize that who you are attracted to isn't a choice.
"You may be able to reduce how much you focus on or think about the object of your desire, but you cannot fully suppress your body’s natural desires," O’Reilly tells Elite Daily. So, if you're crushing on someone hardcore, simply deleting the connection you feel probably isn't going to happen. However, according to O’Reilly, there are definitely some ways you can reduce the intensity of the attraction.
For example, if you're still attracted to an ex long after a breakup, managing your feelings is more about reminding yourself of why things didn't work out. "You may idealize the past and recall memories more positively than you should," explains O’Reilly. "This concept of rosy retrospection (judging the past more favorably than you do the present) results in the distorted recollection of relationships. The memories can even become more positive over time, as your memory of the relationship’s dissolution fades." In order to keep your cool, O’Reilly recommends making a pros and cons list to help you remember why the person wasn't the best fit for you. Although this might not make your attraction go away, it can a least keep you from acting on your impulses.
If the person you're lusting after is off limits because one of you is already in a relationship, or pursuing them could complicate other areas of your life, thinking things through rationally is key. "Strong sexual attraction is often a matter of desiring novelty and the unknown," says O’Reilly. "When you’re physically attracted to someone you don’t know well, your mind may subconsciously fill in the blanks to create an ideal sexual partner; You assume that they’re good in bed, kind, compassionate, attentive, loving, funny, and charming because you want to like them." However, the truth is that no one's perfect. So, O’Reilly emphasizes the importance of realizing that your impression of them probably isn't fully in line with the reality of who they are.
Even though intense attraction can feel impossible to control, according to O’Reilly, whether or not you act on it is completely within your control. "We all experience physical and sexual attractions that we cannot or do not act upon," explains O’Reilly. "Just as you may want to eat an entire chocolate cake every morning for breakfast, you choose not too because it results in a stomach ache, lethargy or feeling uncomfortable a few hours later." That's why it's vital to be honest with yourself about the possible ramifications of your actions.
"If you have sex with your friend’s partner, you’ll hurt their feelings and your friendship," says O’Reilly. "If you have sex with your married boss, it could compromise your job and cause hurt in their family." So, if it's become clear that the negative outcome will far outweigh the positives, a behavior adjustment can help keep you in line. "If you’re attracted to your boss and you don’t want to pursue the attraction, cut off the behavior (for example, flirtatious banter) that fuels the attraction."
Although it can be easy to absolve ourselves of personal responsibility in the face of temptation, the effects our actions will have on others shouldn't be overlooked. "Modern humans do not act upon every impulse or desire," confirms O’Reilly. "We consider the outcomes, weigh our options, and make our decisions based on perceived costs and benefits. This doesn’t mean that we don’t make mistakes, but it’s important to remember that you can control your behavior even if you can’t control to whom you’re attracted."