Stages of Attraction

Pamela Regis’ description of the “attraction” element in romance stories was deliberately general. However, I didn’t find the broad definition as helpful. So, I looked further afield. These four stages of attraction come from Jennifer Crusie’s essay Dating Death: Love and Sex in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The original article is highly entertaining.

According to Crusie’s essay, there are basic psychological stages through which lovers progress: assumption, attraction, infatuation, and attachment.

1. Assumption: Crudely put, this is a mental “hot or not” list maintained by the characters. I think assumption must cover all love at first sight; the ‘wow’ factor; or anytime a character asks, “Who is that girl/boy?”

2. Attraction: Crusie says the couple then adds social approval and physical and emotional cues to their initial wow reaction.

I think that negative social reactions could be incorporated into the attraction stage. The overbearing parent who disapproves of the ‘bad’ girl or boy might increase the attraction, for instance. Romeo and Juliet probably felt that their families’ disapproval made each other more attractive rather than less.

Dancing is probably the most traditional example of a physical cue.

An emotional cue, according to Crusie, is when the couple believes that the other person feels the same emotions. For example, Jasmine and Aladdin from the Disney movie both feel ‘trapped’ in their situation.

3. Infatuation is built from shared joy and pain. Experiences with high doses of pleasure or stress unite the couple. Any action movie couple would be an example of this stage.

In this stage, the couple acts on a conditional love for each other. The characters are focused on how the other person makes them feel. Crusie stresses that all couples go through this stage.

4. Attachment, on the other hand, is unconditional love. The well-being of the other person outweighs any possible good for oneself.

Crusie doesn’t specifically mention this but I wonder whether a couple’s affection for each other might not include the stages in a staggered way rather than a linear way. To be kissed by someone who has no possible benefit from the action is a rather chilly thought.

I have the second part of Mariko and Usagi ready to post soon.

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