How to Define Real Attraction vs. Push-Pull In a Relationship

Have you ever wondered why you are inexplicably gravitated toward certain people but just never click with the others?

It has to do with the science and art of attraction, the mysterious force that seems to hold all the secrets to finding the love of your life. Well, it’s actually not that mysterious once we unpack some of the nuances. There are certainly things you need to work towards finding your perfect partner and relationship.

We had the pleasure to speak with Eunice Hong, a certified dating coach with a psychology background, to give you the advice you need from stepping up your dating game to thriving in a healthy, fulfilling relationship dynamic.

Attraction VS. Love

“What we consider attraction is instantaneous and automatic,” Eunice said. “There’s no building of it, that’s just something that we resonate towards.” For example, it could be the way a person looks, their personality, charisma, or energy, all coming into play as “attraction.”

The truth is, “it’s impossible to know who somebody really is authentically early on,” she said. When we start dating, people usually show their best selves or even project an image. That, she noted, partly explains why so many relationships have a strong start and then peter out after the first three months once people start to reveal their real selves.

It takes time for love to build, which is what makes attraction different from real love. And so, it’s important that you see people in different contexts other than just who they are when they’re interacting with you so that you have a more holistic view of who they truly are.

“Love is built; it takes time,” she said, “and there’s no substitute for time.”

Why are we attracted to certain people only?

“Attraction is very nuanced,” Eunice said. “When we first meet somebody, whether it’s a new friend, a colleague, or a potential romantic partner, we immediately compute the various components automatically.” For example, the way we’re attracted to someone physically, emotionally, or intellectually are all variables we assess almost instantaneously.

Many studies show that by the time we’re 35, almost 90% of what we do, think, and feel are automated. In short, our lives are habitual based on past experiences, and we’re not aware that most of our decisions are driven subconsciously. Until we intentionally bring attention to them.

Most of us have some sort of a type, and the reason why we are attracted to certain people has to do with the family dynamic we grew up with. “There’s an emotional frequency and resonance within us,” she said, “it’s automatic thinking and wired into our neurology.” So, when you feel like you’ve known the person forever, what it really means is the person seems familiar to you based on your childhood memory and experiences.

Now, that’s not to say that your attraction is predestined a certain way, she clarified. But that we can learn to be aware of our unhealthy patterns of thoughts and automatic habits so that we make intentional decisions that are going to serve us in the long run.

Ways to Up Your Dating Game

Eunice pointed out that most people don’t see dating and relationships as science because “no one really teaches us how to have healthy relationships and what they look like.” That explains why we tend to end up repeating the relationship models that we had growing up, whether they were healthy or not. It’s what we know. It’s familiar.

That said, there are things we can work towards building such as relationship skill or competence, which are important to setting you up for healthy and fulfilling long-term relationships, according to her.

Tip #1 Figure out your pain points

“The first thing is figure out what your pain points are and some of the stuff that you haven’t resolved from your past relationships or childhood,” she said.

The things that we don’t work through are going to bleed into other aspects of our lives. Much like in a relationship, if you broke up with someone and start dating somebody right away, it’d be hard to process things like what worked well or what didn’t in the relationship.

So, “figure out your limiting beliefs, blind spots, and patterns that may not be serving you,” she said. “We all have them, that just makes us human beings.” The key is becoming aware of them.

Tip #2 Be more open-minded

“The second thing is to be more open-minded.” Most of us have preferences of our ideal partner, but she said that it’s important we reevaluate the list and ask ourselves:

  • What does that really have to do with relationship success?
  • Why is this trait important to me?
  • Who told me those things were important to me? Where did I learn this from?

“We have to expand and try things in a way that we haven’t tried before,” she said. “Otherwise, we’re going to end up in the same kind of relationship and pattern with different people.”

The best approach, she recommended, would be to get down to 3 or 4 traits you’re looking for that are really important to you, which should also be values-driven.

Tip #3 Lead with your authentic self

“The final thing is stop playing games and instead show up authentically and honestly.”

“There is no rule in dating, the rule is what makes sense to you,” she said. “And if you’re leading with your authentic and true self, you can’t go wrong.”

She listed 3 basic tenets that help set a good foundation for a solid relationship:

  • Be honest about who you are, what you want, what matters to you
  • If there are things you don’t like, talk about that openly
  • Learn to communicate your needs in a way that can be received by the other person

Now that you’ve gotten a better understanding on how to be a better dater, we want to familiarize you with an unhealthy relationship dynamic that you should look out for.

Are you in a push-pull relationship?

What it is, in Eunice’s definition, is really the concept of chasing. “It’s just a dance between two people where one is pursuing and the other one’s distancing.”

What that looks like is someone in the relationship would be “chasing” and doing everything to make sure the other person likes them whereas the other person gives back something for them to hold on to but remains avoidant and distancing. This dynamic is based on our early attachment wounds.

This intensity of this push-pull, she said, is easily misread as strong attraction when it’s really just chaos. 

“A lot of times this gets misinterpreted to having strong feelings for a person. But that’s because there’s highs and lows. And every time you have this high, it’s a biological neurological hit.”

Push-Pull VS. Real Love

“The difference between this kind of toxicity or intensity versus real love is real love feels calming,” Eunice said. “There’s excitement of course, but healthy relationships are calming, peaceful, and come from a place of centeredness and groundedness.”

For example, if you’re always feeling anxious, wondering what your partner’s doing, and questioning yourself and them, then there could be some of the high-low dynamic or co-dependency.

In contrast, according to Eunice, real love feels more comfortable in a sense that there’s growth, vulnerability, intimacy, and it doesn’t feel rushed. There’s excitement, but there shouldn’t be huge intensity like that of push-pull.

How to Break Free from Push-Pull?

“We can’t transform or change or elevate anything that we’re not aware of,” Eunice said, “so most of this type of dynamic is not done intentionally or proactively.”

Oftentimes, we do things because that’s what we learned, and it feels automatic. But, even though some of our habits may have helped us to survive at one point, they might no longer work now. The key here is to get curious. “It’s becoming aware of this pattern and creating moments of pause.”

Tip #1 Know your needs and communicate them

“You have to be very clear about who you are authentically outside of what you were told you should be, what values resonate with you, and how you want to live your life,” she said.

Then, determine your needs in a relationship, which you can communicate by creating boundaries and asking for what you need.

Tip #2 Work on unresolved issues with a professional

One way to unpack unresolved issues from the past is to work with a professional, she noted.

“Everything that’s going in the relationship gets overlaid with our personal lens,” she said, “so it’s very hard to be objective with ourselves when it comes to matter of our heart.”

A professional’s advice, for example, would be a great way to see things from a more impartial perspective.

Tip #3 Be curious

“Get curious about why you do the things you do, why you believe the things you believe.”

Ask yourself where you learned about them and whether they matter to you. Sit with those questions and thoughts. Start writing your own narrative.

Through practices like mediation, deep breathing, and yoga, we can work on building awareness and a growth mindset that’re going to help with decision making aligned with who we are. 

“This is why I value and advocate for meditation practice,” she said, “in the stillness will come the answers.”

“And from that place of awareness, we can make decisions that are intentional, proactive, and healthy for us long term.”

Follow Eunice on Instagram: @artofdatingnyc

For coaching and working with Eunice, go to

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