Fatal Attraction: Relationship Killed By What Sparked It

When a relationship is killed by whatever had sparked it, that’s a fatal attraction.

Living in a culture that sexualizes male dominance, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a friend of mine was once drawn to the “take charge,” male dominant qualities of one of her lovers. So attracted that she married him. A few years later she left him for the same reason. Many women romanticize male dominance only to find that it’s not so much fun to be bossed around and never get your way in real life.

Or, we might look for someone to balance us out. Another friend was attracted to the free-spirited artistic quality of his ex-wife. She seemed a nice counterweight to his ordered, mathematical mind. But after a few years her carefree ways morphed into chaos. Complimentary souls won’t necessarily complete us.

Some women are attracted to men who show a deep interest in them. A boyfriend’s obsession and jealousy makes her feel really loved. But after he starts beating her because other men looked her way, she eventually sees he has a possessive, abusive personality.

The most common fatal attraction involves friendliness. One 20-year-old found her boyfriend’s humor and sociability appealing when they first met. Now, asked about his least attractive quality, she points to his friendliness, saying “He often flirts with others.” 

Physical attractiveness can also become an unexpected turn off. A forty-one year old man had initially been drawn to his girlfriend’s sexy, exotic Asian looks. He had also liked her outgoing, flirty personality. But over time that all became a problem as he came to see her as “disloyal and mercurial.”

The list goes on. A woman is attracted to a man’s sense of humor but later complains that he’s never serious. A man is drawn to his partner’s nurturing nature, but comes to see her as smothering. A woman admires her husband’s ambition, but then sees him as a workaholic.

There is a real tendency to become disillusioned with qualities that initially attract us. I guess there can be too much of a good thing.

Be careful what you wish for.

Georgia Platts

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 27, 2011, in feminism, gender, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Recently I was talking to a male friend and he told me about a girl who he hooks up with sometimes. They both know each other and respect each other. The interesting part is that the girl recently texted him her work schedule and told him to show up without letting her know and act like he is forcing her to have sex with him. To him it looks like a sexual fantasy he doesn’t think much about it (he didn’t do it but he wasn’t uncomfortable with the idea). But I was very uncomfortable with the idea of a girl fantasizing being raped. I don’t mean to judge anybody but I don’t think that is an okay thing to sexualize to a point that she would plan the whole thing and tell him to show up without letting her know. I think this is a great example of sexualizing male dominance. If they were to get married and later in their relationship if he forced her to have sex thinking she likes that from their previous experience, he wouldn’t be wrong but forcing someone to have sex is wrong. I believe that would create big problems in the relationship. We really need to be careful with what we wish for.

  2. This post really opened my eyes about looking for the right partner. I always thought that “opposites attract”, but whenever I went for a guy who I thought would compliment me our relationship would always end in disaster. Is the key to find someone who possesses the same traits as you? Or would that cause the relationship to be stagnant?

    • It seems that relationships work best when there’s a great deal of overlap on your core values, and then there can be some differences on non-core interests and values. Otherwise it can be hard to be on the same page.

      The relationships that seem most likely to stay together are those which introduce newness and growth: exploring new sorts of activities, and engaging in the kinds of things that help the two of you to grow in some area that interests you both, Whether that be spirituality, education, activism, charity, adventurous activities — it’s hard to stay stagnant if you are both growing.

  3. This is a very interesting topic. I don’t fully understand the term “fatal attraction”, I thought it referred to relationships that turn violent and results in fatalities. Now I understand how it could be as simple as having the relationship damaged by it’s maker. Thinking back to my past relationships I can see how the behaviors I found “sexy” backfired. My first boyfriend who was very charismatic, confident, and friendly turned out to be flirty, cocky, and a major man-whore. My previous boyfriend, who I thought would protect me from harm was actually the one I need protection from. He believed in patriarchy and always kept his dominance by hurting me. To leave him was suicide because, at the time, I believed that he was so powerful he can protect me from any harm, that if I leave him I would get hurt even more. Also, being his girlfriend made me feel proud because I’m with this strong alpha male. The degree of abuse I received was worth it because he protects me from everything else. It wasn’t until he was locked up that my friends (who I “needed to stay away from”) talked to me and made me realize that the relationship was doing more damage than good. I left him while he was locked up and by God’s grace he’s still locked up and far away from me. After those two fatal attractions I learned a couple of feministic ideas. One is that I shouldn’t be dependent on a man. I learned that they only have as much power as I give them. For example, if I continue to let them control me it will just feed their ego and take away my control of my own life. From the beginning I should show them that “hey I survived before you and I can survive without you”. Another thing is that abuse ( physically or emotionally) is NEVER okay. Not during private time, not playfully, not ever because sometimes its a window of opportunity for the man to act on what he has internalized as the “manly” thing to do. For instance, playing bloody knuckles with your boyfriend and then one day he snaps and bloody knuckled your face. It’s better safe than sorry.

  4. I totally agree with this blog. I was in a relationship with someone for the past four years and he was completely controlling and emotionally abusive. Thankfully now we are no longer together. At first I thought it was cute how he’d be jealous or how he’d be the more dominant person in our relationship. He was always telling me what to do, always wanted to be in charge it seemed. He was a lot younger than me too, that’s the funny thing. I thought I liked having to answer to him but it got old after awhile. He started to yell at me for the littlest thing and it got to be a little scary. The next guy I get involved with will be my equal. I refuse to let myself be stepped on by anyone. Their were signs in the beginning but I didn’t see them. I guess I was too blinded by what I thought was love.

  5. Demi Battaglia

    Initial attractions whether they are by looks or a personality draw people in right away. This article made me actually think about how a relationship can be torn apart by the same reason they were brought together. The person being attractive can easily draw them to you, but can also tear you away from them because of how many other people think they are good looking and if they act on it. However, its whether or not the person reacts to it is the big question. No matter what in the end you can not help who you fall for no matter how hard you try. Fatal attraction is how a lot of relationships start.

  6. I really enjoyed this article; it made me laugh as I agreed with some of your scenarios. The funny thing was I could say some of those scenarios not only fit friends but fit me as well. The things that drew me to my daughter’s father also tore us apart to the point we can have no communication with each other. It is sad for my daughter, but in the end I have to look at what is best for her and my safety!!

  7. People are quick to put lables and stickers on things and people. Thats how we as people are able to understand things and people. But i don’t feel that because somethign goes wrong i na relationship and someone gets killed that it’s a fatal attraction. A fatal attraction to me is someone who u might have had short fling with that you had no emtional connection with feels for you and in return kills you or trys to.Sort of like the movie. When you are in a relationship you can’t predict what is going to go sour in the relationship. Their are some qualitites that you may have liked from that person that has become suddenly obsessive fro mtheir side but that doesn’t mean their a fatal attractio ntheir coulld be other thigns that may have triggered them into being the way they are if they weren’t overdoign it in the beginning. Such as a guy showing his affection for you and wanting to spend alot of time with you. Then at one point you start becomign distant from him and don;t want to hang out anymore. liek you use to so he starts checkign phones etc. because he may feel everythign is good in the beginning now you are switchign up on him and not really giving any explination as to why. So overall, i feel it has to do with the problems that may have come up before the killings had began weather they just went crazy,they wrre always crazy, or something in the relationship triggered them.

  8. I found this subject especially interesting. I have never actually though about this, but it does make sense. I also recognize it in relationships that my friends and I have had or have. People are very strange in the way that we always have an idea of what we look for in a significant other and then when we think we have found the perfect match the characteristics we were looking for become undesirable. I have no way to conceptualize why this is such a common behavior. People are just so difficult to please and I think part of it is that people are always looking for what is better than what they already have so maybe this plays into being over what they use to think was best. It really can be too much of a good thing.

  9. Jessica Bailey

    While reading this Blog the first thing that came to my mind was the phrase my older cousin would always tell me “the same way you get them is the same way you will lose them”, meaning most likely if you meet your spouse in the club you will break up because your spouse is in the club. I feel, as a lady, we tend to not think long term when we first encounter a male. Not that we may not fantasies about dates, sexual encounters and sometimes marriage but we may overlook the fatal attraction attributes as attractive, not acknowledging that this is the personality trait that we may not be fond of after the dating stage. Like many of the previous post I have been through as well as witnessed a relationship gone badly because of flirtation or jealousy. I think its human nature to; want to feel wanted, but not a possession, have your mate get along with your friends, but not flirt with the good looking on. It’s all about finding a healthy medium, which fits your likings, to make an attribute that you may not like and growing with that as a flaw not a fatal attraction.

  10. Tatiana Dehnad

    This article’s title caught my attention because of the truth I feel is held behind it. I have never really thought about how the one thing that brings two people apart, can tear them apart just as quickly. However, thinking more about it now it completely makes sense. It is always the way they are firm with us in the beginning that turns us on, but it later may lead to you losing your voice in this world and society completely and violence. At the same time the flirtatious friendly aspect of someone can turn into a jealous rage if it is perceived from a different aspect. After giving this a lot more thought I have realized that sometimes we let these aspects go in the beginning because we love of the attention that is being given to us. This then leads to us giving excuses and coming up with reasons for the person just so that we don’t hurt them and lose what ‘brought us together’. It’s true when they say love makes you blind, but sometimes if you don’t take the blinders off in time you lose sight of yourself completely.

  11. I am at a loss for words after reading this. I can’t believe how true this is, I can’t believe I didn’t realize it myself. I can completely relate to this subject at this point in my life right now. I am officially going through a break up with one of my most serious relationships ever. What attracted me, initially, to my ex was his sense of humor and his friendly/flirty personality. He had this charm that just made me melt. Later in my relationship with him, his humor began to annoy me sometimes. Like you mentioned, it went to the point where he was never able to be completely serious when he needed to be. Also, his flirty and friendly personality attracted many outside girls, which stirred problems in our relationship. Everything that was stated here basically pinpoints many issues and stages couples go through. I recently encountered a YouTube video called “Strangers, Again” and it discusses and acts out similar issues and stages that most couples go through from “Stage One: Strangers” to “Stage Two: The Chase” and so on. It’s kind of funny when you think about what you want in a companion, then later realize that those traits may bug you the most. Some people tolerate it because their love is strong enough. Others, like your friend that you mentioned in the beginning — leave.

  12. WOW! I really, really love this post because it is most definitely true! Initial attractions that draw people together really are often the cause of what drives them apart later on down the road. For example, I know that my ex-boyfriend and I had fallen in love and really appreciated our independent natures at the beginning. It was exactly what I needed at the time- enough space to do what we wanted, pursue our individual interests, and a relationship that allowed us to do all of these things. However, 4 years later, it drove us apart. The rules changed for me because I decided I wanted more attention and shared interests, which made it difficult for him to adjust to relatively quickly. In the end, it drove us apart. This article definitely made it easier to understand how and why this works.

  13. Timothy Lepisi

    Definitely agree with everything said in this post. Funny how things work when in comes to attraction. I can actually relate to this first hand, being attracted by the outgoing, friendly personality of a previous gf and then later having a different perspective of her “outgoing, friendly personality”. Its crazy because it did end our relationship and I had never thought about how it was in fact the same thing that attracted me to her in the first place. I guess it can be looked at in two different ways; 1. her “outgoing, friendly personality”, was really her way of being flirtatious and it hadn’t bothered me because I was the one on the other end of it, or I had just become overprotective of her and maybe even had some trust issues. I don’t know exactly why this was the case but its definitely interesting to find your statement to be true.

  14. What we seek initially in a mate often can backfire on us. As mentioned in the blog, “Living in a culture that sexualizes male dominance…” emphasizes the whole notion of sexual objectification. For the most part, we essentially fall in love with the physical and superficial aspects of a person: their alluring looks, their compelling love for art, or their good sense of humor that, inevitably, we don’t choose to explore more or go beyond what we see on the surface. The superfical details may be inciting but it doesn’t make for a real conventional relationship which should be based on more than attraction, lust. or infatuation. Even if we find similar traits or things that reflect our traits in another person, it doesn’t necessarily make for a good match. Personally, I’ve dealt with a predicament where a once good friend of mine lost herself in an abusive relationship because she fell for his “over-protective and jealous ways” but compensated it as “his way of showing how much he cares for her.” It was a toxic relationship. As people have selective listening, we also have selective means to overlook threatening flaws because we want to believe that our signiifcant other is good for us. When in reality, it’s simply expressed as it is: A case of fatal attraction. Ultimately, society has this strong hypersensitivity to physical and superficial attraction that it will fatally be of no good to us.

  15. Anthalanette Andrews

    I must agree with the majority of postings on this article. I have also witnessed many of the scenarios as well. I can honestly say that I feel as if I would fit right into this article as I am a woman that dated a man fourteen years older than me for approximately ten years before marrying that man and ending in divorce seventeen months after being married. I find that there was fatal attraction on both of our parts. He was attracted to me as I was younger than him and a nice looking woman. I was attracted to him as he was a nice looking older man, but of course did not look his age. I was also attracted to him because of his stability in life, he had a great job that he had been on for over 20 years and I had just began my career. I should say that we were both physically attractive to each other; however we both had our own issues. His issue was money; he felt because he made excellent money he could buy me and I felt that because I was young and beautiful he should be the way that I wanted him to be. It didn’t turn out that way. I soon learned after getting married that he was using his money to control me as he knew I liked to dress, look good, and drive a nice car. I knew that all I had to do was whatever he wanted me to do to get what I wanted; therefore the relationship ended on a sour note, so I believe we both had a fatal attraction to each other and yes it was a relationship that was killed by what sparked it.

  16. Gladys Price

    I too have witnessed many of the above scenarios as well as witness them through personal experience. When I was younger I was attracted to men, who had more of a “take charge” and male dominant qualities. I had always dated guys who were older than me because they were were most grounded. Due to the age difference in the relationship, I started to feel like the realitonship was that of a father and daughter, so the relationship would quickly end. It’s okay for a male to be the dominant one in the realtionship, however it’s not okay for a male to forve their decisons and opinions of their mate.

  17. Tricia Sanders

    I also believe that sometimes those qualities that make fall in love for that special someone get lost over the years, which can end the relationship. When that spark dies in the relationship it is often harder to light it, even with communication. Habits are hard to break, and if you want your lover to bring back that jealousy or dominance that they once had during the beginning of the relationship, you may be wasting your time.

    Females and males have all been conditioned. Some females were raised to find a partner that will be the bread winner, and males were raised to care for this role. Other females & males were raised to the opposite effect. As we enter long standing relationships with these qualities we need to be careful and ask ourselves is this really what we want? Can we live with this and be happy? Personally, I want my cake and to eat it to. I want to be taken care of, but I also want to be able to to spread my wings. For my husband and I it’s all about balancing and compromising. If I have a flat tire, I let him fix it, because he likes to take care of me a little and I enjoy it as well.

    Overall, I think it’s hard to say what relationship approach is best, because everyone is different.

  18. Santosh Kalidindi

    I agree with the original poster about the phenomenon that she calls “fatal attraction.” When couples enter into a relationship, they often find themselves captivated by those characteristics about the person that they were attracted to, and often times this causes them to be ignorant to the undesirable characteristics that their partner possesses, or they simply try to interpret those undesirable traits in more of a positive light, so as not to cause conflict in the relationship. Therefore, I believe that before entering a relationship it is absolutely important to have the mindset of understanding that a person one is with is simply a person such as themselves, and so is prone to having both attributes that are attractive as well as attributes that are unattractive. The unfortunate truth for many people is that they are often caught up with the prospect of a relationship with someone that they are strongly attracted to and often don’t recognize that each bright side has a dark side. However, people do not wish to compromise on the issues which bother them and therefore the relationship turns sour. As a solution, I believe that the key to relationships is not preventing the bad, but learning how to take it with the good.

  19. I couldn’t agree more with Dr Platt’s blog post about common attractions turning to less desirable aspects. It might be because humans become bored with what they experience day after day. People’s preferences at first might be become “too much” after long time exposures. If a person becomes used to a certain thing then it does not appear very special any longer.
    As for the “male dominated” qualities, I think females have been conditioned to idolize and like those qualities in men. Promoted masculine qualities, such as aggressiveness and assertiveness, can be seen throughout movies, books, commercials and advertisements. We live in a patriarchal society so of course we internalize the fact that men are supposed to be strong and take care of females. However, society is changing and a woman does not really need to be taken care of any longer, although our modern society keeps promoting the males as bread winners and females as nurturers.

  20. Kristina Mardinian

    I thankfully have not dealt with many couples who have grown tired of the qualities they used to be fond of in each other. I have seen problems arise and arguments take different directions but I have never thought for a second that people could turn on each other and see each other in a different light. This blog really puts everything into perspective for me as I now know to be careful when looking for a relationship. It doesn’t surprise to think that people would grow tired of each other in different ways, because people change. And it is there responsibility to understand and work with these different changes in their lives as they continue to be together.

  21. Tatiana Dehnad

    This article’s title caught my attention because of the truth I feel is held behind it. I have never really thought about how the one thing that brings two people apart, can tear them apart just as quickly. However, thinking more about it now it completely makes sense. It is always the way they are firm with us in the beginning that turns us on, but it later may lead to you losing your voice in this world and society completely and violence. At the same time the flirtatious friendly aspect of someone can turn into a jealous rage if it is perceived from a different aspect. After giving this a lot more thought I have realized that sometimes we let these aspects go in the beginning because we love of the attention that is being given to us. This then leads to us giving excuses and coming up with reasons for the person just so that we don’t hurt them and lose what ‘brought us together’. It’s true when they say love makes you blind, but sometimes if you don’t take the blinders off in time you lose sight of yourself completely.

  22. There are some people out there who, when they want something they got to have, so they will do anything and everything to have it. When they finally have it in their possession and have experienced the feeling of having it, they become tried of it and try to find something new to go after. And this is exactly what relationships are, you need to keep it fresh and from time to time give eachother some space. When in a relationship,unless the two people can learn how to find balance and communicate their wants and needs then it is most likely the relationship will not survive. And it doesn’t matter whether they’ve been together for 5 days or 50 years, there will be a breaking point. We as human beings like new different things, so we are attracted to things that we’ve never experienced before, things that make us take notice. So for example, when a man gives a woman flowers the first time she is excited, second maybe still trilled, but the third time she is going say ” Flowers AGAIN!!!”

  23. Corrie Townsend

    When I first met the man I spent seven long years with, I was attracted both by his self assured manner at work and his fun way of flirting. Years into our relationship I could tell others that his nature was not so much confident as purely narcissistic, and his flirting came from immaturity versus a playful personality. His emotional instability led to frequent temper tantrums and insecurity focused on other males anywhere near me, and his narcissism made it impossible to correct him in any form. He emotionally and verbally beat me down, drilling into me that I never did anything right. After reaching an all time low, seven years in, he finally said just the right (or wrong) thing and I was able to pull out. The confidence and focus I saw in him had morphed into an obsessed and entirely selfish man.

    I find that, with my story and those of friends, often times the attitudes we are drawn to are stereotypical of the gender. Women are often attracted to the idea of the dominant, confident, outgoing male. Men are drawn to the attractive, artistic, nurturing female. While our country strives for egalitarian rights, some of our behaviors are enculturated deeply enough that changing them will be a much slower process. However, with the breakdown of more stereotypical family centered views, these personality traits that are attractive have become harder to judge. More and more the attitudes that we seek out in our mate hold danger in relationship form. The aggressive male who domineers over his wife, or the social woman who finds cheating on her spouse of no comment have become so common that their mishaps are often ignored or passed off as something less offensive. While trying to find equal ground between men and women as well as hunting out our perfect mates it is wise advise to be careful of our first impressions and look for more than just a spark.

  24. I’ve seen many of these scenarios all too many times, some through personal experience. Often times I find myself to be attracted to the men who know what they want and go for it, making sure they get things done, and social with a sense of humor. Things tend to go great for a bit, but problems start to arise. His sociability usually turns into flirting and causes jealously issues in the relationship. The very quality of going after what you want can turn into neglect on the relationship because of all his concentration on work (which isn’t a bad thing for him, just for the relationship). His sense of humor has caused bigger issues during arguments because he seems like he never takes anything seriously, even if his coping method for stressful situations is to make jokes.

  25. caitlin scaglione

    I agree with this post. I have seen two close friends go through abusive relationships, thankfully they are both out of them now. It took awhile but they have come to a point and are happy with new relationships. The first involved the fatal attraction of the boyfriend coming off as caring and then his jealousy grew into an abusive relationship. The other was probably a mix of two fatal attractions as well as a drinking problem. The boyfriend seemed to be caring plus the fatal attraction where his people-directed energy could have been mistaken as flirting with them caused arguements between the two.

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