Setting Boundaries with Attraction

Attraction to others arises for all sorts of reasons. In and of itself it is neither good nor bad. It is often pleasurable but doesn’t necessarily help with wise discernment. When it arises, it is up to you to engage in wise discernment about how you manage it. When you are clear that it is something you would like to set a boundary with, mindfulness is an essential skill.

For example, let’s imagine you are at work and a new co-worker comes around the corner. Something about this person is immediately attractive to you. Noticing that you find them attractive you have a choice. You can follow and encourage this attraction energy by looking at the person more intently, searching for all their attractive qualities. Or you can notice the attraction energy, giving it a mental nod and saying internally something like, "Oh, attraction. That's okay, but not something I want to follow with this person." You then turn your focus away from the attraction and toward your center, meeting this person for who they are, which is much more than someone you happen to find attractive. As the person turns to leave, attraction energy might prompt you to let your eyes follow them: This is another choice point. A lingering gaze will promote more attraction. After they leave, you have another choice. You can think and fantasize about this person or choose to put your focus somewhere else—your next task, your center, etc.

Practicing with attraction really is as simple as deciding where to put your awareness moment by moment and then acting from that choice. If you would like to be able to set boundaries with attraction, there are at least three key points of focus and reflection.

First, bring mindfulness to your behavior when this person is present. Notice how you are standing, how much eye contact you are making, your physical proximity, your tone of voice, what you share and don’t share, what you encourage them to share, and any decisions you make that prolong time with them.

Second, identify the needs you are hoping to meet by behaving from attraction. You might encourage attraction to meet needs for aliveness, being seen/heard, acceptance, excitement, and belonging. Then identify the needs that go unmet or are threatened with your behavior. These might be needs like predictability, trust, safety, respect, and integrity.

Lastly, examine whether or not you believe that following attraction energy is a way to protect yourself from the vulnerability of being fully committed in a romantic relationship you already have. Unconsciously, you might imagine that getting romantic attention from others will protect you from potential pain in your current relationship. You believe that, somehow, flirting with others provides an emotional safety net.

When you can bring mindfulness and clarity to attraction and associated behaviors you have the opportunity to make a choice about what will meet needs for yourself and others. Mindfulness and conscious choices around attraction determine the role it plays in your life.

Practice

This week, watch for a moment when you notice attraction arise. Take time and notice what you do next. Notice where you focus your eyes, the thoughts that come up, and how you behave. Notice where habit takes you, and ask yourself if that is where you want to go.