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Attractions of Deprivation Vs. Inspiration: Examples and What They Mean in Your Relationship

Key Takeaways:

  • An "attraction of deprivation" essentially means that you like your partner's negative traits, like abrasiveness or rudeness.
  • An "attraction of inspiration" means you like your partner's good traits, like their generosity or kindness.
  • Relationships built primarily on attractions of deprivation are at risk for toxicity and even abuse.

The ideas of attractions of deprivation and attractions of inspiration were developed by author Ken Page in his book Deeper Dating.

Short of reading the book, however, finding in depth information and examples on these ideas, and determining how they may be affecting your relationship proves to be rather difficult.

Let's dive into attractions of inspiration and deprivation, and explore how your relationship (or lack thereof) may be the result of them.

Attraction of Inspiration and Deprivation Information On This Page:

What is an attraction of deprivation?

What is an attraction of inspiration?

Attractions of Deprivation vs. Inspiration: How to Find Them in Your Relationship

What To Do If You Have Attractions of Deprivation (Or a Toxic Relationship)

What is an attraction of deprivation?

An attraction of deprivation is a term that describes a negative trait that someone has that, for some reason, you really, really like.

For example:

  • John feels attraction when his new partner Greg makes fun of his shoes.
  • Alice feels attraction when her new boyfriend breaks the speed limit.
  • Samantha feels attraction when their new girlfriend is rude to waiters.

An extremely common - and often glorified - phenomenon, attractions of deprivation can actually be very poor reasons to start or continue a relationship.

The attraction one feels to someone's faults is a short-term, heavy, and often very physical attraction. Once that initial "spark" wears off, you're left with just the negative - which often leads to pain and the end of the relationship.

Definition Template (9)

But why do we have attractions of deprivation?

Why am I attracted to bad people? How Negative Traits Can Be Attractive

There are two main theories behind why attractions of deprivation work to keep us roped along with ultimately toxic people: the "gambling" analogy and the "protective shell" theory.

First: Being with a toxic person can be compared to gambling.

Gambling can be addictive because, in scientific terms, it's considered an intermittent reward system. Loss after loss after loss clears any "feel-good" chemicals from your brain, so that when you get that small win every so often, it feels much, much better.

This is very similar to being with someone who treats you poorly most of the time, but might turn sweet once a week.

Your brain learns to expect nastiness and anger, such that when he or she eventually does do or say something nice, it's far more pleasurable - though short-lived - than if he or she was, say, just a consistently decent person.

Second: Being with a toxic person precludes "realness."

While being insulted, pranked, or emotionally hurt certainly feels bad, it's often at least predictable and (in the short-term, and barring abuse) tolerable.

By contrast, being with someone who you might actually love and spend the rest of your life with can be very scary - what if you lose them?

By only dating toxic people, you counter-intuitively feel "safer." This is another reason why people date toxic people who, realistically, they don't want to be with forever.

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What is an attraction of inspiration?

An attraction of inspiration is the opposite of an attraction of deprivation.

It's a positive quality you find attractive in your partner (or a potential partner.)

For example:

  • John feels attraction when his new husband Michael compliments his shoes, even though John knows Michael isn't a fan of the color.
  • Alice feels attraction when her new boyfriend is respectful to other drivers.
  • Samantha feels attraction when their new partner still tips 20% - even though their order was wrong - because they know the restaurant is short-staffed and it wasn't the waiter's fault.

Attractions of inspiration are far healthier than attractions of deprivation, and tend to keep the relationship happy and healthy for longer.

Attractions of Deprivation vs. Inspiration: How to Find Them in Your Relationship

There are ways to identify attractions of deprivation and inspiration in your relationship, and work to reduce the former and bolster the latter.

A quick note before we dive in: This article is not a replacement for couples therapy or a discussion with a licensed therapist. Only real therapy can help you sift through these modes of attraction safely and productively. This article should only serve as an informational guide.

Identifying Attractions of Deprivation and Toxic Traits

Most of the time, you'll know an attraction of deprivation immediately. You'll know it because it will be an objectively negative trait or behavior that you can't stop loving, or that you continue to justify and rationalize in order to keep the relationship afloat.

Take a few moments to consider what these might be. Start by writing down every behavior that you don't like from your partner, and then every behavior that sparks your interest physically, mentally, and sexually. Chances are, a few of them will overlap. Those overlaps may be your deprivation attractions.

Once you have identified them, consider how they are affecting both your relationship and your mental health.

Ask yourself these questions to determine if you might be in a toxic relationship (one defined by attraction to deprivation):

  • Do I tell myself that I can "fix" my partner regularly?
  • Do I tolerate certain behaviors that my trusted loved ones tell me are unacceptable?
  • Does my partner act in a way that is obviously disrespectful?
  • Do I find myself feeling inadequate most of the time?
  • Do the behaviors from my partner that make me happy warrant happiness, or are they the bare minimum?

If you find that you're answering yes to most of these questions, you may want to get in touch with a therapist to explore your relationship dynamics more closely. Your relationship may be characterized by attractions of deprivation.

What To Do If You Have Attractions of Deprivation (Or a Toxic Relationship)

If you suspect that you may be in a toxic relationship, it's time to talk to a professional.

Only a licensed couples therapist has the training and expertise necessary to truly determine the best course of therapy and discussion for your relationship.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team is comprised exclusively of doctoral-level psychologists, representing a new level of quality of care. We would be honored to hear you.

Book a Couples Therapy Session in Austin Today

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