How do we choose the people we fall in love with?
In the modern world,
under the ideology of 'Romanticism'
you're meant above all, to Trust Your Feelings!
Love is a mutual ecstasy
at finding a beautiful person,
inside and out,
with the rare capacity, to make us happy.
The romantic attitude sounds warm and kind.
It's originators certainly imagined
that it would bring to an end the sort of
that resulted from the old ways of finding a partner;
the arranged marriage!
The only problem is that this call for us to trust our instincts
has very often proved to be a disaster of its own.
Respecting the special feelings we get around certain people
in night-clubs, or train stations; at parties or on websites
and that romanticism so ably celebrated an art
appears not to have led us to be any happier in our unions
The Medieval couple shackled into marriage by two royal courts
keen to preserve the sovereignty of a slice of ancestral land.
Instinct has been little better than calculation
in underwriting the quality of our love stories.
There's another school of thought:
this one influenced by psychotherapy
which challenges the notion that trusting instinct
invariably draws us to those who will make us happy.
That's because the theory points out
that we don't fail in love first and foremost
with those who care for us in ideal ways
We fall in love with those who care for us in familiar ways.
And there might be, a big difference.
Adult love is modeled on a template of love
created in childhood.
And is likely to be entwined with a range of
that militate in key ways
against our chances of growth and happiness, as adults.
We may believe we are seeking happiness in love
but what we are really after is familiarity
We're looking to recreate within our adult relationships
the very feelings we knew so well in childhood
And which were rarely limited to just tenderness and care.
The love many of us would've tasted early on
was confused with other perhaps more destructive dynamics
Feelings of wanting to help an adult who is out of control
or of being deprived of a parent's warmth.
Or scared of his/her anger
or of not feeling secure enough to communicate our trickier wishes
How logical then, that we should as adults find ourselves
rejecting certain candidates
not because they're wrong for us
but because they're a little too right
In a sense of seeming somehow excessively balanced,
given that in our hearts such rightness feels foreign and unearned
To choose our partners wisely,
we need to tease out how certain compulsions to suffering
may be playing themselves out in our feelings of attraction.
A useful starting place is to ask ourselves
perhaps in the company of a large sheet of paper, a pen and a free afternoon
what sort of people in the abstract put us off and what kinds excite us.
To try to trace back qualities to the people who first loves us in childhood
and to ask ourselves how much our impulses really
are aligned with things that might make us happy
We could stand to discover for example that slightly distant and sadistic people
do always more interesting to us than
the so-called 'nice' ones.
That should make us stop and think.
Our honestly described reactions are legacies
They are revealing underlying assumptions we've acquired
that what love for us can feel like.
We may start to get a clearer picture
that our vision of what we're looking for in another person
might not be in a specially good guide
to our personal happiness.
Examining our emotional histories
we learn that we can't just be attracted to anyone
we're limited in the types we have
because of certain things that happened to us in our past.
Even if we can't always radically shift these pattern
it's useful to know that we're carrying a ball and chain
It can make us more careful of ourselves
when we feel overwhelmed by a certainty that we've met the one
after just a few minutes chatting at the bar.
Or when we're certain someone is just brawn or boring
even though objectively, they do have a lot going for them.
Ultimately, we stand to be liberated to love different people to our initial
types, when we find that the qualities we like
and the ones we very much fear
can be found in different constellations
from those we encountered in the people who first thought us about affection
long ago, in a childhood we should strive to understand
and in many ways, free ourselves from.