Have you ever wondered why you fell in love with that one specific person? Is it the kindness you see in them, the way they make you laugh or common interests?
People prefer not to ruin the romantics of it and choose to see attraction as being driven by some magical forces. But let’s take a look at some theories, that take into account a wide range of factors and explain why you choose particular mates over others.
Complementary Needs Theory
Complementary Needs Theory was developed by Robert Winch, it explains falling in love by the principle of opposite traits that are complementary in a relationship. This theory suggests that people tend to fall in love with those who can better satisfy their needs.
Someone who is the life of the party could be easily attracted to a person who prefers to stay at home and enjoy a good book in silence and it goes both ways. One’s weakness is compensated with another’s strength, this is why people tend to fill in their own lacks by finding someone who has opposed values or personality.
A dominant person finds gratification with a submissive one. A spender is more likely to start a relationship with a saver, as they will regulate each other’s financial behaviors. Similarities are important for establishing strong interpersonal relationships, but it appears that the differences are much more powerful for the attraction and romantic love.
Similarity Attraction Theory
The theory of complementary needs probably convinced you that personal differences are important, now is the time to appreciate the power of similarities.
Studies conducted by Ellen Berscheid, Elaine H. Walster and Donn Byrne suggest that people are most attracted to those who share similar beliefs and attitudes. Finding someone who expresses similar points of view could serve as a confirmation that you are not alone in your belief. In addition, it is easier to predict a behavior when you know that you are alike.
It is considered that similar personality characteristics also play a major role in long-term relationship satisfaction, people are more comfortable with those who can understand their behaviors and attitudes.
Life partners share more similar personality traits than people in randomly assigned pairs. Friends are more likely to express similar attitudes towards politics, arts or relationships, than non friends or individuals in different social groups.
It could be the differences that attract and intrigue people to know each other, but similarities have more chances to keep a couple together, create bonding and offer a sense of comfort.
Social Exchange Theory
Applying this theory to romantic relationships, it could be said that love is also a form of trade. People tend to establish a relationship considering the costs and rewards of it. This theory suggests that the more are benefits of being with a certain person, the likely you are to fall in love with them.
The benefits could include: social position, financial status, the given support, encouragement, looks and everything else you consider advantageous for yourself. As long as rewards exceed the costs, you will be attracted to that person, because social behaviors are considered to be goal oriented, opportunistic and determined.
Well, it could look like this theory describes us as mercantile, profit-oriented individuals, but it is in our nature to look after ourselves and consider the best opportunities. The only thing that differs is our value s/ preferences, this is why rewards are interpreted different from one person to another.
The Attachment Theory
Attachment theory of love proposes that the connection you had with a caregiver in your childhood determines the way you behave in romantic relationships as an adult. The first one to present and develop this theory was John Bowlby, who considered mother’s care and affection as being crucial for social and emotional development of the baby.
The theory was later expanded and were identified three attachment styles: secure, avoidant and anxious ambivalent. Each style could be described by the level of anxiety in the child and it is always conditioned by mother’s or caregiver ‘s behavior. Mother’s neglect promotes development of avoidant and anxious attachments, while affection and emotional balance ensure a healthy secure attachment style.
Childhood experiences are important because they impact us long term. Depending on what kind of relationship we had as children, we will manifest different attitudes in adulthood.
Children who grew up with a secure attachment are confident and able to trust people. Usually they are the ones who build the healthiest relationships with their partners. They develop trusting relationships, because their needs were satisfied in the early childhood and now they are not afraid to engage.
Parents who were absent or dismissive lead to an avoidant attachment style and their kids learn that they cannot rely on others. They often have unmet emotional needs and grow up being afraid of closeness and commitment. In adulthood, people tend to label them as selfish and cold, but deep down they are just insecure, vulnerable and afraid to ask for the love they did not receive.
Children with an anxious-ambivalent attachment style are dependent on their mothers and usually avoid exploring the environment. They grow up being highly anxious and emotional, because parents were inconsistent in their emotional presence. In adulthood, they struggle to trust their partners, manifest emotional instability and have on and off relationships.
It is proven that no 2 of us are alike, so are the feelings we experience, but knowing the factors that influence falling in love helps us detect what we value in a person and how the relationship could eventually evolve. But as none of us can predict 100% what is going to happen with a relationship, the only thing that remains is to enjoy it while it lasts.