Why Do People Fall In Love?
Frankie Lymon was only 13 years old when he topped the 1956 charts with the pop song Why Do Fools Fall In Love? (Subsequently made into a 1998 movie.)
Life didn’t turn out so well for him. His career was over in five years and he was dead of a heroin overdose in seven, but nearly 60 years later we are still asking the question; What makes people fall in love?
Happily we’ve also now got a better understanding of the dynamics behind one of life’s greatest mysteries – as the Bible describes, it one of the “things too wonderful for me – the way of a man with a woman . . .” (Proverbs 3:18)
A whole body of research has accumulated around the age old question, and a lot of what it shows is pretty down-to-earth stuff. So just what are the . . .
Seven Keys To Finding Love
The top three factors likely to make someone fall in love with you:
- Proximity – we are more likely to get romantically involved with those who we live nearby.
Steve Jobs knew the best way to get people to interact was to ensure they were in close proximity which is what he ensured happened when he set up the Pixar offices.
A study of college friendships showed the most important factor in determining emotional closeness was the distance between apartments. Mere “accidents” of where a path went or whose doorway a staircase passed were major determinants of friendship.
- Familiarity – the more we see a person, the more likely we are to get involved with them.
- Similarity –Despite what romcoms would have us believe, opposites do not attract. People are likely to choose as lovers and marriage partners those with similar characteristics.
The more similar couples are in personality and background, the more comfortable they are with each other, the more compatible they feel, and the greater their satisfaction from the relationship.
A recent Rice University study published in the Journal of Politics found that we tend to choose partners with similar political views — in fact, couples who swing the same way politically outnumbered those with similar personality traits, appearances, and religious beliefs.
We are also more likely to be attracted to people with similar education levels, beliefs, values, intelligence and financial status. This is a process of “like attracts like” – or as anthropologists call it “positive assortative mating”.
Four Other Important Factors for Falling In Love
Less determining, but still important, are the following four reasons for falling in love:
- Competence – the people who we like the very best are those that strike us as highly competent, but who make some sort of humanizing blunder
Insecure people tend to do a lot of game playing and have high levels of conflict and low levels of intimacy in their relationships A study that compared the levels of people’s self-identity to the levels of intimacy in their relationships showed that the psychologist Erik Erikson was right. The stronger people’s sense of self, the higher their ability to be intimate.
- Physical attractiveness – Numerous studies show we are unconsciously attracted to physical symmetry and strength – maybe because we are picking up cues of genetic strength that promise healthy attractive offspring. The Huffington Post reports researchers at the University of Texas found that women with a low waist-to-hip ratio (in which the waist is significantly narrower than the hips) are more attractive to men than those with wider waists.
They conjectured that a good waist-to-hip ratio may subconsciously signal to a man that a woman has good health and reproductive ability. And an Australian study found women tend to prefer men with symmetrical faces as a subliminal “survival of the fittest” indicator, according to psychologists.
- An increasingly positive view – if someone seems to be warming towards us, it is highly attracting. Marriage expert John Gottman found happy couples have a generally positive view of each other. Gottman says that fondness and admiration are two of the most important elements in a satisfying and long-term relationship. If these elements are completely missing, the marriage can’t be saved. “I appreciate” is one of the sexiest phrases in the love lexicon and Gottman suggests listing your lover’s positive characteristics along with an incident that illustrates that quality and then reading them together.
- Mis-attribution of good feelings – we feel good or excited for a reason unrelated to a person, but wrongly attribute the feeling to them
Any type of situation that affects us emotionally increases the chance of falling in love – and this is where the whole falling in love thing can get volatile. Adrenalin can heighten production of other brain hormones which masquerade as attraction, setting up a scenario for a head-over-heels experience.
In one study, 20 per cent of the relationships started during stormy periods in the lives of the men and women interviewed. Sometimes, the heightened emotional sensitivity followed an experience of loss, such as the death of a parent or a painful breakup.
This is why people fall in love on the rebound. This is why we see Stockholm Syndrome. This is one of the reasons musicians are more attractive.
Any emotionally arousing situation has the potential to fool us into thinking we’re in love.
When we are aroused, the origin of the arousal does not matter, and it does not matter whether we are aware of the reason. Arousal automatically reinforces our natural response, including attraction to a potential partner.
Even an action movie can do it, according to a piece on how to make someone fall in love with you in Time magazine.
As the item reported: “Some of the couples watched an action movie; others watched a movie that was less arousing. It turns out that the couples who watched the arousing action movie expressed more affection toward each other after the movie than they did before seeing it. The non-action movie had no effect on the amount of affection expressed by the couples who watched it.
“When the woman looked attractive, the arousal caused an increase in the men’s attraction to her. But, when she looked unattractive, the arousal actually caused a decrease in their attraction to her. It is noteworthy that the woman was the same in both cases, and that the difference in the men’s response to her was caused by makeup.”