Intimate love — 31 August 2009
Falling in Love is wonderful and mysterious

Those who have fallen in love and thrive in their relationships know how wonderful and enriching this experience can be. Others who are still awaiting the magical happening often search and wonder how and where they will encounter their beloved. The mystery of the process of falling in love and preserving the passion is intriguing to many.

The technology era initiated various computer dating sources and “match making experts”. But are we any wiser about understanding and facilitating cupid’s arrival?
What contributes to romantic attraction? Some of theories and research findings highlight: attraction and labeling of it as love, similarity of background, personality, values, goals and interests and personality.
Dr. Schachter, in “The interaction of cognitive and physiological determinants of emotional states” described the two-factors theory of love. As in all strong emotions, there is the state of a physiological arousal as well as a cognitive part.
Walster and Berscheid explain this combined effect in romantic love: “To love passionately, a person must first be physically aroused, a condition manifested by palpitations of the heart, nervous tremor, flushing, and accelerated breathing. Once he is so aroused, all that remains is for him to identify this complex of feelings as passionate love, and he will have experienced authentic love.”
Professor Ayala Malach Pines in “Falling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We Choose” states, “Analysis of the romantic attraction interviews suggests that, in one-third of the cases, similarity played a role in the initial attraction… Similarity appeared in many different areas: family background, personality traits, appearance, ways of thinking, goals and interests, and leisure activities. In all of these cases, interviewees saw the similarity as a positive factor that enhanced the original attraction and helped facilitate the development of the relationship.”
Helen Fisher’s recent research initiated by a question asked by match.com “why do you fall in love with one person rather than another?” This research involved analysis of personality similarities. Dr. Fisher’s subsequent research of Chemistry.com registrants identified 4 personality styles (Explorers, Builders, Directors and Negotiators) and found that differences were the core of attraction patterns.

eHarmony.com claims to have a method of making successful love matches. They use a 436-item assessment questionnaire for matching couples and sometimes provide very harsh results to some love seekers. They have yet to document the efficacy of their methods. Time Magazine article of June 28, 2007 states: “In early 2006, eHarmony announced that more than 16,000 couples had married during the previous year as a result of meeting on the site, citing a 2005 Harris Interactive poll. That’s about 90 people finding love every day, a track record bound to inflate expectations. “

One’s parents’ personalities and the impact of their conduct have also been theorized by Harville Hendrix to be the source of mate attraction.

Since the dynamic of falling in love is multi-factorial and complex, it is unlikely to be done by any other person than the individual him/herself. Match services and web sites do facilitate exposure to more “applicants” and provide some background and visual clues. However, nothing can determine your choice prior to the first eye contact.

• Accept that your attraction to another is based on emotions, intuition and cognition in determining who will deserve your love.
• Disavow the notion that others have a sophisticated scientific way of matching you with your intended. It is a hope- not a fact.
• Realize that the initial physiological arousal is thrilling and is only the first factor in your wise mate choice.
• Disallow your passion to be the sole determinant in making a mate choice. Lavish in the thrill of romance and follow up with logical assessment of compatibility. Once you do you will “know” he/she is the one for you.
• Stay in awe of your beloved for best long-term state of “in love” forever.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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