This article will discuss the emotion of love with a special focus on what determines who we fall in love with.
The emotion of love is the opposite of the emotion of hatred. While hatred is an emotion that motivates us to avoid pain, love is an emotion that motivates us to seek happiness or rewards.
Our mind triggers the emotion of love to motivate us to move closer to people or things that have the potential to make us happy.
The only way we can gain rewards from a potential source of rewards is by engaging with it. Why do you think someone says, ‘I want to be with you’ to a person they love? Can’t you just love someone without ‘being’ with them? No, that would be weird because it defeats the very purpose of this emotion called love.
Take a look at the following scenario…
Anwar and Sami were walking down the street when they came across a bookstore. Sami loved books while Anwar abhorred them. Naturally, Sami stopped and stared at the books on display. Anwar insisted that they move on but Sami kept gazing and was so attracted that he eventually decided to go inside and check out some titles.
Can you see the emotion of love in action here? Remember that lesson in high school physics that an object tends to move in its direction of motion unless disturbed by some force?
In the above scenario, love is the force that made Sami move in the direction of books. Books were important for Sami because they were a source of happiness. Why were they a source of happiness? Because they satisfied an important need of his, which was to become more knowledgeable.
Sami’s mind knew that gaining knowledge was an important need for him and it also knew that books were an ocean of knowledge. Now how does Sami’s mind succeed in bringing Sami closer to the books so he can engage with them and gain his rewards? By using the emotion of love.
Some needs such as survival and reproduction are more or less universal, while other needs vary from person to person.
Different people love different things because they have different needs. They have different needs because they’ve gone through different past experiences which shaped their individual needs. When we find that something can satisfy our important need, we fall in love with it.
What about falling in love with a person?
The same concept applies, the only difference being that people are much more complex than things and there are many factors involved that work together to make this process happen.
Being physically attracted to someone is, without a doubt, an important ingredient but following are the main psychological reasons you could fall in love with someone…
They satisfy your emotional needs
Since the fulfilment of our needs results in happiness, our mind makes us love someone who has the potential of satisfying our emotional needs.
Mike never understood why he fell in love with assertive and outspoken women. Since he was very reserved and shy, he had developed a need for assertiveness that he unconsciously satisfied by being with an assertive woman.
Julie was raised by parents who did everything for her. Consequently, she developed a need to become self-reliant because she’d come to dislike the over-pampering of her parents.
With this psychological background in mind, we can safely assume that Julie is likely to fall in love with a boy who’s self-reliant and independent.
So it can be said that we fall in love with those who have what we need. To be more precise, we tend to fall in love with those who have the personality traits we lack but crave for, and with those who have the traits we desire more in ourselves.
The latter explains why we seek our positive traits in our partners too. We all have different needs because no two people went through 100% similar past experiences.
These experiences cause us to develop some needs and beliefs. Their sum total makes us who we are- our personality. As we progress through our lives, we form an unconscious list of traits we want our ideal partner to have.
Most people aren’t aware of this list because it gets formed on an unconscious level but those who’ve raised their level of awareness are usually quite aware of it.
When we come across a person who has the most (if not all) of these traits, we fall in love with that person.
For instance, Jack has the following items in his unconscious list of traits he’s looking for in an ideal partner:
- She must be beautiful.
- She needs to be slim.
- She should be kind.
- She should be intelligent.
- She shouldn’t be over-sensitive.
- She shouldn’t be possessive.
I deliberately listed these items in numerals instead of bullets because this list is arranged priority-wise in our subconscious mind. It means that for Jack, beauty is a more important criterion than non-possessiveness.
If he meets a woman who is beautiful, slim, kind, and intelligent then there’s a huge possibility that he’ll fall in love with her.
This was a simple case to make you understand the mechanics of love but, in reality, there can be many more criteria in our minds and it’s likely that many people can meet them.
They resemble someone you loved in the past
Actually, the reason given above is the biggest reason why we fall in love with someone. The fact that that we tend to fall in love with those whom we loved in the past is the consequence of a weird way in which our subconscious mind works.
Our subconscious thinks that similar-looking people are the same, even if the similarity is little. This means that if your grandfather wore a black hat, then any old person wearing a black hat might not only remind you of your grandfather but your subconscious might actually ‘think’ that he’s your grandfather.
This is the reason why people usually fall in love with those who resemble their previous crushes. This resemblance may be anything ranging from their facial features to the way they dress, talk or walk.
Since the person we loved in the past had most of the qualities we were looking for in an ideal partner, we unconsciously think the one we’re in love with now must also have those qualities (because we think they’re both the same).
Nothing mysterious or otherworldly about love
People have a hard time believing that love is just another emotion like hatred, happiness, jealousy, anger, and so on. Once you understand the psychology of love, things become clear.
Evolutionary theory posits that love is an emotion that allows a couple to form a bond strong enough that can survive the trials of parenthood and maximize resources for child-rearing.
Because no other emotion can lead to such bonding and attachment as love, people rationalize and make sense of this by thinking love is something mysterious that transcends this world and defies explanation.
This belief also tricks them into thinking they’re among the blessed few if they fall in love, further bolstering the otherworldly quality of love and making people crave falling in love.
At the end of the day, it’s just evolution doing what it does best- facilitating successful reproduction. (see Stages of love in psychology)
The truth is that love is just another emotion, a scientific fact of life. If you know what factors are at play, you can make someone fall in love with you and you can make someone fall out of love with you.
For heat to get transferred from one object to another a condition has to be fulfilled i.e. there should be a temperature difference between the two objects in contact. Similarly, for love to happen there are some fixed rules and conditions governed by evolutionary biology and psychology.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.