Attraction can be a mysterious dynamic. You likely have a pattern of attraction or a “type” of person that you end up dating. Maybe your partners don’t look the same, but chances are that the reasons for the attraction are similar when you reflect on individuals you have dated.
Do opposites really attract? Do you ultimately end up dating someone like your father or mother? Are you attracted to someone you can fix, or someone who you believe can fix you? In this post, we decode three reasons why people come together in relationships, based on research from Susan Pease Gadoua (2018) and our extensive experience working with clients having issues in the dating arena
What feels familiar is attractive. This is a human truth that extends beyond relationships. Your home is comforting, and therefore an attractive place to spend time, as are your most beloved articles of clothing, favorite restaurants, and top vacation destinations. In a long-term relationship, there is often a sense of comfort, an acceptance, and a sense that you can “truly be yourself”. If your partner provides an environment in which you feel accepted for all that you are (and all that you are not), the relationship likely has more potential and it will be easier for a couple to endure the inevitable ups and downs.
Comfort isn’t always a good thing. Some couples stay together out of fear of losing this comfort in one another, despite other destructive relationship patterns. However, healthy and supportive comfort generally creates relationship “stickiness” and helps a couple both come together and stay together.
The belief that opposites attract might have some validity when it comes to understanding why couples come together. Often, complementary qualities and values will help two people find more value in a relationship through having a life with greater balance and healthier boundaries. For example, maybe one partner is more organized than the other, while the opposite partner infuses the relationship with more fun. That couple might balance each other out well with one partner providing more structure while the other provides more excitement. The partnership is mutually enriched and the individuals come together and stay together because their combines life provides more balance.
Healing Old Wounds
Many times, individuals are attracted to partners who can help them heal past wounds. This subconscious attraction can support their healing. If you have been in a relationship in which someone really “pushed your buttons” you most likely know this type of attraction. Humans long for healing and when they have subconscious wounds to overcome, they will choose a partner who emulates past dynamics in an effort to move through those dynamics again, hoping for a different outcome. As an example, if you grew up with a parent who battled addiction, you might be attracted to someone with an addictive personality or even in active addiction, as an adult. In this example, the dynamic is both familiar and potentially healing. If you can be in partnership with this person successfully, and not codependently, it’s deeply healing and will also help ease the pain of past wounds related to similar relationships with a parent. Sometimes, this type of attraction can be destructive and the drama of the situation could be a distraction or way to feel valued. If old wounds are leading to the wrong types of partnerships, looking for an alternative avenue for healing is essential.
Attraction is a mysterious force that cannot be created or changed. While the level of attraction is a relationship will peak and valley over the course of a partnership, the couple most likely came together and/or stays together because of the dynamics above. If you’d like to learn more about your patterns of attraction and how you can cultivate a more fulfilling relationship with greater awareness and intention, our team at Center for Shared Insight is here to help. Our relationship therapists off a free consultation to get started.
Pease Gadoua, S. (2018). To Divorce or Not to Divorce: Helping Clients Get Out of Marital Indecision. A Training for Therapists.