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Love in youth is often fascinating, captivating, and total. It can be like this already when an elementary school student falls for a classmate who sits at the next desk tugging at his or her heartstrings or when a pubescent directs his or her passionate admiration and secret dreams at a public figure. Love is true for many youngsters also in these experiences. Falling in love becomes particularly touching on the threshold of adulthood during the first steps of dating. It can be like grace, anxiety, and fascination simultaneously.
When in love, emotional experiences and behavior get their peculiar form. Still, falling in love and the way one shows it are learned to a great extent and respond to those social and societal expectations leveled at people. As far as is known, Francois de
All things considered, people preconceive love based on the models, stories, rules, and rituals that are transmitted to them from generation and society to another. Show business provides us with its own points of comparison. We are being taught what love is. We learn to interpret and show love in a certain way. Additionally, we learn about love and our experiences of love by ourselves.
WHAT DOES FALLING IN LOVE INVOLVE?
“Falling in love is madness,” many famous authors have stated. Robert Burton noted in the 17th century, that not only love is madness but also “disease, spree, agony” and described in great detail the shaking and negative influence of love both on individuals and the whole society. This is how he also showed his respect for Francis Bacon who stated quite resolutely at the end of the 16th century that “it is impossible to be in love and be wise”. Bacon’s thoughts are greatly supported in Shakespeare’s pieces as well. Later on, the definitions of the nature of falling in love have been presented more and more. Alberoni describes falling in love as assimilation; Tennov refers to limerence; Girard talks about losing oneself and Fromm about the disappearance of individuality; Askew refers to neurosis, Kilpatrick to anti-social behavior, and Stendahl to crystallizing.
On the contrary, love can be understood as a divine phenomenon, a manifestation of immortality among mortal people, and a way and accession to holiness. Erich Fromm considers love as an active power that connects people with each other. It makes isolation and loneliness to disappear providing the feeling of unity and security.
The we-experience that two people in love share can be quite world-shaking by its depth: Francesco Alberoni felicitously regards falling in love as the derivation of two people mass movement. All this and much more are written in the myths, fairytales, and stories of humankind already centuries ago in the same way as today. Falling in love is really “a many-splendored thing” as was the name of Han Suyi’s novel from 1952. This also in line with John Lee’s famous love typology; he used this typology to analyze the conceptions and essence of love through the analogy of colors and the colors of a rainbow.
Lee distinguishes six ways of falling in love of which three (eros, ludu, and storge) are the primary and three (mania, pragma, and agape) secondary ways of falling in love. Several various combinations are located between these dimensions. Because of the numerous definitions for love the whole verbal illustration of love can be questioned: the words seem to be too platitudinous and ordinary by the side of flamboyant and omnipotent love. Nor is the language the only one being insufficient; consciousness and intelligence have their limits also when trying to comprehend what happens in love.
FROM “FALLING IN LOVE” TO “BEING IN LOVE”
Loving is different than falling in love. Usually, love begins with falling in love. It is a gate to love; yet, faraway from love. Falling in love can be a powerful emotional whirlwind that outruns everyday life. It can be magic of joy and happiness, excitement and pleasure, corroded by insecurity and the fear of losing love. For some, love develops little by little based on friendship without any hot whirlpool of passion. Another tends to fall in love by deliberate pondering about the mutual compatibility and the progress of love affair.
Answers to the question of what happens when one falls in love are manifold. The opinions of personality theorists can be divided into two schools. Some consider falling in love as a valuable experience: it enhances the development of the integration of an individual’s identity and personality. However, some other theorists emphasize the negative consequences of falling in love: it strengthens irrationality and dependency.
Similar numerous phase descriptions about the origin of love and its stages have been drawn up. Braiker and Kelley noted that a love affair develops by four phases (casual dating, serious dating, engagement, and marriage) each of which includes four different dimensions: love, conflict, maintenance, and ambivalence.
Goldstine et al. have identified three phases of a love affair. The first phase is the period of falling in love where the partners feel passion, tension, insecurity, and vulnerability. This phase is the time for high self-respect and reciprocity as well as idealization. The second phase is the period of disappointment and alienation. A couple find themselves extremely different from each other; blaming the other and disappointments are typical in this phase. The probability of breaking up is at its highest. If a couple gets through this phase, they will move on to the third one where the expectations to each other become more realistic. On the one hand, in a relationship, the partners experience powerful appreciation to individuality and, on the other hand, security as well. In Goldstine et al.’s theory, love turns from romantic, passionate love into realistic, “companionable”, “mature”, or “right kind of” love, if the partners manage to overcome the period of unwelcome emotions. Tzeng has specified the development of love by eight stages (Octagonal Stage Model), Coleman have introduced a five-step model, and Levinger ABCDEmodel (Acquaintance, Buildup, Continuation, Deterioration, Ending model). Alberoni considers the process of falling in love as a sort of series of tests. With these tests, one seeks security and answers, for example, to the questions of whether the other loves enough, whether this love is real, whether he or she is able to break away from the other, and so on. If a couple gets through these phases, falling in love will proceed into a deeper phase that could be called “loving”.
The abovementioned general descriptions of the process of falling in love tend to repeat almost the same features. Romantic love is seen as a linear process: a couple falls in love, loves each other, and either loses love or deepens it. In this perspective, the very first love is quite special by its emotional and learning experience; and, usually, takes place in adolescence.
Regardless of age and various theories, the event of falling in love however is one-of-a-kind for everyone; nor does it progress by any general model. Everyone loves by their own way and the experience of falling in love is individual, unique, and subjective.
Where Does Love Start?
Where does love start or how invented love are questions deliberated by poets and composers all over again. This is of great interest. Hardly anyone finds it easy to explain how their personal love began or what made them fall in love. “It is hard to tell,” “It just started,” “The other just happened to be there,” and “It started in the spring” appear to be felicitous remarks. When analyzing the participants’ experiences, it seems that the beginning of love was not by any means “written in the stars” or “determined by destiny or amour” but a result of even rational action as well.
Falling in love is possible if one is willing or wants to fall in love. Then, falling in love is considered positive, important, and desirable. The wish to fall in love also embodies lovelorn or the hunger of love or is a consequence of the desire to be loved. My emotional life needed refreshment and then I met him. For the young, the model of juvenile culture may provide the impetus for the readiness to fall in love. Young people find it important to lean on others of the same age, act in the same way, and thus, pursue strengthening their own position.
Indeed, the reason for falling in love can be the pressure from a peer group: it seems important to date because everybody else is dating. This is how the young want to show their friends and parents that they are able to correspond to the expectations of young people having a boyfriend or a girlfriend. At that time, it would elevate your status if you had a boyfriend. You were supposed to date with someone… the boy kind of aided in that.
The readiness to fall in love can also represent people’s willingness to change. If life is tangled, soul is wounded, or the landmarks of one’s own development and future are lost, love can be used as a magical mirror through which the circumstances appear in a better way. People may believe that love offers the first aid and way out from the agonized life situation. Young people can find falling in love as a means to cut loose from childhood home. Finding someone to date with seems attractive as such; it opens the entrance to adulthood. Then, selecting partner can exemplify a way to rebel against authorities; the young can find their way to such a person who is the perfect opposite of the parents’ wishes.
That boy was a horrible hooligan, my parents did not approve me hanging out with him at all… that was kind of rebellion against my parents. Young people can show that they are on their own and it is about their personal choices. I didn’t care who he was as as long as he/she loved me back… it was connected with maturing; I found it necessary to do like adults did.
What Happens When You Fall in Love?
Falling in love ignites imagination. When putting one’s heart and soul into love, one does not look with the eyes but with the mind. With fantasies, people can see love in the way they want.
Soon he just started to seem like the man of my dreams… I thought that he was the one for me. Reality and the whole existence become ennobled in a manner of speaking. I found myself enjoying all the small things. Life is good and the whole existence reflects the bright gloss of newness. I was so energetic and active and filled with powerful feelings.
Experiences of symbiosis and regression take place at the initial stage of falling in love. The one in love starts behaving like a little child. Falling in love serves the aspiration to revive the experiences of happiness and pleasure from early childhood. It was so good and easy to be with her from the beginning: she really understood me and we didn’t have to say everything out loud. Similarly, the need for intimacy and affection, as well as sexuality, strengthens. Lovers want to be with together and long for each other’s proximity.
We just sat in each other’s arms, enjoyed each other’s proximity. The other one’s company is like balsam. Togetherness is enjoyable and along with it mutual trust, tenderness, and sexuality are strengthened. I missed his endearments and wanted to give those to him/her as well.
You would give everything, wouldn’t you?
Togetherness and isolation appear more powerful.
Togetherness is so intensive, that the moments apart rend. I thought that I would die if the other wasn’t there.
Togetherness is the only thing that matters. The surrounding world disappears. Lovers see only each other and are happy together.
As if you weren’t in this world, that you just hope that you could be and let yourself float.
Sense of time disappears: here and now. Lovebirds even apprehend time in a different way than others. They took the time they need and set aside everything else they can in order to be together. They would prefer time to stop when “the world gives its best”.
Caring secures. Also mutual caring and tenderness increase. It seems as if the lovers had a sixth sense which they use to sense what the partner needs. Whether one desires more caring, independence, or safety, that is exactly what the other offers; and no words are needed. It seems that lovers are capable of extremely skilled unconscious performances when adjusting to each other’s expectations.
You care so much about the other that you want to, you know, start taking care of the other in a way that it outstrips even your own needs. When lovers nourish each other with spontaneous caring, togetherness becomes enjoyable and easy without saying anything. They become more and more certain that living together will go without problems: they both know what the other one needs.
I thought that he was the one for me. I thought that he would be a good partner to live with and plan the future together. Childish manner of speaking and playful behavior. Lovers’ mutual manner of speaking resembles infants’ language. They coddle and it seems that they have an endless amount of the terms of endearments for each other. We didn’t lack of nicknames: honey, sugar honey pie, funny tummy, and goldilocks. They laugh at the same things and discover new reasons for joy spreading cheerfulness, joy, and energy around them. Lovers need for togetherness and touching each other may arise from their disbelief of what has happened to them.
They have to make themselves certain that this all is for real by touching each other. The language of touching helps to adjust without words. I couldn’t believe what had happened… that this kind of amazing feeling of happiness, and then again, I was afraid or felt insecure if this will last. When falling in love, also fears and insecurity start gnawing. Therefore, not only many previously experienced feelings of happiness from childhood revive but also confusion and fears: the fear of excessive intimacy, the fear of losing love. Even the fact that one does not know the other very well yet is subject to cause insecurity. What if one falls in love entirely and if the other one leaves; how you will handle that.
Love Blinds You: The Significant Other Dazzles
The one in love sees the other as ideal through the rose tinted spectacles. No wonder they say that love is blind. That girl was like an answer to all those wishes what I could ever have expected of a woman. Looking with the eyes of love the pockmarks seem dimples, says a proverb. When falling in love, even the negative features are seen as a positive light or explained in a positive manner. This can result from the desire to ensure or stabilize the continuity of the romance. Sometimes one’s image of the loved one is more real to him/her than the brute truth.
I clothed him with the colors of my yearning.
Love believes in good. Almost all the other one’s features are seen as positive and lovable although they might be troublesome for the life together. At the phase of admiring, the target for love is thus regarded as one-of-a-kind, exceptional, and irreplaceable.
The personality of that person made me fall in love; the personality was so strong. This is how the beneficial conditions for a successful relationship are created.
She is everything to me… I love her and nothing on earth can change it.
The Magical Mirror of Falling in Love: One’s Own Self Becomes Stronger
Along with falling in love, an individual’s image of himself or herself becomes stronger in many ways. One feels more skilled and capable than before, the expansion of the contents of self takes place, as well as self-esteem increases.
I noticed new things in myself; I laughed more, I was more social, I felt being filled with energy. That was a wonderful feeling. When the partners try to reveal and specify the features in themselves, falling in love may also improve self-knowledge (Leary, 2001). When being endorsed, cared, and appreciated, the young become ensured that they are good and worth loving. I enjoyed all the attention that this person gave me. When in love, the young expect, or actually are out for, positive estimations from the target of their love.
When I knew that the other cared, I was able to get rid of my insecurity. Sometimes the eagerness to fall in love can be so compulsive that the dividing line between love and deep gratefulness for positive feedback becomes unclear. At the time life being filled with conflicts and crises, the need for finding a point of reference-a magical mirror, which reflects oneself as good and beautiful-is the most absolute. People in general tend to wish for praise and appreciation, rewards and recognition: “people have a passion for praise”. The young make the effort of giving a fascinating or favorable impression of themselves to the target of their admiration or love. If one’s own self-esteem has been desolated, being praised and appreciated is outstandingly grand, primary, and flattering in love. Parents may even find a youngster’s ways of strengthening self-esteem deplorable. Some become addicted to falling in love. This addiction results in the spiral of love, love addiction, when an individual is enchanted of being enchanted, besotted with being besotted, and in love with falling in love. This can also be described as love dependence, an obsession, which makes people repeat the same behavioral pattern all over again.
They hurry from a lap to another. Continuous zest for life, not willing to be tied to anyone as there is still so much to experience…
A young person’s life can be filled with the chaos of love or sexuality, where the pleasure and experiences are pursued nonstop by new relationships. Every new conquest is used for strengthening one’s self-esteem. It is about a struggle with identity as well: the young want to test through other people what others think of themselves. They want to experience life as a great adventure or continuous experiment.
So Much is Included in Love-The Crises and Disappointments as Well
According to a Finnish proverb, “love takes half of a mind from a wise, all from an insane.” The enrapturing symbiotic phase of falling in love lasts between half to one year depending on how intensive the lovers are together and how long time the images can hold it up. Despite it being enchanting, the early phase of falling in love is temporal and
no one can avoid the crises or changes. The fabulous and appealing displays of falling in love inevitably end before long, no matter how happy or satisfying the relationship was by its basis. The lovers are no longer satisfied with the hopeful anticipation and amorous illusion of their needs becoming fulfilled; little by little they will also start demanding these promises to come true.
When life becomes back to normal, the new kinds of expectations are aimed at the partner. At the early phase of falling in love, the young concentrate on taking care of the other and being accordant with a partner’s expectations but when the relationship becomes stable satisfying one’s own needs and selfish demands become more important. The wishes of the one in love can be illustrated in children’s words: “I have been good long enough, now it’s time for my salary.
Now, give me what you promised.” The lovers take a real step apart and expect that the dividends of togetherness will start to show profit. The change can take place suddenly or step by step but at some point, the partners will notice that their relationship has cooled down. The expressions of love become more infrequent and so does cuddling. Lovers realize they disagree with several matters. The other is not a constant support or cover, nor does love offer just pure pleasure. Instead of being together, the young may start longing for space.
Maybe it was that we spend way too much time just together. The phase of crises produces disappointments, helplessness, and insecurity. The difficulties the partners confront are the same with which they have to struggle in their intimate relationship all the time, from year to year and from decade to decade.
Losing Dreams Hurts
When lovers get to know each other better, they notice features in each other that they had not noticed before. The partner is not equivalent to their expectations. Disappointments hurt and some might become distressed. The fear of engaging with
a wrong person preys on their mind. The new features in the partner may even be a
threat to their own security. And then I was annoyed by the partner’s features to which I hadn’t paid attention previously; that you started to search for faults… so that it started to
make me a sort of anguished.
The bitterest loss for the one in love is losing the dreams. The future with the partner seemed to be filled with miracles and promises. The relationship was supposed to be the beginning for the great hopes full of love, of which all the pop songs and movies tell about, and which you have waited for and planned to build your life on. All these ideal dreams are collapsing and losing these dreams hurts.
I guess that I then noticed that after all, he isn’t that wonderful than I thought. After the disappointments, one’s condition and the whole surrounding world may seem dark and cold. When feeling distressed, one may blame the partner for what has happened. When the partner seems distant and the atmosphere of togetherness cold, the young may find it difficult to come up with functional solutions for the problematic situation. They can choose desperate means of exercising power and try to make the partner be more loving. They can even hurt the other rather than tell about their worries.
I was bossing and demanding that the things have to be done like I wanted to. I nagged about almost every insignificant thing. He was also different than before; cold, unresponsive, distant. He asked for trouble, deliberately annoyed me. The new reality may seem chaotic and full of threats. It is not easy for the young to see through the bad feeling: it is not easy to understand that the other did not really want to hurt you but was not capable of anything else either. No one can focus just on fulfilling others’ needs. Accepting one’s own inability and insufficiency as well as one’s own limitedness is part of the development of human personality. Self-knowledge and strengthening the ego result from tolerating groping, insecurity, and the fear of becoming abandoned.
Love is not easy because when you live with someone you have to compromise and even give up some of your dreams. Maybe you have to give over a piece of yourself but you will get back double its worth.
Together and Still Alone
Falling in love creates yearning for being together constantly and the wish for permanent symbiosis. A crisis erupts when one finds out that the other is not a constant support and cover after all. The other is not a part of oneself. The young in love may find it intolerable that the partner is not interested in the same things, acts differently than they selves do, and wants to do things alone. Facing the other’s dissimilarity causes the fear of being left outside and alone.
I tried so hard to please the other; I tried even if I didn’t want to. Then, little by little, I realized that it enchained way too much my life and freedom… demanded something that I was not capable of.
The difficulty in love is that it requires two people to become one but still remain two individuals. The toast of love can turn out to be sweet poison. Love does not necessarily appear as wanted; not by trying nor demanding. Love cannot be enhanced by intimidating and it involves the risk of losing and becoming abandoned: love does not guarantee requited love, trust can lead to disappointment, and confiding may hurt. Love is not always enough.
A proper balance between intimacy and distance should be found in a love affair. Lovers may signal various paradoxical hopes for each other; such as “come near, go away” is one of them. On the one hand, they want their independency and freedom, and on the other hand, they want to conform to the other’s expectations. The inconsistency of expectations mystifies. Both partners may think that either they did this or that the solution will not be satisfying.
I had fun to be with her, but I had so much more to experience too. All the new plans came up and the other didn’t want to let me go; eventually, the situation became too narrow.
Lovers may find it weird that regardless of appreciating proximity the other or both of them need their privacy from time to time. Although I am dating, I need a lot of time for myself, kind of privacy; usually, the partner didn’t understand it and thought that I don’t care… But I am not me if I’m not allowed to bunch myself up every now and then. Intimacy is essential in love. Many people find the experiences of symbiosis quite comfortable: you do not have to fight for the admiration of the opposite sex, worry about lonely nights or becoming turned down or blazing quarrels. Despite all this, an excessive intimacy also involves problems.
An excessive need for intimacy may cause convulsive entanglement or adhering to the other; then, one starts to avoid being responsible for oneself as an individual and does not want the other have life of his or her own. The world seems to end if the other does not agree in everything or he/she wants to be alone or with other people sometimes. At its worst, togetherness may turn into an ownership or a subjugating relationship where the other thinks of having the right to shape the other to fit one’s own hopes and needs. Then, the thirst for power, jealousy, and desire to own the other and treat him/her as an object are involved.
On the other hand, being too far away may also be damaging - affinity fails to develop. A proper way to combine both intimacy and individuality should be found; however, there is not any general pattern or model for finding this balance. The lovers just have to learn to know how much intimacy both of them can tolerate and how much distance they need. They have to have quite the ability to give space both for the other and themselves so that being apart does not make the intimacy disappear. In this way, they will not lean solely on each other nor anchor themselves to each other.
“I Need You”
For some, love can turn into a need and for others into entanglement or destructive addiction. Despite being so harrowing, sticking to someone means living in a relationship in which it is impossible to live but without it living is impossible as well. This kind of dependency can deceivingly feel like love. However, the determining feeling is fear-fear of becoming abandoned, left alone, and that you do not exist without the other.
I think that I’m nothing without him. The price for love can be high. The traditional conceptions may rule: you have to struggle and be able to carry on, but you are not allowed to quit. The doubt whether the relationship could even be something more is preying on mind. Young people can compare their own relationship with others’ relationships in their thoughts and wonder if the others have it any better than they selves do. Should you be satisfied with the prevailing situation or could life alone be better? Those who live in a harrowing relationship remember from time to time the good moments together; and again, there is something to deliberate: whether we should still try, whether the partner is able to change, and could the good time they had at the beginning come back.
I waited all the time that the great time we used to have would come back, all the sweetness we experienced. The one who treats the partner badly is also able to soothe and act in a way that the partner blindly believes that the other will change and be good.
All the unpleasant things in a relationship can be interpreted for the best and togetherness can be constructed by hoping positive changes. Caring about the partner even when he/she is quite troublesome can be understood as a salient and binding part of love. I think that I can’t leave him, how can he handle it? Belief in the magnificent power of love can make one tolerate mistreatment: the troublesome features are thought to be only temporary.
Young people of today may have unreasonable expectations toward love: love is seen as an answer and solution to almost all problems they have. Love is considered as the most important source for personal coping and pleasure. The young learn to expect that love heals and makes things easier, removes all the obstacles to happiness, makes their own deficiencies and flaws disappear, and offers the perfect pleasure. The higher are expectations, the greater are disappointments. Dreams turn into a trap if they consist of hopes that cannot be fulfilled by any means. Instead of making life easier, love can actually hurt.
How could we support the young when they try to create permanent intimate relationships? Falling in love is also a learning experience for the young people. When dating and falling in love they search, test, and assess themselves and others. They learn about their inner reality, those things that please them and hurt them. At the same time, they increase their awareness and understanding not only about the separateness between their own and others’ feelings and expectations but also about the dissimilarity between them. Consequently, falling in love is often a climax in life, a certain turn of events, or border crossing where life and one’s own self are formed in a new way.
Learning to appreciate the self can be the way to cherish human relationships. To be able to love the other, one has to love oneself as well. The ability to love requires that one accepts one’s own self and uniqueness. In this sense, love is a space where the relationship with the other is not in priority but the relationship with the self is. If one is capable of appreciating oneself, one can appreciate one’s decisions and defend them by respecting the other’s dissimilarity and individuality. When loving oneself, one can accept one’s own good and bad sides and find it easier to have the same attitude toward the partner-and will not expect the partner to be perfect either.
But how can young people learn to accept themselves? How can one learn to respect oneself as is without asking for evidence from others? Self-appreciation is enhanced by learning to enjoy one’s own success and achievements instead of clinging to others. Everyone has their own fields of expertise and competencies. Studying, work, friends, recreation, and relaxation in the midst of various hobbies, artistic and operational activities provide the youth with opportunities of success and content for life. When having many fields of know-how and sources for satisfaction, one understands better that love is not the answer to everything and one does not expect having non-stop proof or guarantees of love.
Who is the one? The difficulty in selection the partner
Partner selection and the arousal of love have interested poets, artists, and authors already for millenniums. The process of partner selection -“mate selection”, “mate seeking”, “spouse selection”, or “marital choice”-has proven quite an interesting research target especially in the United States.
Research has often been relatively narrow studies with small data but they have presented various theories to explain the start of a new relationship. This study forms a part of a research project in the field of love psychology. The name of the project is “Love-based leadership-An interdisciplinary approach” and it was launched at the university of Lapland in 2011 (http://www.ulapland.fi/lovebasedleadership). The organization of the article differs from a so-called traditional research article because here the theories, models, and previous studies of partner selection are connected with the results of the interviews. Therefore, the empirical study and the theory are in dialogue. Furthermore, the theoretical overview covers quite a long time span. It simultaneously shows how the criteria of partner selection have been at the center of research for decades. Many studies from the 1970s have similar results than studies from 2012. Certainly, there are some differences as well. The purpose of this article is to dissect Finnish people’s perceptions on where love begins, what makes one fall in love and what kinds of characteristics are the most appealing; in other words, what is the core criterion of partner selection. Two research questions are discussed: (1) How do the previous studies and criteria explain partner selection? (2) What kind of connection does the present study has with the previous ones?
The data in this research were collected through two methods and phases. The first set of data was collected among students at the University of Lapland. 35 students, aged between 20 and 45 years, were interviewed (22 women and 13 men). At the time of the study, 18 of them were either married or cohabited, 16 of them were singles, and one was divorced. Open interview was chosen as the interview method because it allowed the participants to freely describe what they think about love. The themes for interviews emerged from the participants’ views, thoughts, and experiences of love. What happens when one falls in love, what does love give and demand, how could love be strengthened, and what kinds of phases and contents does love involve or could involve? The interviews lasted between one to two hours and were recorded and transcribed word by word. In the next phase, the interview data was expanded by essays. Students of educational psychology (N=46) who studied at the University of Lapland wrote an essay about “What kind of person did you fall in love with? What did you find attractive in him/her? What was he/she like? Why did you fall in love with him/her?” The data were collected during the course of love psychology in 2012. The data comprised anonymously written essays that were between one to four sheets long. 36 of the respondents were women and 10 were men. 38 of them lived in cohabitation with their partners, two were married, and six were dating.
The reason for collecting two sets of informal data-essays and open interviews-was that people can reveal what they really think and feel and thus, the many forms and shades of love would be unveiled. Some of the participants described their experiences of falling in love, the process of finding a partner, in versatile ways. Some of them could have several experiences of falling in love while some of the participants did not have much personal experience: they had found their partner from college or their first love relationship had just begun. What is common to these two sets of data is the rich narration. The qualitative data analysis in this study followed three steps: data reduction, data display, and conclusion drawings. The aim was to create categories that describe the essence of partner selection. In order to be able to show their contents in practice, we have added plenty of quotations from the interviews and essays. In addition, the quotations function as the proofs for reliability. Naturally, the generalizability, validity, and reliability of the results can be criticized. The stories are summaries of the course of events and in that form the data describe every participant’s way of assessing their own life, the chains of events and emotions that mold it. Therefore, it is not salient whether the happenings are described comprehensively or truthfully but their interpretation of what happened is. Indeed, one of the interviewees told: It’s more essential to know why I love my spouse than why or what I fell in love with him in the first place. (Woman, married) Another found writing an essay as a good means of soul-searching: It really did good to contemplate these questions a bit. Now I remember better what a wonderful man is waiting for me at home. (Woman, cohabiting)
Results: Criteria of Partner Selection
Homogamy proved the most common description of the target of one’s love. Therefore, the most common criterion of partner selection seemed to be based on affinity. People tend to find their way to the company of their ilk and then personality traits, hobbies, values, and attitudes or religious and political views may be similar. He was the same kind of athlete as I was. Perhaps, that was the connective factor… He sort of understood that we have to get to bed early in the evening because we have to get early to exercise…so we had the same kind of rhythm of life. (Woman, 23, unmarried). In addition to being my husband, he is my best friend… We have so many common hobbies. (Woman, 21, married). He is a person in order of me because he has similar hopes and expectations. (Woman, 22, unmarried).
First, I fell in love with his looks, and after that I found out that we hit it off really well. (Woman, 21, cohabiting). Homogamy, selecting the partner based on his or her similar characteristics is a dominating criterion according to several previous studies as well.
According to studies, homogamy or similarity has been noticed important when it comes to for example:
– race and ethnic background
– level of education
– beauty and physical attractiveness
– professional / societal position
– geographical proximity
– mental and physical health or disability
Partner selection that is based on homogamy is explained by for example psychoanalytical theory and the so-called filter theory. Freud’s psycho-analytical theory is considered from two perspectives: (1) studies that prove the connection between child-parent conflicts and the development of an intimate relationship, and (2) studies that show how the partner resembles the selector’s parents of his or her physical and mental features. The inconsistency of results and vagueness of concepts give reason to doubt the reliability and generalizability of the studies. Kerckhoff and Davis created the first filter theory. According to the theory, individuals get to know each other and start relationships first based on homogeneous cultural factors, then on the similarity of values, and-if the relationship still functions-on the fulfillment of the partners’ mutual needs. Despite the wide body of studies, they still have not provided much support to the theory.
When reviewing the research on partner selection based on similar personality traits, it can be noted that almost every possible characteristic has been studied in relation to partner selection, including “stubbornness”, “jealousy”, “openness to influence”, “sensitivity to criticism”, “talkativeness”, “sensational activity”, etc.
Hoyt and Hudson collected a ranking list of appreciated partner characteristics that appeared in studies in 1939-1977. According to the list, “reliability” and “emotional balance” had proven important since 1939. “Mutual attraction”, “social character, and “education-intelligence” were features that had become more and more appreciated. The same tendency occurred in men’s list for the partner’s “good looks.” Instead, “decency” had become less significant both in men’s and women’s lists as had “good cooking and housekeeping skills” in men’s appreciations.
The latest studies show that women consider important both men’s participation in household work and received support to their career development as women work outside home increasingly. In this research, the participants highlighted the importance of appearance but also “joyfulness”, “sensitivity”, “kindness”, “confidence”, “independency”, “activity”, “reliability”, and “emotional balance” were brought out. A similar political background which was introduced in previous studies seemed to be the least important.
As a summary of the research on personality traits, it can be stated that almost every characteristic correlates between the partners, at least to some extent. Buss noted that correlations varied from -.23 to +47, the mean being .None of the characteristics has constantly proven to be the factor that determines partner selection. Personality traits are not an easy research target whatever research method was selected.
It is easier to study attitudes than personality traits and therefore similarity between attitudes (value preferences and economic, aesthetic, social, political, and religious attitudes) have proven much more unambiguous factor combining partner than personality traits ... the basic values of life must be similar, and the partners have to be able to take care of the everyday matters because it is not about that ecstasy all the time. (Woman, 21, unmarried) I had a great affinity with him in all big issues and questions of life. We have common thoughts for example about how we should eat or live a good life (Woman, 25, dating). The similarity at the level of attitudes and values has been found, for example, in the following fields: conservativeness, sexual interests, pessimism-optimism, and abstract versus concrete thinking. Caspi, Herbener, and Ozer noted that attitude correlations vary from 20 to 58. In addition, similar values seem to be the most important among couples who represent the highest social class.
The similarity has to be noticed
When contemplating the homogamy based partner selection, Berscheid and Walster presented two various hypotheses for the phenomenon:
1. People like their ilk.
2. People find themselves more similar with those who they like and less similar with those who they do not like-compared with what they are in reality.
These two hypotheses are based on the thought that finding the other attractive leads to the notion of similarity and vice versa: discovering similarity leads to attraction.
I enjoyed the attention from that person…and that had been the same for him, too, because I had responded to that attention. (Woman, 23, unmarried)
Either way, in order to have similarity as the criterion of partner selection, the similarity has to be found out. This is possible only if the partners experience their similarity. Indeed, Saegert, Swap, and Zajonc considered based on their research the partners’ openness and willingness to reveal themselves to others as an important activator of a relationship: they used the expression “exposure effect”. Some studies have shown that women are more open at the beginning of dating and express their personal feelings earlier than men).
Perhaps that was insecurity because even if I loved the other person I couldn’t trust in myself and that [love] so much that I could have been able or dared to say what I was experiencing…that I could present some wishes like maybe we could do like this or that… I couldn’t solve it any other way, at least not by talking anyway, but in a more ruthless way: by breaking up… First it was important to be together, then it was important to get more space for myself.
I wish I had been able to develop the relationship in a different manner but I couldn’t. (Man, 25, unmarried)
In his theory, Levinger illustrated how the experience of homogamy leads from zero contact to mutuality with certain conditions. Levinger calls the theory “ABCDE model” (Acquaintance, Bild-up, Continuation, Deterioration, Ending).
The first impression determines how the interaction continues. The development of a relationship depends on the partner’s characteristics and the quality of interaction. Outer appearance is important at the beginning of the relationship. If the partners have the experience of positive response, if interaction functions, and if the other’s behavior and goals are predictable, the relationship will become more and more rewarding for both partners. It will lead more and more clearly toward the awareness and crystallization of the “we” identity, as Lewis (1972) stated in his illustration of the process of an intimate relationship.
I fell in love with a person who first seemed as a mystery and did not let me close immediately but who later turned out a real nugget-I found it also attractive that he was not any “born-to-date” sort of type but could appreciate more what we have. (Woman, 25, dating)
At first, I tried to be smarter than I was. Later on I relaxed and noticed that I didn’t have to go out to buy her a dinner in order to make her care. (Man, 29, married)
As the interaction gets more intensive, knowing the other and being together may be a disappointment too. The first impression of the other’s personality or attitude does not match with the reality after all.
… then I noticed that he isn’t as wonderful as he came across... so then it ran its course before it really started. (Woman, 21, married) …and then I grew exasperated with issues that I hadn’t noticed earlier; so I started to look for flaws… That was how it started to feel anxious. (Woman, 21, unmarried)
Partner Selection Based on Completion
The selection that is based on similarity is often connected with completion as well:
The other person’s character: we matched in a certain way and had certain, appropriate tensions. (Man, 33, married)
She had such a different circle of acquaintances. (Man, 30, married)
I certainly had something to do with the other person’s personality; she differed from me quite a lot. (Man, 21, unmarried)
I fell in love with the rebel, a different kind of boy who didn’t care for others’ opinions. (Woman, 24, married)
Probably the oldest theory that describes the completion is Winch’s theory of complementary needs. According to this theory, partner selection is based on the fulfillment of needs so that the partners’ need complement each other.
The idea of completion got stronger in the 1960s. Levinger emphasized the significance of the partners’ needs that complement each other by stating that “many of the most productive human relationships are complementary ones: male and female in the sex act, seller and buyer in the exchange and so forth”. Except for a few exceptions, the research prove that the similarity of features is more likely to explain the positive development of a relationship than their complementarity Both homogamy and complementarity have been explained from the perspective of the so-called exchange theory. A representative of the theory, Edwards, presented four interconnected arguments concerning the process of partner selection:
1) When building an intimate relationship, the partner is selected by the rewards he or she brings into the relationship,
2) Individuals with equivalent resources are likely to maximize their rewards because they are likely to reject those with fewer resources,
3) Individuals with equivalent resources are likely to have equivalent characteristics, and thus
4) The relationship is likely to become homogenous.
I have always been repulsed by such men who have a roving eye. He seemed to find me valuable. He showed special attention to only me and although I noticed that women were looking at him and trying to chitchat all this and that for example at a store, it was somehow nice that he implied that he is not interested in anyone else. (Woman, 29, married)
Berscheid and Walster introduced Lewin et al.’s Level-of-Aspiration theory from the year 1944 where the perception of oneself reflects in the partner selection in a way that supports the exchange theory. According to the level-of-aspiration theory, ideal choices affect partner selection: everyone has their own ideal partner who has all the ideal characteristics regardless of the possibility to find such a partner. On the other hand, the realistic level of characteristics includes both the features that the partner is expected to have and the awareness of the possibility to find that kind of a partner. The person’s idea of his or her own characteristics affect the definition of the level of aspiration: the more positive idea the person has of his or her characteristics, the more demanding the level of aspiration will be.
Likewise, Walster regards that the exchange theory is connected with the partners’ self-esteem. If the person has high self-esteem, thinks that he or she has a lot to give and considers him or herself justified in having a partner that has plenty of good attributes. Goffman supports the same thought by his notion: A proposal of marriage in our society tends to be a way in which a man sums up his social attributes and suggests to a woman that hers are not so much better as to preclude a merger of partnership in these matters.
In his exchange theory, Edwards (1969) says that people with equivalent resources does not have to be similar in all those features that are relevant in partner selection. The balance based on the exchange theory is built on the balance between positive and negative traits in various areas. Therefore, the exchange theory is close to the next model, the investment and equity model.
Partner selection may result in balance between the partners’ various resources. The Investment and Equity Model is based on the idea that individuals try to create as a beneficial relationship as possible: profits are the rewards that they get from the relationship after subtracting the costs of the relationship. The cost can be emotional, financial, or physical, or consist of such factors or activities that one has to give up for the relationship.Walster, Walster, and Berscheid noted that the balance exists when the person (A) thinks that his or her input (I) in relation to the outcome (O) is equal to the partner’s (B) situation: O (A) – I(A) = O(B) – I(B)
Thibaut and Kelly referred to the comparison level (CL) that is the average value of all outcomes: If the outcomes in a given relationship surpass the CL, that relationship is regarded as a satisfactory one. And, to the degree the outcomes are supra-CL, the person may be said to be attracted to the relationship. If the outcomes endured are infra-CL, the person is dissatisfied and unhappy with the relationship.
In her study, Rusbult showed that the cost of a relationship is not as determining factor for the progress of the relationship than the rewards of it. Thibaut and Kelly, for their part, considered that a person can stay in an unsatisfying relationship is the reward-cost relation is the best among the comparison level for alternatives.
I was fascinated by her being so modest and flexible. She was always ready to do what I suggested. But then it started to repulse me that she never had ideas but just expected me to figure out what to do or where to go. Then, I became tired of pulling her with me; I started to feel that she didn’t give anything to me. (Man, 36, unmarried)
Especially, Hatfield and her work group applied the balance model in analyzing a relationship.
She presented five sequential arguments about the development of an intimate relationship:
1) If the relationship is balanced (vs. imbalanced) for both partners, it leads more easily to stronger intimacy;
2) The partners are more satisfied and less stressed in a balanced relationship;
3) When imbalance occurs, partners try to restore balance or end up breaking up the relationship;
4) As the imbalance continues, the couple tries to restore the balance or end up breaking up the relationship; and
5) A balanced relationship predicts stability and permanence of the relationship.
I really tried to please the other; even unintentionally I tried to make him care for me. Then, little by little, I noticed that my life and freedom were shackled by him too much… I can’t turn into something that he thinks a woman should be. He was awfully selfish. (Woman, 22, unmarried)
Altman and Taylor consider the reward-cost dynamics as a process where the partners evaluate the cost-reward configuration of the relationship in various interaction situations. The evaluation in question is versatile and is connected with continuous decision making and anticipatory evaluation. Several studies show that women and men emphasize different features in the cost-reward configuration and even when it comes to the exchange theory. Early studies proved that women appreciate the partner’s socioeconomic factors while men appreciated women’s social factors-that illustrates the time when men’s role was to support the family and women were wives and mothers. There is evidence that the above-mentioned results are still valid. This viewpoint differs from the homogamy theory as here the relationship is expected to be as rewarding as possible.
Centers’s instrumental theory is also based on the assumption that men and women have various needs that that the needs can complement each other. An individual selects a partner with whom the relationship involves plenty of rewards with low “costs”. I am doing much better now: I have another person to support me… When I have my partner as a support, I’m able to give support to others. I feel much stronger…I can reach higher, believe in more, and trust in myself more. (Woman, 20, unmarried)
…you care about the other so much that you want to start look after him in a way that it rises above your own needs. (Woman, 21, unmarried)
When analyzing the significance of the above-mentioned theories and research results, it is worth noticing that there are certain characteristics that seem to be important both to women and men. Both sexes appreciate a partner who has a good sense of humor and good social skills, and who is reliable and honest, etcetera.
The evolution model grounds on the assumption, that when selecting partners people try to maximize the genetic suitability of their ancestors. Individuals look for partners who have a) suitable genes and b) such other features that foster the survival of their descendants. Mellen analyzed the development of love during thousands of years and noted how natural selection and sexual selection enabled the survival and adjustment of the human species. Buss, on the other hand, claimed how love actually is a category of natural love acts and a result of evolutionary genotype.
From the evolutionary point of view, partner selection is not cognitively-focused action. Instead, it has to be regarded as an attempt to influence on the positive development of the next generation. Because of reproduction, men appreciate women’s youth, health, and good physical shape whereas women value features that affect the development of the next generation more indirectly, such as men’s social, educational, and financial status.
Kenrick et al. refer to numerous, even inter-culturally similar research results-among others, that older men tend to marry relatively younger women regardless of the cultural background or economic status. They end up noting that this kind of partner selection cannot be explained only from the point of view of social norms and financial models.