How do we choose the people we fall in love with? In the modern world, under the ideology of ‘Romanticism’ you’re meant above all, to Trust Your Feelings! Love is a mutual ecstasy at finding a beautiful person, inside and out, with the rare capacity, to make us happy. The romantic attitude sounds warm and kind. It’s originators certainly imagined that it would bring to an end the sort of unhappy relationships that resulted from the old ways of finding a partner; the arranged marriage! The only problem is that this call for us to trust our instincts has very often proved to be a disaster of its own. Respecting the special feelings we get around certain people in night-clubs, or train stations; at parties or on websites and that romanticism so ably celebrated an art appears not to have led us to be any happier in our unions The Medieval couple shackled into marriage by two royal courts keen to preserve the sovereignty of a slice of ancestral land. Instinct has been little better than calculation in underwriting the quality of our love stories. There’s another school of thought: this one influenced by psychotherapy which challenges the notion that trusting instinct invariably draws us to those who will make us happy. That’s because the theory points out that we don’t fail in love first and foremost with those who care for us in ideal ways We fall in love with those who care for us in familiar ways. And there might be, a big difference. Adult love is modeled on a template of love created in childhood. And is likely to be entwined with a range of problematic attractions that militate in key ways against our chances of growth and happiness, as adults. We may believe we are seeking happiness in love but what we are really after is familiarity We’re looking to recreate within our adult relationships the very feelings we knew so well in childhood And which were rarely limited to just tenderness and care. The love many of us would’ve tasted early on was confused with other perhaps more destructive dynamics Feelings of wanting to help an adult who is out of control or of being deprived of a parent’s warmth. Or scared of his/her anger or of not feeling secure enough to communicate our trickier wishes How logical then, that we should as adults find ourselves rejecting certain candidates not because they’re wrong for us but because they’re a little too right In a sense of seeming somehow excessively balanced, mature, understanding and reliable given that in our hearts such rightness feels foreign and unearned To choose our partners wisely, we need to tease out how certain compulsions to suffering may be playing themselves out in our feelings of attraction. A useful starting place is to ask ourselves perhaps in the company of a large sheet of paper, a pen and a free afternoon what sort of people in the abstract put us off and what kinds excite us. To try to trace back qualities to the people who first loves us in childhood and to ask ourselves how much our impulses really are aligned with things that might make us happy We could stand to discover for example that slightly distant and sadistic people do always more interesting to us than the so-called ‘nice’ ones. That should make us stop and think. Our honestly described reactions are legacies They are revealing underlying assumptions we’ve acquired that what love for us can feel like. We may start to get a clearer picture that our vision of what we’re looking for in another person might not be in a specially good guide to our personal happiness. Examining our emotional histories we learn that we can’t just be attracted to anyone we’re limited in the types we have because of certain things that happened to us in our past. Even if we can’t always radically shift these pattern it’s useful to know that we’re carrying a ball and chain It can make us more careful of ourselves when we feel overwhelmed by a certainty that we’ve met the one after just a few minutes chatting at the bar. Or when we’re certain someone is just brawn or boring even though objectively, they do have a lot going for them. Ultimately, we stand to be liberated to love different people to our initial types, when we find that the qualities we like and the ones we very much fear can be found in different constellations from those we encountered in the people who first thought us about affection long ago, in a childhood we should strive to understand and in many ways, free ourselves from.