03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What's Love Got To Do With It? Demystifying Romantic Attraction


Carl Jung wrote that " is the strength of the bond to the parents that unconsciously influences the choice of husband or wife, either positively or negatively." As my own divorce drama unfolded, it became clear that there were deeper issues between my husband and me than appeared on the surface. As I explored Jung's premise that who we choose as partners is greatly influenced by our past experiences with our parents, I realized the tremendous influence our upbringing has on our adult relationships.

Romantic love has been studied from several perspectives, resulting in a deeper understanding of human relationships. Three popular perspectives include the bio-logic, social-exchange, and persona theories.

The bio-logic theory is that there is a biological basis for romance. This evolutionary premise is that we instinctively choose mates who ensure survival of the species; for example, men with overt alpha characteristics--domination of other males--and women whose vitality and health indicate a woman at the height of her childbearing years.

The social-exchange theory is based on the idea that we choose mates whom we perceive as equals. According to this premise, our evaluation of a prospective partner is more involved than that of the bio-logic model. Not only do we evaluate a person's youth and social status, but also their creativity, intelligence, humor, and kindness.

The basis of the persona theory is that our mate is determined by the degree to which he or she raises our self-esteem. Many of us have felt pride and embarrassment because of how our partner is perceived by others.

While these premises provide partial understanding about the mysteries of attraction, there are questions that they don't address. For example, to what can we attribute feelings toward our partners that are emotionally overpowering? And why do we often react so strongly to the end of a relationship? Based on these three theories, a logical reaction to a romantic break-up might be to simply resume the process of finding a new mate. They don't account for the intensity of emotion we commonly experience.

There are few situations which provoke old wounds more powerfully than romantic relationships. These wounds are often disguised as jealousy, anger, withdrawal, or fear. In an attempt to avoid the pain we believe our partner is causing, we may terminate the relationship. This is often a missed opportunity. If those closest to us invoke that which needs healing inside of us, withdrawing from them is not necessarily the best choice. Instead, we can turn our attention inward and begin to observe ourselves--and the origin of our wounds--and use our awareness to make more conscious choices. It's important to note that if a damaged relationship is to be salvaged, it requires the willingness of both partners to engage in their own healing process. If one of the partners is unwilling to explore their destructive patterns of behavior, it may be the healthier choice to dissolve the relationship.

There are circumstances when it is better to leave a relationship or marriage, for example, in cases of emotional or physical abuse. However, many relationships don't have to end, if people understood the origins of their pain, and rather than blaming their partner, took responsibility to engage in their own healing process.

The bio-logic, social-exchange, and persona theories play a part in our choice of partners. However, I believe that it's primarily the unconscious mind, in its quest to heal the damage many of us have incurred in childhood, which draws into our lives those people who provoke our deepest wounds. If we are ever to free ourselves from the negative effects these wounds have on our lives and relationships, it is necessary for us to focus our attention on becoming aware of their nature and origins, and take action to address and heal them.

Lauren Mackler is the author of the international bestseller, Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. She is a life, career, and relationship coach, psychotherapist, and host of the weekly Life Keys radio show on You can follow her on Twitter, watch her videos on YouTube, become a fan on Facebook, and read her Live Boldly blog You can contact her through her web site at

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