Why You Choose Who You Love

The club opens up to the dance floor, and the flicker of her eyes connect with mine as the flashing lights shimmer on her, consumed in the darkness.

My heart started racing. My head started pounding. It felt as if my mind was a missile and she was my target. I can’t recall ever having such an intense experience. It was like a tsunami of sexual desire destroying the town of my thoughts.  I was so overwhelmed with the things happening inside.

The moment I sat down next to her, everything else disappeared. We talked, laughed, touched, and danced. I don’t remember her friends or mine leaving. The world around us didn’t exist.

The sex was amazing; the intensity of our passion drove us wild for the next 48 hours. She even ditched her friend who she had flown into town to see. I’ve never felt so infatuated in my life. Even though she wanted to cancel her flight back home to Italy, our time was bound to end. I always wonder what would have happened if we stayed in touch. If I would have pursued her seriously.

Years later, I can still vividly recall our intense passion. I have yet to find that in another woman, even women I’ve fallen in love with, so I started to wonder – why her? What caused my mind to transform into a targeted missile, locking onto her as the coordinates?

What was this energy pulling me towards her? Why was I instantly attracted and love struck by someone I had never seen or spoken a word to before?

Her coordinates were as close as I have ever experienced – down to the precise points on what Love researcher Helen Fisher calls my Love Map. 1

Love

From cave paints to ancient maps of Greece and Asia, through the Age of Exploration and even into our present time, people have created and used maps as essential tools to help them define, explain and navigate their way through the world.

Out of all the forces that guide the type of people you choose to fall in love with, the most influential is your personal history – the melting pot of your childhood, teenage, and adult experiences that have sculpted and re-sculpted your likes and dislikes throughout your life. All of these experiences melt together to form what is called your Love Map – the unconscious psychological expectations that navigate you to falling in love and settling down with the “one.”

We spend our lives swimming in a sea of moments that sculpt our romantic choices. Maybe it was your father’s odd sense of humor, or your mother’s way with words. Your aunt’s love of sailing and your uncle’s obsession with crabbing. Maybe it was your sister’s interest in riding horses.

Maybe it was how your family used silence, how they expressed intimacy and anger. How your family handled money. The amount of laughter in the house. Whether you had animals growing up or your religious education and intellectual pursuits. The time spent with your best friends. What your grandfather thought was girly. How the community you lived in viewed justice, loyalty and kindness. What your teachers admire and disapproved of. What you saw on the TV and in the movies.

These, along with thousands of other subtle moments, mold together in a unique pattern to form our individual interest, values and beliefs. By the end of our teenage years, each of us has created an index of aptitudes and mannerisms we are seeking to fall in love with.

Everyone’s chart is unique. Even identical twins, who have similar lifestyles, religions, and interests, tend to develop different styles of loving and choose different types of partners. 2

It’s the subtle perceptions  and slightly different experiences that shape their romantic tastes.

Love Maps are highly complex. Some people pursue a partner who agrees with what they say, while others live for a spirited debate. Some seek a prankster, while others want predictability and order. Some prefer to be entertained, while others wish to be intellectually stimulated.

Most of us need partners who support our dreams and passions, help us overcome our fears or share our relationship goals. Some of us choose a partner for the lifestyle we wish to lead. Some wish to have complete devotion to their partner while others crave to be challenged so they can grow intellectually or spiritually.

Most Love Maps are subtle and difficult to read. You may have grown up with an alcoholic mother and became used to the unpredictability around the house. So you made a promise that you’d never marry a woman who drank. So you didn’t marry an alcoholic; rather, you married an unpredictable, helter-skelter song writer. A match suiting your largely unconscious Love Map.  Often men and women don’t know their own love maps, which is why a woman can look perfect on paper –your interest, sense of humor, etc. – and still be someone you are not attracted to.

There are a lot of theories attempting to understand the dynamics of love, and many offer compelling ideas about why we choose one person over another. But all theories on based on the fundamental belief that each of us has a unique personality that was crafted by our experiences and biology.

It’s these unconscious identifiers that guide us into falling in love with one specific person. There’s something specific that caused that intense magnetic energy to the stranger in the dark nightclub.

Our Love Maps begin to develop in infancy as we were subjected to countless environmental forces that influenced our emotions and ideas about the world. Once we enter school, we begin making new friends and even have crushes that further mold our likes and dislikes. We continue to expand this Love Map as we develop more intense feelings as teenagers.

And as we surf the waves of life – and experience a few romantic disasters – we trim and edit this mental map. We label cliffs that we don’t want to fall down again and highlight the beautiful lakes on the map so we can revisit.

So when you walk into a room of potential lovers, you’re carrying a mostly unconscious biological, cultural and personal preference that can spoil or spark romantic passion. This becomes even more complex, because the people we choose to date have an enormously varied Love Map, and some kinky fetishes as well.

It is my belief that our experiences, combined with our biology, sculpt the fundamental characteristics we seek in someone that we fall in love with. So grab your snorkel and goggles and dive just below the surface to get a glimpse of our unconscious ocean; the ocean that determines why you love who you love.

Read: The 6 Factors that Determine Who You  Fall in Love With

  1.  Psychologist Marcel Zentner calls this chart  theIdeal Mate Personality Concept.
  2.  Walker, N., and P. Shaver. 1994. The importance of nongenetic influences on romantic love styles: a twin family study. Psychological Science 5(5): 268-74

Kyle Benson

Kyle is a healthy relationship coach fascinated with the science of love & relationships. He loves helping couples revitalize relationships in the bedroom and out. Salsa dancer. Traveler. Power lifter. Learn more here.
Why You Choose Who You Love