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Are You Falling for the Right Reasons?

  • Dr. Les Parrott
  • 2003 4 Mar
Are You Falling for the Right Reasons?

If you ask a successful couple about the recipe for their success, you will usually receive a simple "because we are in love." But if you scratch the surface you'll find that the motivations behind romantic relationships are far more complex. Many complicated situations and needs, some more beneficial than others, are behind the decision to pursue a relationship and marriage.

Research has shown that some motivations improve a relationship's chances for success, while others reduce those chances. The reasons we have for pursuing a relationship derive from internal and external sources, and it's important to be aware that they are as much a part of your happiness as the emotions you have.

I would like to briefly outline five of these negative motivations-reasons that researchers term "deficits"-that are internal in nature, which we should strive to avoid when making a decision to pursue a relationship seriously.

1. Love at first sight may seem like a reason to pursue a relationship, but it's not a good predictor of marital success. Of course, strong feelings of attraction can occur early in a relationship, but such feelings alone provide a weak foundation for a long-lasting relationship. For example, look at the many Hollywood marriages, ignited on the studio lot, that break up after only a year or two of wedded misery.

2. Rebounding also hurts chances for a relationship's longevity. It's been proven that people fall in love more easily when on the rebound. Research has shown that, after a breakup, people suffer from low self-esteem and are far less discriminating in choosing a partner because they're trying to cope with their loss. Pursuing a serious relationship while on the rebound is undesirable because the relationship occurs as a reaction to a previous partner, rather then being based on real love for your new partner.  

3. Rebellion may lead some into serious mismatch when choosing a partner. For example, getting even with one's parents by choosing someone they do not like is not uncommon, but it's always costly. The truth is that parental interference increases feelings of romantic attraction between partners-social psychologists call it the "Romeo and Juliet effect." As with choosing a relationship on the rebound, the relationship formed out of rebellion is a response to someone else (one's parents), rather than to one's partner.

4. Loneliness can drive a person to make a commitment hastily. This can be especially true among the divorced and widowed. The problem with this is that lonely people will end up lonely in their relationships if there is no stronger foundation supporting the relationship. In other words, loneliness should be banished not by the form or institution shaping a relationship, but by the relationship itself.

5. Obligation sometimes substitutes for love when choosing to marry or pursue a serious relationship. Some partners become very serious because one partner feels too guilty to break the relationship off. A woman who believes that her loyal devotion and encouragement will help her partner to quit drinking and live up to his potential could also be an example of this. Such relationships frequently do not work. The helper finds that his or her partner won't change very easily, and the pitied partner comes to resent being part of a crusade.

Breaking up a relationship before things are too serious is never easy and can be quite painful. However, it is always worse to experience a painful divorce or an unhappy marriage. Whatever route you take to find the right person, it is important to make sure your reasons for pursuing a relationship that may lead to marriage contribute to the success of that relationship. Try to keep a clear head, wipe the stars from your eyes, and take the time make sure you are falling in love with a person, rather than falling in love with love itself.

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