If you were to imagine for a moment what has made you who you are today, you would conjure up an insurmountable number of events, situations, places, culture, values etc. that have contributed to who you are today. There is no way that we can be reductionist when we discuss human behaviour and who we are. No one other than you can truly understand what goes on in your head. Relationships are complicated and unique yet this creates the foil of what they are, relationships are exciting, scary but amazing because of their complexities. The aim of this article is by no means to put any one in a box but simply just to open your eyes to some explanations as to why we are the way we are. This understanding will help you understand who you and your partner are and ultimately create a more truthful and open relationship.
A reminder that we are all ego, soul, body and energy circles. In every situation all four of these aspects of ourselves are delicately dancing to find their centre. Remember that the truth of who you are is always your soul but we are still human and it is to allow the human aspects of ourselves to be listened to, this is honouring the fullness of who you are.
How do relationships form?
First encounters are important when it comes to encouraging the formation of a relationship. Let’s also put first dates under the same analogy. The sun is shining, you’re swimming in the sea, sipping a fantastic cocktail and all of a sudden you meet a gorgeous stranger. You fall in love, or so you think. The Reward/Need Satisfaction Model (Bryne and Clore, 1970) talks about how relationships are formed not because of the person themselves but because of the association you make between the person and the pleasant situation (stimulus) explained by the principles of classical conditioning. You are in a good mood when you meet the person, you are relaxed, you are in a good ‘headspace’. You associate the feeling you are feeling with the person. Using this idea, here is a great tip for a first date. Take you partner to an event where they will feel good, roller coasters, jazz etc. that way they will associate you with the good feeling. Equally, it may not all be in your control. If they are in a bad mood when they go on their date, they may associate you with their bad mood. Oh! Oh!
Operant conditioning explains that relationships form when people are positively reinforced for being with the person e.g. increase in social status, finance, the other person makes them feel good etc. You start going out with a person because of the rewards (happiness, a family, companionship, security, sex) that you get from that relationship. One could also enter into a situation to avoid an unpleasant situation (stimulus) e.g. we all know people who don’t like being alone so enter into relationships to protect themselves from feeling loneliness.
Social Status Matching
‘They are way out of your league’. I’ve never heard this saying in person, only in movies but according to Walster’s Matching Hypotheis (1966) we unconsciously choose a partner who we perceive to be of the same social status as we are. Our initial attraction to someone is determined by how they compare to what we perceive our social desirability score is. Thus we are influenced by what we think our ‘chances’ with the other person are.
Shavel et al. (1988) talks about how the attachment system of your earlier years helps you form an internal working model (an idea if you wish) of how relationships should be and as a consequence you unconsciously act out (model) this working model based on what they have seen in future relationships. The primary care giver is key to what type of internal working model is established. If your primary care giver was distant, this becomes the ‘norm’ and so forth. At the heart of all of us we all want love. A child who didn’t get love as ‘affection’ but got perceived love from their parents through avoidance and distance may find it pleasurable to have sex without the involvement of love as this is what they experienced.
Men always joke about women with ‘Daddy issues’ and they joke about the fact that these are the types of women that are the ‘easiest to get’. Is there a theoretical explanation for this? There is a theory that talks about why women end up dating their fathers and men their mothers. It talks about how we wish to still find the love that we didn’t get from our parents. Let me explain, if your father was emotionally distant you may end up with an emotionally distant man because you wish to find the love within them that your father never gave you. There was something missing from your relationship with your father and you would like to complete it by choosing a partner that closely resembles them.