It’s a difficult question with a difficult answer. People are attracted to one another for lots of reasons, some of which are unconscious. Falling in love is a crazy process. Axioms like “love is blind” speak to the emotionality not rationality of it all. When a couple first falls in love, they really fall… they fall into each others’ arms, they fall out of their daily routines, they fall off balance. Often they focus on one another to the detriment of responsibilities and their emotions rule their rational selves. At the beginning of a relationship, people don’t necessarily see emerging red flags or issues as they may be evolving, The world is seen through rosey colored glasses. It’s a very exciting time. Then after a period a weeks or maybe months, partners generally resume their regular lives with a little more independence and they slip into a routine of spending time together that is mutually agreeable. All goes well until they realize that something is “wrong” with the other person, and each begins to wonder why he or she is not more like them!
In couple theory, as well as general knowledge, it is said that opposites attract. People seek characteristics in others that they do not have in themselves. For example, a shy and quiet person will often choose an outgoing partner and vice versa. For the shy person, it’s often a relief that the other will make plans and connections, For the outgoing person, it can be beneficial to have someone help to slow him or her down and enjoy quiet time. This completes the circle and makes life more interesting as the couple can share and have a give and take. But the very things that are “interesting” in the beginning can later become very annoying.
An example: (the names and situation have been disguised to protect the privacy of the couple)
David was thrilled that Zoe had such a neat and organized apartment when they began dating. He loved spending time there and appreciated the order and organization. Zoe felt pride in her apartment as she put considerable effort into maintaining it and loved that David appreciated this. But ten months later when David moved into Zoe’s apartment, this became a major issue. Zoe was appalled that David was such a slob and never put anything away. When she visited him at his apartment, which wasn’t often as it was small and very messy, David always cleaned up before she arrived. But living with Zoe, David resorted to his normal habits, which were very different than Zoe’s He was messy, didn’t put things away and felt fine about that. Zoe became furious. They began arguing a lot and David was feeling angry and controlled as Zoe was frequently yelling at him and telling him what to do. Zoe felt angry and disappointed, as this was not what she had imagined living together would be like. This began a negative dynamic between the couple which got worse and worse. Because they were frequently so mad at one another, they had less fun together and didn’t feel as close and connected. Other issues began to arise which made them wonder why they ever decided to live together in the first place.
David and Zoe entered couple therapy and they began to develop an understanding of their dynamic and the roles they each played. They learned to identify the issues that they brought from their families of origin and the connection to how those Issues got played out in their current relationships. They began to explore the messages that each of them got as they were raised as children. Both of them came from homes where neatness was important, but they took in these messages in very different ways. They shared memories of how their parents dealt with neatness and described their childhood rooms, they talked about their pasts and this raised many feelings, which brought them closer to one another. As they talked and shared, the potential for resolving their issues and restoring the balance in their relationship was becoming more of a reality.
This all sounds very simple. It is not. It is an example explaining the process, which is not easy, and takes time to unfold. But It can be very satisfying as both partners begin to develop a new level of growth and understanding with one another. The process continues……