According to The Good Marriage, there are 4 ways people typically fall in love:
1) there are those with a savior complex, who want to rescue the one in need;
2) there are friends, who are equals and eventually develop a romantic spark;
3) there are those who just fall in love at first sight; and
4) there are those who believe in the traditional marriage roles, and appreciate the other for his/her ability to dutifully complete the tasks associated with those roles.
Research shows that the fourth model is dying out, and meanwhile there has been a dramatic increase in friends meeting in school or at work and then developing a romantic relationship, especially as women have consistently been gaining ground over the last 40 years in graduate school and the work force. Both of these models seem primarily driven by learned social behavior- but what about the other two? For those that seek the thrill of playing a savior role or love at first sight, contrary to every cautionary tale out there, could it be that there is a genetic component to what makes us fall in love?
Some of us are simply wired to want to fix things, help others and make the world as perfect as possible. The “savior complex” my brother sees in me serves me well at work, but I have learned that it is a disaster to try to play this role with your partner. You wind up taking on the role of a parent/care-taker,and they start to see you as a nag. Eventually, you both become exhausted and frustrated with the vicious cycle and the romance completely fizzles.
Love at first sight– it may surprise many of you to hear that I have definitely been a victim of this, more than just once. I remember when I first met my high school sweetheart and had this “wow” moment, which is very difficult to explain, but it feels like you have butterflies in your stomach, and you get all tongue tied. Same thing when I first met my ex-husband back in 1993. Post-divorce, I am happy to say that even after suffering some broken heart moments, the fireworks are still possible in your 30’s and 40’s (and from what I’ve heard even in your 50’s and 60’s).
Having never witnessed a couple’s intimate interactions growing up, and not ever being privy to how my parents felt about love, partnerships, and what defines “a good marriage” I guess I started my search for a life partner with a clean slate– I use that term quite liberally, as I am sure NIH would have a field day testing me to see how I survived all these years. Anyway, my point is that I am keenly aware of certain genetic pre-dispositions that I have had to learn to control or rein in when it comes to falling in love. For those that want to maximize their chances of finding a love that lasts, I encourage them to dig deep and figure out what traits they tend to gravitate towards and ask relatives to share their love stories. Find what moves you, and look for patterns to determine your areas of weakness. This way, you may be able to better guard against certain relationship pitfalls– it is like using your DNA to innoculate yourself from repeated heartache.