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The psychology behind attraction- Why we fall for certain types of people.

Have you ever wondered what attracts you to another person? Maybe you keep falling for the same type of person and don't understand why. Meaningful Minds Clinical Psychologist, Ethelwyn Rebelo, looks at why we form emotional connections.


When a person is asked about what drew him or her to his or her partner, the sorts of replies tend to be of the following sort: they thought the other person was kind or attractive, perhaps they had the same interests, or they had the same sense of humor and so on.

However, people are often attracted to each other for emotional reasons that may be beyond there awareness. Couples who are attracted to each other often come from family dynamics that may have certain similarities. These similarities are important in that they lead them to be comfortable with expressing certain similar surface emotions. This comfort with expressing familiar emotions may also ensure that two people feel comfortable with each other.

Whatever the case, each individual of a future couple holds out an emotional promise to the other, some sense that the other understands them and will make them happy - will fill an emotional gap.

These gaps may come from childhood, or even from previous significant, but failed relationships. So, for example, a woman who, as a little girl felt disengaged from her father may choose a man whom she views as being willing to get close to her. A man who experienced his mother as immensely controlling may be attracted to a woman who seems to be very easy-going.

At times people are attracted to others who represent repressed or denied aspects of themselves, hence for example, a man who enjoys other people, but who is quiet shy may enjoy being with a vivacious woman who connects easily. In such an instance, she may help him to link with others and if she is perhaps a very emotional sort of person, his quietness may bring her calmness. This is known as opposite containment.

In another instance, two people who are not comfortable with or eager to have sex may be happy with each other as the deficit in sexual activity will not become an issue. This is known as defensive containment.

Matters may not always end up very happily. For example a woman who was physically abused by her father may be attracted to a tough, aggressive sort of man who professes undying love and care for her and whom she believes will always protect her and prevent her from being abused again. If this man was himself abused as a child or if his toughness is related to physical violence from some other source or other, there may be problems – despite his best intentions. All sorts of problems may emerge. For example, she may initially feel relaxed in his company and feel able to enjoy a sense of independence for the first time. However he may read her need for independence as evidence of disengagement or conflict and he may respond abusively to curtail her freedom in order to believe him self to be secure in the relationship - and so a cycle of abuse may be repeated.

Jung has described the animus as the masculine part of the woman and the anima as the feminine part of the man. From this perspective, the woman seeks the masculine part of herself in the man and the man seeks the feminine side of himself in the woman. Hence the frequent sense that people have that the loved other completes them.

These projections of hidden parts of our selves are doomed to failure. Everything may seem wonderful when two people first fall in love and each might enjoy the energy and passion associated with being regarded as the unit. However, no one can live up to idealizing expectations and eventually we pick up that our partner’s personality and behavior doesn’t completely match up to our image of them. The other person too will become uncomfortable as he or she realizes that their lover is in love with a fantasy rather than a real person.

This is why it is always important to really get to know the person you are in love with before you commit to each other and to strive to be as conscious as possible of your emotional motives and fantasies and their relationship with reality.

If you would like to know more about this topic or would like help with your relationship, please contact us at or 081 759 4849.

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