Why We Love Who We Love
I know of one couple: He is a burly ex-athlete who, in addition to being a successful salesman, coaches Little League, is active in his Rotary Club and plays golf every Saturday with friends. Meanwhile, his wife is petite, quiet and a complete homebody. She doesn't even like to go out to dinner.
What mysterious force drives us into the arms of one person, while pushing us away from another who might appear equally desirable to any unbiased observer?
Of the many factors influencing our idea of the perfect mate, one of the most telling, according to John Money, professor emeritus of medical psychology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, is what he calls our "love map" -- a group of messages encoded in our brains that describes our likes and dislikes. It shows our preferences in hair and eye color, in voice, smell, body build. It also records the kind of personality that appeals to us, whether it's the warm and friendly type or the strong, silent type.
In short, we fall for and pursue those people who most clearly fit our love map. And this love map is largely determined in childhood. By age eight, the pattern for our ideal mate has already begun to float around in our brains.
When I lecture, I often ask couples in the audience what drew them to their dates or mates. Answers range from "She's strong and independent" and "I go for redheads" to "I love his sense of humor" and "That crooked smile, that's what did it."
I believe what they say. But I also know that if I were to ask those same men and women to describe their mothers, there would be many similarities between their ideal mates and their moms. Yes, our mothers -- the first real love of our lives -- write a significant portion of our love map.
When we're little, our mother is the center