Do we use our heart, our genitals, or our brains in mate selection?
We idolize romantic love.
Clearly we humans have some major problems selecting a mate
(see Dreyfus, 1994). For one thing, in America since about 1800
(before that many marriages were arranged) romantic love has been
idolized more and more. We expect to "fall in love:" our hearts should
instantly throb, our thoughts constantly dwell on the lover, and our
sexual organs continuously moisten. Many of us hunger for this kind of
intense, consuming love, even if it isn't our nature to be wildly
romantic. We believe that some magical day it will happen: we'll "meet
and instantly recognize the right person" and "live happily ever after"
until "death do us part!" How do these notions from movies and novels
fit with reality? Poorly! It takes weeks or months, maybe years, to get
to know another person and to find out how the two of you will get
along. We can hardly do both--be madly in love and objectively assess
our future with the partner--at the same time. So, this is another
paradox. Is there a solution? Maybe not.
Few of us would want a marriage arranged by relatives, a dating
service, or a computer, although these approaches are worth
researching. Perhaps, in some situations, some of us can be cautious,
rational, and able to avoid getting prematurely infatuated. But half of
us or more are "head-over-heals" before we know much about the
person; our heart (and/or genitals) has overwhelmed our brain.
Tragically, this highly romantic person often lacks the will or self-
confidence to withdraw from the relationship if problems appear. In
this case, this wonderful phenomenon called love (maybe mixed with
fear, shame, and dependency) has lead us into serious trouble. This is
the basis for the often repeated advice to lovers: "date for a while,"
"get to know each other," "don't jump into anything," "live together for
a while," etc.
Romantic and companionate love (Exchange Theory)
Another important point: the belief that intense romance is
necessary for a marriage causes many people to overlook or discount
the romantic possibilities with good friends for whom they do not have
a wild sexual craving. With a close friend, you know you have common
interests and similar views, you trust and understand each other, you
care about and like each other. These are good characteristics for a
lover too. The sexual attraction may have been suppressed (or isn't
there), much like with a brother or sister, in order to preserve the
friendship. It is possible that a good friend is an excellent choice for a
lover. In 75-80% of good marriages the spouse is the best friend. But
it is also possible that a friend is a bad choice, primarily because
getting romantic and sexual with a good friend could end a valued
friendship. So, do not try to convert a friend into a lover without
careful consideration: Are both of you interested? Explore why you