Why are we attracted to each other?

iceberg.jpg (5742 bytes)Have you ever wondered how come people are attracted to others? Do opposites attract or repel? You may be surprised to find that both seem accurate.

Imagine the tip of an iceberg floating on top of the water. You may believe you can see the entire piece but actually most of it is underwater. Any disturbance to the tip of the iceberg usually does not change the balance floating above the water, but a change under the surface may even cause the iceberg to sink. Relationships may be compared to the iceberg. In the beginning of the relationship one usually only sees the tip of the relationship.

The obvious limiting factors are : Proximity…how close the people are to you physically, Racial and ethnic differences, Religious differences, and Physical attractiveness.

As with the iceberg, these are factors which we first perceive and initially relate to. The forces that motivate people to be attracted to one another are called "psychodynamic" and are largely unconscious. Our projections, largely our unconscious interpretations of what we perceive in another, are major opposites which attract us paradoxically to each other. {[1]            

These factors can be classified into six basic complementary personality traits as follows:

restraint                                                                                        impulsiveness






Just as the bottom of the iceberg is the balancing volume so are the complementary traits which bind and hold the relationship together. As with the iceberg, if the bottom has a crack and breaks off, the iceberg sinks or readjusts, so if there is a change in the complementary forces the relationship must change or terminate. We can hypothesize that every relationship is perfect as is the iceberg perfect in its ability to float and survive.

Take a look at your 16PF results. Notice the personality descriptors that you have indicated that describe you. Now take a look at your acquaintances family, friends, mates, or fantasized future relationships. Now look at complementary personality characteristics presented above. List the personality traits and then list your partner with each personality characteristic listed above.

 For example:

  Me                                                My partner or friend

 internalized                                      externalized

What opposite personality characteristics do you see that you have been attracted to, or might you be attracted to? What similarities have attracted you to each other? Which seem to you to be most influential? Now go back and look at the opposite personality characteristics presented in the lesson and list which ones you have and which ones your friends have.

What have you learned that has been most helpful? If you were a researcher, or are, what questions would you most like to investigate?

1. David  Klimek, Beneath Mate Selection and Marriage, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1979, p.3

E-mail: rbrehm@msn.com 
Copyright © 1998  [Robert Brehm]. All rights reserved.