Why do you fall in love with particular people? According to Imago theory, you seek to recreate the conditions of your childhood so that you can use your adult competance to complete your developmental tasks and grow up — in other words, to finish your childhood. As Ben Hecht said, “Love is the magician that pulls a man out of his own hat.”
Three things make you fall in love:
- You are driven to recreate the relational conditions of your childhood by bonding with someone who is sufficiently similar to your childhood carers — an “Imago match”. You will tend to fall in love with someone who matches an unconscious profile made up of positive and negative characteristics of your childhood carers. This profile is the “imago” (Latin for image, in the sense of likeness or resemblance).
- You tend to fall in love with someone who has the same wound but a different defence — the fundamental need is the same, but one will openly acknowledge it while the other will deny it. Imago therapists often find couples who are in some significant way complementary — introversion and extroversion, blame and guilt, anger and sadness, control and submission, anxiety and stoicism, or logic and intuition.
- You tend to be attracted to partners who exhibit aspects of your lost selves, the innate aspects of your personality of which you are not conscious. If you have a partner who carries the lost parts of your self, you are effectively reclaiming your lost parts by proxy.
Generally, one partner will be a “minimizer”, holding their energy in to deal with anxiety by themselves (predominantly using the avoider, isolator, compulsive controller, or competitor adaptations), and the other will be a “maximizer”, directing their energy outwards to deal with anxiety through contact with others (predominantly using the clinger, pursuer, diffuser, or compromiser adaptations). With adaptations from the latter stages of development (concern and intimacy), things are more fluid. For instance, it is not uncommon to find a couple in which the rebel is the maximiser and the conformist is the minimiser. Within such a relationship, the partners may frequently swap those roles between them — if the rebel conforms the conformist may rebel.
If you are a maximizer, you need to learn to be able to do something that minimizers can do (turn your energy inward to deal with anxiety by yourself), and vice versa.
For instance, a girl reacted to her parents’ arbitrary and unjust authority by protesting and rebelling (maximizer), and a boy reacted to his parents’ similar authority by withdrawing into himself and containing his resentment (minimizer). When they fell in love with each other as adults, they each offered the other an example of a different adaptation, which if integrated, could offer them both choice in how to deal with anxiety and disappointment, and therefore may bring liberation from rigid adaptations. If you and your partner can do this, you can each complete a developmental stage.
Typically, you and your partner will be seeking to complete the same stage (or adjacent stages), so you may be an avoider holding off a clinger, a distancer running from a pursuer, a controller dominating a diffuser, or a competitor trying to outdo a compromiser.
If you and your partner drive each other nuts, you are probably made for each other! (Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?)