The Laws Of Attraction: How Do We Choose Partners?

August 9, 2016

We have relationships with many people throughout our lives, but only a few end up being our friends and very few end up being our partner. Many studies have been done about what makes us select one person and not another as a partner, and there are currently a multitude of theories pertaining to this, some complementary and others even contradictory.

What is obvious is that in general, we are concerned with beauty and this is something to which we lend great importance. In fact, the beauty industry, from cosmetics to plastic surgery to fashion, circulates a large amount of money. But beauty is a concern that has always existed; in fact, there are countless cultures in which the body is adorned with make-up, necklaces, tattoos, or piercings.

“What most people call loving consists of picking out a woman and marrying her. They pick her out, I swear, I’ve seen them. As if you could pick in love, as if it were not a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you staked out in the middle of the courtyard.”

-Julio Cortázar-

Charles Darwin, in his book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, dealt with the subject of human beauty from a biological point of view. Drawing on the commentary of various British missionaries, he tried to find beauty patterns common to all humans and ended up arriving at the conclusion that they do not exist.

However, later studies have shown that people from different cultures, social classes, ages, and races share a common aesthetic sense of human beauty. But is beauty the only criterion for choosing a partner?

How we select a partner

There is the belief that women, when it is time to select a partner, value the resources that a man can bring, while men value beauty. According to classical evolutionary biology, this is due to the fact that men seek fertility and the ability to reproduce and women seek to have children and be able to feed their family.

Couple Lying Down Hugging

But that belief has changed. Marcel Zentner of the University of Innsbruck performed a study in very diverse countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Finland, Sweden, and England, and he arrived at the conclusion that in those countries where equality between the sexes is greater, criteria when selecting a partner tend to be the same between men and women. Therefore, the evolution that a society has undergone plays a role.

“Because of that, we will never be the perfect couple, like a post card, if we are not able to accept that only in arithmetic is two the result of one plus one.”

-Julio Cortázar-

On the other hand, there is also a theory that DNA conditions our decisions when it comes to selecting partners. Neil Rish from the University of California studied patterns of Mexican and Puerto Rican individuals when chosing partners. The DNA analyses reveal that the current partners share ancestors and former generations also followed the same genetic impulse.

The laws of attraction

Noam Shpancer, professor at Otterbein University, maintains that there is a series of laws of attraction that are the basis for our selection of a partner, which have not been amply studied and which are accepted by most psychologists. The laws are as follows:

  • Law of familiarity. This law maintains that frequent contact with a person generates affection and makes it more possible for us to fall in love with them. The more time we spend with a person, the greater the possibility that we like them. It is also true that the more time we spend with someone, the greater the chance that we get angry, but Shpancer maintains that this is only the exception the proves the rule.
  • Law of physical attraction. Even if we spend a lot of time with one person, we will not like them if we do not find them attractive. Therefore, physical appearance plays a role, and a determining one at that. In principle, nobody is willing to share his life with another person who does not attract him physically.
Woman Kissing Man

  • Law of personality. Researchers have found two personality traits that make a person particularly attractive: competence and warmth. By competence, we mean the level of intelligence and social skills of a person, and by warmth, the ability to be close and affectionate.
  • Law of proximity. We all know that distance in a relationship is something rather complicated and that in the long-term, if partners do not spend time together, the relationship will fail. For this reason, it is common for us to select a partner with whom we have some closeness, someone we can see frequently and continue forging a relationship.
  • Law of similarity. According to various studies, we are attracted to people who are like us. We tend to seek partners with whom we share hobbies, values, and concerns. If we can choose among several people, we will prefer someone who has things in common with us, as opposed to a person who is very different.

“Because without searching, I keep finding you everywhere, especially when I close my eyes.”

-Julio Cortázar-