how we choose partnersWhat is the psychology of why we choose our partners?

 As a psychologist and couples therapist, I’m often asked what my view is on what brings couples together, on what that attraction is, and the psychology of why we choose our partners.  My answer revolves around the concept of the Imago which I’ll explain below.  Warning: if you’re looking for an answer that is about soulmates or karma or fate or beshert, you’ll be disappointed.  My answer is based upon psychological principles.

You know that old cliché that we marry our mother or we marry our father? Well, from a psychological perspective, there is certainly a great deal of  truth to that.  I’m trained and certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, which is a really powerful and successful form of couples therapy (for more on Imago, click here).

In this theory, we speak about the Imago which is Latin for image.  Deep inside our unconscious, we hold this image of our “perfect” partner.  This image, the Imago has all of the sights and sounds and smells and feelings we gathered while we were growing up.  And guess what, our model for that is very strongly based upon our primary caregivers, usually our parents and sometimes also our extended family.  The Imago is also based upon our neighbors and the books and newspapers and magazines we read and the television and movies we watched.  And these days, of course, it’s also based upon the ubiquitous Internet.

And we take all of those images record and store them with our own unique logic, which is based upon some combination of our genetics and our upbringing and our developing personality.  The kicker here though, is that the unconscious image we have created as the Imago not only includes the good qualities we witnessed, but also the negative traits of our caregivers.  As children, we’re like sponges and we absorb it all.  And so, when we meet someone that is close enough to this Imago, this internalized blueprint, our radar goes up.  And if they have enough of those qualities or we believe that they have enough of those qualities, we fall “in love” and enter that first stage of relationship, the romantic stage, the honeymoon stage.

The honeymoon stage is easy though, as we focus upon the positive qualities of the Imago.  The challenge in most relationships though, is when the honeymoon stage “wears off” and we’re left with this person who has many of the negative traits of our primary caregivers!  That’s where an experienced couples counselor or relationship coach can be of support.  In a followup article called  What Are The Three Stages of Relationship I write more about the second stage, the “power struggle” and how to successfully navigate it.  For now, just mull over the concept of the Imago and see how it applies to your current relationship or past ones if you’re single right now.

Thank you so much,

Dr. Adam Sheck

If you’re interested in more of my thoughts about relationships and creating passion and purpose, please download my Free Special Reports, “20 Rituals For Romance!” and “The Secret To Owning Your Mission!” by subscribing to the Passion Doctor Newsletter at the top of this page.