Why Are We Disappointed in the Person We Love?

By | 09/05/2016

Why do we fall in love with a specific person? We still can’t give a complete answer to this essential question; we haven’t yet advanced much in this field in the past years. However, a few observations might help us make fewer mistakes.

We get involved with someone else because we feel incomplete. If we felt like whole beings, not “halves,” we certainly would not love. Indeed, because love is a feeling we develop toward the person who gives us comfort and completes us in a way we just can’t manage on our own.

The process of picking a partner who will make us feel less vulnerable to the world is rife with intriguing factors, that range from a desire to feel protected, to a need to feel useful or, even, to be exploited.

Mainly, I want to talk about the process of falling in love, that initial spark that makes a “neutral” person become essential, the one without whom we can’t imagine go on living. This process, which often happens in seconds, is based on factors that are not always noticeable.

Of course, personal appearance is one of these factors, and is hugely influential, but this initial aspect of falling in love cannot be confused with the feeling love itself.

Love is the peace and comfort we feel next to a person, and falling in love is the process through which this person is chosen—which, as a rule, is quite a frantic time. People long for love, but when it finally arrives, they fear it.

Of course the sexual aspect is relevant, so looks do matter at this first moment of falling love, especially for men, who have a very strong visual desire. Through different memory paths, many keep in their minds specific people who impressed them, and became a model with whom every new person is compared. Sometimes it’s a general resemblance, like the shape of the body; other times, it’s the color of their eyes, hair, the kind of breasts or hips. It might be a trait that reminds them of their mother, or of a favorite movie star. In their own way, young women also have standards for what they believe is the ideal man, whether he is slim or well built, an intellectual or a businessman, artsy or powerful.

All these elements are connected to sexual attraction, but they all become, in our imagination, symbols of an ideal partner. Whenever we believe we found a significant number of those traits in a person, we fall in love. So, yes, the other person’s appearance does matter to the process of falling in love. It’s obviously also related to who the person is inside, as well, but it’s not an absolute or complete correlation.

When we talk to the person to whom we’re attracted, because of this initial appeal and of our huge desire to love, there is a bias that makes us see in them compatibilities and characteristics we’d always wanted in the person who would have our heart. So, say, a lanky, dorky, artsy boy can be read, at a first glance, as emotional, romantic, gentle, respectful, not sexist and not overly jealous; a girl might fall for this ideal and expect him to be just like this.

This early assumption becomes, somewhat quickly, a certainty.

This girl is projecting her dreams of perfection on the boy who charmed her and is sure the qualities she wants are there. It’s idealization.

We all dream about our princess or prince charming, and when we fall in love, we project all our expectations on that person. Then, the relationship begins, and we start expecting them to behave as the person we idealized. What happens then? The truth is that we fell in love with a real person, who will act, react and behave accordingly. It’s impossible to avoid disappointment, not because of that person’s real characteristics, but because we projected on them all our dreams and demands of perfections.

The flaw isn’t always in the other person, but on the fact that we were fantasizing and not always paying attention on who our loved one actually is. This is just one of the dangers of the complexity of the human brain: our imagination, that takes such licenses and sees with such grandeur what reality can never achieve.

Tradução: Amanda Morris