You won't believe what really wakes up as a romance begins.
As an Imago therapist, this is one of my favorite subjects. What is the powerful initial attraction all about? Why can 50 potential partners cross your radar at gatherings, parties, or just going through daily life, and then that one special person shows up and you feel like you just took a strong drug? Why do you feel more alive perhaps than at any point in your life?
Well, on line matching sites will tell you that romantic attraction is made up of many things--physical appeal, proximity, danger, earning power, comparable intelligence, personality, common interests. The list goes on and on. And they are partially right. But I think the thing that really releases romantic love is the hope and adventure of healing all prior wounds. Let me explain. Take a piece of paper and draw a big circle with an equator going through it on the top part of the paper. Draw the same thing on the bottom part of the paper. Over the top circle write Mom or the name of the woman who raised you. Over the bottom diagram write Dad or the name of the man who raised you. Now in the top half of each circle list the positive traits of each. In the bottom half of each circle list the negative traits of each. Be brutally honest. Circle the most powerful endearing (good influence) and disturbing (negative influence) traits of each. These circled terms are your Imago match. Imago is Latin for image. There is a deep image of the perfect counterpart within all of us. Imago therapists have clients do this exercise to figure out what unique features of caregivers were the most nurturing and therefore sought in a partner, and which traits created the deepest wounds AND ARE THEREFORE SOUGHT IN A PARTNER. The psyche, you see, wants a re-do. We want desperately (at an unconscious level) to get all the circled items on both lists and to get a relationship right with a person who could potentially hurt us in just the ways we were hurt before.
Sounds incredible, and you may be saying, "No way!" But that's the way it works. We fall deeply in love with a person who is uniquely positioned to offer us all the rewards that matter most, but because of their own wounding had to develop a certain armor and is therefore the one who is most fundamentally inept or shut down in those areas to deliver the goods. And in fact may hurt us all over again. The intoxication of romance actually blocks this from awareness, but now that I'm saying it, you may be feeling a little ill or at least uncomfortably sober with perhaps a faint dash of recognition about the person you've fallen for. But don't start looking for the nearest monastery or convent to enter. With a little help from a good therapist, partners can start to understand their deeper needs, and start to stretch into activating the stunted or under-developed parts of personality as they work with each other. It may take some guidance from a pro and intentional effort, and please keep in mind you similarly wake up the angels and demons in your partner because of your own armor.
By the way, the initial feeling of being drugged by romance is real. A drug called oxytocin releases that causes bonding at birth, follows the height of sexual climax, and is now bathing your cerebral cortex, accounting for that feeling like you are walking around on clouds, enjoying everything more, and that your heart is bursting with love. But it's not just a drug, or a transient feeling-- it's the hope of head to toe healing and fulfillment the way nature rigged it to be. We can get there, but like a hero on a mythic journey, to get there we have to go through the valley of embracing and understanding our own wounds and those of our partner. And stretching into new behaviors and attitudes. And with a little help you discover you can stretch into those new behaviors and attitudes. And it's worth the effort. It's not a cruel joke, a Kraken, or anything scary, for that matter. But it is a power to be reckoned with, one of the most important tipping-open points in a human life. Manage it well.