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#60 Relationships: Why do we fall in love?

We all long for that deep joy and sense of connection that floods us when we are newly in love. But why do we choose who we choose? Is it how they look? Their values? Their interests? Something else entirely?

There are two parts to this answer.

The conscious list

The first part is the driving motivation of every Hollywood movie about romantic love; we choose our partner on a conscious level.

Whether you have a painstakingly detailed list in your diary or not, you have a conscious list of attributes that you find attractive such as:

  • what they look like

  • their personality

  • their social status

  • their financial status

  • their hobbies and interests

  • their values and how they overlap with yours.

But you have probably also had the jarring experience of meeting someone who ticks most of your boxes on paper but there was simply no attraction, no spark. You were really just not interested in building a long-term romantic relationship with them. Why is that?

The unconscious agenda

While the conscious list might lead to some fun dates, deep attraction is driven by a much more powerful unconscious agenda that determines who we choose as a partner. We tend to be drawn to somebody who displays the personality traits of our initial caregivers, both the positives and the negatives.

We carry this image of what love looks like, feels like and sounds like — like a little QR code in our subconscious — and we go through this world searching for someone who resembles our initial experience of care and love.

The stronger our unconscious agenda, the harder we will fall in love.

In the words of Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt in their book Getting The Love You Want, unconscious attraction is “the attempt to recreate the early experiences for the sole purpose of healing, to finally get what you needed in childhood.”

Choosing a partner has to do with healing certain wounds and meeting previously unmet needs from our early life. This unconscious agenda is very, very powerful. It senses that the person that we are in love with has the ability to address our needs and help us heal and grow. But here is the weird and wonderful revelation about the unconscious agenda:

We will be attracted to someone who will find it hard to address our needs and who will struggle to help us heal and grow.

Conflict is growth waiting to happen

How will this unmet need for growth and healing surface? Through conflict! Movies often use cheap conflict to keep a story moving (especially contrived third-act shenanigans) but seldom capture how powerful it is at helping us uncover the hidden, unconscious agenda of a relationship.

Conflict is information wanting to surface, and growth waiting to happen.

If we avoid conflict or bulldoze over it — typically by trying to "win" the argument — we lose out on uncovering the hidden, unconscious agenda. And then we also miss out on getting our needs met, on growing and healing.

We will spend the next few weeks better understanding how to treat conflict as information, how to uncover our deepest needs, and how to find healing in the love relationship with our partner.


A powerful attraction more often than not indicates the intensity of relational work that awaits ahead of you. Recurring conflict will be your reminder.

Do you hate conflict, or constantly find yourself in unhelpful conflict cycles? Join the Clarity Quest, my couples program or my next workshop! GETCLARITY.CO.ZA

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