How To Fall in Love

By Fonya Lord Helm, Ph.D., ABPP


The Kiss by Gustave Klimt

The Kiss by Gustave Klimt

The Ideal Image

Falling in love is much more likely to happen when people have a good match of the unconscious images of their ideal lover. They recognize each other, sometimes immediately. I think of a couple who met and married in six weeks and stayed married for more than fifty years until one of them died.

Other people often can’t tell or predict who will be the right match.  That’s why blind dates usually don’t work out.  The image is unconscious, so people can’t tell you much about why they love a particular person.   Two people make up reasons why they love each other, but the listener notices the difference between how they experience each other and how the listener experiences them.

In most people, the unconscious image starts to get set in adolescence, although large pieces of it are in place before, having developed in early childhood out of the relationships with parents and caretakers. The image also is influenced by TV and movies, and the new image is noticeably different from any image from the parents’ generation.  It’s as if they need a disguise.  Parents are often puzzled by their children’s strange hair styles and clothes, and wonder how anyone could possibly find such styles attractive.

The physical part of the image of the ideal lover is the easiest to know about. Most people are somewhat conscious about what constitutes their physical type, and a very good fit with the physical image guarantees a strong initial response.  Other attributes of the image are completely unconscious.  Many of them are styles of communication that need to fit well with the other person’s style of communication. If they don’t, people notice that the relationship feels uncomfortable, and they make up reasons about what’s wrong.