Does the subconscious mind keep you from a long lasting relationship?
If you ask me what kind of person I most desire as a mate, I would tell you that I want someone who is loving, nurturing, attractive, kind, intelligent, caring, and self-aware. However, if I look honestly at the women I’ve fallen in love with and the ones I married, I would have to conclude that I often chose women who were fiery, frightened, angry, aggressive, uncompromising, wounded, and worried. Who I fall in love with may be the reason I’ve been married three times. It may also account for the fact, that I almost walked away from my third wife when we first met (we’ve now been happily married for 35 years) because she “didn’t feel like my type.”
Why do we know what we want, but get attracted to what we don’t want?
Why do we walk away from the very person who might actually have what we want and make us happy? Getting the answers to these questions may be the difference between having a joyful, long-lasting relationship, and an endless series of painful disappointments.
I was reading the book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book he reports on the way people who are looking for a mate, or a date, try “speed-dating” and find that we quickly “know” whether this is a person we would want to see again, or if they are someone we can’t wait to get away from. If you asked why we’re drawn to one person and reject another, we would be hard-pressed to give an answer. We fall back on the idea that it’s just “the chemistry” that is either there, or it isn’t.
To get a better idea of how we make these important life choices he cites the work of two professors from Columbia University, Sheena Iyengar and Raymond Fishman. In an interesting study, the professors ran the typical speed-dating experience where people spend a short-period talking to a number of strangers and then decide if they’d like to meet. If both people want to meet each other, they get the contact information.
But Iyengar and Fishman add a variation. They asked the participants to fill out a short questionnaire that asks them to rate what they are looking for in a potential partner, on a scale of 1 to 10. The categories are those many of us might choose when considering a mate or a date:
- Shared interests
- Funny/sense of humor
What Iyengar and Fishman found was that what speed-daters say they want differs from what they actually choose. For instance they found that Mary was attracted to John. At the outset, she said it was very important that the man be “intelligent” and “sincere.” Her “gut feeling” attraction was to John, who it turned out, didn’t have the qualities she initially said were important to here. He was “attractive” and “funny,” but not particularly “smart” or “sincere.”
This helped me understand why I had been subconsciously attracted to certain kinds of women, even though my conscious mind told me I wanted different qualities altogether. I came to think of my search for the right partner as operating on two levels:
The conscious and subconscious levels.
On the conscious level I had a list of qualities that I had reason to believe were those that would bring me lasting joy and happiness including finding someone who was loving, nurturing, attractive, kind, intelligent, caring, and self-aware. I call this: “Finding Our Ideal Partner.”
However on the subconscious level, the “chemistry” felt right with women who were fiery, frightened, angry, aggressive, uncompromising, wounded, and worried. But for most of my life I wasn’t aware of these subconscious attractions. I call this: “Our Attraction to the Dream Lover.” I found that the dream lover was made up of four aspects (I’m sure there are many more):
- Qualities that my mother had.
- Qualities that my father had.
- Qualities that I thought I lacked.
- Qualities of fantasy sex symbol I was drawn to when I was 13 or 14 years old.
Once I got in touch with the “Dream Lover” attraction, I realized that my mother was worried and wounded. My father was angry and aggressive. I felt I was too passive and lacked fire. I was drawn to dangerous beauties (in my case Brigit Bardot, who was the sex goddess in the movie And Got Created Woman. I was 13 when I snuck into see her. Though she got older, in my subconscious mind, she remained forever young, forever sexy, and forever a hook to anyone who looked or acted any way like Bardot.)
Rather than falling in love with another “Dream Lover,” I learned to run like hell whenever I was in the presence of that feeling of “fatal attraction” that, in the past, I thought was true love. I also learned to take more time with real women who I didn’t feel that immediate attraction: Case in point, my present wife, Carlin.
When we first met I wasn’t particularly attracted to her. I didn’t know why, but she just didn’t feel right. As we got to know each other, we both found that we were put off by the stereotypes we grew up with. She was slightly taller than me and also five years older. Like most men, I was drawn to women who were shorter than me and younger. However, when we got to know each other, we found we had all the good qualities we really desired.
If we had been on a speed-date or even a regular date, we would have likely smiled and moved on to someone else. Because we had both been married twice before and knew something about the subconscious attractions and repulsions, we hung in there, fell in love, and are still living happily ever after over these past 35 years.
How many people are subconsciously drawn to partners who are “bad” for them, but seem so good initially? How many people pass up the opportunity to connect with their true love, because he’s a few inches too short or she’s a little too old, or some other subconscious turn off? What’s the difference between healthy love and “love” addiction? I’m convinced that too many of us are “looking for love in all the wrong places,” but would find the right places once we better understand both our conscious and subconscious mind. Let me know what you think.
If you’d like help finding and keeping the real love of your life, drop me a note at [email protected] (Respond to my spam filter if it’s the first time you’re writing).
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