Separation Support Blog

How do we choose our partners?

Charlotte Lingard - Monday, January 23, 2017

Evidence demonstrates that we choose our partners for a plethora of are just 3 examples….


Sexual Attraction

Sex can be referred to as the “glue” in a marriage or partnership.   Experts tell us sexual attraction is important in healthy, happy, sexual couples.  Sometimes it is referred to as the chemistry between two people. Without sex in an emotional or sexual affair, it is more akin to a brother/sister relationship.


Opposites Attract

Dr. James Fallon, a world leading neuroscientist from Cambridge University, believes that if a person, either boy or  girl, comes from a very abusive family, the  result of this  up-bringing, can make this family member both vulnerable and very meek.  As a further consequence, this  family member will in all probability choose a partner who is strong, tough and protective, the exact opposite characteristics of themselves.   Just an illustrative example, as clearly opposites do attract for a large amount of different reasons.


Family Background

There is overwhelming evidence that we choose our partners based on similarities in our family backgrounds!  A study in 1973 involved a group of therapists who had never met before.  These complete strangers were put in a room together and asked to pair up with someone to form a  couple.  The first choice criteria were  the person they pair up with must remind them of someone within their own family. The second choice criteria were that they believed this person would fill a void in their own existing family.  They were NOT allowed to speak with each other, but merely choose a person through non-verbal communication.  Once they had chosen a partner  and become a pair, they were then asked to repeat the process and pair up with another couple, hence becoming a foursome. They were then asked as a foursome to discuss their individual family backgrounds.

The outcome of this study showed that people choose a partner based on similarities in their upbringings.  The foursomes in this 1973 study had similarities in their backgrounds such as; -


• Difficulty sharing affection

• Near-incestuous relationships

• Over optimistic parenting

• Absent father in key periods


The argument could be put forward that it may be coincidental and a fluke that these people paired up together.  However, further evidence shows that a proportion of the persons in the group who did not easily pair up, (“remainders”) were all socially reserved.   It further revealed in subsequent conversation that these remainders all had similar backgrounds, such as having been adopted, fostered or brought up in care homes.  In addition, these remainders had similarly felt rejected in early childhood.

To sum up we all fundamentally choose our partners through conscious decisions such as social class, religion, finance, good looks and shared interests.  In combination with the other factors in our choice of partner is our unconscious rationale such as the “chemistry” between two people, similarity in family backgrounds and behavioural characteristics.  Both the conscious and the unconscious decision-making process are inextricably interlinked and not mutually exclusive.


Choose well any future partner with both awareness, understanding and care!

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