Falling in Love

As indicated in the preceding paragraph, different aspects of love develop at different rates. The initial "blindness" of love, which is based on physical attractiveness and other superficial characteristics, gives way to deeper, more enduring feelings of attachment as lovers confide in each other and recognize their similar attitudes, beliefs, and interests (Adams, 1979; Levinger, 1978). For love to develop and last, passion must be complemented by sharing, caring, and loyalty. Each partner comes to value the other and is as much concerned about the other's welfare as about his or her own.

Unless, like Narcissus, we settle for being in love with ourselves, falling in love requires a partner. But how does one find a partner and become attracted to him or her? According to Byrne (1971), there are three determinants of attraction: proximity, physical attractiveness, and similarity. Unlike the way that it was in the days of slow transportation and communication, the supply of potential partners is no longer limited to our neighbors, schoolmates, and coworkers. Nevertheless, it is still true that one is more likely to become familiar with people in the immediate vicinity. We can meet potential lovers through the newspaper, a dating service, or even the Internet, but, like our predecessors in previous times, we are more likely to meet them in places that we frequent or through introductions provided by friends, family, and associates. In addition to proximity, physical attractiveness is an obvious determinant of attraction for both men and women, and particularly the former. Attractiveness is, of course, more than simply a matter of physical characteristics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, to some extent, depends on the seeker's own physical characteristics. Similarities in educational and social background, values, interests, attitudes, and other characteristics are also important determinants of love interest—particularly in long-lasting relationships. In general, research has failed to confirm the complementarity hypothesis that "opposites attract." In most cases, people are attracted to those who are like themselves in physical, cognitive, and personality characteristics.

Both initial and more enduring attraction between individuals is also stimulated by various body signs or nonverbal behaviors. For example, both men and women "flirt," signaling their interest and availability by various gestures (Table 6-2). Lovers pay special attention to their physical appearance (preen, groom), spend a lot of time just looking into each other eyes, stand close, touch, hug, kiss, and in other ways indicate their preoccupation and affection. They spend as much time as possible with each other, often neglecting their friends, families, and other responsibilities (Johnson & Leslie, 1982).

Table 6-2 Fifty-Two Ways That Women Flirt

Monica Moore and teams of graduate students spent hundreds of hours in bars and student centers covertly watching women and men court. The following is a list of 52 gestures they found that women use to signal their interest in men (Moore, M. M., 1995):

Facial/Head Patterns

Coy smiles Laugh

Eyebrow flash Lip lick

Face to face Lipstick application

Fixed gaze Neck presentation

Giggle Pout

Hair flip Room-encompassing glance

Head toss Short, darting glance

Head nod Smile

Kiss Whisper

Posture Patterns

Aid solicitation Approach Breast touch Brush

Dance (acceptance)

Foot to foot

Frontal body contact


Knee touch

Lateral body contact






Request dance Shoulder hug Solitary dance Thigh touch


Arm flexion Buttock pat Caress (arm) Caress (back) Caress (face/hair) Caress (leg) Caress (object)

Caress (torso)


Hand hold

Hike skirt



Traditionally, love and hate have been viewed as opposites, but they also possess similarities, and one can easily turn into the other. Both love and hate involve high levels of arousal—one component of emotion. Once aroused, and depending on the particular stimulus situation, the person may become passionately loving or passionately angry and hateful. Depending on who is present and what he or she says or does to the highly aroused person, either love or hate may be the expressed outcome (see Dutton & Aron, 1974).

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