Relationships of attraction, long term and breakup

Abraham McLaughlin
Relationships of attraction, long term and breakup

Interpersonal attraction or falling in love is known in psychology as an "emotional alteration" caused by an intense and almost uncontrollable emotion, a sensation of pleasure, well-being, palpitations and sometimes a lot of nervousness, even with the sensation of having a "knot in the stomach" when we are in the presence of another person, the person who attracts us.


  • Social and cultural bases of falling in love
  • Factors that influence interpersonal attraction
    • Proximity
    • Physical appearance
    • Similarity
    • Complementarity
  • Long-term relationships
    • Communication
    • Equity
    • Feeling of unity
    • Standards negotiation
  • The breakdown of relationships

Social and cultural bases of falling in love

Both attraction and falling in love contain a very strong cultural component. To feel love and attraction, you must have been born and raised in the culture of love and attraction, all of them are very western concepts.

There are women from different cultures to ours who do not understand the concept of "falling in love" or "romantic love", it is not part of their way of thinking; If this woman is asked if she is in love with her husband, she can answer "have I not married him?"

Even in our culture it is not so long ago that this clearly defined concept existed, it was almost a century since love was united to the family institution, that is, to marriage. Previously almost all marriages were arranged. The family setting had nothing to do with love. They married for convenience hoping that in time affection would emerge.

Currently, social and cultural evolution, equality between the sexes, led to the freedom to choose a partner. Paradoxically, divorces and separations have also increased considerably.

There are many external factors or variables that mediate and influence the result of an interpersonal attraction, and these are among others: family, friends, previous relationships that we have had, fashions, etc..

But on the other hand, in all attraction there is a close relationship between the social component and the physiological response.

Factors that influence interpersonal attraction

To begin with, in every relationship there must be reciprocity; In other words, for there to be attraction, the other must know that one exists, that one feels attracted and that it is reciprocated. For this to happen, four conditions must be met:


In the sense of closeness. The greater the chances of interaction, the more likely it is to attract. With proximity there is also familiarity, and therefore a greater frequency and possibility of relationship.

Physical appearance

This is an important factor because it is related to first impressions and cultural canons of beauty. Although we must know that the effect of beauty is short term, in the medium and long term it does not have as much impact. A positive first impression is usually negative in the long run.

The negative first impression is also emotionally upsetting. Faced with a physical aspect that we do not like, with time and proximity it becomes positive, since other factors related to character appear that make us see that person in a different way, without paying much attention to their physical appearance.


It's the most important factor. It is not only first impressions that attract us, but when interacting with the other person, a perception must be produced that the two are similar in terms of tastes, ideologies, ...

Why? Because of the need for affiliation, that is, to share with others. It is not entirely true that "opposites attract." In addition, similarity enhances personal self-esteem..


Everything and with what we have said so far, we must point out that it cannot be "like two drops of water" either, because there must be a certain satisfaction of needs.

In other words, neither “opposite poles” nor “drops of water”, because two desires are established in every relationship that are opposite:

  • Desire for autonomy, independence: desire for change
  • Desire for union with the other: desire for stability

Each relationship finds its own balance between the poles.

Long-term relationships

How do you keep the balance for a long-term relationship? In principle it is necessary to establish certain rules in the couple, and for this there must be:


It is an essential criterion: speak and be able to do it, feel that the other will listen to you and react; does not refer to quantity, but to quality.


Equity is not synonymous with equality, but with an internal perception that benefits similar to the costs we invest are obtained. In relationships you always invest (costs) and get (benefits). For example, we offer our partner a relationship of trust and fidelity (costs) and we wish to receive the same (benefits).

In a long-term relationship, there must be a perception of equity: what is invested in the relationship and what is obtained is equal to what the other is investing and obtaining, although sometimes a third person may disagree seeing the relationship from outside . The important thing is that the two involved perceive or feel that equity, whether it exists objectively or not..

This equality is a perception of the person, it can never be valued from the outside.

Feeling of unity

It does not mean always doing the same thing, but it does mean going along joint paths. When one always speaks as I can indicate that there is a disruptive element, that is, that there may be a conflict.

Standards negotiation

The norms established in a relationship are almost always marked according to the social and cultural component, for example, in Western culture marital fidelity is implicit, without having to speak explicitly about the subject. Sometimes there are couples that re-negotiate this or other rules, which if an agreement is reached that satisfies both components, there is no problem in changing it. In any case, the rules must be marked so that the relationship flows without misunderstandings, and these must be revised when necessary..

The breakdown of relationships

Relationships go through the phases described above, but not in a closed way, rather it is a “coming and going”. Relationships can be stable at one stage for a time and suddenly undergo radical change.

An intimate relationship begins to deteriorate when:

  1. expectations are not met globally
  2. there is a perception of lack of equity

If you feel that you are investing more than the benefits you get, a cognitive dissonance occurs: what we think it should be does not match the true reality. Fairness is a perception, and that's why we tend to instinctively search for lost consonance in two ways:

  • Changing perception (suggesting that the other contributes more than we initially perceived).
  • Trying to change the other.

If all and with this the consonance is not obtained, the deterioration is maintained and a tense and unpleasant state is produced. The perception can be of one or both, not necessarily of both components.

When fairness does not occur, discussions, conflicts, silences and an exaggerated territoriality appear, with a feeling of SELF much more intense than that of US or a couple (this territoriality may not be seen but it is very important). Territoriality can be physical (my things, my space, my time ...) or related (in decision-making). Conflict situations appear continuously for any reason, although it is not always verbally expressed.

When does a relationship break up? When a better alternative is perceived. The best alternative involves assessing the costs, on many occasions if these costs (personal, material, social) seem too high, they may prevent us from seeing better alternatives.

Thus, faced with a better alternative is when the person considers the break.

In short, attraction is the sum of an emotional alteration + the social construction. Likewise, both factors intervene in both the attraction and the break.

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