The Science of Romance
Romance is based on the same universal law that creates magnetism and electricity.
o you have a lover? What is it about them that you love so much? Do you even know? Most people who are in love cannot tell why they fell for the person they are in love with in the first place (for better or worse). Most of the other people who are not in love, desperately want to find love, but keep running into dead end personalities. However, did you know that there is a very scientific principle that governs (quite succinctly) every single human attraction? If more people understood the science of attraction, then women would date fewer jerks and men would have better luck finding those women who could really appreciate them. This particular post seeks to explore how romantic attraction works at the scientific level using a popular new discovery in human psychology which is based on the ubiquitous principle that opposites attract. Once you understand that love is inextricably selfish, it becomes exponentially easier to understand how attraction actually works. If you’ve already found love, this entry will better enable you to appreciate the flaws in your chosen lover. If you’re still in search of love, this one is going to be a real mind opener and will help you to make very informed decisions about your next mate.
The Basic Law of Attraction
Before we can get into the science of how human attraction works, we must first understand one of the most basic and ubiquitous laws of the universe based inextricably on ostensible phenomena: opposites attract. This is a law we find in everything in nature as seen in physics, chemistry and even biology. In Physics, there is an unseen force between opposite magnetically charged poles that draws them together. There is a similar unseen force between anodes and cathodes that create an electrical spark, which promotes the flow of electrical current. In Chemistry, we observe that Bases and Acids combine to promote an explosive reaction. We also note that the positive and negatively charged sub-atomic particles play a vital role in keeping covalent bonds in some substances relatively stable. We don’t need to mention that in Biology, opposite sexes are drawn to each other.
You may be wondering at this point how does this translate to humans and romantic attraction. Well once you understand the basic underlying principle above, then the rest of this won’t seem complicated at all. Romantic attraction works best where there are complementing personalities. “Complementing” here is critical because this is what keeps the attraction alive – well into the senior years. Where people’s personlities don’t complement each other, they often turn to sexual gratification to give the relationship traction. When sexual desire withers away (particularly with age), those relationships tend to end prematurely. The ones that persist in marriage for well over 25 years are the ones where the personalities complement each other perfectly. However, to understand how personalities complement each other, we must first understand what the different types of personalities are.
The Four Types of Human Personalities
Observe the diagram above. This is a circular personality chart. It is divided into quadrants. This chart describes how psychologists (particuarly, some relationship psychologists) view human personality temperaments. If you do a search on the web, you will find similar concepts like the one here. The chart really shows two intersecting halves describing four unique qualities of human personalities. When the halves intersect at right angles, they create the quadrants which effectively describes specific types of personalities. The top half describes people who are more introverted, less social but more nurturing. The bottom half describes personalities which are more extroverted, more social but less nurturing. The left half describes personalities which are more intellectual, educated, organised and logically driven. The right half describes people who are more artistic, less educated, messy and emotionally driven. From these four intersecting halves, we get four distinct personality types. I’ve chosen to label them are as follows:
The Introverted Intellectual (Savant)
These are people who are usually very bright, often times possessing a degree of obsession about their chosen subject matter of interest that it summons a certain degree of social self destruction. They’re typically very well educated, well rounded and highly knowledgable on a wide variety of subject matters. They tend to be very academic, taking a great deal of joy in sharing their knowledge with others, often exhibiting a great deal of patience and long suffering with those who are slow to learn. They are also obsessive about being neat and organised, oftentimes bordering on being obsessive compulsive. These qualities are what engender them with the capacity to be great teachers and also when the situation arises, to be great leaders.
Do you know any geeks? There’s a very good chance that they fall into this category. They’re the guys you often ask for help with studying for your calculus test, to build you a web page, or to fix your virus ridden pc. They’re the dudes that camped out hours in advance of a Star Wars or Comic Book movie, have their thousand strong comic book collection organised according to genre, publisher and alphanumeric order or who can actually explain how the worp engine in the Starship Enterprise actually works. They’re the ones that see symmetrical patterns in music, learned Japanese just to watch animé and have more friends living half way across the world than ones they can see in person. They’re the social outcasts who grow up to be internet billionaires, brilliant engineers, famous mathematicians, pioneers of new technology, automotive designers and the geniuses that influence pop culture with the invention of everything from integrated circuits to iPods. They’re the senior managers in many organisations, lots of them being entrepreneurally motivated.
The Emotional Artist (Virtuoso)
These people are truly in touch with their right brain. They’re not very outgoing or sociable, but their level of appreciation or talent for artistic expression often borders on genius. They are usually very messy people, rarely if ever having a tidy room at home or desk at work. But in the wake of their chaos, in the midst of the piles of paper, paint, dust, pet parakeet droppings, piles of books, old magazines, newspaper clippings, dirty clothes, a half had breakfast and three days old coffee, stands a single piece of work that is wild with imagination and creativity. Whether it sits on a canvas, on a computer screen, on a CD or on a manuscript is probably irrelevant. The point is that in their reclusive meditative chaos, they have evoked something that is impossibly brilliant, just waiting to be discovered by the world.
Their possible brilliance aside, these people tend to be very easily offended, often being thin skinned and even a little passive agressive. They tend to love without cause. They’re the tree-hugging, environmental, animal rights, anti-abortionist, pseudo hippies you hear about in the news. When they love, they love with their entire being, pouring their entire soul into relationships – often to their own detriment. When they get hurt however, they put up walls that make Fort Knox look like a flea market, almost never giving way to forgiveness. This personality type is the most likely to commit suicide. They love and hate with the same degree of passion. Growing up, they were the lonely goth chic or that girl in high school who’d rather curl up with a sad romance novel and cry herself to sleep than go to the mall with the plastics. They were the lenky kid who plays guitar in the school band who sheds tears when moved by music or poetry. They’re the lonely teens who love to wallow in self-pity who often grow up to be brilliant script writers, song writers, novelists, composers, playwrights, movie directors, painters, sculptors and fashion designers. They like to turn the passion they feel in their soul into external expressions of grandeur.
The Social Butterfly (Thespian)
These are people who are remarkably easy to spot. They are very extroverted, sometimes bordering on reckless exhuberance. They are flamboyant, colourful, naturally comedic, dramatic, loud, exciting, boorish, sometimes obnoxious but always downright entertaining. Growing up, they ranged from that class clown who always had a smart quip for every situation to that über popular kid in school who had more friends than he/she knew what to do with. These kids made friends easily because of their naturally unassuming, carefree personalities. They almost never hold a grudge and have naive, almost child like view of the world – even into adulthood. They love being the center of attention and the party doesn’t usually get started until they walk into the room. They carry a natural presence about them, usually with a smile that made them friends they didn’t even know they had.
Fun and games aside, these people only thrive in the limelight. On their worst days, they’re the ones that often find themselves in trouble with the law, on drugs or some other narcotic, pregnant as teens, being overly and unnecessarily dramatic, getting married and divorced several times before hitting 30, getting into trouble because of something they said, or having a sex tape of them float out onto the internet somehow. Their wild side is both their blessing and their curse. However, when these people do well, they tend to do exceptionally, remarkably well. These people are the movie stars, the broadway actors, the stand up comedians, the popular singers, talk show hosts, radio personalities, television anchormen and women, party organisers, media relations & marketing executives, preachers & televangelists, dancers and everyone else in between. You will know them when you meet them.
The Strategist (Conqueror)
This is the personality that results when you cross an outgoing person with smarts. Their intelligence is often used as a tool to get what they want, even if it means walking over a few other people to do so. These people thrive on being right, no matter at what cost. They are the driven, agressive, argumentative, legalistic, relentless, sometimes vicious, insatiable, no holds barred, take no prisoners, shoot first and maybe think about the possibility of asking questions later kind of people. They’ll disagree just for the sake of holding a debate. They love playing devil’s advocate for no particular reason. They get a thrill out of the pursuit of a goal, and would rather relinquish the possibility of victory if the pursuit wasn’t perceived as a worthy challenge. They like being told that they’re wrong or that they “can’t” because to them, it’s an opportunity to prove themselves and reap the glory of victory. They are not happy with being second best. They know they’re smart and will use it against anyone (even their own family) for any reason, wantonly and indiscriminately. They love to win. They want it all – with a side of fries and ketchup to go.
These people are the types that become eccentric, cutthroat millionnaire CEOs who engage in the act of “empire building” through mergers, hostile takeovers and such like. They view human capital lost in such exercises as “collateral damage”, and everyone else (except themselves and others like them) as the necessary sheep. They tend to only make friends with others like them. Their smarts make them inaccessible to “less” intellectually gifted personalities, even though they are effectively outgoing social people. They are the ruthless utilitarian army generals who would sacrifice their own men to win a war or player who would flip over a table if they lost a game of chess. Despite these character qualities, these are the people who run the companies, the armies, the governments, the law enforcement and other necessary systems that churn social development. They’re the ones who become lawyers, military strategists, dictators, king pins, soldiers, CEOs and depending on their passion may even become spiritual leaders, advocates, governors, senators and even US presidents.
The Personality Distribution
Even if you know people who fit these categories, they will not exhibit characteristics from only one archetype. People generally carry traits from all four personality archetypes. However, only one of the archetypes is the most dominant by default. So you can have someone who is 60% Savant, 20% Conqueror, 15% Thespian & 5% Virtuoso, all while maintaining a potent disposition for the Introverted Intellectual personality type. The same can be said for the remaining three archetypes. There is every possible permutation of distribution of these characteristics on the planet. In fact, these archetypes can be fuelled by an entire culture or circumstance. So someone who is a more peaceful Virtuoso archetype, can develop distinctive Conqueror propensities as they get older if they were raised in agressively militant countries.
Although people’s personalities are distributed over all four archetypes, as we get older, we tend to “round out” these four archetypes and become more and more even in all four categories – usually in the 20-25% range of distribution for all four archetypes. When people attain adulthood without rounding out, we tend to attribute such descriptions as naivette (excessively Savant), obnoxious (excessively Conqueror), depressing (excessively Virtuoso) and desperate for attention (excessively Thespian) to them. Wherever there is an excessive inclination towards any one particular archetype, we say that individual is “immature” or “childish”. This is why it is easier to tell what archetype someone belongs to by examining their childhood behaviour. This is why shrinks usually ask you to talk about your childhood when you first go in. This is their way of classifying your personality. As children, our distribution is usually 80%, 10%, 5%, 5% in favour of any one particular personality type. This is also an easy way to spot when someone isn’t right for you. More on this later.
Even though everyone has a more or less equal propensity to be all four archetypes, there is a distinct propensity for some archetypes to be more attributable to particular sexes. Re-examine the chart. Notice the left and right halves. These halves are a direct reference to the human brain. The left brain is your logical, mathematical, organised side. Your right brain is your emotional, creative, artistic side. Men are naturally more inclined to favour their left brain (hence our propensity for logical views, mathematics, the sciences, engineering, information technology, etc). Women are more inclined to prefer their right brain (hence their emotive propensities, their inclination towards design, artistic expressions and brilliant creativity).
Now if you should list all the people you know who fit into the four personality types, you will find that most of the males are either Savants or Conquerors and most of the females are either Virtuosos or Thespians. Savants and Conquerors are naturally left brained (hence the higher population of men). You will also find that Virtuosos and Thespians are mostly women because they are naturally right brained. Whenever someone becomes fully mature, evening out between all four archetypes, we say that person is psychologically integrated (represented by the PI in the center of the chart).
It doesn’t matter whether someone is male or female; both sexes have an equal propensity to tap into both sides of their brain to produce a truly mature personality. You will find that older people are usually psychologically integrated. That’s why women tend to prefer older men. Younger men tend to lack the capacity to feel and emote like their older kin and are thus less suave and romantic. Thus, younger men tend to be more interested in the sex and less interested in the woo and the foreplay. Similarly, younger women tend to be more irrational, irritable and shallow than their older kin. Younger women tend to lack the capacity to reason, rationalise and exhibit understanding and patience – all qualities which come from the left brain. That’s why you will find many young men who have an inclination towards older women or women closer to their own age as teenagers. This inequality between the sexes usually balances out after age 25.
How to find ‘True Love’
Opposites attract. Remember that. Looking back at our personality chart, we notice that two archetypes are always polar opposite each other. This would be Savant-Thespian and Conqueror-Virtuoso. As a rule, the best archetype for you is one that is your polar opposite. Therefore, if you have determined that you are a “Savant” type of personality, your best match would be to go for someone who is a Thespian. Similarly, Conquerors need Virtuosos. There is a very good reason for this. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, when two opposing archetypes meet, they tend to draw each other towards psychological integration. As their relationship ages, their personalities likewise mature. Those are the marriages that last 25, 40 and even 50 years. Just like how men are attracted to women and vice versa, each opposite personality type tends to be more interested or excited in the character traits of their polar opposite.
One would think that each personality type would be best matched with someone else exactly like them. (In other words, Savants marrying Savants, Virtuosos marrying Virtuosos, and so on). But the truth is that these types of unions are statistically more likely to fail for two very common reasons: Boredom & Irreconcilable Differences. Re-examine our personality chart. Notice the top and bottom halves of the circle. If people of the personality types on the top half (i.e. Savants & Virtuosos) should become engaged with their own kind, their relationships tend to fizz out after a while due to sheer boredom. Soon they start to “drift apart” until the romance ends. People in the personality types at the bottom half of the circle (i.e. Conquerors & Thespians) are more likely to have nasty fights, clashes, bitter breakups & expensive divorces.
Matching two people of the same personality type is usually a bad idea because the union doesn’t cause either of them to grow and mature. The result is that they become more of the same kind of person, developing more of the archetype they already are, thus becoming arrogant (Savant), reclusive (Virtuoso), reckless (Thespian) and abusive (Conqueror). In almost every recorded divorce, you will find one of these characteristics as a major contributing factor. Relationships are designed to do more than facilitate procreation. They represent the final phase in becoming truly mature. Immature people tend to end up in divorce. The reason for this phenomenon is not such much the decaying of society as it is the excessive promotion of the idea that relationships work best where there is like & like. This is categorically false. The following is a break down of why each archetype prefers a polar opposite.
Savants & Thespians
Nerds have always been excited by exhuberant personalities – especially if the nerd is male and the exhuberant personality is female. You will see this kind of dualism in pop culture everywhere: From the fanboys drooling over hot chics at a Comic Con to the pet experiments of blonde bombshells on shows like “Beauty & The Geek”. Social butterflies have always misunderstood but are likewise fascinated by smart people. One would be inclined to think that Geeks never get married. This is Far from true. Geeks who meet out-going people tend to become friends at first. This is because they tend to think that social butterflies are out of their league . Being around these outgoing people long enough tends to bring these smart introverts out of their shell. At the same time, the hottie who is usually clueless before they met, tends to become more appreciative of the world around them and develop a deep sense of attraction as both people round out to psychological integration.
Conquerors & Virtuosos
They say that music tames the savage beast – and how. On the flipside, bad boys have always attracted clueless girls who are desperate for attention. That’s almost always an unspoken rule. This is usually more prevalent in early adolescent youth. However, a person with a potent sense of agression (which can be channelled in both positive and negative ways) is always tamed by a gentle soul who soothes their psyche after a long hard day. This archetype union is by far the most recognizable iconification of romance in pop-culture. In everything from comic books to movies, there’s always a brave, dashing Hero and a damsel in distress. This is the celebration of the Conqueror/Virtuoso archetype. In fact, most men are expected to become a Conqueror in pursuit of a woman who during courtship assumes the Virtuoso role, even when neither the man nor the woman belongs to either archetype. This is critical to note, because in every relationship, (even if we ignore sexual orientation) there can only be one dominant personality, irrespective of gender.
You may be wondering at this point about the compatibility of two archetypes in the same half of the circle (e.g. Savant vs. Conqueror or Thespian vs. Virtuoso, etc.). Well we can safely ignore those because attraction never usually occurs between two archetypes on the same half. In fact, the dualism is more cause for dischord than harmony. The problem is that these archetypes only contain opposite personality traits that are more likely to cause friction without the necessary opposing traits that would creating a balancing act of harmony between them. Let’s look at each case:
- Savant vs. Virtuoso - Savants can admire the work of a Virtuoso (much like how Star Wars fans admire George Lucas). But the emotional propensities of Virtuosos tend to make Savants perceive them as being moody and frustratingly irrational. The innate insecurity of Virtuosos tend to cause them to think of their Savant counterparts as being over-simplistic in their views, arrogant & self-righteous. The same kind of dualism exists between naturalists and genetic scientists. To get a better idea of why this type of relationship would never work, examine the dischord between pro-choice or pro-stem cell researchers (all Savants) and their opposing factions of right-wing christian fundamentalists and pro-Life advocates (all Virtuosos).
- Virtuoso vs. Thespian - Lots of people tend to think that these two types of personalities will always work. But these relationships suffer from two problems. The first is that Virtuosos are introverts and Thespians are extroverts. There is no balancing act for this deficit because neither Virtuosos nor Thespians are big on decision making. These are the kinds of relationships where for example, a girl wants to go somewhere, and the guy leaves it up to her to decide. The result is deadlock, boredom, frustration and an inevitable loss of interest.
- Thespian vs. Conqueror - Conquerors have no patience for people who are loud, disorganised, spontaneous, slow to learn and unpredictable. They will enjoy Thespians at a party, in a movie or even a play. But conquerors like to know that there is a time when they can put an end to experiencing the nauseating 100 watt smiles of Thespians. Thespians on the other hand flat out despise conquerors. They are terrified of them in most cases and usually feel intimidated by their very presence. When challenged, Thespians prefer flight over fight (because they know they will loose) and usually try to disarm the situation with a joke or a funny comeback. Examine the banter between Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest on American Idol to get a grasp of why these types of relationships never work.
- Conqueror vs. Savant - Both are heavily left brained people. Thus whenever they get into a confrontation, Savants might be able to keep their cool, but conquerors will go for the kill, usually ignoring the rules of war, making choice statements personal just so that they can win. Savants play so much by the rule book, that they are often easily bested by the conniving conquerors. Additionally, there’s usually too much ego in these kinds of relationships for them to be even remotely sustainable. You can only have one dominant personality in a realtionship. Otherwise more time will be spent fighting than loving.
If you run into someone who seems to have the same personality temperament as you do, and you find characteristics about them that appeal to you at the same time, there’s a very good chance that they are already psychologically integrated. They are categorically more attractive to everyone because they have the capacity to exude all personality traits on cue. People who are already psychologically integrated are usually more discriminating when it comes to relationships. They tend to not settle for people who are immature (exhibiting too much of one personality type) and are more inclined to settle for people who are like themselves, also psychologically integrated or at the very least, the polar opposite of their own default archetype.
Everybody wants to love and everyone loves to be loved. However, the trick has always been to find Mr. or Ms. Right. Because we are inundated with the ideology that people with similar personalities are most likely to be compatible with each other, we tend to consistently make the mistake of seeking out people who are exactly like ourselves. We fail to realise that being compatibile is different from being similar. That’s why divorces are so prevalent in Hollywood. Almost everyone in Hollywood (virtually all celebrities) are of the Thespian archetype. They are often of the opinion that they should only marry other celebrities. Thus when their personalities inexorably clash (and usually in the most media centric, humiliating, high profile and public manner), we sit on our couches glued to E! watching the latest media contrived name fusion based relationship go down in flames. Everytime we watch another couple end up in divorce, we tend to gain a level of cynicism about romance.
I said in a previous blog entry that even if 2 billion people believed a lie, it doesn’t make it any less of a lie. It is for that reason we tend to ignore the ubiquitous fact that opposites attract and instead go searching for people who mirror ourselves exactly. The most mature couples are those who’ve (whether by chance or through actions of their own) encountered opposing personalities that complemented their own. That’s the key to determining true love. Find someone who complements you (I mentioned this earlier). They should ideally bring something new to the table – a characteristic that you don’t possess yourself, but that which you thoroughly enjoy. If you fall in love with someone who is a lot like yourself, all the bad things you hate about yourself you will hate about them too. That’s a divorce waiting to happen. Just like how opposite sexes attract and opposite charges attract, opposite personalities also attract. Once you bear that little fact in mind, you can do three things:
- Know yourself
- Know who is good for you
- Avoid running into all the other people who’re wrong for you.
When you find the types of people who’re good for you, then you can narrow it down to those who have the same interests or have the same value systems. But the key is finding the subset of your psychological opposites and working from there. That’s what dating websites like www.eHarmony.com and www.Chemistry.com seek to do, because the harmony of emotional chemistry only occurs when opposites attract.
■ E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com