Should You Ask Why Your Lover Loves You?

We often ask our lovers why they love us.

That may not be such a good idea.

When people become analytical – making lists of pros and cons, what they like and don’t – they can end up misleading themselves.

Social psychologist, Tim Wilson and his colleagues found that analyzing our feelings can actually make matters worse.

Unfortunately, we don’t always know why we feel the way we do. So we might latch onto reasons that are easily identifiable, and easier to verbalize, than what’s really in our hearts. Our reasons sound reasonable, but they aren’t necessarily correct.

Now comes the bigger problem: After looking at our list, we can change the way we feel, at least temporarily, to match what we wrote. Maybe the list doesn’t seem too spectacular and we reassess our feelings.

Wilson gives a couple of examples. Suppose you enjoy dating someone, and you wonder why: What is it about this person? As you think about it, you start to notice that you and your partner don’t have much in common. With so little in common, you can’t have much of a future! So you change your mind about the relationship.

Then there’s that episode from Friends when Ross makes a list to sort out his feelings toward Rachel and Julie. He loves Rachel but can’t figure out why, so he writes down whatever comes to mind: “She’s just a waitress… She’s a little ditzy.” In real life, Ross would have concluded that he did not love Rachel as much as he thought, because all he could think of were negative traits. (But when he next thought about Julie, all he could think was, “She’s not Rachel, she’s not Rachel.” Perhaps fiction is more forgiving.)

If you ever do chose to list the reasons why you love your lover, consider that you may not know, or may not be able to articulate, your real reasons.  

Fortunately, the effects of “reasons-generated attitude change” are temporary. So at least don’t do anything rash based on your new perspective.

I once asked my husband why he loved me. He said he didn’t know. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t push the matter.

Georgia Platts

Source: Elliot Aronson, Timothy Wilson and Robin Akert. Social psychology. Pearson/Prentice Hall. 2007

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