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The Proven Psychology Behind Falling in Love

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

We have all been curious about how people fall in love, why they fall in love, and what romantic love actually is. Continue reading below for a psychological explanation behind this common and wonderful phenomenon we call falling in love!

A little background on this information: I'm a psychology major, and I recently finished a course in Social Psychology. One of the last topics we studied was romantic love, and what destroys it.


How People Fall in Love

Many people will say that there is no formula for falling in love, and although I agree with that and acknowledge every situation, relationship, and circumstance is different and unique. Some people believe in twin flames and soul mates who they are meant to be with. I believe there are basic principles that human behavior subconsciously follows to help it succeed in romantic pursuit. For example, no one is going to go out and punch someone they are interested in (or they shouldn't, and if they do please call here {1−800−799−7233} when you are in a safe space to talk, or visit the online chat room here).

Now that I've gotten my little disclaimer about the variety of love out of the way, people fall in love using these main four factors: physical attractiveness, proximity, similarity, and reciprocity.

Physical Attraction

This one seems obvious, but it's actually not. Many people consider physical attractiveness to be a huge factor in who they're going to pursue, and although we all have a similar idea of beauty, it can vary due to one's own personal attractiveness. The matching hypothesis shows us that we tend to pick people to pursue that are about the same level of attractiveness as ourselves. So you'll most likely end up with someone who is around your own level of physical attractiveness! Symmetry is also a universal symbol of beauty, but hardly anyone's face is completely symmetrical so don't worry.

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Proximity is more important than you may think. If someone is close to you in location, you are more likely to see them, talk to them, and basically just interact with them more than if you lived on opposite sides of town. This could be sharing the same mailbox, the same grocery store, or pet grooming boutique. Or maybe you're neighbors! The mere exposure effect shows us that the more we are exposed to something, the more we will tend to like it.


We are going to choose someone who is at least a little similar to us. The saying "opposites attract" isn't always true, as most people like to relate to their partner about some of their interests, hobbies, or characteristics.


People tend to like someone who likes them back. This isn't including crushes, or secret admirers. Someone you are interested in forming a relationship with and developing the intimate feelings of love, needs to reciprocate those feelings in order for the relationship to grow evenly and healthily. No one wants to be with someone who doesn't like them, duh!


Why People Fall in Love

If you've ever wondered why people fall in love in the first place, I have the answers! (perks of being a psych major)

This section will be a little short, as there is one basic answer that can cover a lot of "what-if's". Humans by nature are social animals and crave attention, nurturing, communication, validation, and respect. We all want someone to care for and to care for us, that is why we as humans stay with our mothers so long, compared to other mammals who grow up and move on. Humans form groups and social gatherings to participate in life with one another, and so it makes sense that humans take reproduction more seriously than animals because they have 18 years of commitment to consider when thinking about mating. You better choose carefully!

Humans can bond together and combine resources, and use their intimate connection to form a life together. People fall in love because they want to desire someone as much as they crave to be desired. Friendship is the next level down- reproduction isn't part of the equation, so friendships can seem easier to form and tend to be more easy-going in partner responsibility than relationships!

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What is Romantic Love?

Romantic love can be described by using Robert J. Sternberg's Triangle Theory of Love. The triangle isn't supposed to be a strict geometric format for the perfect "romantic love", but more of a formula for the necessary ingredients to form a romantic relationship.

The three sections of the triangle are intimacy, passion, and commitment.


Intimacy is important for developing a bond with someone. You need to be close to your partner and create a warmth between the two of you, so your relationship will be loving and secure.

Triangle theory of love | psychology and social psychology| robert j. sternberg


Passion is also important in a budding relationship, and as time goes on passion tends to diminish in most relationships which is proven to be 100% normal.


Let's repeat that for the people in the back.

Losing passion in your relationship over time is 100% normal, supposed to happen, will happen, and can be resolved without the typical,

"Why don't you act like you love me anymore like you did when we were first together?"

There's a simple answer: it's because over time, our ability to remain passionate to the same person diminishes due to




That's right people, just because your partner isn't as passionate anymore, doesn't mean they have stopped caring for or loving you. People will throw away relationships when they just "don't feel the same" anymore, and they aren't giving it a real chance! Passion is meant for the beginning of a relationship, and then used throughout at the couple's discretion to keep things fun. Now if there's no passion from the beginning, then there might be a problem, because part of your triangle is missing.


Okay, here's the kicker. Commitment is probably one of the most important out of the three (my opinion and a few psychologists' as well), because you need commitment to get through the times when the passion isn't there. Commitment means forming a strong friendship with someone, and pledging to stay by their side no matter what. Commitment should be exercised from day 1, although it's way more prominent in the middle and end of relationships I believe. Experienced couples who are dedicated to each other will prosper in their romantic love, more than a couple who has commitment issues.

Attachment styles are also important to note when you're in the process of connecting to someone. How you behaved and related to your caregiver as a child is said to reflect in how you behave and relate to your partners. Don't worry though... you aren't stuck in a bad attachment style if you didn't have the best childhood. Observing your own attachment style and identifying what you'd like to change is possible and practiced by many people not satisfied with how they were raised.

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Taken straight from Prof. Sternberg's website, here are the "love stories" that we as people tend to fall into, idolize, see in media, or match with others who have the same "love story".

1. Addiction. Strong anxious attachment; clinging behavior; anxiety at thought of losing partner.

2. Art. Love of partner for physical attractiveness; importance to person of partner's always looking good.

3. Business. Relationships as business propositions; money is power; partners in close relationships as business partners.

4. Collection. Partner viewed as "fitting in" to some overall scheme; partner viewed in a detached way.

5. Cookbook. Doing things a certain way (recipe) results is relationship being more likely to work out; departure from recipe for success leads to increased likelihood of failure.

6. Fantasy. Often expects to be saved by a knight in shining armor or to marry a princess and live happily ever after.

7. Game. Love as a game or sport.

8. Gardening. Relationships need to be continually nurtured and tended to.

9. Government. (a) Autocratic. One partner dominates or even controls other. (b) Democratic. Two partners equally share power.

10. History. Events of relationship form an indelible record; keep a lot of records--mental or physical.

11. Horror. Relationships become interesting when you terrorize or are terrorized by your partner.

12. House and Home. Relationships have their core in the home, through its development and maintenance.

13. Humor. Love is strange and funny.

14. Mystery. Love is a mystery and you shouldn't let too much of yourself be known.

15. Police. You've got to keep close tabs on your partner to make sure he/she toes the line, or you need to be under surveillance to make sure you behave.

16. Pornography. Love is dirty, and to love is to degrade or be degraded.

17. Recovery. Survivor mentality; view that after past trauma, person can get through practically anything.

18. Religion. Either views love as a religion, or love as a set of feelings and activities dictated by religion.

19. Sacrifice. To love is to give of oneself or for someone to give of him or herself to you.

20. Science. Love can be understood, analyzed, and dissected, just like any other natural phenomenon.

21. Science Fiction. Feeling that partner is like an alien--incomprehensible and very strange.

22. Sewing. Love is whatever you make it.

23. Theater. Love is scripted, with predictable acts, scenes, and lines.

24. Travel. Love is a journey.

25. War. Love is a series of battles in a devastating but continuing war.

26. Student-teacher. Love is a relationship between a student and a teacher.

***Please note some of these aren't necessarily healthy "love stories". These are just different examples of the stories we've seen repeated over and over.***


To read more on the Triangle of Love Theory, or just get more information from the psychologist himself, click here to see his work.

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If you have any more questions about this topic, or any other psychology topic, please contact me here.

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