Family life lays the groundwork for how we should behave and treat our loved ones. This is why the abuse of perpetuating masculinity is passed down from generation to generation.
In homes around the world, violent fathers pass on active trauma they received as a son to their sons as if the abuse and toughness were a gift. 8
And so the chain goes across generations, link to link.
Fathers that abuse is doing more than handing out punishment for infractions. They are teaching their sons, just as they have been taught what it means to be a man and how to love as a man. Such violence in our youth may be passed on into our intimate relationships with women as well. Both are unhealthy and destroy loving relationships.
All of the factors above influence your self-perception and personal interest. They directly influence your worth relative to what you deserve and who you should be associated with. All of the subtle life experiences we have influenced our self-esteem, confidence, and the things we find sexy or shameful – body image, sexual fantasies, beliefs, etc.
All of these experiences can lead to some very different behaviors, such as only getting a boner if leather or lace is in sight, that serve practically no purpose in terms of reproduction. Early sexual fantasies and desires are consciously considered in the context of normal sexual behavior, according to the dominant socio-cultural definition. Thus we accept the labels – kinky, a freak, disgusting – that we end up incorporating into our self-definition.
This, in turn, influences what we seek and how we behave to experience the reward of the desires we have. Such examples may include mistresses, orgies or signing up on Fetlife.
All of these factors make up the traits you seek in someone you will fall in love with. What matters most is at what point in your life does these various experiences.
When we fall in love or have sex it seems straightforward in terms of arousal, desire and opportunity. If you have all three, hump on. But that is a big “if!”
Arousal is practically always conditional upon whether the person we choose to be with can pick up on our cues. Not to mention other factors that may influence either party’s attraction – mood, life events, social pressure, etc.
So why is it that we have such complex mechanisms in picking people we choose to sleep with, date and marry?
There are over 7 billion people on the planet. This gives you thousands of potential people you could reproduce with, but most of these people go unnoticed. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. “Especially in a species in which individuals are, well, individual from a genetic and experiential perspective.” (9) Such diversity makes hybrid traits, which enhance survival across generations during environmental changes that often occur in an unpredictable manner.
Our partner preferences are based on our personal experience with cues that predict sexual rewards, love, and happiness.
Despite trying to narrow down why we choose who we choose, I’ve come to the conclusion that each person has their unique ideal partner traits that are directly based on their life experiences.
Every desire is, to some extent, a “fetish” that is sought after in the people we find attractive, in the styles they wear, and in the things they do (and we do with them). (10)
When we experience someone that matches a specific feature on our love map, our brain increases dopamine under the belief that the cue is a signal that predicts the emotional and sexual rewards we desire. Experiences lead to expectancy. Reward to desire.
To understand desire and attraction to one person over another, we must understand the rewards and how they connect the external world of love and relationships. Falling in love is at the intersection of the external world and our internal representation of it.