Why are people so easy to love

Choosing a partner: This is why we so often fall in love with the wrong person

Almost by fate, some people repeatedly choose a partner who makes them unhappy. The psychologist Kirsten von Sydow on the dynamics of relationships - and what factors determine it

Interview: Tilman Botzenhardt and Maria Kirady

GEO KNOWLEDGE: Professor von Sydow, are there people who keep falling in love with the wrong partner?

PROF. DR. KIRSTEN VON SYDOW: Yes, it does happen. Of course, nobody should go to a therapist just because they are unlucky in love. But if relationships are always similar and fail because of the same problems, it is worth thinking about the causes. Because some people just don't have a good sense of which partners are good for them - or how they can lead a stable relationship.

Why is that?

Most of those affected have poor assessments of other people's behavior in relationships. For example, it is difficult for them to recognize whether the other person is interested in a stable partnership at all. There is, for example, the “lonely cowboy” type, who initially looks attractive to some women - but who also clearly radiates that he is not available for a stable relationship. Such a man is suitable for an affair. But if you can't tell whether your counterpart wants to commit or not, you may be looking for relationships with such partners over and over again. And fails time after time.

How do such distorted perceptions arise?

They follow patterns that are already evident in early childhood. What we expect from a relationship, how self-confident we are, how we perceive our counterpart: We learn all of this in the first few years of life from bonding with close caregivers, mostly from parents. The child hopes for affection and security from them. And the reactions of adults help determine how the adolescent deals with needs and relationships. Psychologists differentiate between four typical patterns.

Which are they?

The first and most common variant is the so-called “secure bond”: It arises when the child can rely on the attention of his parents. Securely attached people are also confident later in life that other people will like them and find it easy for them to form stable relationships with others. Of course they too can have bad luck in love. It is unlikely that securely attached people will systematically fall in love with the wrong person.

Around a quarter of the population, on the other hand, develops the second type, the "unsafe-avoidant attachment". It arises when parents often reject their child. It then learns to suppress its need for attention. Often later it relies on independence, on work and performance and is extremely reluctant to be weak.

Like the lonely cowboy?

That can be an extreme expression of this type. In couple relationships, the partners of insecure avoidant people often do not have it easy because they are very concerned about their autonomy and are less able to show and name their feelings than other people. Difficulties can also be caused by the third basic pattern, the "insecure-ambivalent bond". Those who show this behavior often did not experience predictable and stable relationships as a child - and therefore usually want to reassure themselves of the affection of their partner again and again. Often he is constantly worried that the other person might not like him enough or that he might leave him. About 15 percent of the population belong to this type. The greatest problems, however, are caused by the rarest pattern, which is common to around five percent of the population: “disorganized attachment”.

What are the characteristics of this type?

This pattern arises when children experience violence or abuse by people they trust. Or when they grow up with parents who cannot give them attention, for example because they suffer from depression, alcohol or drug addiction. The children of such parents usually develop a very chaotic attachment behavior: on the one hand, they look for protection, on the other hand, closeness causes them problems because they are always afraid of being hurt in close relationships.