"[John] Money, a distinguished sex therapist and sex researcher, described the lovemap as a mosaic of traits that make up, partly in our conscious mind but mostly in our unconscious, the picture of our ideal mate or lover and what we would do with them. This conglomerate of traits may include many aspects of the personality, how a person behaves socially, certain critical values, race, religion and political persuasion; it often includes physical characteristics such as hair color, height, weight, body shape or a certain look.
But it is also involved with deeply unconscious assumptions and preferences.
For example, one aspect of my own lovemap (that I was unaware of for many years) is my preference for a man who can fix things around the house, the way my dad did. He built our family's home from the ground up, even installing his own water pipes and electric wiring. So I'm attracted to men who can "fix things," and I have little interest in a guy who has no ability as a handyman. (This is most likely because my own family experience led me to believe this is what a "real man" does.)
Another example from my personal lovemap is my attraction to extremely smart men who are on the quiet side. My dad was a solid, stable, introverted salt-of-the-earth man who focused on his family, doing the work and solving every problem. A "party boy," loudmouth—or even a man as extroverted as I am—would never be the kind of mate I would choose, because my lovemap requires someone more like my beloved dad in order for me to experience real chemistry.
I've heard many psychologists say that we really cannot explain what chemistry is or why it happens between two people. However, I think the closest we've been able to come is through recognizing that any potential mate we're attracted to (when we feel real chemistry) is someone who meets the important criteria of our lovemap. Some of these criteria—both functional and dysfunctional—are determined through our identification and bonding with the opposite-sex or same-sex parent; others are determined by the rejection of one or both parents. Still other criteria develop from cultural ideals, media images, popular personalities or subtle role models such as teachers, neighbors or historic figures.
If there's a deep compatibility of lovemaps between two psychologically healthy people, it can be a match made in heaven. In reality, acting on the surge of instant, powerful chemistry may lead us only to scratch the surface of our lovemap. We might see only about 5 percent of the important variables: perhaps going no deeper than physical appearance, hobbies, diet and career. This is a major problem for couples who get married quickly or start living together shortly after falling in love. As we get deeper into the layers of our unconscious traits, values and belief systems, the honeymoon is often over. We may abruptly fall "out of love" as we discover that our partner is not meeting some of the major criteria of our lovemap—the other 85 things we were looking for and just assumed would be there. Small wonder that the divorce rate in Southern California, where I live and work, is well over 50 percent.
One of the biggest problems is that many of the components of our lovemap are deeply buried in the unconscious and hidden from our awareness. Most of us couldn't fully describe our internal lovemap if our life depended on it. Typically, we become conscious of these specific traits and expectations only when we're shocked by our partner's behavior, when we feel betrayed or violated. It's likely that we didn't know something was part of our lovemap until we were confronted with a crisis that forced awareness into our conscious mind. Only at this point do we realize that certain things are of great importance—and perhaps not negotiable.
Does everyone have a lovemap? Yes, but some of us have lovemaps that are unclear, extremely distorted or "vandalized" by traumatic events such as rape or incest or humiliating early sexual experiences that engrave unhealthy ideas and feelings onto our unconscious template for a desirable mate. Not everyone has the wholesome benefit of identifying in a healthy way with one or both parents (especially the one of the opposite sex). Elements of the lovemap can become confusing, contradictory and bizarre under conditions that set up negativity, abuse, neglect or trauma in the person's unconscious beliefs and expectations for a mate and a love relationship.
For example, a person who believes he or she will be used, verbally abused and disrespected has a highly compatible lovemap with a partner who is hateful, abusive and disrespectful. Negative qualities in the lovemap work just as powerfully for establishing real chemistry as the positive ones. This helps explain why so many people continually attract the same kind of dysfunctional, abusive relationships.
Fortunately, there are many resources for changing and healing our lovemaps. For example, we can consciously choose to identify with different or more positive role models such as aunts, uncles, therapists, media idols, historic figures or literary heroes. Another example, in response to more complicated issues, is seeking depth therapy to raise our level of consciousness and psychological health in order to actually correct the self-sabotaging and dysfunctional aspects of our lovemap. There is also a plethora of books, seminars, trainings, video/DVD programs and small group experiences that can assist in this journey In any case, an in-depth understanding of one's lovemap and that of the partner can be a major asset and vehicle for self-awareness and growth within the relationship."