Romeo & Juliet
by Francesco Hayez
by Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD
Psychological research shows a mere three things are crucial to human happiness, and one of them is love.*
Gods and goddesses of love, passion, fertility, and even marital fidelity appear in the earliest historic writings, and many of the stories that have endured best feature male and female heroes' passionate love affairs. Famous examples include Chrétien de Troyes' tale of Queen Guenevere's love affair with Lancelot (c. 1170); Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1597); and Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty (1697).
This basic human need for romantic, sexual, and marital connections is reflected in Carl Jung's anima/animus archetype. In essence, Jung believed there is a psychological construct in males (the anima) that creates a strong draw to the feminine as it's embodied in real women, and a matching construct in females (the animus) that draws them to men. One of the best visual metaphors for the concept is the yin-yang; each of the contrasting halves, one of which refers (in part) to the female and the other to the male, is embedded with a disc of the opposite sex's color.
"Chemistry," as we now call it, has long been thought of as the need for and recognition of your "other half," and as Jung saw it, this recognition was prompted by the anima or animus. Plato's Symposium, written in 360 BC, provides a well-loved explanation for how the need initially developed.
The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast... [The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man (made of 2 male parts), woman (made of 2 female parts), and the union of the two (one male and one female part). But the primeval humans] made an attack upon the gods [and Zeus said]: "Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two. [Apollo] gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel).
After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. Each of us when separated is always looking for his other half..And when one meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love.
What all of this means is that, just like in real life, your characters should be attracted to their love interests for a reason. The potential love interest's traits and behavior must resonate with your hero because they somehow make him or her more whole.
Scarlett & Ashley
Many writers create love interests that reflect their own ideas of the "perfect" (or at least extremely attractive) man or woman; the danger is that sometimes we're actually creating love interests for ourselves rather than for our characters. We may assume that everyone would be attracted to the same things we are, and that little explanation is needed to justify why our heroes and heroines would fall for each other. But if your hero or heroine is so universally appealing, 1) Why hasn't s/he been snatched up yet and 2) Why has s/he fallen for this love interest? If the answer to 1 is that s/he's been waiting for the "right one" to come along, 2 is even more important. Also remember that in real life, the people we're most drawn to aren't always the ones who are best for us—sometimes we're so focused on a bad choice that we don't even see Mr. or Ms. Soulmate when s/he wanders by. Scarlett O'Hara's obsession with Ashley is doomed to failure because he can never be what she needs.
And of course, sometimes the people we're most drawn to won't have us, because while they could meet our needs, we don't or can't meet theirs. In the film Gladiator, Commodus is drawn to his sister Lucilla because she represents the purity and kindness he lacks, but he is too flawed for her to truly love in return, even as a brother.
Jung was decidedly heterosexual, so he didn't address gay and lesbian relationships in the way that the Plato did. (Some speculate that his break from Freud may have been caused in part by Freud's alleged interest in him.) Unfortunately, that means that the anima/animus archetype is difficult to apply to gay/lesbian relationships; however, Jung did believe that everyone has both anima and animus—the anima is just more evident in the male because it's so different from his everyday masculinity, and likewise the animus in the female. Some modern theorists argue that an archetype they call the Double is responsible for committed same-sex partnerships.
The Double draws us into all relationships with individuals of the same sex, which can range from platonic friendships to love relationships. In other words, the Double helps us find our best same-sex friends as well as love our brothers and fathers (if we're male) and our sisters and mothers (if we're female). Meanwhile, the anima (for men) and the animus (for women) help us find our opposite-sex mates. For those people who were metaphorically cut apart from a same-sex other half, the Double takes over this responsibility as well.
* The other two are a/ satisfying work and b/ personality, most notably the qualities of high self-esteem, extraversion, and optimism.