We live in a world with more than 7 billion other people. Seven billion. Yet, look around: Every day, people find the person they want to be with for the rest of their lives. Two people, finding each other among all the other billions of people. Is it luck? Is it something else? And once you're in a relationship, does luck still matter?
Let’s examine the role of luck in romantic relationships:
Meeting Your Match. A little luck can make a difference when you’re looking for love. For a relationship to begin, luck, or chance, must work its magic so that two people find themselves in the same space at the same time—this shared geography initiates the potential for favorable interactions that generate attraction (Newcomb, 1958). So, from one perspective, a set of events must already be in motion so that two people cross paths…that's luck.
But is finding someone to love entirely left to the whims of chance? Certainly not. Behaviors affect the probability that a rare and desirable event, like meeting a romantic partner, will occur. Instead of sitting on the couch waiting for luck and love, people can get out and go to social events and settings where there is an increased chance (or luck) of meeting other people. Being open to online dating, blind dates, and new friends can help boost your chances of meeting a compatible partner.
Is Your Match Your Match? You meet someone great, and now you’re wondering: Is he or she the one? Has luck’s cousin, fate, stepped in and found me my perfect match? How you ask and answer this question may be linked to your implicit, or unconscious, beliefs and expectations about romantic relationships. Are you someone who believes in destiny, relying on luck and fate to keep you connected with your soul mate? Or are you someone who believes that relationships are growth opportunities, and must be cultivated?
Knee (1998) suggests that implicit destiny or growth beliefs have a profound influence on how you view your relationship and how much you’re willing to work to solve relationship problems. People who rely heavily on destiny see bumps in the road as indications that "it wasn’t meant to be,” while people with growth beliefs engage in active coping to help work through relationship events. Luck, it seems, might help bring people together, but an overreliance on external force—like luck or destiny—can inhibit behaviors crucial to the maintenance of a healthy relationship.
Feeling Lucky in Love. How lucky are you to be with your romantic partner? Evidence suggests that your beliefs about how lucky you are may be linked to your relationship success. Appreciation for one’s romantic partner translates to positive relationship behaviors (Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012) and expressing gratitude increases people’s sense of responsibility for and connection to others (Lambert, Clark, Durtschi, Fincham, & Graham, 2010). Such findings suggest that healthy relationships can become even more satisfying through partners’ active efforts to recognize and express how lucky they are to be with each other.
Luck comes in handy as people navigate the pairing process, but much of a relationship’s success is tied to individuals’ implicit beliefs about relationships, their beliefs about their partners, and their behaviors. For people in ongoing relationships who are looking to add new life to the partnership, this exercise in counterfactual thinking might help:
To bring feelings of luckiness to the surface, imagine a hypothetical reality in which you never met your partner. Such thoughts tend to highlight the benefits and upsides of having your partner in your life, which increases the meaning ascribed to that relationship (Kray et al., 2010).
To be lucky in love is a blessing worth attention in our relationships.
Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 257-274.
Knee, C. R. (1998). Implicit theories of relationships: Assessment and prediction of romantic relationship initiation, coping, and longevity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(2), 360-370.
Kray, L. J., George, L. G., Liljenquist, K. A., Galinsky, A. D., Tetlock, P. E., & Roese, N. J. (2010). From what might have been to what must have been: Counterfactual thinking creates meaning. Journal of personality and social psychology, 98, 106-118.
Lambert, N. M., Clark, M. S., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F. D., & Graham, S. M. (2010). Benefits of expressing gratitude: Expressing gratitude to a partner changes one’s view of the relationship. Psychological Science, 21, 574-580.
Newcomb, T. M. (1956). The prediction of interpersonal attraction. American Psychologist, 11, 575-586.