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Does Fate Make Mates?

It matters whether partners view love as the product of fate or growth.

Are romances made of stardust and moonlight, dependent on destiny and fate? Or are they built of sturdier stuff, requiring hard work and careful cultivation? What you believe may dictate the course—and even the outcome—of your love life.

In our attitudes toward relationships, says C. Raymond Knee, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Houston, we fall into two general camps: believers in destiny and worshippers of growth.

"Destiny theorists," he reports in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are convinced that people are either meant for each other or not. "If you get into a relationship with a destiny theorist who finds you less than perfect, you had better watch out," says Knee. "When these people are not satisfied, their relationships end abruptly."

"Growth theorists," on the other hand, expect closeness and compatibility to develop as they get to know a partner. A belief in growth is associated with a more committed, longterm approach to dating. These people have fewer one-night stands and are more likely to date one person for a long time.

When problems arise, growth theorists view them as obstacles to be conquered together, challenges that may bring them closer through coping and planning. Fatalists, on the other hand, may withdraw from the relationship or engage in denial, figuring that it will work itself out if it's meant to be.

Though marriage manuals and couples therapists favor the growth model, believers in fate aren't necessarily destined for poor relationships, Knee contends. They may take early satisfaction with their partner as proof they were meant for each other and thereby serenely ride out later storms. Growth theorists, determined to make things work, may stay in a bad relationship too long.