Fatal attraction

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In interpersonal relationships a fatal attraction is when the very qualities that draw us to someone eventually contribute to relational breakup.[1]

Fatal attraction framework[edit]

Diane Felmlee is the major contributor in fatal attraction framework.[2] Felmlee is currently a professor of sociology at Penn State University.[3] When she wrote her major work on fatal attraction she was a professor at the University of California, Davis. David Orzechowicz and Carmen Fortes are also contributors to fatal attraction framework.[4] Orzechowicz is currently a professor in the department of sociology at the University of California, Davis, where Fortes is As of December 2013 a Ph.D candidate.

Fatal attraction research began as exploratory research attempting to connect characteristics of initial attractiveness with those later perceived as problematic. Prior to this research, there had been extensive research on attraction and relationship dissolution. However, this research was innovative in trying to correlate the same characteristics to both initial attraction and relationship breakup. In her landmark research on fatal attraction Felmlee analyzed the data from a random sample on initial attraction and the subsequent data from a self-report study of the sample respondents' about the characteristics they dislike about their partner. Felmelee then summarized her results in terms of pertinence to interpersonal theories and dialectical perspectives.

Theoretical conclusions[edit]

One conclusion resulting from Felmlee's research was that differences were the most common type of fatal attraction.[1] Therefore, the differences in partners that were initially attractive were not in the long run. Another conclusion was that other perceived opposite qualities such as being fun and exciting can eventually be the cause for breakup if one is fun or exciting to an extreme.[1] Finally, it seems that being attracted to a narcissistic person is also a common type of fatal attraction.[1]


Narcissism is defined as the inordinate fascination with oneself, excessive self-love, or vanity.[5] Being attracted to a narcissistic person is another common occurrence of fatal attraction.[6] Narcissistic individuals are described as attractive in the beginning because they are perceived as confident, charming and entertaining. Narcissists are, in part, viewed this way in the beginning because they are making the effort to be seen in this light.[6] As described with the other personality traits in fatal attraction, over time the same confidence and charm once associated with the narcissistic person are later described as arrogance and manipulative.

Interpersonal Implications[edit]

The interpersonal implications of fatal attraction research are prevalent in dating relationships as well as marriages. The knowledge that the characteristics that may attract two people can also be detrimental may lead to higher success in dating relationships. It can cause those in dating relationships to ask more probing questions about each other's personality. Such questions can aid in establishing the line between initially attractive characteristics and potentially fatal personality clashes. In a marriage the knowledge of fatal attraction can be used to explain some of the problems that married couples experience.

Fatal attraction also affects interpersonal relationships by shedding light on the phrase "opposites attract". Most will agree that the phrase holds truths and fatal attraction confirms this. However, fatal attraction adds depth to that phrase by suggesting that there may be a balance of opposite and likeness if a relationship will endure over time. For this reason, fatal attraction research may be suggestive of the need to have longer dating relationships.

Fatal attraction research explains phenomena in interpersonal relationships as well it adds value to a larger body of research on interpersonal relationships. The concepts covered in fatal attraction are very similar to the concepts covered in relational dialectics. Where one approach leaves off, another adds new layers of insight and understanding.


  1. ^ a b c d Guerrero et. al, Laura (2013). Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships. California: Sage. p. 56. ISBN 9781452217109. 
  2. ^ Felmlee, Diane (1995). "Fatal attractions: Affection and dissaffection in intimate relationships". Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 12 (2): 295–312. doi:10.1177/0265407595122009. 
  3. ^ Penn State University. "Department of Sociology and Criminology". Penn State University. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Felmlee, Diane; Orzechowicz, D.; Fortes, C. (2010). "Fairy Tales: Attraction and Stereotypes in Same-Gender Relationships". Sex Roles. 3. 62 (3–4): 226–240. PMC 2844533Freely accessible. PMID 20352053. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9701-x. 
  5. ^ www.Dictionary.com. "Define Narcissism". Dictionary.com, LLC. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Back, Mitja; Egloff, Boris; Schmukle, Stefan (January 2010). "Why are narcissists so charming at first sight? Decoding the narcissism–popularity link at zero acquaintance". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1. 98 (1): 132–145. PMID 20053038. doi:10.1037/a0016338. 

External links[edit]

  • Horan, Sean M. (2012-11-30). "Fatal Attraction". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2013-12-04.