Development of a Relationship


The 10 Most Important Words In Any Loving Relationship

1. Trust 2. Intimacy 3. Communication 4. Commitment 5. Love 6. Friendship 7. Patience 8. Humor 9. Flexibility 10. Forgiveness

Gregory J. P. Godek Love

Developing Close Relationships

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We will continue following the development of this relationship throughout this chapter.

The Development of a Relationship

Relationships evolve, they do not just happen. Th ey take time and eff ort . Th e fi rst step in a relationship is becoming aware of the other person— fi rst impressions. At this time we evaluate the person, using our past experience, prejudices, and stereotyping to make a judgment about whether or not to take the next step. Walt is impressed with Sarah’s physical appearance—he perceives her as being attractive. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not all people would perceive her as beautiful. Now that Walt has become aware of Sarah, he needs to decide how he is going to take the next step, that is making contact, or getting acquainted with her. Th is is a diffi cult step for many individuals. What would you recommend for Walt to do in order to get to know Sarah? Th e mere exposure phenomenon may work in this situation (Wood et al. 2007). Th e more familiar we are with someone or something, the greater the chance of liking them. Th e more Sarah sees Walt, the greater the chance of her interacting with him and liking him. Walt could improve his odds of making contact with Sarah by sitting in the chair next to her (proximity) or by making sure that he stands near the door everyday so she has to pass by him to enter the classroom (exposure). Do not be too aggressive in this process or you may threaten the other person. During the fi rst week or so, Walt may not even want to say anything—do not make it too obvious.

Think about this Walt is a junior in college. He has had a lot of dates, but has never had a “real serious” intimate relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Walt has many close friends and is very active in school activities. He likes to ski, play tennis, watch Woody Allen movies, and listen to jazz. Walt would like to become a lawyer and is majoring in political science.

Sarah is a sophomore in college and has dated the same person since her junior year in high school. Sarah was a cheerleader and her boyfriend was captain of his football team. Th ey seem to be “made” for each other. Th ey had the same friends, went to dances together, and studied together. Sarah does not seem to have any other friends since she was always with her boyfriend. Sarah also seems to be depressed. Th ere seems to be something missing in her life, but she is not sure what it is. Presently, Sarah’s boyfriend is attending college in another state. She misses him, so she writes and calls him oft en.

Sarah would like to become a judge, so she is in a pre-law program with emphasis in history. She likes to play tennis and racquetball, water ski, and listen to jazz. Her boyfriend likes to play and watch football. Sarah only watches football if her boyfriend is playing. He likes ice hockey and plays basketball with the boys. He enjoys going to rock concerts. Her boyfriend is majoring in computer science. When Sarah and her boyfriend get together they are very active and busy, but they do not seem to really talk.

It’s the fi rst day of a new term and classes are just beginning. Walt walks into his European History class and sits down and notices an attractive female sitting three chairs away. It so happens that the attractive female is Sarah. Walt says to himself, “I would like to get to know her. Just looking at her makes my heart beat faster.” Now the dilemma, how does he get to know her and what are the chances of him developing a close intimate relationship with her, especially since she already has a boyfriend?

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Th e third step is disclosure. As we become friends, we are more willing to disclose more about our personal lives—our hopes, dreams, and fears. As we begin to disclose information about ourselves, we are demonstrating to our partner that we trust them and they in turn will disclose to us. Th us, the relationship will become stronger and more intimate. As Walt begins to open up slowly to Sarah, and Sarah to Walt, the relationship will begin to develop. Walt could begin by asking Sarah questions about European History, then talk about school-related subjects, ask about her hobbies and interests, and tell her about his interests. As they continue disclosing infor- mation about themselves to each other, their interest in one another will continue to grow.

Do all the terms and concepts mentioned so far sound familiar? Th ey should; we discussed all of them thoroughly in chapter one. Th is was a review of how a relationship develops over a period of time, and now we will discover how the relationship will continue to evolve into a more intimate relationship.

Becoming Friends

Friends play a very signifi cant role in our lives. Th roughout our life they are important to us. Th ey may provide help in a time of need, praise in times of achievement, sympathy in a time of sorrow, support in a time of failure, and advice in a time of confusion. Without friends we are lonely. Friends provide us with the emotional support and social ties that are vital to our well being. A good friend will always be there when they are needed. We can rely on their support no matter what happens to us. Th ey also provide us with a feeling of belonging and a feeling that we are part of a group. We need an identity, and our friends help us in the development of fi nding who we are. Good friends satisfy these needs.

Who do you consider your good friends? A good friend could be a fam- ily member, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a spouse, a work colleague, a teacher, a clergyman, a fellow member of a religious, social, recreational, or political group, or any other person. Remember, the more “good” friends you have, the more secure you will be. Research continues to suggest that having close rela- tionships helps people adjust to stressful situations and buff ers people from the ill eff ects of negative life events like: accidents, divorce, loss of a loved one, or family problems, etc. (Myers 2008).

Can men and women be friends? Researchers tell us that men and women can be friends. However, do we really believe them? A survey of more than 1,450 members of the dating site revealed that we are an optimistic bunch (Chatterjee 2001). See Consider this.

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF A GOOD FRIEND? A recent student poll at Tarrant County College asked, “What values do you think are important in a friend- ship?” Here are a few of their responses:

Trust, someone you can share a problem with. Someone who will be there for you and will know you’re going to be there for them

B e slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

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252 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

Honesty Loyalty

Acceptance, humor, sense of fun, honesty, mainly acceptance of each other

Trust, keeping your word, loyalness, love, understanding, being able to trust him around your woman

Trust is most important, reliability, acceptance, honesty. You can accept their faults as well as their good traits


Th e responses from the 2009 survey in Texas are very similar to a 1979 survey of 40,000 readers of Psychology Today magazine. Th e readers were to indicate what qualities they valued in a friend. Th e results suggest that keeping confi dences and loyalty were the most important factors in a good friend. If you review the responses given by the Tarrant County College stu- dents, you will note that trust and loyalty were also the most mentioned. Th e next most important ingredients of friendships are warmth/aff ection and supportiveness. Th e respondents also indicated the importance of frankness and a sense of humor in a relationship. Also, the respondents emphasized, as Carl Rogers did in chapter two, the importance of unconditional accep- tance from a friend— accept me as I am—not how you want me to be.

CAN YOU TRUST YOUR FRIENDS? If not, are they friends? Keeping confi dence and trust are almost synonymous. Trust and respect is something people need

Consider this . . . Consider this . . .

Can Men and Women Be Friends?

A survey of more than 1,450 members of the dating site revealed the following:

1. Do you believe men and women can be platonic friends? Yes: 83% No: 11% Unsure: 6% 2. Have you had a platonic friendship that crossed the line and

became romantic or sexual? Yes: 62% No: 36% Unsure: 2% 3. Who is more likely to misinterpret the intimacy of friendship for

sexual desire? Men: 64% Women: 25% Unsure: 11% 4. Is it possible to fall in love with someone who fi rst enters your

life as a friend? Yes: 97% No: 4% Unsure: 2% 5. Do you hope that when you do fall in love, your partner will

have started out as your friend? Yes: 71% No: 9% Unsure: 20% 6. Who is better at keeping sex out of a platonic relationship? Men: 13% Women: 67% Unsure: 20%

T rue friendship is a plant of slow growth.


Camille Chatterjee 2001 .

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 253

to earn and not be given away lightly. Th ere are three questions that need to be answered that will help us make decisions about whether to trust someone or not:

1. How predictable is the individual? A predictable person is someone whose behavior is consistent—consistently good or bad. An unpredictable person keeps us guessing about what might happen next. Such volatile people may make life interesting, but they do not inspire much in the way of confi dence.

2. Can I depend upon her or him? A dependable person can be relied upon when it counts. One way to tell is to see how a partner behaves in situations where it is possible to care or not to care.

3. Do I have faith in that person? Th rough “thick and thin” you know you can rely on this person. Th ey make us feel “safe.”

DOES SARAH TRUST WALT? IS HE LOYAL? Is Walt Predictable? Can Walt Depend on Sarah? Is Walt being honest with Sarah? Are they friends yet? Only time will tell. Th ey are still getting acquainted. It takes time for a rela- tionship to grow and develop. What other factors are important in becoming friends?

SIMILARITIES. Is it true that “opposites attract?” Or is it true that “birds of a feather fl ock together?” Look around. Do most of your friends have diff erent interests, beliefs, and political preferences from you, or are they similar? Research indicates that similarities attract. We tend to select friends who are similar to us in many diff erent aspects, including eth- nic background, social status, interests, income level, occupation, status, educational level, and political preferences (Myers 2008). Similarities are also important in the selection of a husband or wife. Th ere is a correlation between length of marriage and the similarities between the two people. Th e more similarities there are between the two spouses, the longer the marriage tends to last.

DOES LIKENESSLEADTOLIKING? Why are we drawn to people who are simi- lar to us? For one thing, people with similar interests and attitudes are likely to enjoy the same hobbies and activities. Even more important, however, we are more likely to communicate well with people whose ideas and opinions are similar to ours, and communication is a very important aspect of an endur- ing relationship. It is also reinforcing to be with similar people, for they con- fi rm our view of the world, support our opinions and beliefs, and we in turn provide mutual reinforcement for each other.

F orgiving R eassuring I nteresting E mpathetic N ice D evoted S incere .


“Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring all right out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away.”

George Eliot

A Defi nition of a Friend

T he man who trusts no others doesn’t trust himself.


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254 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

What would it be like if your friends always disagreed with you? You are a Republican and they are Democrats; you are pro-life and they are pro- choice; you are religious and they are not; you are conservative and they are liberal; you smoke and they do not; they like rock music and you like clas- sical music; you like to participate in sports and they would rather smoke dope. Are you going to have fun together or is there going to be a lot of confl ict? Research studies have found that there are two critical similarities that are important within a relationship; they are similar beliefs and similar attitudes (Taylor and Peplau 2009) . When considering a long term commit- ment between you and another person, ask yourself, what do we have in common? Are our beliefs and attitudes similar? If they are not, you may discover that over a period of time, confl ict is more apt to develop between the two of you.

So, similarity breeds content. Birds of a feather do fl ock together (Hyde and DeLamater 2007) . Surely you have noticed this upon discovering a special

someone who shares your ideas, values, and desires—a soul mate who likes the same music, the same activi- ties, even the same foods you do. So, how do I fi nd someone who has something in common with me?

WHERE DO I GO TO FIND FRIENDS? You need to go to those places where you will fi nd other people who have similar interests and needs. Proximity , or physi- cal nearness, is a major factor in the development of friendships. When you were a young kid, most of your friends came from the local neighborhood where you lived, then from the local school you attended. Th is is what we mean when we say proximity—you get to know the people you are near or close to in regards to location. Proximity eff ects may seem self-evident, but it is sobering to realize that your friendship and

Consider this . . . Consider this . . .

Qualities of a Friend

(In order of importance)

1. Keeps confi dence—89 percent 2. Loyalty—88 percent 3. Warmth and affection—82 percent 4. Supportiveness—75 percent 5. Honesty and frankness—73 percent 6. Sense of humor—72 percent 7. Willingness to make time for me—62 percent 8. Independence—61 percent 9. Good conversationalist—59 percent 10. Intelligence—58 percent 11. Social conscience—49 percent

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Psychology Today 1979 .

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 255

love interests are shaped by seating charts in school, desk arrangements at the offi ce or business, fl oor assignments in residence halls, and closeness of your neighbors (Bersheid and Reis 1998).

So, where do you go to meet people? Where have you met most of your friends? Should you go to church? What about bars and sports bars? What about political events, if you are interested in politics? Should you consider the Internet?

INTERNET DATING. Th ere was a time when online dating or the posting of personal ads in newspapers was seen as a crutch used only by those desperate for a date. Times have changed. In the U.S., matchmaking has taken off as a huge industry only in this decade, with close to 1,000 Internet sites such as, American Singles, LavaLife, PerfectMatch, True, and E-Harmony, just to name a few. Also, online matchmaking sites in the U.S. are eyeing mil- lions of singles in China, India and beyond. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project (2007), about 16 million Americans have tried online dating. Pew found that 79 percent say online dating is a good way to meet people, and 52 percent say the experience was mostly positive. However, 29 percent say it was mostly negative.

Since it is true that some of these sites focus on helping people fi nd suit- able marriage partners, other sites focused on less committed involvements, and some even focus on specifi c populations—people over 50, parents with- out partners, Christian and single, and so on. (Overstreet 2007). So, be sure to research thoroughly and think carefully about how diff erent sites work before you decide to join a site. And, be quite cautious of what personal information you post as well as specifi c arrangements for meeting in person.

Let’s check in on Walt and Sarah. Do they have anything in common? To begin, they are both taking European History, that is a good start. Th ey are both in the pre-law program and enjoy studying history and political science. Th ey both like to ski and participate in individual sports like tennis. Aft er having coff ee with Walt, Sarah thinks to herself, “Walt seems to be quite intelligent, he is very likable, I hope we get to meet again.” Th ey seem to have a lot in common—a lot more in common than Sarah and her present boyfriend. Th ese similarities give Walt and Sarah a lot to talk about. Does Walt have a chance to start dating Sarah? Wait and see.

DO OPPOSITES ATTRACT? What about the saying opposites attract? Th ey do for a period of time, until the novelty wears off , and then you will discover that these dissimilar beliefs, interests, and attitudes cause more confl ict than attraction. You may fi nd someone from a diff erent culture exciting and interesting, primarily because of the novelty. You may interpret this interest as attraction, but over time you may dis- cover that you do not have anything in common and the excitement and interest will wane.

Another interesting phenomenon is the fact that some people are initially and spontaneously repulsed by strangers who are very dis- similar to themselves (Rosenbaum 1986). Th is is referred to as the repulsion hypothesis . Attitudes and values that contradict our own are physiologically arousing. Just as we implicitly assume that people who are similar to us will probably like us and treat us well, so we implicitly assume that people who are very diff erent from us will probably dislike

M aybe the important thing is how people pay attention to each other, no matter what they’re talking about or doing.


Where do you go to fi nd friends?

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256 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

us and treat us poorly. Th us, initial dissimilarities can cut a relationship short. Can you think of some examples where you have experienced this?

But, what about people we know who have been married for years and seem to be totally diff erent and seem to be happy together? Even though they seem to be opposites, they are very compatible. Why?

DO THEY COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER? People with complementary needs seem to be drawn to each other. You notice that one of your friends is very outgoing and her boyfriend is very shy. Th is does not seem consistent with the idea that similarities attract. Why do they get along so well? We discover that diff erences in which one person’s strengths compensate for the other person’s weaknesses may lead to mutual attraction (Strong et al. 2007). Th e personalities seem to complement each other. In most relationships, each person supplies certain qualities that the other partner is lacking. Does your partner supply these missing characteristics?

SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY. According to social exchange theory , we mea- sure our actions and relationships on a cost-benefi t basis. People maximize their rewards and minimize their costs by employing their resources to gain the most favorable outcome (Strong et al. 2007). We generally think of rewards and costs as tangible objects, like money. However, in personal relationships, resources, rewards, and costs are more likely to be things such as love, companionship, status, power, fear, loneliness, and so on. As people enter into relationships, they have certain resources—either tangible or intangible—that others consider valuable, such as intelligence, warmth, good looks, or high social status. Individuals consciously or unconsciously use their various resources to obtain what they want, as when they “turn on” the charm. Have you ever wondered what a friend of yours sees in his or her partner? Your friend is so much better looking and more intelli- gent than the partner. (Attractiveness and intelligence are typical resources in our society.) However, it turns out that the partner has a good sense of humor, is considerate, and is an accomplished artist, all of which your friend values highly.

RECIPROCITY. “Flattery will get you . . . everything or nowhere?” Which is true? What have you heard? Th e evidence on reciprocity indicates that we tend to like those who show that they like us and that we tend to see others as liking us more if we like them (Baron and et al. 2008). Th us, there does seem to be an interactive process in which liking leads to liking and loving leads to loving.

If our self-esteem is low, we are more susceptible to fl attery, especially if the compliment is from someone of higher status. A person of high self- esteem may not be so easily swayed by positive treatment. Do you like to receive compliments? How do you feel about the person that is giving the compliments? Do they have a positive or negative infl uence on you? Do you now understand why some people seem to be greatly infl uenced by people who are nice to them, especially if that person is perceived as important to them?

Walt has been complimenting Sarah a lot the last few weeks. He tells her how nice she looks, that he likes her dress, he likes her hair style, etc. Will this infl uence her feelings toward Walt, especially since she has been depressed lately? Th e story continues.

I f you like me, you must have excellent judgment.


A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.


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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 257

We have discovered the importance of a friend and now we will see how the relationship evolves into a more intimate level as we begin the process of dating and mate selection.

Dating and Mate Selection

Th e changing roles of men and women, economic pressures, and the fra- gility of the environment have caused relationships to be stress tested on a daily basis. Even within this stressful context, however, relationship develop- ment and mate selection continue to thrive. Th e basis of mate selection is courtship—the interesting processes in which two people get together and hopefully stay together. So, what makes someone desirable to us? What are the traits we fi nd attractive in potential dates and mates?

WHAT MAKES SOMEONE DESIRABLE? What attracts men and women to their potential mate? In part, romantic attraction is a mystery. Scientists may not know everything about why people are drawn to the people that they are, but they know something. Every culture has standards for courtship and mar- riage. Without really thinking about it, most of us dutifully follow our cultural dictates. As we discussed the development of friendships and relationships in the previous pages of this chapter and in chapter one, we will discover that the same characteristics that are important in fi nding friends are also very important in date and mate selection.

Most of us are looking for dates, mates, and friends who are similar to us (similarities). We seek out others who are about our own age, who are from the same socio-economic class, religion, and educational level. Th ey cannot be too tall or too short, too fat or too thin in comparison to us. Such preliminary screening cuts out a surprising number of potential partners. But most of us want more. Generally, we want someone who we perceive as good looking (physical attractiveness), personable, warm, a good sense of humor, someone we can trust, and who is intelligent. We also want some- one whose views match our own. Other important variables that most of us also consider are reciprocity, personality fi t, and most important, our own self-concept (self-confi dence).

Review Gender and You, What Characteristics Do I Desire in a Potential Mate, and decide how you would rate the characteristics. Are there any other gender mate preferences?

Research shows that males and females exhibit both similarities and dif- ferences in what they look for in a marital partner.

In a 1997 survey of American college students’ most preferred qualities in a mate, both men and women ranked mutual attraction/love, depend- able character, and emotional stability/maturity, respectively, the high- est. (Buss et al. 2001).

Women tend to place a higher value than men on potential partners’ socioeconomic status, intelligence, ambition, and fi nancial prospects (Buss 2005).

Men consistently show more interest than women in potential partners’ youthfulness, good health, and physical attractiveness (Buss 2005).

Men prefer wives who are somewhat younger than they are, and women prefer husbands that are somewhat older. However, we are noticing a new trend—as women become more economically independent, they

Y ou don’t marry one person, you marry three: the person

you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as a result of being married to you.


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258 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

are becoming more interested in selecting younger men as dates and sometimes mates (King 2008).

MATE SELECTION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. Do people from diff erent countries and diff erent cultures look for the same traits when selecting a mate? Th e traits that people look for in a marriage vary around the world. In one large-scale study from thirty-seven countries and fi ve islands, people varied in what they considered important in selecting a mate (Buss et al. 1990). Chastity was the most important factor in marital selection in China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Taiwan, and the Palestinian Arab culture. Adults from Japan and Ireland placed moderate importance on chastity. In con- trast, adults in Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany generally said that chastity was not important in selecting a marital partner. Researchers were surprised that men and women in the Netherlands, for example, do not care about chastity at all. Neither is virginity valued much in the Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden. In China, how- ever, virginity is indispensable in a mate—marrying a non-virgin is virtually out of the question.

Adults from the Zulu culture in South Africa, Estonia, and Columbia placed a high value on housekeeping skills in their marital preference. By contrast, adults in all Western European countries (except Spain, Canada and the United States) said that housekeeping was not an important trait in their partner.

I nfatuation is when you think that he’s as sexy as Robert

Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Conners. Love is when you realize that he’s as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Conners, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger and nothing like Robert Redford in any category—but you’ll take him anyway.


What Characteristics Do I Desire in a Potential Mate? Following is how a large sample of males and females from a number of different cultures rated the importance of 18 characteristics in a potential mate. A rank of one is the most important and a rank of 18 is the least important.

Characteristic Rank

Males Females Mutual attraction-love 1 1 Emotional stability and maturity 2 2 Dependable character 3 3 Pleasing disposition 4 4 Education and good intelligence 5 5 Good health 6 9 Good looks 7 13 Sociability 8 8 Desire for home and children 9 7 Refi nement, neatness 10 12 Ambition and industriousness 11 6 Similar education 12 10 Good cook and housekeeper 13 16 Favorable social status or rating 14 14 Similar religious background 15 15 Good fi nancial prospect 16 11 Chastity (no prior sexual intercourse) 17 18 Similar political background 18 17



Adapted from Santrock (2006).

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 259

What about religion? It plays an important role in marital preferences in many cultures. For example, Islam stresses the honor of the male and the purity of the female. It also emphasizes the woman’s role in childbear- ing, childrearing, educating children, and instilling the Islamic faith in their children.

Whether we are drawn to people by familiarity, similarity, beauty, or some other quality, mutual attraction sometimes progresses from friendship to the more intense, complex, and mysterious feeling of love.

Becoming Lovers

Th ere is a great similarity between love relationships and good-friend rela- tionships. In both of these are high levels of trust, mutual respect, and accep- tance. Further, the interactions between the people involved are characterized by high levels of understanding, nurturing, and confi ding. Nonetheless, the love relationship with its greater depth of caring and exclusiveness, typically generates greater emotion and power. As a result, it can aff ect individuals more, having the potential to meet a broader sweep of human needs or to cause greater frustration and distress.

Remember when Walt saw Sarah for the fi rst time? It was the fi rst day of class and Walt was fearful of having to take the European History class, because he had heard that this professor was one of the most dif- fi cult at the college. He was nervous and his heart was beating rapidly as he looked up and saw Sarah for the fi rst time. Was it love? Walt thinks so. He attributed his physical arousal to Sarah and not to the fear of taking the class.

WHAT IS LOVE? Have you ever looked at someone for the fi rst time and said to yourself, “I think I’m in love?” Is there such a thing as love at fi rst sight? Research has found that we do not fall in love—we grow into love. Th en, what is love?

Th is is a question people have been asking for years. Mass media, roman- tic novels, soap operas, songs, etc., have all been attempting to answer this question.

Love is a many splendored thing All that the world needs is love Love makes the world go around

I can’t live without love How do I love thee, let me count the ways Love means never having to say you are sorry

Our lives seem to evolve around this subject. But, does anyone know what love is? Everyone seems to have their own defi nition of love. When your date says that he or she loves you, what does your date mean? Is it the same as when your mother or father says it to you? What is your defi nition of love? Before you continue, take a few minutes and write down your defi nition of love. Share your defi nition of love with your friends and loved ones. Compare your defi nition with theirs.

We have found a defi nition of love that we would like to share with you. When the satisfaction, security, and development of another person is as

L ove is what’s left in a relationship when all the

selfi shness has been removed.


L ove is not fi nding someone you can live with; it’s fi nding

someone you can’t live without.


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important to you as your own satisfaction, security, and development, love exists (Harry Stack Sullivan 1968). Using this defi nition of love, you will fi nd that you can measure your love not only for your signifi cant other, but your mother, father, siblings, friends, animals, and even inanimate objects. What do you think?

What are your answers to the above questions? Th ese are some interesting myths about love that many of us have been agonizing over for years. Let us take a look at these myths and dispel some of the confusion regarding them (Weiten and Lloyd 2009).

1. Does true love last forever? It would be nice if love would last forever, but most of us have found that it does not. People who believe this myth may pursue love forever, looking for the ideal one that will bring complete happiness. Th is person will experience a lifetime of frustration. Would we have divorce if love lasted forever? It would be more realistic to view love as a wonderful experience that might be encountered on several occasions throughout life.

2. Does love conquer all? Many people believe that love and marriage will allow them to overcome (conquer) all their frustrations and problems in life. A supportive partner will help you solve many of your problems, but it does not guarantee success. Many people jump into relationships for this purpose, only to discover that the relationship creates additional problems.

3. Is love a purely positive experience? Mass media, television, romance novels, etc. are creating an unrealistic expectation that love is such a positive experience. In reality it can be a peak experience, but love can also bring intense negative emotions and great pain. As many of you know, a lover is capable of taking us to emotional peaks in either direction.

4. Do you know when you are in love? Th ere is no physiological cue to tell us we are in love. So the emotional feeling and the cognitive interpretation is diff erent for each of us. It is a state of confusion that many of us agonize over. It is normal to question our feelings toward another person. Remember, we grow to love someone gradually and usually do not fall in love.

5. Do you behave irrationally when you fall in love? Does love take control of your behavior? Some people stop eating, quit studying, are unable to concentrate on their job and avoid taking responsibility for their actions because they are in love. If you allow your heart to take control of your behavior, you may become vulnerable to irrational decisions about sexual involvement or long term commitments.

L ove is the strange bewilderment which

overtakes one person on account of another person.


True or False T F 1. True love lasts forever. T F 2. Love can conquer all. T F 3. Love is a purely positive experience. T F 4. When you fall in love, you’ll know it. T F 5. When love strikes, you have no control over your behavior.

Myths about Love

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 261

LOVE IS? Love is complex! Love is confusing! Most of you are aware of this. Love is diffi cult to measure and perplexing. People are yearning for it, will die for it, and even kill for it. But for some reason we have avoided studying it until the last few years. Psycholo- gists are now doing research attempting to discover what love is. Robert Sternberg (1988) has developed a theory of love that includes three distinct compo- nents: 1) passion , an intense physiological desire for another person; 2) intimacy , the feeling that one can share all one’s thoughts and actions with another; 3) commitment , the willingness to stay with a person through thick and thin, or for better or worse, or in sickness or health. Ideally, marriage is characterized by a healthy amount of all three components. Vari- ous combinations of these components result in quite diff erent types of love. Figure 6.1 will demonstrate some of these. For example, Sternberg suggests that romantic love involves a high degree of passion and intimacy, yet lacks substantial commitment to the other person. Compan- ionate love is marked by a great deal of intimacy and commitment but little passion. Consummate love is the most complete because it includes a high level of all three components. It is the most satisfying because the relation- ship is likely to fulfi ll many of the needs of each partner.

Walt cannot think of anything but Sarah. “She’s so wonderful, she’s really pretty, I don’t think I can live without her.” What is Walt experienc- ing? Is it love yet? Early in a relationship it may only be passion. When love has only passion (without intimacy or commitment), it is oft en called “infatuation.” We are infatuated with the other person when we cannot stop thinking about them and become physiologically aroused by touching, seeing, or even thinking of them.

Having a lot in common with Walt, Sarah has a warm comfort- able feeling for him. She is concerned about his success and is will- ing to do whatever she can to help him succeed. Is this the intimacy stage? When love has only intimacy (without passion or commit- ment), we might be better off calling it “liking.” Th is is when we enjoy being with our partner, respect them, and share with them. Would you call this love?

Does Sarah only like Walt or could it be something else? Sarah has been thinking more about the relationship recently, as time goes by she’s considering the fact that this relationship could last forever. She would stay with Walt through “thick and thin.” Is she getting more serious over the relationship? Is it love yet? When love has only commitment, it is “empty love.” We display empty love when we remain in a relationship from which all passion and intimacy have gone, as unhappy couples do “for the sake of the children.” Is this all that Sarah is experiencing?

Wait a minute! Th ere may be more to Walt’s and Sarah’s relation- ship. What’s missing? Take a look at the Triangle of Love ( Figure 6.1 ). We notice that their relationship is maturing. Th ere seems to be an equal mixture of intimacy, passion and decision/commitment, and this is called consummate love—an ideal, but diffi cult to attain

L ove is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the

young, the habituation of the middle aged, and the mutual dependence of the old.


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262 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

relationship. Th is is the type of relationship we should all be striving to reach. Do all cultures experience this? See Focus on Diversity—Is Th ere a Cultural Infl uence on Love?

THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOVE. Early in a relationship, passion is usually high, which may be one reason new love relationships and aff airs are most intense. Intimacy, however, is not as high because the partners have not spent enough time together or shared enough experiences and emotions to be able to under- stand each other completely. Passionate love without intimacy creates a risk of

Figure 6.1 Is This What Love Is Made Of?

A Triangular Model of Love Sternberg conceptualized love in the form of a triangle with three basic components: intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. Love may be based primarily on one of these components, on a combination of two of them, or on all three. As shown in the figure, seven different types of relationships are possible, depending on how the components are combined.

Adapted from Sternberg 1988.

Liking = Intimacy Alone (true friendship without passion or long-term commitment)

Consummate Love = Intimacy + Passion +

Commitment (a complete love consisting of all three components—and an ideal, but diffi cult to attain)

Romantic Love = Intimacy + Passion

(lovers physically and emotion- ally attracted to each other but without commitment, as in a summer romance)

Infatuation = Passion Alone

(passionate, obsessive love at fi rst sight without intimacy or commitment)

Companionate Love = Intimacy + Commitment

(long-term commitment and friendship such as a marriage in which the passion has faded)

Empty Love = Decision/ Commitment Alone

(decision to love another with- out intimacy or passion)

Fatuous Love = Passion + Commitment

(commitment based on passion but without time for intimacy to develop—shallow relationship such as a whirlwind courtship)

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 263

misunderstanding and jealousy about any other person or activity that seems to interfere with the relationship.

Over time, passion seems to fade while intimacy and commitment grow stronger. According to Sternberg, passion is like an addiction: in the beginning a touch of the hand, a smile, even a mere glance will produce excitement. Gradually, however, one needs a greater dose of stimulation to get the same feeling. We habituate to the passion, and thus to continue this intense feeling for one another, novel and signifi cant stimuli must be provided by each of the two individuals.

An understanding of the three components of love and the developmental process will help couples in the building of their relationship. A couple may want to schedule specifi c times each week, away from children and family, for a period of intimate sharing—a time to discuss problems as well as happy times. You may want to keep the passage burning by scheduling a weekend at the beach, buying your mate a special gift , taking them out to a special dinner, serving them breakfast in bed, etc. What else can you do to maintain the three components of love?

THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES. Aft er more than 30 years of marriage coun- seling, Dr. Gary Chapman (1995), author of the Five Love Languages, has concluded that there are basically fi ve emotional love languages—fi ve ways that people speak and understand emotional love. And, it is highly possible that your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as diff erent as Chinese is from English. No matter how hard you try to express your love in English, if your spouse understands only Chinese, you will never understand how to love each other. Dr. Chapman believes that love is something you do for someone else; therefore, it is critical to learn to express or respond to the needs of your spouse. Realizing that none of these are gender specifi c, Dr. Chapman’s languages are as follows:

1. Words of Affi rmation. Some people need verbal appreciation and encouragement in order to feel loved. Th is may be nothing more than “You look great in that suit,” or “You are the best yard guy we’ve ever had”, or “I know you will fi nish your degree.”

L ove is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not

boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always prevails.


Is There a Cultural Infl uence on Love?

Cultural factors have a strong infl uence on the value of love. In the United States, love is crucial to a satisfying marriage. In the former Soviet Union, however, only 40 percent of the people say that they married for love; most did so because of loneliness, shared interests, or an unplanned pregnancy (Baron et al. 2008). In research including two individualistic societies (Canada and the United States) and three collectivist societies (China, India, and Japan), romantic love is more likely

to be considered an important basis for marriage in individualistic societies than in collectivistic ones. In many Asian societies, the persons getting married are supposed to take into account the wishes of others, especially of parents and other family members. It is not unusual for marriages to be arranged by the respective families on the basis of such factors as occupation and status, not on the basis of love and the lover’s free choice. The intense feelings of passionate love and the self-absorption of two lov- ers would be disruptive to the functioning of the group. In collectivist cultures, such as India and Japan, love is considered less important to a successful marriage than is the ability to resolve family confl icts (Matsumoto 2007; Dresser 2005).





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264 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

2. Quality Time. Th is is more than mere proximity. It’s about focusing all your energy on your mate. It’s turning off the TV and giving each other quality time—quality listening time, or just doing something together.

3. Receiving Gift s. It is one thing to remember birthdays and anniversaries; it’s quite more to learn how to give “little” gift s of thoughtfulness throughout the week. Free, frequent, expensive, or rare, if your mate relates to the language of giving gift s, any visible sign of your love will leave him/her feeling happy and secure in your relationship.

4. Acts of Service. Sometimes simple chores or tasks around the house that are helpful to another person can be an undeniable expression of love. Th e task may be to discover what acts performed out of the kindness of your heart—not obligation—will show your love for your spouse.

5. Physical Touch. Many mates feel the most loved when they receive physical contact from their partner—a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a kiss, holding hands, a touch on the cheek. Remember, also, that sexual contact, although extremely important, is only one dialect of physical touch.

Perhaps the greatest task is to determine which love language means the most to your spouse, but it is well worth it for a satisfying life together.

As we look at the relationship of Walt and Sarah, we fi nd that Walt fi nally had the “guts” to ask Sarah out for coff ee aft er class. Th ey discov- ered that they have a lot in common (similarities) and have begun to disclose a lot of personal information about themselves to the other per- son. As their personal disclosure increases, their level of trust increases. Th eir attraction for one another grows. Th e fl ame is lit and the passion becomes more intense. But, wait a minute, what happened to Sarah’s boyfriend? Even though Sarah and her boyfriend have dated for more than four years, they really did not have much in common other than school activities. And remember that absence makes the heart grow fonder for someone else (proximity). Remember, Sarah’s boyfriend is going to college in another state.

Sarah and Walt have similar values, religious beliefs, attitudes about life, and the same interests. Th ey are beginning to spend more and more time together and the feeling of intimacy and commitment grows stron- ger. Sarah is no longer depressed—she is excited about life and her new relationship. She is looking to the future and setting goals. How does Walt feel about the relationship? Is he committed to the relationship?

Who Works Harder, Males or Females? If you are female and you think you do a lot more of the work when it comes to making your relationship run smoothly—you are right. Researchers say that women have more relationship skills.

Women are better communicators. They are more comfortable in sharing their feelings and being psychologically intimate (Miller 2005).

On the communication score, most men are still playing catch-up with women. For men, actual physical proximity is often as good as intimacy (“I’m here, aren’t I?”) (Miller 2005).

Women are more likely than men to work at improving a relationship (Lawson 2005). Men don’t think as often about a relationship’s complexities (Lawson 2005).



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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 265

MEN VS. WOMEN. On the whole, men tend to think they are compatible with their partner before women do. One reason may be that men and women tend to have diff erent attitudes about love. Men are more likely to be “roman- tics.” For example, they are inclined to believe in love at fi rst sight, and to regard true love as magical, impossible to explain or understand.

Women are more likely to be “pragmatists,” believing that fi nancial security is as important as passion in nourishing a close relationship and that there are many possible individuals that a person could learn to love. Women tend to be more cautious than men before deciding to take the fi nal step. Researchers say that women seem to do a lot more work when it comes to making a relationship work. What is the next step? Is it marriage or some alternative?

Becoming Committed

It is not entirely clear how and when commitment begins. At some time and in some way, two people in a relationship decide that their satisfaction or happiness with each other is signifi cantly greater than in their relationships with other people. Th us, they agree to begin a relatively long-lasting, more intimate relationship that to some extent excludes other close relationships. Th e couple agrees to depend on each other for the satisfaction of important needs, including companionship, love, and sex. Th e commitment may or may not include the decision to live together.

Making an agreement with another person to enter into a deeper, more exclusive, and lasting relationship is a crucially important life decision that must be made freely and with careful thought. Many individuals, consciously or unconsciously, feel pressured to enter into a relationship that they are not sure is good for them. Many people are not happy in their existing relation- ship or social situation, be it a bad home environment, an abusive mate, get- ting too old, being lonely, an alcoholic or addicted mate, etc., so they feel pressured to commit themselves to a new relationship as a means to escape the bad situation. A person who is pushed or pressured into a relationship will discover that their commitment is weaker and less enduring. If the com- mitment is made in defi ance of pressure from parents or peers, the com- mitment may be very strong. As many of you know, if your parents were to tell you that you cannot date a specifi c person, you will do whatever it takes to make sure you will date them and be more committed to them.

L ove is often nothing but a favorable exchange between

two people who get the most of what they can expect, considering their value on the personality market.


One neglects to see an important factor in love, that of will. To love somebody is not just a strong feeling—it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, if my actions do not involve judgment and decision?

Erich Fromm Psychoanalyst

Is Love a Feeling or a Decision?

L ove is more than a feeling; it’s a journey that you take

with another person and both of you are active participants in how that journey unfolds.


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266 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

Th is phenomenon is known as psychological reactance —the tendency to protect or restore one’s sense of freedom or social control, oft en by doing the opposite of what has been demanded. Th is is also known as the Romeo and Juliet eff ect , where their love was intensifi ed, not weakened, by their families opposition. In summation, a commitment is likely to be strongest when it is arrived at freely and when it is cemented by taking action as a result of the commitment.

SHOULD I REMAIN SINGLE? Although alternatives to marriage are more viable than ever, experts still say that approximately ninety percent of us will marry at least once. During the past 40 years in the United States, the average age of marriage has risen steadily. According to Census Bureau data (2008), the average age women marry is 26 years and for men 28 years. Furthermore, the proportion of people age 30 to 34 who have never married continues to increase.

Remaining single is becoming a more viable lifestyle. More and more people are remaining single. Furthermore, the negative stereotype of people who remain single, which pictures them as lonely, frustrated, depressed, odd, and unchosen is disappearing.

Studies have shown that married people live longer and are healthier throughout those extra years. Marriage does seem to help both spouses cope better with stress, though men benefi t more than women. However, the stress of a bad marriage can undo much of the good that comes along with a happy one (Strong et al. 2007).

It is interesting to note that most studies fi nd that single women are more satisfi ed with their lives and less distressed than comparable single men, and various lines of evidence suggest that women get along without men better than men get along without women (Stack and Eshleman 1998; Weiten and Lloyd 2009).

SHOULD WE LIVE TOGETHER BEFORE MARRIAGE? Th ere was a time when “shacking up” was not viewed in a positive light. Today, this is called cohabi- tation, meaning two partners living together as if married, and it’s no longer viewed in such a negative light. Cohabitation has become increasingly com- mon, not only in the United States, but also in other industrialized countries. For example, rates are high in Great Britain, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, and Sweden. In fact, more children in Sweden are born to cohabi- tating couples than to married couples. Th e percentage of U.S. couples who cohabitate before marriage has greatly increased over the past 40 years, with approximately 67 million opposite-sex couples living together in 2008 (Census Bureau 2008). It has increased all across socioeconomic, age, and racial groups (Bumpass and Lu 2002; Strong 2007; Census Bureau 2008).

Th e majority of people who cohabit are under the age of 24 (Overstreet 2007). Most cohabitating relationships generally don’t last more than 2 years. Less than 1 out of 10 lasts fi ve years, and a little over 50 percent eventually marry. And, approximately one-third of cohabitating couples have children (Hyde and Delamater 2007).

Not only do many couples consider cohabitation a prelude to marriage—a trial marriage, they also believe that cohabitation improves the chances of marital success (Wartik 2005). However, researchers have found an asso- ciation between premarital cohabitation and increased marital discord and divorce rates (Bumpass and Lu 2000; Coontz 2006). In fact, in one study, 40 percent of the couples who lived together before getting married divorced

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 267

within the fi rst 10 years of marriage compared with 31 percent for those who didn’t live together fi rst (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2002).

What seems to be the reasons for the higher divorce rate among cou- ples who cohabit? Researchers believe that couples who decide to cohabit are already at a higher risk of divorce than couples who do not, since they tend to be more liberal, sexually experienced, have less traditional attitudes toward marriage, family, and divorce, have slightly lower incomes, and are slightly less religious than non-cohabitants (Bumpass and Lu 2002; Smock 2002). A lot depends on the individual couple—especially their values.

As more and more people across diff erent backgrounds enter cohabita- tion relationships, we will learn more concerning whether the experiences of cohabitation or characteristics of those who cohabit have greater impact on later marriage.

WHY SHOULD I MARRY? People tend to marry out of mixed motives—many of them unclear even to them- selves. Now that marriage is no longer necessary for economic survival or the satisfaction of sexual needs, love has become the major rationale for getting mar ried and staying married. Unfortunately, people sometimes marry for the wrong reasons: to become respectable, for money, for a regular sexual outlet, for status, or to make their parents happy. Even cohabiting couples may marry for the wrong reason. Just when the rela- tionship begins to falter, marriage may be sought to save the relationship. It’s a temporary “fi x,” because it does not solve the underlying confl icts.

Consider this . . . Consider this . . .

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