- Years old:
- I'm 49 years old
- Where am I from:
- Eye tint:
- I’ve got large hazel eyes
- Favourite drink:
- Mulled wine
- I don't have piercings
Do you have an adult family member or friend with a drug or alcohol problem?
To this point in the chapter, we have focused upon the attraction that occurs between people who are initially getting to know one another. But the basic principles of social psychology can also be applied to help us understand relationships that last longer.
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When good friendships develop, when people get married and plan to spend the rest of their lives together, and when families grow closer over time, the relationships take on new dimensions and must be understood in somewhat different ways. Yet the principles of social psychology can still be applied to help us understand what makes these relationships last. The factors that keep people liking and loving each other in long-term relationships are at least in part the same as the factors that lead to initial attraction.
For instance, regardless of how long they have been together, people remain interested in the physical attractiveness of their partners, although it is relatively less important than for initial encounters. And similarity remains essential. Proximity also remains important—relationships that undergo the strain of the partners being apart from each other for very long are more at risk for breakup. But what about passion? Does it still matter over time? Yes and no. People in long-term relationships who are most satisfied with their partners report that they still feel passion for their partners—they still want to be around them as much as possible, and they enjoy making love with them Simpson, ; Sprecher, Recall, though, that physical intimacy continues to be important.
Frank and Anita from our case study, for example, said that they still put great importance on sharing a kiss and a cuddle every night before bed.
This does not mean that enduring love is less strong—rather, it may sometimes have a different underlying structure than initial love based more on passion. Although it is safe to say that many of the variables that influence initial attraction remain important in longer-term relationships, other variables also come into play over time.
One important change is that as a relationship progresses, the partners come to know each other more fully and care about each other to a greater degree.
In successful relationships, the partners feel increasingly close to each other over time, whereas in unsuccessful relationships, closeness does not increase and may even decrease. The closeness experienced in these relationships is marked in part by reciprocal self-disclosure — the tendency to communicate frequently, without fear of reprisal, and in an accepting and empathetic manner.
When the partners in a relationship feel that they are close, and when they indicate that the relationship is based on caring, warmth, acceptance, and social support, we can say that the relationship is intimate Sternberg, The measure is simple to use and to interpret. If a person chooses a circle that represents the self and the other as more overlapping, this means that the relationship is close. But if they choose a circle that is less overlapping, then the relationship is less so. This measure is used to determine how close two partners feel to each other.
The respondent simply circles which of the figures he or she feels characterizes the relationship. From Aron, Aron, and Smollan In fact, the perceived closeness between romantic partners can be a better predictor of how long a relationship will last than is the of positive feelings that the partners indicate having for each other. In a laboratory, they paired college students with another student, one whom they did not know.
Communal relationships are close relationships in which partners suspend their need for equity and exchange, giving support to the partner in order to meet his or her needs, and without consideration of the costs to themselves. Communal relationships are contrasted with exchange relationshipsrelationships in which each of the partners keeps track of his or her contributions to the partnership.
Although partners in long-term relationships are frequently willing and ready to help each other meet their needs, and although they will in some cases forgo the need for exchange and reciprocity, this does not mean that they always or continually give to the relationship without expecting anything in return. Partners often do keep track of their contributions and received benefits.
If one or both of the partners feel that they are unfairly contributing more than their fair share, and if this inequity continues over a period of time, the relationship will suffer. Partners who feel that they are contributing more will naturally become upset because they will feel that they are being taken advantage of. But the partners who feel that they are receiving more than they deserve might feel guilty about their lack of contribution to the partnership. Interestingly, it is not just our perception of the equity of the ratio of rewards and costs we have in our relationships that is important.
It also matters how we see this ratio in comparison to those that we perceive people of the same sex as us receiving in the relationships around us.
Buunk and Van Yperenfor example, found that people who saw themselves as getting a better deal than those around them were particularly satisfied with their relationships. From the perspective of social comparison theory, which we discussed in chapter 3 in relation to the self, this makes perfect sense. When we contrast our own situation with that of similar others and we perceive ourselves as better off, then this means we are making a downward social comparison, which will tend to make us feel better about ourselves and our lot in life.
Closeness and intimacy
There are also some individual differences in the extent to which perceptions of equity are important. Buunk and Van Yperen, for example, found that the relationship between perceptions of equity and relationship satisfaction only held for people who were high in exchange orientation. In contrast, those low in exchange orientation did not show an association between equity and satisfaction, and, perhaps even more tellingly, were more satisfied with their relationships than those high in exchange orientation.
In short, in relationships that last, the partners are aware of the needs of the other person and attempt to meet them equitably. But partners in the best relationships are also able to look beyond the rewards themselves and to think of the relationship in a communal way. Another factor that makes long-term relationships different from short-term ones is that they are more complex.
When a couple begins to take care of a household together, has children, and perhaps has to care for elderly parents, the requirements of the relationship become correspondingly bigger. The members of a close relationship are highly interdependent, relying to a great degree on each other to meet their goals. Because a lot of energy has been invested in creating the relationship, particularly when the relationship includes children, breaking off the partnership becomes more and more costly with time.
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After spending a long time with one person, it may also become more and more difficult to imagine ourselves with anyone else. In relationships in which a positive rapport between the partners is developed and maintained over a period of time, the partners are naturally happy with the relationship and they become committed to it.
Commitment refers to the feelings and actions that keep partners working together to maintain the relationship. In comparison with those who are less committed, partners who are more committed to the relationship see their mates as more attractive than others, are less able to imagine themselves with another partner, express less interest in other potential mates, are less aggressive toward each other, and are less likely to break up Simpson, ; Slotter et al.
Commitment may in some cases lead individuals to stay in relationships that they could leave, even though the costs of remaining in the relationship are very high. On the surface, this seems puzzling because people are expected to attempt to maximize their rewards in relationships and would be expected to leave them if they are not rewarding. But in addition to evaluating the outcomes that one gains from a given relationship, the individual also evaluates the potential costs of moving to another relationship or not having any relationship at all.
We might stay in a romantic relationship, even if the benefits of that relationship are not high, because the costs of being in no relationship at all are perceived as even higher. We may also remain in relationships that have become dysfunctional in part because we recognize just how much time and effort we have invested in them over the years.
Communal and exchange relationships
Although the good news about interdependence and commitment is clear—they help relationships last longer—they also have a potential downside. Breaking up, should it happen, is more difficult in relationships that are interdependent and committed. The closer and more committed a relationship has been, the more devastating a breakup will be. Although we have talked about it indirectly, we have not yet tried to define love itself—and yet it is obviously the case that love is an important part of many close relationships. Social psychologists have studied the function and characteristics of romantic love, finding that it has cognitive, affective, and behavioral components and that it occurs cross-culturally, although how it is experienced may vary.
The model, shown in Figure 7. For instance, people who are good friends may have liking intimacy only or may have known each other so long that they also share commitment to each other companionate love. Similarly, partners who are initially dating might simply be infatuated with each other passion only or may be experiencing romantic love both passion and liking but not commitment.
The triangular model of love, proposed by Robert Sternberg. Note that there are seven types of love, which are defined by the combinations of the underlying factors of intimacy, passion, and commitment. From Sternberg Lemieux and Hale gathered data on the three components of the theory from couples who were either casually dating, engaged, or married.
They found that while passion and intimacy were negatively related to relationship length, that commitment was positively correlated with duration.
Reported intimacy and passion scores were highest for the engaged couples. As well as these differences in what love tends to look like in close relationships over time, there are some interesting gender and cultural differences here. In regards to cultural differences, on average, people from collectivistic backgrounds tend to put less emphasis on romantic love than people from more individualistic countries.
According to this idea, love helps couples work together to improve the relationship by coordinating and planning activities and by increasing commitment to the partnership. They predicted that the romantic love manipulation would decrease attention to faces of attractive opposite-sex people. One half of the participants the romantic love condition were ased to write a brief essay about a time in which they experienced strong feelings of love for their current partner.
Participants ased to the control condition wrote a brief essay about a time in which they felt extremely happy.
After completing the essay, participants completed a procedure in which they were shown a series of attractive and unattractive male and female faces. The procedure assessed how quickly the participants could shift their attention away from the photo they were looking at to a different photo. The dependent variable was the reaction time in milliseconds with which participants could shift their attention. Figure 7. Activating thoughts and feelings of romantic love reduced attention to faces of attractive alternatives.
Attention to other social targets remained unaffected. Data are from Maner et al. As you can see in Figure 7. These findings suggest that romantic love may inhibit the perceptual processing of physical attractiveness cues—the very same cues that often pose a high degree of threat to the relationship. One of the important determinants of the quality of close relationships is the way that the partners relate to each other.
These approaches can be described in terms of attachment style — individual differences in how people relate to others in close relationships. Most children develop a healthy or secure attachment stylewhere they perceive their parents as safe, available, and responsive caregivers and are able to relate easily to them.
The benefits of taking action early
For these children, the parents successfully create appropriate feelings of affiliation and provide a secure base from which the child feels free to explore and then to return to. However, for children with unhealthy attachment styles, the family does not provide these needs.
These children are anxious about whether the parents will reciprocate closeness. Still other children become unable to relate to the parents at all, becoming distant, fearful, and cold the avoidant attachment style. Fraley conducted a meta-analysis of 27 studies that had looked at the relationship between attachment behavior in infants and in adults over 17 years of age and found a ificant correlation between the two measures.
A fourth infant attachment style has been identified more recently, the disorganized attachment stylewhich is a blend of the other two insecure styles. This style also shows some links to adulthood patterns, in this case an avoidant-fearful attachment style. They stay in relationships longer and are less likely to feel jealousy about their partners.
But the relationships of anxious and avoidant partners can be more problematic. One way to think about attachment styles, shown in Table 7.