Developing Close Relationships

 Developing Close Relationships

Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

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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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250 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

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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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 251

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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Who are your good friends?

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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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Do opposites attract? Or is it birds of a feather fl ock together?

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 . . .

Will Your Marriage Last Forever?

There is no foolproof recipe for lasting, happy marriages. Recent studies have provided us with some valuable clues as to what makes a happy and successful marriage (Strong et al. 2007).

Happily married couples spend a lot of focused time together doing what they both enjoy, much as they did in their courtship days before they married.

They share many of the same values, such as the importance of physical intimacy, childrearing practices, religious beliefs, and morals.

These couples exhibited a high degree of fl exibility—they have the ability to accept change in their partners as well as changes in the nature of the married relationship.

Other factors that seem to be important predictors of marital success include:

Age at time of marriage—couples who marry young have a higher divorce rate. Length of courtship—longer periods of courtship are associated with greater probability of

marital success. Family background—people whose parents were unhappily married are more likely than others

to have an unsatisfactory marriage (Amato and DeBoer 2001). Personality—if one or both partners has a serious psychological or emotional disorder,

problems will occur.

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268 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

In Are You the One for Me? , Barbara Deangelis (2004) reminds readers of some potentially bad love and marriage choices:

You care more about your partner than he or she does about you. Your partner cares more about you than you care about him or her. You are in love with your partner’s potential. You are on a rescue mission. You look up to your partner as a role model. You are infatuated with your partner for external reasons.

You have partial compatibility—a lot in common in one area—but you ignore the rest of the relationship.

You choose a partner to be rebellious. You choose a partner as a reaction to your previous partner. Your partner is unavailable (married or living with someone).

Marriage is a risky proposition. In deciding to get married, people make a long range projection about the future of their relationship. Obviously, it is diffi cult to predict thirty, forty, or even fi ft y years of commitment on the basis of one or two years of premarital interaction.

One way to determine what may help maintain relationships is to ask couples who have been together for years what they think is important. Robert and Jeanette Lauer (1990) studied three hundred and fi ft y couples who had been married for at least fi ft een years. It is interesting to note that both husbands and wives, out of fi ft een choices, listed the same seven quali- ties as being important to a successful marriage:

1. My spouse is my best friend. 2. I like my spouse as a person. 3. Marriage is a long-term commitment. 4. We agree on aims and goals. 5. My spouse has grown more interesting. 6. I want the relationship to succeed. 7. Marriage is sacred.

Couples were asked questions about their marriage, ranging from inter- ests, hobbies, sex, money and attitudes toward their spouses, and reasons why their marriages had lasted.

Th e most frequently given reason for a lasting marriage is having a posi- tive attitude toward one’s partner. Th ese individuals see their spouse as their best friend and they like him or her as a person. Th ey are aware that their partner has faults, but their likable qualities more than off set their shortcom- ings. Many people stated that the present generation takes the marriage vows too lightly and are not willing to work at solving their problems. Marriage is a commitment and takes a lot of work. Both partners have to work at solv- ing their problems. Another key ingredient to a lasting marriage is a mutual agreement about aims and goals of life, such as the desire to make the mar- riage last. A satisfying sex life is important, but this is not what makes the marriage last. In his New York Times Best-Seller, Th e Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work , John Gottman (2004) believes that the determining factor in whether wives feel satisfi ed with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couples friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship.

M arry your best friend as well as your lover. Don’t keep secrets or harbor grudges.


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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 269

Marital Adjustment

During courtship, many of us wear “rose-colored glasses.” We tend to ignore or not notice our partners’ faults. We tend to focus mostly on pleasurable activities and our partner’s positive characteristics. But when people marry, they must face reality and the problems that they will encounter within this new relationship. Suddenly, marriage brings duties and obligations. One is no longer responsible for only oneself but now shares responsibility for two people and perhaps more if children arrive.

Furthermore, one’s identity is changed with marriage. No longer are you simply you—you are now Sarah’s husband, or Walt’s wife, or Jon’s mother or father. You become interdependent with others in your family and not inde- pendent. For some people this loss of independence may become a crisis, but for others this new identity may give them a new lease on life.

Th e changing nature of male and female roles creates problems for all types of couples as they settle down to live together. Even the most mundane tasks may become a problem. Who pays the bills? Who takes out the trash? Who cooks? Who will stay home and take care of the family? Th ere is no such thing as a problem-free marriage. Successful marriages depend on the couples’ ability to handle their problems.

ROLE EXPECTATIONS. What is the woman’s role in married life? Is it dif- ferent from a man’s role? Should a man’s and a woman’s role be diff erent? When a couple marry, they assume new roles, that of husband and wife. We all have developed our own expectations of how a wife or husband should behave. Th ese expectations may vary greatly from one person to another. What happens if your expectations are diff erent from your partners? Serious problems may occur. Th e more the two partners agree about marital roles, the more likely the marriage will last over a longer period of time.

Where did you learn what the role of a husband or a wife should be? Most of us learned this from watching our parents through the process called modeling. But times are changing and other social forces are having an eff ect on our roles within a relationship. Careers are changing the timing of marriage and caretaking roles of the family. Th e women’s movement has given women more options and has changed their percep- tion of what their role is in a relationship. Marriage seems to be in a state of transition, and, consequently, most of us are in a state of confusion as to what role we should be playing.

It is imperative that couples discuss role expecta- tions in depth before marriage. If they discover that their views are very diff erent, they need to take seriously the potential for problems. Many people ignore gender-role disagreements, thinking they can “straighten out” their partners later on. But as we have all discovered, it is diffi cult to change our own behavior and more diffi cult to change someone else’s behavior—especially their attitude.

While we are dating, and during the honeymoon period , which can be any time from the wedding day to a year or so from that day, many people do not see the people they love as they really are, but rather as they wish (expect)

A happy home is one in which each spouse grants the possibility that the other may be right, though neither believes it.



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270 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

them to be. We see what we expect to see, we hear what we want to hear—this is a psychological phenomenon of perception that can interfere with the way we perceive the world. We tend to perceive only the positive characteristics of our partners and ignore the negative characteristics. In essence, a person is in love with their own dreams and ideals and not with the person they marry. Living together day in and day out makes it only a matter of time until each partner is forced to compare ideals with reality.

Th e Honeymoon Is Over. One morning, aft er Walt and Sarah have been married for about a year, Sarah awakens and “realizes” that Walt is not the same man she married. She accuses him of changing for the worse. He is not as considerate and as kind to her as he was before. He does not pay as much attention to her. He doesn’t enjoy going out all the time like they used to. He just wants to stay home. Walt insists, of course, that he has not changed; he is the same person that she married and he enjoys quiet evenings at home alone with her.

Th is interaction may be signaling that the “honeymoon” is over for Walt and Sarah. Th is stage is very important in most marriages. It usually indicates that the unrealistic, overly high expectations about marriage and one’s mate created by “love” are being reexamined. No one can live up to perfection. In a successful relationship, it means that subjective perceptions are becoming more realistic and more objective. It also means that we are at last coming to know our mate as a real human being rather than as a projection of our expectations. Realizing the humanness of our partner allows us to relax, to be human as well and not feel that we have to live up to our partner’s expec- tations. If my partner can make mistakes and be less than perfect, so can I, thank goodness.

Aft er the honeymoon period, intensity diminishes and satisfaction with marriage generally dips, especially for wives. Th e most commonly cited rea- son for this change is the arrival of children. For most couples, the time and eff ort spent on parenting usually takes time away from the husband- wife relationship. Within the past two decades, there does appear to be an increase in married couples making the choice not to have children or at least delay having children (U.S. Census Bureau 2008). Some of the reasons oft en cited are the great costs involved in raising children, the possible con- fl icts involved with preparation for college and/or career improvements/ advancements, loss of autonomy, and the great responsibility of raising chil- dren (Bulcroft and Teachman 2004).

What are some of the other issues and problems that a couple may encounter as they begin to face the reality of being married and functioning as a “twosome” rather than an individual? Yes, so many decisions to make!

MARRIAGE, CAREER AND PARENTHOOD. Should the woman work aft er she gets married? Should she work aft er she has children? Should the husband stay at home with the children while the wife pursues a career? While dual- career couples are the norm today, fi nances oft en make the decision regarding the above questions. However, resentments and mixed feelings can occur for many couples.

If a woman has to work to help provide for a family, she may feel guilty because she is not at home taking care of the kids. What if she doesn’t have to work but prefers to work rather than staying home with the kids? Should she feel guilty for this when this is clearly what makes her happy? What if the

W hile all couples eventually lose a bit of that “Honeymoon” euphoria, those who remain married don’t consider this a crushing blow, but rather a natural transition from “romantic relationship” to “working partnership.”


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woman has the more lucrative career and the decision is made for the man to stay home with the kids? Will he resent his breadwinning wife? Will he maintain his feelings of masculinity when he is not the person who provides money for the family?

Whatever arrangements couples make, Dr. Deborah Siegel (2007) indicates that psychologist Barry McCarthy urges couples to talk about their arrangements in terms of two-year timeframes, agreeing to make a point to check in every six months to see how well the arrange- ments are working for each individual. Are there other issues to consider?

One common problem of two-paycheck fami- lies is the division of housework and childcare. It is interesting to note that unmarried couples who live together divide the housework more evenly than married couples, while men who live with their partners before marrying them do more house- work then men who move directly into marriage (Coontz 2006). Men’s contribution to housework and childcare has increased in recent decades, but studies indicate that wives are still doing the bulk of the household chores in America, even when they work outside the home (Coltrane 2001; Coontz 2006.). Wives still do the vast majority of “women’s work,” such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry, while men continue to do mostly tradi- tional “male chores,” such as auto maintenance and outdoor tasks. As you might expect, men who are better educated or younger tend to be more helpful around the house. Surprisingly, however, the more children a couple has, the less likely they are to share equally in the household labor, even if both are working an equal number of hours outside the home. Th us, many employed mothers feel overworked and under appreciated (Warner 2005).

Perhaps it is not surprising that a Pew Research Center survey in 2007 showed 60 percent, up from 48 percent 10 years ago, of America’s working mothers say their ideal situation would include a part-time job, rather than working full time or staying at home.

What other issues and concerns do married couples encounter as they strive to succeed in their marriage?

Marital Confl ict

What do most couples argue about? Is it sex, money, children, power, roles and responsibilities, jealousy, or extra-marital aff airs? Money ranks as the single most common cause of confl ict in marriage. Money not only infl u- ences a couples’ lifestyle but also their feelings of security, self-esteem, confi – dence, and acceptance by others. Without money, families live in a constant state of stress, fearing the loss of jobs, illness, or household emergencies. Husbands tend to view themselves as poor providers, and their self-esteem may crumble as a result.

Neither financial stability nor wealth can ensure marital satisfac- tion. Even when financial resources are plentiful, money can be a source of marital strain. Quarrels about how to spend money are common and potentially damaging at all income levels. Money is freedom, money is power, and sometimes men and women even lie about it. In fact, Louise

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Home or career or both? The question is often a struggle for women.

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272 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

Lague (2001) reports in a poll of 1,000 married people, ages 18 and over, half of them men and half women, that the most “hushed-up” issue was how much the respondents paid for something they bought. Couples that tend to be more satisfied with their marriage engage in more joint deci- sions regarding their finances in comparison to couples that eventually divorce.

Examine the last sentence, and decide what underlies most problems in relationships—be it a marriage, a business relationship, or wherever two or more people interact.

CAN A BAD RELATIONSHIP BE GOOD? Psychologist John Gottman (2004; 2007) has been studying love and marriage for over 30 years, with a con- centrated 10-year study that has provided valuable research data behind his theories. He believes that some negative emotions used in arguments are more toxic than others: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticism involves constantly expressing negative evaluations of one’s part- ner. Contempt involves communication insulting feelings that one’s spouse is inferior. Defensiveness involves responding to criticism and contempt with obstructive communication escalates marital confl ict. Stonewalling involves withdrawing from a discussion, most frequently seen among men. Gottman further indicates that he has learned at least two things from the couples he has studied: One is the importance in building and maintaining a friend- ship in your marriage so that you give your partner the benefi t of the doubt when times are tough. Th is takes constant work. Second is that you have a choice every time you say something to your partner. He feels you can say something that will either nurture the relationship or tear it down. In other words, you may win a particular fi ght with your spouse, but you could lose the marriage in the long run.

Gottman contends that many aspects of marriage, oft en considered critical to long-term success, such as how intensely people fi ght; whether they face confl ict or avoid it; how well they solve problems; how compatible they are socially, fi nancially, even sexually are less important than people and professionals once thought. Gottman believes that none of these things matter to a marriage’s longevity as much as maintaining that crucial ratio of fi ve-to-one.

WHAT IS THIS FIVETOONE RATIO? Th is is the diff erence between divorce and a positive long-term relationship according to Gottman—it is mind-boggling in its very simplicity. Satisfi ed couples maintain a fi ve-to-one ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions in their relationship. It is hard to believe that the longevity of your relationship depends primarily on you being fi ve times as nice to your partner as you are nasty to them. Th is may be surprising to you (Gottman 1995; 2004).

Wildly explosive relationships that vacillate between heated arguments and passionate reconciliations can be as happy—and long lasting—as those that seem more emotionally stable. Th ey may even be more exciting and intimate.

Couples who start out complaining about each other have some of the most stable marriages over time, while those who do not fi ght early on are more likely to face the road to divorce.

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 273

Fighting, whether rare or frequent, is sometimes the healthiest thing a couple can do for the relationship. In fact, blunt anger, appropriately expressed, “seems to immunize marriages against deterioration.”

Emotionally inexpressive marriages, which may seem like repressed vol- canoes destined to explode, are actually very successful—so long as the couple maintains the fi ve-to-one ratio in what they do express to each other. In fact, too much emotional catharsis among such couples can “scare the hell out of them,” says Gottman.

How warmly you remember the story of your relationship foretells your chances of staying together. In one study that involved couples telling about how their relationship evolved, psychologists were able to predict—with an astonishing 94 percent accuracy—which couples would be divorced within three years.

Men who do housework are likely to have happier marriages, greater physical health, even better sex lives than men who do not. (Hearing this, men may be running to fi nd the vacuum cleaner.)

In happy marriages, there are no discernible gender diff erences in terms of the quantity and quality of emotional expression. In fact, men in happy marriages are more likely to reveal intimate personal information about themselves than women.

What do you think about the fi ve-to-one ratio? Should we be teaching couples how to apply this to their relationship?

Communication Problems

Successful communication is the cornerstone of any relationship. Such commu- nication must be open, realistic, tactful, caring, and valued. Maintaining this kind of communication is not always easy unless all the people involved are committed to the belief that good communication is important to life and marital satisfaction. Th is sounds simple, yet couples in marital trouble almost always list failure to communicate as one of their major problems. Basically, communication failures occur because one or perhaps both partners choose not to communicate or because of the lack of communication skills. You may want to refer back to the communication chapter and apply the material dis- cussed in that chapter to improve upon your communication skills.

Many couples get so involved in the activities of everyday life—their career, their family activities and their outside interests—that they forget about the needs and interests of their spouse. Even though they spend time with their spouse, they really do not communicate. If this seems to be true of your relationship, you may want to change this by scheduling a time to com- municate. Tell your mate that you would like to take them out to dinner every Th ursday night, even if it is to a fast food restaurant, so you have a time to sit down and talk. Th is is your time, do not take the kids or anyone else. You may want to write down things you want to talk about during the week so you won’t forget about them. Many times a person will get to the scheduled session and say, “Th ere’s something I want to talk about, but I forgot what it was.” You may want to schedule a weekend away from the family every few months so you can talk and plan for the future. See Consider this, Mak- ing Up versus Breaking Up, further in the chapter to see the importance of communication in a relationship.

W hat counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.


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How To Have a Happy Relationship

Learn to Calm Down—Do not let the emotions take control of you. Do not over-react; wait, relax, take a walk, remove yourself from the stress event for a period of time until you have time to calm down and respond logically. Be sure you are ready to not bring up past faults, mistakes, and problems. Once you have calmed down, you can work on the other basic “keys” to improving their relationship.

Validate Your Partner—Validation involves “putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and imagining his or her emotional state.” Let your partner know that you understand how he or she feels and why, even if you do not agree. You can also show validation by acknowledging your partner’s point of view, accepting appropriate responsibility, and apologizing when you are clearly wrong. If this still seems too much of a stretch, at least let your partner know that you are trying to understand, even if you’re fi nding it hard.

Learn to Speak and Listen Non-Defensively—This is tough, Gottman admits, but defensiveness is a very dangerous response, and it needs to be interrupted. One of the most powerful things you can do—in addition to working toward the ideal of listening with empathy and speaking without blame—is to “begin to apply praise and admiration into your relationship.” A little positive reinforcement (appreciation) goes a long way toward changing the chemistry between couples.

Practice, Practice, Practice—Gottman calls this “overlearning,” doing something so many times that it becomes second nature. The goal is to be able to calm yourself down, communicate non-defensively, and validate your partner automatically—even in the heat of an argument.

Do you agree?

Family Violence

Physical violence is most apt to erupt in families lacking communication skills. Such families oft en cannot talk to one another, do not listen to one another, and simply lack enough communication skills to make themselves understood. Children are oft en physically violent because they have not learned how to communicate. In a way, adults who cannot communicate are like children and too oft en express themselves physically rather than verbally (Strong et al. 2007).

Family violence is diffi cult to measure and document because most of it occurs in the privacy of the home, away from public view, and also goes unreported. Family violence includes child abuse, violence between spouses, sibling abuse, sexual abuse, and parental abuse by children, especially elderly parents. (Duff y and Atwater 2008).

Th e causes of family violence are many, including problems in the society (such as cultural attitudes toward women and children), in parents (such as drug addiction, alcoholism, and fi nancial problems), and in the child (such as being a diffi cult child or being sickly). Th e most eff ective strategies should emphasize prevention and treatment rather than blame. In addition, any measures that help reduce stress and increase individuals’ social support will

John Gottman 1995; 2007.

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make violence and abuse less likely. Remember, good communication skills underlie all good relationships.

It is actually easier than you think to avoid a violent or abusive rela- tionship. Our problem is that we allow our emotions to take control of our behavior and not our common sense and intellect. Recent research has shown that in most relationships where violence has occurred, some form of abuse began during the dating period. If a person is abusive while the couple is dating, what are the chances of the person not being abusive when they are married? Not very likely! A person does not change overnight or as soon as they sign a marriage license. To the contrary, some people feel that the marriage license is a sign of ownership and they can now do whatever they want to their partner. If you are in an abusive relationship before mar- riage you may want to “think twice” before making a serious commitment to that person.


But, wait a minute, you know you can help that person. Th ey need your help and you love them and you feel you can help them change. If you can get them to marry you it will be easier to help them change. Th is sounds

Consider this . . . Consider this . . .

What Is Codependency?

My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you. Your struggles affect my serenity. My mental attitude focuses on solving your problems or

relieving your pain. My mental attention is focused on pleasing you. My mental attention is focused on protecting you. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you “to do it my way.” My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain. My own hobbies and interests are put aside. My time is spent sharing your interest and

hobbies. Your clothing and personal appearance is dictated by my desires, because I feel you are a

refl ection of me. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel. I am not aware of what I want. I ask

you what you want. If I am not aware, I assume. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you. My fear of rejection determines what I say and do. My fear of your anger determines what I say and do. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you. I put my values aside in order to connect with you. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours.

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like the beginning of a codependent relationship —where one person has allowed another person’s behavior (abuse, chemical addiction, etc.) to aff ect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior (Beattie 2001). It is natural to want to protect and help the people we care about. It is also natural to be aff ected by and react to the problems of people around us. As the problems become more serious and remain unresolved, we become more aff ected and react more intensely to it. Does this sound like anyone you know?

Have you become so absorbed in other people’s problems that you do not have time to identify or solve your own?

Do you care so deeply about other people that you have forgotten how to care for yourself?

Do you need to control events and people around you because you feel everything around and inside you is out of control?

Do you feel responsible for so much because the people around you feel responsible for so little?

ARE YOU CODEPENDENT? If you or any of your friends answer yes to the above questions, you may be codependent. Whatever problem the other person has, codependency involves a habitual system of thinking, feeling, and behaving toward ourselves and others that can cause us pain. Codependent behaviors or habits are self-destructive, not only to themselves, but also to all their rela- tionships. Most codependents have been so busy responding to other people’s problems that they have not had time to identify, much less take care, of their own problems.

Can a codependent change? Yes, defi nitely. But as we have already learned, change is not easy—it takes a lot of work and eff ort on everyone’s part. Th e fi rst step toward change is awareness of the problem, and the second step is acceptance. In order to become aware of what codependence is, we need to know what the characteristics of a codependent are.

Codependency is many things. It is a dependency on people—on their moods, behavior, sickness or well-being, and their love. It is a paradoxical dependency. Codependents appear to be depended upon, but they are depen- dent. Th ey look strong but feel helpless. Th ey appear controlling but in reality are controlled themselves, sometimes by a disorder or illness such as alco- holism. If you fi nd yourself in a codependent relationship, you may want to read some of the new literature and self-help books available at your local bookstores or seek professional help through the counseling offi ce or mental health center near you.

During the courtship period and continuing throughout married life, there is an insecure feeling in many individuals when they fear the loss of aff ection of their partner, especially when they feel threatened by an outside source. Th at outside source may be a new baby, a new friend, a new career, etc. Let us take another look at Walt and Sarah.

Walt has been working for a law fi rm for two years now and seems to be doing well. But the job is not as exciting as it originally was for the fi rst two years. Walt is not considering changing jobs since he still knows that he could be a full partner within fi ve years and that has been his goal for a long time.

On the other hand, Sarah just changed jobs and is extremely excited about the new challenges and the new friends she is getting to know.

L ove creates an “us” without destroying a “me.”


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Sarah is beginning to spend more and more time at work and more time socially with her new friends. Occasionally, she has been working late with a male colleague to complete a major project.

Walt comes home aft er work and Sarah’s still working. He is used to having her companionship in the evenings. Walt’s beginning to ques- tion Sarah about her late evenings and the fact she seems to be so happy recently and excited about life. He seems to be bored with his job and not too happy with the world around him. Walt’s becoming suspicious of Sarah and her friends. What’s happening in this relationship?

What’s the Green-Eyed Monster?

Is Walt jealous? Jealousy is an emotion familiar to most of us, if not from direct experience, at least through the experience of friends, from nov- els, television, and movies. Romantic jealousy carries the additional stress associated with the threat of losing an important relationship and oft en involves feelings of having been betrayed and perhaps deceived. Th us, this feeling of romantic jealousy provokes a host of negative feelings focused on the lover, the self, and the perceived rival. And it can be very destructive in relationships (Anderson 2003).

Gender diff erences characterize jealousy. Men tend to show strong feelings of sexual jealousy and are especially upset about sexual infi delity. Th is can motivate them to be very concerned about their partner’s faithful- ness (Myers 2008). However, women are oft en more upset by their partner’s emotional infi delity (Buss 2007).

IS IT JEALOUSY OR ENVY? Jealousy is defi ned as the thoughts and feelings that arise when an actual or desired relationship is threatened. Envy is defi ned as the thoughts and feelings that arise when our personal qualities, possessions, or achievements do not measure up to those of someone relevant to us. In general, society is more accepting of jealousy than envy, understanding the desire to protect lovers from rivals but not the begrudging of a friend’s good fortune.

Researchers have suggested that jealousy and envy are rooted in a weak sense of self, low self-esteem or insecurities about self-worth (Marano 2006). People with poor self-concepts are more likely to fear that the exist- ing relationship is vulnerable to threat. Jealousy is also more likely to occur when people believe they are putting more into a relationship than their partner is; they have serious doubts about their partner’s commitment. Men seem to respond diff erently to jealousy than women. Males seem less likely to admit they feel jealous but are more likely to express anger with themselves or toward the rival; females are more likely to react with depression and with attempts to make themselves more attractive to the partner (Buss 2003).

Overcoming jealousy is not easy. Anything we can do toward becoming confi dent, secure individuals will help us cope with our own jealousy. We can try to learn what is making us jealous. What exactly are we feeling and why are we feeling that way? We can try to keep our jealous feelings in perspec- tive. We can also negotiate with our partner to change certain behaviors that seem to trigger our jealousy. Negotiations assume that we too are working to reduce our own unwarranted jealousy. Choosing partners who are reassur- ing and loving will also help reduce our irrational jealousies. Unfortunately,

J ealousy is not a barometer by which the depth of love may be read. It merely records the degree of insecurity. It is a negative, miserable state of feeling, having its origin in a sense of insecurity and inferiority.


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278 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

it is not as easy as it sounds to follow this advice because jealousy is so oft en irrational, emotional, and unreasonable. Jealousy remains one of the puzzling components of love relationships (Santrock 2006).

During the last year of Walt’s and Sarah’s marriage, we fi nd that Walt has been spending a lot of his spare time working on their computer, play- ing games, and learning new programs. Sarah does not like to spend her time playing with some “dumb” computer when she could be exercising or interacting with people. When they fi rst got married, Walt and Sarah seemed to have a lot in common: tennis, history, same friends and same goals, but now they seem to be growing apart. Sarah has her new job and new friends and Walt does not seem to be interested in either. All he seems to be interested in is his computer and watching sports on television.

Growing Apart

Is there a point at which you have to admit that it is just not going to work, cut your losses, and walk away? In Relationship Rescue, Dr. Phil McGraw (2001) off ers two major thoughts for consideration. First, do not ever make life-changing decisions in the midst of emotional turmoil. When feelings are running high and language and rhetoric even higher, this is not a time to make decisions that will aff ect your life and that of your partner and chil- dren, if any are involved. Never be in a hurry when making decisions, the consequences of which will be around for a long time. Second, if you are going to quit, you earn the right to quit. You don’t just get mad; you don’t just get your feelings hurt and decide to bail out. You earn the right to quit. Until you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror, until you can look your children in the eye and say I did everything I could to save this relationship and it could not be done, then you have not earned the right to quit.

When considering what it takes to make relationships work, it is useful to look at those who have tried and succeeded as well as those who have tried and failed. Research shows that a few crucial compatibilities make the diff er- ence between making up and breaking up. See Consider this—Making Up versus Breaking Up.

WHO DIVORCES? While it is true that there has been a decline in divorce rates since the 1970s, the prevailing estimate is somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent of marriages entered into in a year are likely to become divorces (Strong et al. 2007). Th e vast majority of divorces occur within the fi rst decade, with years seven to ten being somewhat higher. First marriages that end in divorce last a median of about eight years (U.S. Census Bureau 2008).

Divorce rates are higher among blacks than whites or Hispanics, among lower-income couples, among couples who cohabitated, among couples who do not have children, among people who marry at a relatively young age, and among those whose parents divorced (Faust and McKibben 1999; Rodrigues et al. 2006). In addition, divorce rates in the United States are higher than rates elsewhere in the industrialized world (Strong 2007).

WHAT KIND OF SPECIFIC MARITAL PROBLEMS ARE PREDICTIVE OF DIVORCE? Amato and Previti (2003) found that communication problems, sexual infi – delity, jealousy, foolish spending, and drug problems were the most consistent predictors of divorce.

T here comes a time in some relationships when no matter

how sincere the attempt to reconcile the differences or how strong the wish to recreate a part of the past once shared, the struggle becomes so painful that nothing else is felt and the world and all its beauty only add to the discomfort by providing cruel contrast.


A good marriage is not so much fi nding the right person as being the right person.


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Your marriage will have a greater chance of lasting if:

You marry aft er the age of 22; You grow-up in a stable, two parent home; You dated for a long time prior to marriage; You are well and similarly educated; You have a stable income from a job you enjoy; You do not cohabit or become pregnant before marriage; You are religiously committed; You are of similar age, faith, and education.

Consider this . . .Consider this . . .

Making Up versus Breaking Up

Pepper Schwartz (2002), professor of sociology at the University of Washington, analyzed data from the Enrich Couple Inventory involving questions administered to 21,501 couples throughout the country. The researchers compared the answers of the happiest couples to those of the most unhappy and found that the differences between their answers to a few key questions tell a lot about what makes relationships work:

My partner is a very good listener Unhappy couples 18% Happy couples 83%

My partner does not understand how I feel Unhappy couples 79% Happy couples 13%

We have a good balance of leisure time spent together and separately Unhappy couples 17% Happy couples 71%

We fi nd it easy to think of things to do together Unhappy couples 28% Happy couples 86%

I am very satisfi ed with how we talk to each other Unhappy couples 15% Happy couples 90%

We are creative in how we handle our differences Unhappy couples 15% Happy couples 78%

Making fi nancial decisions is not diffi cult Unhappy couples 32% Happy couples 80%

Our sexual relationship is satisfying and fulfi lling Unhappy couples 29% Happy couples 85%

We are both equally willing to make adjustments in the relationship Unhappy couples 46% Happy couples 87%

I can share feelings and ideas with my partner during disagreements Unhappy couples 22% Happy couples 85%

My partner understands my opinions and ideas Unhappy couples 19% Happy couples 87%

What do you think about these fi ndings?

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None of these predictors, by themselves, is essential to a stable marriage, but the more you have, the greater the chance the marriage will last.

Today, marriage partners have a much more fl exible view of marriage roles and responsibilities and are likely to expect each other to be a friend, lover, and confi dant, as well as wage-earner and care-giver.

Walt and Sarah have been married for eight years now. Walt believes in the “traditional” type of marriage, where there are male and female roles. Sarah believes in the “equalitarian” type marriage, where the responsibilities are shared equally. As you can see, there is beginning to be a lot of confl ict within this relationship. Walt and Sarah no longer seem to have much in common. Sarah has tried to talk to Walt about their problems, but Walt does not want to talk about it. He thinks every- thing is “OK.” She’s just a complainer.

Sarah decides that it is not worth trying anymore and fi les for divorce. Walt gets very upset and feels depressed because he feels that they can save the marriage. He says he will do anything to keep the relationship together, but Sarah says it is too late. Can this marriage be saved?

THE IMPACT OF DIVORCE. Th e dissolution of a marriage tends to be a very emotional and traumatic event for most people. Divorced men suff er primar- ily from loss of emotional support and disrupted social ties to friends and rela- tives and sometimes even children (Belsky 2007). In comparison, divorced women suff er most from reduced income.

Men and women diff er in how they cope with a failed relationship: women tend to confi de in their friends, whereas men tend to start a new relationship as quickly as possible. Some individuals appear to adapt in the early stages of divorce, but show eff ects later (Hetherington et al. 1998). It takes most people two to three years to recover fully from the distress of a divorce, and some have more diffi culty than others (Lucas 2005).

Table 6.1 indicates the steps many people experience as they go through the divorce process.

For some, divorce can be enhancing. In a healthy divorce, ex-spouses must accomplish three tasks: let go, develop new social ties, and when chil- dren are involved, redefi ne parental roles (Everett and Everett 1998).

Th e fi rst emotional impact of divorce is oft en that the former spouses become even more angry and more bitter with each other than they were in

R elationships seldom die because they suddenly have

no life left in them; they wither slowly, either because people do not understand how much or what kind of upkeep, time, work, love, and caring they require or because people are too lazy or afraid to try. A relationship is a living thing. It needs and benefi ts from the same attention to detail that an artist lavishes on his art.


Recipe for Marriage Start with two stable people, 1 lb. of love, and a gallon of commitment. Then

add 1 cup of each: trust, communication, respect, and patience. Mix well and remove any traces of temper, selfi shness, and criticism.

Now add 3 tbs. pure extract of sincere apology, 1 cup of cooperation, 1 cup of encouragement, and 1 cup of consideration.

Place in a home. Make sure to allow room for children and pets.

Season lightly with a dash of in-laws. Sweeten with memories, shared activities, laughter, and tokens of affection.

Serve with faith and devotion and enjoy.

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Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships 281

the marriage. Th is increased hostility is oft en followed by and interspersed with periods of depression, disequilibrium, altered patterns of eating and sleeping, drug and alcohol use, along with work and residence change (Kelly 2004). It is most likely to be the wife who fi rst fi nds fault with the marriage and fi les for divorce. In fact, many men are surprised and shocked by the break up, and in the short term, divorce is more devastating to the man than the woman. Over the long term, however, women are more aff ected, primar- ily because they are likely to have less money and fewer marriage prospects than divorced men. If they are mothers with custody, the impact of divorce is particularly strong. (Duff y and Atwater 2008).

WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? Divorce may have more of an impact on the children than anyone else. Th e children have no control in this relationship; they are helpless in this situation. Whatever the kids say or do will not benefi t the situation. Generally, no one will listen anyway. Evidence suggests that in the long run it is less damaging to the children if unhappy parents divorce than if the children grow up intact but in a dissension-ridden home (Booth and Amato 2001).

In For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, E. Mavis Hetherington (2001), a psychology professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, tracked nearly 1,400 families and more than 2,500 children, some for three decades. Hetherington found that 75 to 80 percent of children of divorce are functioning well, with little long-term damage to their adult lives. She further declared that 25 percent of children from divorced families have social, emotional or psychological problems, as opposed to 10 percent of kids from intact families. Th e children’s recov- ery and subsequent adjustment seem to depend primarily on the quality of their relationship with the custodial parent and how well the custodial par- ent is adjusting to the divorce (Amato 2001 and De Buer 2001). For some children, the eff ects of divorce tend to show up more as the children reach maturity and struggle to form their own adult relationships.

Table 6.1 Steps in Divorce Grief Relief—Moment of no more fussing.

Shock and surprise—I can’t believe this is happening to me.

Emotional release—How much should I let people see my feelings and how long will I keep crying?

Physical distress and anxiety—Will I lose my friends?

Panic—There is something wrong with me; I cannot eat or I eat all the time.

Guilt—Two basic emotions in divorce: a. guilt—What did I do wrong? b. rejection—I am not capable of being loved.

Hostility and projection—I know we are both angry but we are going to end this divorce in a friendly manner.

Lassitude—Suffering in silence, hard to get anything done.

Healing—Gradual overcoming of grief and getting on with reality.

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How does divorce affect the children?

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282 Chapter 6 Developing Close Relationships

REMARRIAGE. Between 70 and 80 percent of divorced people remarry, on the average, within three to four years of being divorced (men tend to marry sooner than woman aft er a divorce). Remarriage is more likely to occur if the divorced person is relatively young, since there seems to be more poten- tial partners still available. Th ere is no guarantee that marriage will be better the second time around; the divorce rate for remarriages is higher than that for fi rst marriages. However, the average duration for second marriages is about the same as for fi rst, about eight to nine years (Kreider 2005). It may be that some lonely, divorced people marry—too quickly—as they say—“on the rebound.” Stepchildren can also be a disruptive factor.

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