Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationships are the attachments typically formed exclusively between two people in an intimate pairing, such as husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends. The Schachter theory of love (c. 1962) states that all strong emotions have a physiological component and a cognitive component. In order for us to identify a particular emotion, we need to experience a general state of physiological arousal that goes with it, such as rapid heartbeat, nervous tremor, flushing, accelerated breathing and so on. Walster and Berscheid identified the combined effect of physiological arousal and romantic feelings as experiencing love.

A wide variety of factors are present when choosing lovers and becoming involved in a romantic relationship. Physical appearance serves as a screen in our selection of mate. Research shows that personality traits are more important factors in falling in love than physical appearance. However, appearance is significantly more important to men than women. People who share similar attitudes, beliefs and values are likely to become attracted to one another. There are a number of classical studies which provide evidence for the effect of proximity on attraction. As the geographic distance separating potential couples decreases, the probability of people creating romantic relationships increases. A study by Festinger demonstrated two factors that exercise the greatest influence on personal relationships: the location of the places the two people live, and the distances between them. The closer people are based to each other the more likely they are to become friends. If people live in close proximity or for example in the same building, this may create more opportunities for people to form relationships, such as meeting on the stairs or at mailboxes.

Satisfying needs and reciprocating love are important variables in romantic relationships. The psychologist Philip Shaver found the causes for feeling and falling in love were based on a two-way exchange of mutual appreciation - with one person providing something the other wanted, needed or loved, and the other person expressing love, need or appreciation. Mills and Clark looked at maintenance and enhancement of close romantic relationships and regarded successful pairings as those in which benefits were given to a partner without necessarily being expected in return. The maintenance and enhancement of romantic relationships depend on the extent to which both people are concerned for each other's welfare and are motivated to meet the needs of the other as they arise.

Male and female beliefs regarding romantic relationships can vary significantly, with each gender placing specific expectations on the stages of courtship. Research by Abowitz, Knox, Zusman and McNeely found men were significantly more likely to believe that cohabitation before marriage would result in a happier relationship, that bars are good places to meet a potential spouse, men control relationships and people will be unfaithful if they feel they will not be caught. Contrasting results showed women were more likely to support the belief that couples stop working on their relationship once they are married, age and race are less important than loving feelings when choosing a mate, that couples stop "trying" after they marry and that women know when their men are lying.

The accepted modern view of adult attachment comes from research by Brennan, Clark and Shaver (1998), who identified two attachment styles in close relationships. The first is anxious attachment, which involves a person's fear of rejection or abandonment by a romantic partner and the degree a person obsesses over their relationships. The second is avoidant attachment, which involves the person's beliefs about costs and benefits associated with becoming close to another person, and a discomfort with intimacy. Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) suggest that those who are securely attached are comfortable depending on others. This group experience only mild fear or anxiety that friends, romantic partners or parental figures will abandon them. Studies show that on rare instances, people describe love at first sight. More frequently, it is identified that a romantic relationship springs from a longer friendship. Whether it's the other person's looks that ignites a romantic attraction, an endearing quality or a deeply moving shared experience, there are various factors involved in the initial attraction which may evolve into a rewarding, committed love.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Close Romantic Relationships: Maintenance and Enhancement
John H. Harvey; Amy Wenzel.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Romantic Love and Sexual Behavior: Perspectives from the Social Sciences
Victor C. De Munck.
Praeger, 1998
Marriage in Motion: The Natural Ebb and Flow of Lasting Relationships
Richard Stanton Schwartz; Jacqueline Olds.
Perseus Pub., 2000
What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently
John Marshall Townsend.
Oxford University Press, 1998
The Evolution of Love
Ada Lampert.
Praeger, 1997
Falling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We Choose
Ayala Malach Pines.
Routledge, 1999
Theories of Love Development, Maintenance, and Dissolution: Octagonal Cycle and Differential Perspectives
Oliver C. S. Tzeng.
Praeger Publishers, 1992
Maintaining Relationships through Communication: Relational, Contextual, and Cultural Variations
Daniel J. Canary; Marianne Dainton.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Maintaining Romantic Relationship: A Summary and Analysis of One Research Program"
Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills
John O. Greene; Brant R. Burleson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 17 "Accomplishing Romantic Relationships"
The Handbook of Sexuality in Close Relationships
John H. Harvey; Amy Wenzel; Susan Sprecher.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Sociosexuality and Romantic Relationships" and Chap. 6 "First Sexual Involvement in Romantic Relationships: An Empirical Investigation of Communicative Framing, Romantic Beliefs and Attachment Orientation in the Passion Turning Point"
Stability and Change in Relationships
Anita L. Vangelisti; Harry T. Reis; Mary Anne Fitzpatrick.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Seven "Sacrifice in Romantic Relationships: An Exploration of Relevant Research and Theory"
Interpersonal Communication: Evolving Interpersonal Relationships
Pamela J. Kalbfleisch.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "From Passion to Commitment: Turning Points in Romantic Relationships" and Chap. 14 "Metaphors in Accounts of Romantic Relationship Terminations"
Communication and Social Influence Processes
Charles R. Berger; Michael Burgoon.
Michigan State University Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "'You've Lost That Loving Feeling...': Romance Loss as a Function of Relationship Development and Escalation" begins on p. 133
Understanding Marriage: Developments in the Study of Couple Interaction
Patricia Noller; Judith A. Feeney.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Competition in Romantic Relationships: Do Partners Build Niches"
Adolescent Romantic Relations and Sexual Behavior: Theory, Research, and Practical Implications
Paul Florsheim.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Relationships as Developmental Contexts
W. Andrew Collins; Brett Laursen.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Friends and Lovers: The Role of Peer Relationships in Adolescent Romantic Relationships"
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