ceived disadvantages of being single), the social pressure toward involvement in a partner relationship, poor health, and social anxiety. That factors such as reported health problems and social anxiety were associated with loneliness was not a new finding. What was new was that these factors were incorporated into a broader theoretical framework. Application of the theory directed the attention toward the examination of hypotheses of the form: Given the loneliness that arises from the perceived discrepancy between available relationships and relationship standards, under what conditions are widows and widowers likely to experience even stronger feelings of loneliness and under what conditions are they likely to be free from feelings of loneliness?
Although we consider the TMI to be potentially useful to relationship researchers, one should keep in mind what the theory can and cannot do. The TMI is not a psychological theory. It does not aim to provide insight into cognitive and perceptual processes. For example, although it specifies the conditions under which mental changes such as changes in standards are or are not likely to occur, it does not specify the nature of these changes or the mechanisms underlying them. Thus, although the TMI predicts when widowed men and women are likely to adapt to their partner standard, it does not unfold how the process takes place. To gain insight into how people come to have the standards they do, one must turn to other theories (e.g., psychological coping theories). As said, the usefulness of the TMI lies in the fact that it provides a general framework -- a framework with which it is possible to methodically analyze relationship phenomena. The general framework must be tailored to the specific problem at hand, and this can only be done if one has substantive knowledge about the specific problem.
We find it exciting to work with the TMI because it calls for a focus on different kinds of behaviors and their outcomes: overt, observable activities and covert, mental activities as different means of adapting to or overcoming unwanted situations. This multifaceted focus makes it different from most theories. In our view, the challenge for new relationship research lies in such an approach. More studies should examine the ongoing interdependence between what people expect from others, what people do to have their expectations met, and what the upshot of their endeavors is.
Work on this chapter was supported by grants from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (N.W.O.) and the Queen Juliana Foundation (K.J.F.). The authors wish to thank Frits Tazelaar for his helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.
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Publication information: Book title: Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships. Contributors: Ralph Erber - Editor, Robin Gilmour - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Hillsdale, NJ. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 257.
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