Appetitive and Aversive Social
Shelly L. Gable
University of California, Los Angeles
Harry T. Reis University of Rochester
Laura and Ben were high school sweethearts. Over the years, their marriage, like that of many of their friends, lost much of its spark, but they were still comfortable with their relationship and devoted to each other. They wondered about what had happened, although when they compared their marriage to that of their friends, they felt, if anything, well off. Many of them were often criticizing their spouses and complaining about them, and the littlest disagreements seemed to escalate into major brawls. Not Laura and Ben; they had few disputes, although it might also have been said that they had drifted apart enough that there was little to fight about. The guidance offered by self-help books and talk-show guests did not seem helpful; it was all designed to prevent conflict or minimize its impact, but that was not their dilemma. It was not that there was something wrong with their relationship; rather, the problem was that there was nothing particularly right about it.
In this chapter, we consider the possibility that appetitive and aversive processes may represent functionally independent dimensions within close relationships. This possibility, derived from extensive research in other behavioral domains, begins with the premise that bipolar models—models that assume a continuous dimension anchored by negative outcomes and processes on one end and by positive outcomes and processes on the other—may be inadequate to account for many close relationship phenomena. We propose instead that a two-dimensional model may be more appropriate. At this point, the value of this distinction for under-