Romantic relationships
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Romantic Relationships. Coming Together 7302. Chances are great that everyone in this class is, has been, or will be involved in a romantic relationship; we all are, have been or will be involved in a breakup of a romantic relationship. Most relationships are bound by a cultural script

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Romantic Relationships

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Romantic relationships

Romantic Relationships

Coming Together 7302

Romantic relationships

Chances are great that everyone in this class is, has been, or will be involved in a romantic relationship; we all are, have been or will be involved in a breakup of a romantic relationship

Romantic relationships

  • Most relationships are bound by a cultural script

    • What is the cultural script for your relationship?

    • What is our personal script for a relationship?

    • These are associated with relational schemata

Opening the door

Opening the Door

  • Intimate Relationships

    • Involve friendships/professional as well as romantic relationships

  • Intimate relationships involve basic emotions such as love, compassion and caring

  • In intimate relationships we reveal more and share secrets

How do we come together

How do we come together?

  • Similarity

    • We are attracted to people who look like us, dress like us, like the same things and have the same value system

  • Complementarity

    • Sometimes we are attracted to people because they are different from the way we are, however, by far, most people are attracted because of similarity

Romantic relationships

  • Reciprocal Liking

    • We seem to be attracted to people who like us

  • Physical Beauty

    • We seem to be attracted to people who we think are attractive, at least initially

    • If people like us, though, we think they are more attractive as time goes by

Filtering theory stephen duck

Filtering TheoryStephen Duck

  • Sociological or incidental cues

    • We must have the opportunity to observe each other

  • Other pre-interaction cues

    • We actually scrutinize the object of our interest

  • Interaction cues

    • We converse, exchange turns, make eye contact

Filtering theory

Filtering Theory

  • Cognitive cues

    • All our observations combine so that we form impressions of the other person

    • What type of person the other is

    • What his/her value system might be

    • His/her political, religious, beliefs

      • And so on!

Relational stages mark knapp

Relational Stages - Mark Knapp

  • Initiating

    • Make contact

    • First impressions

    • You can exit the relationship at this point, but you can also become intrigued with the other person



  • Finding out about each other

  • Explore the possibilities of a relationship

  • Spend time with each other

  • What does this person like? Dislike?

  • Small talk (a way of auditioning for a relationship)



  • You open up to each other

  • You spend large amounts of time together

  • You self-disclose

  • You tease each other

  • You develop informal nicknames

    • Yours are?



  • Attitudes become more similar and the level of “coupleness” increases

  • The couple receives invitations addressed to both of them

  • They see themselves as a unit with a shared history

  • What are we doing this weekend?



  • Announce commitment to the world

  • Engagement, marriage

  • Making a public statement of permanent attachment



  • Re-establish their own identity

  • Courtship emphasized “we” now emphasize “I”

  • Differentiation can be positive

    • Individuals need to keep a sense of self within the boundaries of the relationship



  • While Knapp refers to differentiation as one of the coming apart stages, it is in reality an inevitable stage of any relationship that has bonded

  • Often it arises when there is a source of tension or stress



  • This stage can be successful if a healthy balance is maintained between individuality and commitment to the relationship



  • Stepping apart for each other just a little bit

  • Don’t communicate with the same quality and quantity of messages as they once did

  • Withdraw from each other to avoid conflict



  • Things become routine, a hollow shell with no life

  • Going through the motions

  • Expecting nothing from the relationship



  • Partners begin to feel too uncomfortable with each other, and create more distance by avoiding each other

  • They spend time apart

  • Psychologically avoid each other

  • Clear that the relationship is about to end

  • Pretending to be asleep when he/she comes home



  • Partners seek to end the relationship

  • Depending on the relationship, termination may be a very short stage or it may be a bitter, long drawn out battle

  • The relationship may end over lunch, a note left in the bedroom or a legal document calling for the dissolution of the marriage

Two ways to end

Two ways to end

  • Sudden death of the relationship

  • Passing away

    • Murray Davis, Intimate Relations

Gender differences in expressing care

Gender Differences in Expressing Care

  • Women tend to create and express closeness through personal, self-disclosive talk

  • Men rely on instrumental displays of affection, solving problems, physical intimacy

  • Misunderstandings can occur between masculine and feminine individuals because of differences in expressing and experiencing caring

Romantic relationships

  • “I love you. I told you that I loved you when I married you, so you can assume that I still love you until I tell you different. If something changes I will tell you.”



  • Dichotomies are tensions that affect relationships

  • They are called relational dialectics

Romantic relationships

  • We sense tension when we are pulled in two directions at the same time

Romantic relationships

  • Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian philosopher, saw these tensions as the “deep structure” of all interpersonal experience

Centripetal forces

Centripetal forces

  • On the one hand, a centripetal or centralizing force, pulls us together with others



  • On the other hand a centrifugal or decentralizing forces, pushes us apart

Romantic relationships

  • This isn’t necessarily bad--it provides an opportunity for discussion, an occasion for people to work out their conflicting desires to connect with and differentiate from each other

Autonomy connection


  • For Baxter, this is the primary internal strain within relationships

  • No relationship can exist by definition unless the parties sacrifice some individual autonomy

  • Too much connection and individual identities are lost

Romantic relationships

  • Both masculine and feminine individuals desire autonomy and connection

  • Feminine individuals are socialized for focus on relationships and are comfortable with greater levels of connection

Romantic relationships

  • Masculine individuals, socialized toward independence, typically want greater autonomy

  • Differences can lead to problems in relationships when behaviors are interpreted from different perspectives

Romantic relationships

  • The external aspect of this is the pull between being isolated from the rest of the world and being involved in social networks--need time alone as a couple to solidify the relationship, but also need to be with others

Response strategies to autonomy connection

Response Strategies to Autonomy Connection

  • Cyclic alternation

    • . . .we kind of kept floundering around together. . .drifting toward each other and drifting apart again. . .kind of a cycle

    • Very rare is the specifically negotiated alternation of autonomy connection

Response strategies to autonomy connection1

Response Strategies to Autonomy Connection

  • Selection

  • This is a proactive approach

    • “We did want both autonomy and connection. We decided we’re going to give this a shot. We just kind of thought, if it doesn’t work out , it doesn’t work out. If it does all the better.”

Predictability novelty


  • We need certainty, but a bit of novelty/spontaneity refreshes the relationship

  • A dysfunctional condition known as schismogenesis can result from overly rigid, I.e., predictable interaction

Ways to cope

Ways to Cope

  • Segmentation

    • People like the spontaneity and excitement of not being able to predict what was going to occur in the interaction

    • Some areas of the relationship, however, predictability is key

One guy speaks

One guy speaks

“I guess novelty and predictability in my mind can’t be mixed because they are for different things. Predictability is the confidence that she’s not going to leave tomorrow and go out with another guy. I wanted confidence in that. And for novelty, I just wanted ‘spunk.’ I wanted out time together to be fun and exciting.”

Cyclic alternation

Cyclic Alternation

  • For many respondents this was driven by the school calendar

  • Routines of classes, parties, studying, sports punctuated the academic term with the novelty of vacations and summers

One respondent speaks

One Respondent Speaks

“Especially toward the end of the term when ‘we’ was getting on our nerves, I would long for the break when we would have the time to do whatever we wanted to do. The vacations were like a shot in the arm for our relationship”

Selection response

Selection Response

  • Involves a concerted effort to enhance predictability or to enhance novelty

  • Talking about explicitly about issues such as the state of the relationship

Selection continued

Selection Continued

  • Some parties achieved novelty through greater autonomous, individual activity

  • One student says, “The predictability is us; the novelty is me. That’s why I decided to go back to school when our kids were old enough.”

Selection continued1

Selection Continued

  • Novelty by undertaking joint activities

    • “We were caught in a rut--get up, go to classes together, study together, sleep together, get up, go to classes. . .In the middle of the term we decided to bag the rut and do things on impulse that we felt like doing. We took off to the beach in the middle of the week. We’d go dancing and parting. Both of our grades have suffered for what we did, but we don’t have any regrets.”

Openness closedness


  • Openness: we develop intimacy

  • Closedness: we protect ourselves

  • Quality Relationships balance these needs

    • Disclosure is a key element in developing deep and lasting relationships

Turning points

Turning Points

  • Nonscripted interaction that can become a turning point in the relationship

    • First kiss

    • First argument

    • Meeting the parents

Working it out

Working it Out

  • We use secret tests to determine the depth of the relationship

    • Endurance

    • Separation

    • Indirect hints

    • Triangle tests

    • Inquiry

    • Presentation as a couple

    • Testing the water through hints, jokes

Romantic relationships

  • All of these elements meld together as we develop and deepen our relationships.

  • The ideas we have just discussed offer an understanding of what is happening in the most important of human endeavors

  • Relationships are difficult, but they are worth it

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