Psychology of Love and Intimacy
I. What is an intimate relationship?
- A. This course will focus on friendships and romantic relationships.
- B. An intimate relationship is defined as differing from others in at least six ways:
How do we define intimacy?
- Intimate partners have extensive often confidential knowledge of each other
- Intimate partners feel more affection for one another than for most others
- Frequent, strong, diverse, and enduring effects on each other
- Tendency to think of each other as "us" not just I or me.
- The expectation that one partner will treat the other fairly, warmly, and honorably
- Expect their partnerships to continue, and invest personally in that expectation
How do we define intimacy? (cont.)
2. Relationships help meet our needs (need fulfillment): the need to belong
- a. need for intimacy--
- someone with whom we can share our feelings
- b. need for social integration--
- someone with whom we can share our worries and concerns.
- c. need for being nurturing--
- someone whom we can take care of.
- d. need for assistance--
- someone who will help us out when we need it.
- e. need for reassurance of our own worth--
- someone who will tell us that we matter.
How do we define intimacy? (cont.)
3. Love is a third important aspect of intimacy.
- Love involves a strong emotional attachment; it is an extremely important characteristic of intimate relationships.
Intimate relationships differ in terms of a number of ways:
- 1. Intensity: mild or extreme (older couples versus younger).
- 2. Commitment: weak or strong (casual dating to long-term).
- 3. Emotion: positive or negative (joy versus pain).
- 4. Sexuality: present or absent.
- 5. Gender of the persons: same sex or opposite sex.
- 6. Conclusion: There is no one kind of intimate relationship.
- Fewer Marriages – 1960 - 94% married, today 85% will ever marry
- Waiting longer to marry - F-25, M-27 at first marriage, 1/3 Americans unmarried into middle 30’s, 53% of African-Americans unmarried at age 34.
- Living together while unmarried – 5% in 1960, now about ½ will cohabit, 1/3 households are unmarried
- Having babies out of wedlock – 1960 5%, Now 33% of babies born to unmarried mothers
- Half of all marriages end in divorce – more than doubled from 1960 to 1980.
- 60% of children live single-parent homes at some time, 28% of all children are living in single parent homes at any one time
- Most pre-school children have mothers who work outside the home – 1960 ¾ of American mothers stayed home with pre-school children. Now less than 40% do.
Sources of Change
- Socioeconomic development
- New Technology
- The Sex Ratio
- High ratio (fewer women) tend to support traditional roles
- Low (fewer men) support less traditional and more permissive values
- Ancient Rome – low Roaring Twenties, 1960’s low
- Victorian England - high
- Guttentag and Secord (1983) believe that society’s norms evolve to protect the interests of the most powerful, i.e. men.
- High sex ratio not enough women men want to keep the one’s they attract, hence conservative values.
- Low sex ratio plenty of women less interest in being tied down to one.
The Influence of Experience
- Attachment styles – learned from experience
- Secure 60%
- Bond easily, trust others
- Anxious-ambivalent 10%
- Nervous and clingy, excessively needy, fretful and anxious
- Avoidant 25%
- Suspicious and angry, withdraw from others, trust problems
- Sex Differences
- "men and women differ in all areas of their lives. Not only do men and women communicate differently but they think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need, and appreciate differently. They almost seem to be from different planets, speaking different languages and needing different nourishment." (Gray, 1992, p. 5)
- In fact men and women have a distribution of traits on a normal curve and each curve has very significant overlap. See page 19 fig 1.5
- Sex differences are real but quite small.
- The range of opinions among members of a given sex is huge compared to the average difference between the sexes.
- Overlap is so large that men and women are more similar than different on most measures of interest to relationship science.
- Sex differences - biological distinctions between men and women that spring naturally from their physical natures.
- Gender differences - social and psychological distinctions that are created by our cultures and upbringing.
- Ex. Gender differences in parental roles rather than sexual differences.
- Gender differences are largely learned, such as gender roles, or behavior that is defined as "normal" by the culture.
- What are some of these?
- In truth gender role stereotypes don’t describe most people accurately. About 35% of the population is assertive and warm, and sensitive and self-reliant. They are said to be Androgynous. In other words, some people combine both so-called male and female qualities.
- The traits can also be called:
- Instrumental - task orientated (masculine)
- Expressive - social and emotional skills (feminine)
- So: androgynous people are comfortable using both sets of skills, more traditional are comfortable with one set of skills. They can be thought of as being on a continuum in both men and women.
- Studies show that androgynous members of the opposite sex relate with higher levels of satisfaction than do more traditional couples.
- Ickes and Barnes (1978) studied this and found that traditional couples talked less, looked at each other less, laughed and smiled less, and reported liking each other less.
- Most people want affection, warmth, and understanding in intimate relationships, so people who are low in expressiveness--not very warm,tender or sensitive--do not easily provide this to their partners. Thus people married to spouses low in expressiveness are not very satisfied in this area.
- The Big Five Traits
- The role of the self-concept and self-esteem
The Big Five,’80’s-’90’s-Research Driven Model-Inductive-Data Driven Theory
- Extraverts are:
- Introverts are:
- High Agreeableness
- Low Agreeableness
- Lack of impulsiveness
- Emotional Instability
- Emotionally stable
- Low on culture
- Extraverted, agreeable, and conscientious people have more and more pleasant relationships than do people who score lower on those traits.
- High scorers on neuroticism are chronically less satisfied with their relationships than lower scorers on this trait.
- Study of 300 couples over 45 years found that 10% of the satisfaction and contentment people experienced in their marriages could be predicted from neuroticism scores while they were still engaged. Lower scores being related to happier marriages.
- Why do you think these traits are influential?
- They affect the moods and emotional outlook in interpersonal interaction. Optimistic, cheerful and enthusiastic moods are correlated with high scores on extraversion and agreeableness.
- Anxiety, fearfulness, and guilt are associated with high neuroticism scores.
- The beliefs and feelings we have about ourselves.
- Both factual and evaluative.
- The evaluative aspect is called self-esteem.
- The self-concept is influenced in interaction with others in two ways.
- Self-enhancement – feedback that enhances the self-concept and supports the view of ourselves as desirable, attractive, competent people.
- Self-consistency – we seek feedback that supports our view of ourselves, contradictory feedback can be unsettling.
- With positive self-concepts both motives are not in conflict. Positive relationships support both.
- People with genuine dislike of themselves have a conflict, positive evaluations feel good (self-enhancement), but threaten one’s negative self-image (self-consistency). Negative feedback feels bad but affirms the self-concept.
- Self-enhancement motives seem to be automatic, nonconscious responses that are primarily emotional and self-consistency seems to be more influenced by conscious cognitive factors. People with poor self-concepts like praise and compliments, but when they think about them, they don’t believe or trust them.
- So, in relationships people tend to select partners who support their existing self-concepts, good or bad.
- People with negative self-concepts tend to want to escape people who like and approve of them and seek out people who are less positive or dislike them.
- In romantic relationships, people often initially seek positive self-enhancing relationships, but when things progress to more committed levels, such as marriage, the need for self-consistency becomes stronger (known as the marriage shift) and people tend to seek feedback that supports their self-concepts. If a negative self-concept person is married to a spouse that praises and appreciates them, they gradually find ways to avoid them. If belittled, they stay close at hand.
- So, it can be seen that self-esteem is crucial to the ways we interact with others, and can be seen as a form of what Bandura calls reciprocal determinism.
- Evolutionary Psychology
- Natural selection
- Men and women differ to the extent they face different reproductive dilemmas.
- Cultural influences determine whether evolved patterns are adaptive
- Motives like the need to belong were adaptive and contributed to survival conferring a reproductive advantage to those who had them.
- Early humans who sought cooperative closeness with other were more likely to have children who survived to have children of their own, and so this trait was passed down.
- Parental investment – women choose their sexual partners more carefully than men do. Ancestrally, those more careful tended to have surviving children. Men who pursued many opportunities tended to reproduce more successfully.
- Paternity Uncertainty – men prefer "chaste" women in marriage, "promiscuous" ones for casual relationships. This may have evolved, too.
- Because culture changes faster than evolution, there can be a lag in what is adaptive:
- Ex. Cavemen mating with every available partner may have been adaptive, but
- Birth control pills give women control over fertility
- AIDS makes openness to multiple partners less adaptive than in earlier times.
- Evolutionary view suggest not that we are robots enacting in a mindless way genetic directives, but we have inherited habits that are triggered by the situations we encounter.
- Relationships are more than the sum of their parts or our personalities. They are a combination of the personal histories, qualities, and talents that each participant brings.
- That combination may not resemble each individual, but be something new.
- Relationships are dynamic, a process rather than a static changeless entity.
The Dark Side
- Relationships can have negative aspects.
- Betrayal of trust
- Loss of autonomy
- Confusion of sex with love
- Fear of abandonment
- 56% of us have had a troublesome relationship in the last 5 years.
- Man is a social species.
- People need each other.
- We whither and die without intimate connections with other people.
- Relationships can be complex, but they are essential, and therefore worth understanding as much as possible.
Sonnet 116, by W. Shakespeare
- Let me not to the marriage of true minds
- Admit impediments. Love is not love
- Which alters when it alteration finds,
- Or bends with the remover to remove:
- O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
- That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
- It is the star to every wandering bark,
- Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
- Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
- Within his bending sickle's compass come:
- Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
- But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
- If this be error and upon me proved,
- I never writ, nor no man ever loved