Relationship Attributes

Love is one of the most intense and desirable of human emotions. People may lie, cheat, steal, and even kill in its name – and may wish to die when they lose it.

The best way to predict satisfaction in a love relationship with the least amount of effort would be to find out the difference between what a person wants from the other and what the person thinks he or she is getting.

If one were to “major in love”, whether in college or in one’s own independent study, one would probably want to take courses or do independent readings not only in psychology and sociology, but also in history, literature, the arts, and philosophy. No one discipline could possibly provide a complete understanding of love – or of anything else! And beyond any courses one might take or readings one might do, one would want to add a heavy dose of life experience to complete the major.

The components of intimacy, passion, and commitment play a key role in love over and above other attributes.

Communication is a building block of intimacy, as is caring for compassion.

The three components are not equally weighted in all cultures, but each component receives at least some weight in virtually any time or place.

Intimacy refers to those feelings in a relationship that promote closeness, bondedness, and connectedness.

1. Desiring to promote the welfare of the loved one. The lover looks out for the partner and seeks to promote his or her welfare. One may promote the other’s welfare at the expense of one’s own – but the expectation that the other will reciprocate when the time comes.

2. Experiencing happiness with the loved one. The lover enjoys being with his or her partner. When they do things together, they have a good time and build a store of memories upon which they can draw in hard times. Furthermore, good times shared will spill over into the relationship and make it better.

3. Holding the loved one in high regard. The lover thinks highly of and respects his or her partner. Although the lover may recognize flaws in the partner, this recognition does not detract from the overall esteem in which the partner is held.

4. Being able to count on the loved one in times of need. The lover feels that the partner is there when needed. When the chips are down, the lover can call on the partner and expect that he or she will come through.

5. Having mutual understanding with the loved one. The lovers understand each other. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to respond to each other in a way that shows genuine empathy for the loved one’s emotional states. Each knows where the other is “coming from”.

6. Sharing oneself and one’s possessions with the loved one. One is willing to give of oneself and one’s time, as well as one’s things, to the loved one. Although all things need not be joint property, the lovers share their property as the need arises. And, most important, they share themselves.

7. Receiving emotional support from the loved one. The lover feels bolstered and even renewed by the loved one, especially in times of need.

8. Giving emotional support to the loved one. The lover supports the loved one by empathizing with, and emotionally supporting, him or her in times of need.

9. Communicating intimately with the loved one. The lover can communicate deeply and honestly wit the loved one, sharing innermost feelings.

10. Valuing the loved one. The lover feels the great importance of the partner in the scheme of life.

To be intimate with someone, you need to break down the walls that separate one person from another. It is well known that self-disclosure begets self-disclosure: if you want to get to know what someone else is like, let him or her learn about you. But self-disclosure is often easier in same-sex friendships than in loving relationships, probably because people see themselves as having more to lose by self-disclosure in a loving relationship.

When a couple becomes very intimate, the costs of self-disclosure become so great that it often will decrease, at least for one, in not both, partners.

Intimacy is a foundation of love, but a foundation that develops slowly, through fits and starts, and is difficult to achieve.

Passion is a state of intense longing for union with the other.

Passion is largely the expression of desires and needs – such as for self-esteem, nurturance, affiliation, dominance, submission, and sexual fulfillment.

Most people, when they think of passion, view it as sexual. But any form of psychophysiological arousal can generate the experience of passion.

Similarities in relationships:
*activities each member of a couple enjoys

*basic beliefs and values – a couple’s views on religion, politics, children, monogamy, sharing of possessions, money, etc.

*tacit assumptions about the way the world, and a relationship, “should” be

Attraction has three components: cognitive (thoughts), affective (feelings), and behavioral (actions).

Extrinsically rewarding one with money or some other concrete token of thanks may undermine one’s intrinsic motivation.

By giving out grades, promotions, or other rewards, we can undermine the intrinsic motivation people initially have for a task, and actually convince them that they are doing it only for the rewards.

1. Resource Display
2. Exclusivity: Fidelity and Mate Guarding
3. Mutual Support and Protection
4. Commitment and Marriage
5. Sexual Intimacy
6. Reproduction
7. Resource Sharing
8. Parental Investment

Female spouses tend to be evaluated for physical attractiveness independently of their husband’s physical attractiveness, whereas evaluations of the husband are affected by the wife’s attractiveness. When an unattractive man is married to a beautiful woman, it is assumed that he must have some exceptional compensating qualities – for example, high income or high occupational status.

Couples may use a variety of resources to try to achieve equity: money, brains, or background may all substitute for other resources or for each other.

In evaluating potential mates, men place more value on women’s physical attractiveness than women do on men’s. However, not all men appear to count physical attractiveness equally.

Being thought beautiful makes women react in a more attractive way and makes the men act more attractively. Belief becomes reality.

Physical attractiveness matters a great deal early in relationships. But as time goes on, other variables become more feasible to evaluate and more important to relationships. Perceptions of a person’s physical attractiveness often increase if you like a person, and decrease if you don’t. Over time, liking may affect perception of physical attractiveness as much as perceptions of physical attractiveness affect liking.

Emotional arousal acts as an aphrodisiac.

One is more likely to be attracted to another if one is aroused, even if the arousal does not come from that person.

Generating excitement helps keep a relationship going.

Planning surprises, having fun, and doing new and exciting things are always important in relationships.

The most important factor in determining whom you meet is also the simplest – namely, proximity. You are most likely to meet those people to whom, for one reason or another, you are physically near.

Generally, people are more likely to like others who are willing to show themselves as they really are.

“Birds of a feather flock together”: More similar individuals are more likely to be attracted to one another.

One of the reasons relationships may “go bad” is that the things that matter earlier are different from the things that matter later, but we tend to choose partners on the basis of the things that matter earlier rather than later in a relationship. Couples would be wise to discuss early in a relationship pragmatic issues such as having and bringing up a family, religious differences, and handling of finances and chores.

Five attributes increase in importance in relationships from short to medium duration, and afterward to decrease in importance:

1. physical attractiveness
2. ability to make love
3. ability to empathize
4. knowledge of what each other is like
5. expression of affection toward each other.

Just one attribute decreases in importance and then increases:
1. match in intellectual level.

1. Males and females agree that female physical attractiveness is more important than male physical attractiveness.

2. Males believe that shared interests are more important than do females.

3. Males believe that the ability to make love is more important than do females.

4. Males and females agree that male financial ability is more important than female financial ability.

5. Both males and females believe that handling of the female’s parents is more important than handling of the male’s parents.

6. Females believe that exclusive fidelity is more important than do males; but males believe that exclusive fidelity is more important for women than for men, whereas women believe that it is equally important for both partners.

7. Males rate more highly the importance of their willingness to do chores than females rate the importance of male willingness to do chores.

8. Females believe that ability to get along with the other’s friends is more important than do males.

9. Males believe that match in religious beliefs is more important than do females.

1. How your partner feels about you is not what is crucial to your happiness; what really matters is how you think your partner feels about you. The best predictor is the difference between how you perceive how your partner to feel about you and how you would like your partner to feel about you.

2. Couples who live together before marriage are likely to be more reluctant than average to make a binding commitment, and more likely than average to experience reactance upon a threat to their freedom of choice.

3. The best approach to the man (or woman) of low self-esteem is to find ways of raising his consciousness of being successful in particular tasks, so that he cannot help but compliment himself. You can then reinforce that self-perception.

4. Nothing increases more in importance than religion in relationships over time. So if you and a potential partner differ in religion, you should discuss the issue and make a real attempt to succeed over the long as well as the short term.

5. How loving a family a person comes from is a poor predictor of how much that person will love you.

6. Passion and sex increase rather than decrease in importance over the first few years of a relationship, and decrease somewhat over the very long term.

7. We tend to feel passion for people who fulfill certain needs we have, such as dominance, submission, affiliation, or praise. Some of these needs we may be unaware of, and some may be essentially maladaptive.

8. As you get to know a partner really well it may become harder to communicate if one or both of you have learned that telling the truth is ultimately more costly than telling a lie.

Ten Rules for a Successful Relationship