Close Relationships (II)

I’m now more than half-way through and I’m no longer in doubt this book is great, so I should make that clear right away.

There’s a lot of stuff about variables of interests and qualitative results, but not much stuff on, say, effect sizes, statistical power, or similar stuff. A lot of the studies covering these things involve WEIRD people. But it’s interesting stuff anyway, and the book is great at handling the conceptual stuff and telling you what people in the field find and how they arrive at the findings they do. I may post one more post about it, but I probably won’t; there’s just way too much good stuff to cover it all here and I don’t want to struggle with the question of what to include and what not to include. You should just read the damn book.

Below some stuff from the book that I put into this post before I realized that I really shouldn’t blog this in that much detail:

“many individuals assume that they have adequately conveyed their attraction to a partner when in fact they have not. The signal amplification bias occurs when people believe that their overtures communicate more romantic interest to potential partners than is actually the case; consequently, they fail to realize that the partner may not be aware of their attraction (Vorauer, Cameron, Holmes, & Pearce, 2003). […]

Most relationship scholars now agree that relationships develop gradually over time rather than by passing through a series of discrete stages. Process models suggest that relationship development is fueled by sometimes imperceptible changes in intimacy, self-disclosure, exchange of benefits and costs, and other interpersonal processes that occur between partners. […]

it is not only the depth and the breadth of self-disclosure that propel a relationship along its developmental path but also how responsive each partner is to the other’s disclosures. Intimacy Theory, developed by psychologist Harry Reis and his colleagues (Reis, Clark, & Holmes, 2004; Reis & Patrick, 1996; Reis & Shaver, 1988), posits that attentive, supportive responses that leave the partner feeling validated, understood, cared for, and accepted promote the growth of intimacy and the subsequent development of the relationship. These responses may be of a verbal or a nonverbal nature. In their review of the literature, Karen Prager and Linda Roberts (2004; also see Prager, 2000) observed that an individual who is engaged in an intimate interaction displays a host of behavioral cues that signal attentiveness and responsiveness to the partner as well as positive involvement in the interaction. These include increased eye contact, more forward lean and direct body orientation, more frequent head nods, increased physical proximity, greater facial expressiveness, longer speech duration, more frequent or more intense interruptions, and more intense paralinguistic cues (e.g., speaking rate, tone of voice, pauses, silences, laughter). Recent research reveals that people do, in fact, interpret these behavioral cues as communicating validation, understanding, and caring—in short, responsiveness (see Maisel, Gable, & Strachman, 2008). […] it is not simply the act of disclosing information or making personal revelations that contributes to relationship development. Rather, reciprocal and responsive disclosures that contribute to feelings of intimacy — in other words, verbal and nonverbal behaviors that reflect mutual perceptions of understanding, caring, and validation — are what encourage and sustain the growth of relationships. […]

self-disclosure and intimacy appear to be integrally connected with both relationship satisfaction and stability. Research conducted with romantic partners and with friends generally reveals that people who self-disclose, who perceive their partners as self-disclosing, and who believe that their disclosures and confidences are understood by their partners experience greater satisfaction, closeness, commitment, need fulfillment, and love than people whose relationships contain lower levels of intimacy and disclosure (e.g., Laurenceau, Barrett, & Rovine, 2005; Meeks, Hendrick, & Hendrick, 1998; Morry, 2005; Prager & Buhrmester, 1998; Rosenfeld & Bowen, 1991; Sprecher & Hendrick, 2004). […]

U.S. census data indicate that between the years 1935 and 1939, approximately 66% of men and 83% of women were married by the age of 25. Twenty years later, between 1955 and 1959, 51% of men and 65% of women were married by the time they reached 25 years of age. And two decades after this, between 1975 and 1979, only 37% of 25-year-old men and 50% of 25-year-old women were married (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007a). Currently, approximately one third of the adult U.S. population consists of single men and women who have never married; an additional 10% of adults are divorced and single (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007b, 2007c). […]

recent surveys conducted in Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan revealed that approximately 20% to 50% of all marriages were between first cousins (e.g., Gunaid, Hummad, & Tamim, 2004; Kir, Gulec, Bakir, Hosgonul, & Tumerdem, 2005; Sueyoshi & Ohtsuka, 2003; Wahab & Ahmad, 2005; Wahab, Ahmad, & Shah, 2006). […]

More than 40 years ago, social scientist William Kephart (1967) asked a sample of young men and women whether they would marry someone with whom they were not in love if that person possessed all of the other qualities they desired in a spouse. More than one third (35%) of the men and three fourths (76%) of the women responded affirmatively—they were willing to marry without love. However, by the mid-1980s there was evidence of a dramatic shift in attitude. When psychologists Jeffrey Simpson, Bruce Campbell, and Ellen Berscheid (1986) asked a group of young adults the very same question, only 14% of the men and 20% of the women indicated that they would marry someone they did not love […] A similar attitude shift is occurring around the world. In the mid-1990s another group of researchers (Levine, Sato, Hashimoto, & Verma, 1995) asked a large sample of adults from 11 countries to answer the question first posed by Kephart […] the percentage of participants who said “no” in response to the question was as follows: United States (86%), England (84%), Mexico (81%), Australia (80%), Philippines (64%), Japan (62%), Pakistan (39%), Thailand (34%), and India (24%). […] sociologist Fumie Kumagai (1995) reported that the ratio of arranged (miai ) to love-based (renai) marriages in Japan shifted dramatically over the last half of the twentieth century. Specifically, during the time of World War II, approximately 70% of new marriages were arranged by parents whereas 30% were love-based or personal choice matches. By 1988, however, only 23% of new marriages were arranged; the rest either were completely love-based (75%) or refl ected a combination of parental arrangement and personal choice (2%). Data collected more recently reveal an even greater decline in the proportion of arranged marriages: among Japanese couples marrying in 2005, only 6.4% reported an arranged marriage (National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 2005, as cited in Farrer, Tsuchiya, & Bagrowicz, 2008). Similar changes have been documented in other countries (e.g., China, Nepal; Ghimire et al., 2006; Xu & Whyte, 1990). […]


longitudinal research consistently reveals that most newlywed couples (whether in their first or subsequent marriage) begin their married lives with a “honeymoon” period characterized by high amounts of satisfaction and well-being which then progressively decline during the next several years, stabilize for a period of time (often between the fourth and sixth years of marriage), and then continue to decline, assuming the couple stays together. In general, husbands and wives show the same changes in marital happiness. […] A large literature about the impact of parenthood on marital quality exists, with the majority of studies finding that the transition to parenthood is marked by a reduction in marital satisfaction (e.g., Perren et al., 2005; for reviews, see Belsky, 1990, 2009; Sanders, Nicholson, & Floyd, 1997; Twenge, Campbell, & Foster, 2003). […] there is some evidence that spouses’ marital satisfaction levels may increase once their children reach adulthood and leave home (see Gorchoff, John, & Helson, 2008). […]

A vast body of social psychological research reveals that, as people go about their daily lives, they tend to interpret the situations they encounter and the events they experience in a decidedly selfcentered, self-aggrandizing, and self-justifying way (Greenwald, 1980). For example, the majority of men and women possess unrealistically positive self-views—they judge positive traits as overwhelmingly more characteristic of themselves than negative traits; dismiss any unfavorable attributes they may have as inconsequential while at the same time emphasizing the uniqueness and importance of their favorable attributes; recall personal successes more readily than failures; take credit for positive outcomes while steadfastly denying responsibility for negative ones; and generally view themselves as “better” than the average person (and as better than they actually are viewed by others; for reviews, see Mezulis, Abramson, Hyde, & Hankin, 2004; Taylor & Brown, 1988). In addition, people often fall prey to an illusion of control consisting of exaggerated perceptions of their own ability to master and control events and situations that are solely or primarily determined by chance (e.g., Langer, 1975; for reviews, see Taylor & Brown, 1988; Thompson, 1999). Moreover, most individuals are unrealistically optimistic about the future, firmly believing that positive life events are more likely (and negative events are less likely) to happen to them than to others (Weinstein, 1980, 1984). […] These cognitive processes, collectively known as self-serving biases or self-enhancement biases, not only function to protect and enhance people’s self-esteem (see Taylor & Brown, 1988, 1994) but also color perceptions of the events that occur in their closest and most intimate relationships. For example, two early investigations (Ross & Sicoly, 1979; Thompson & Kelley, 1981) demonstrated that married individuals routinely overestimate the extent of their own contributions, relative to their spouses, to a variety of joint marital activities (e.g., planning mutual leisure activities, carrying the conversation, resolving conflict, providing emotional support, initiating discussions about the relationship). Moreover, they more readily call to mind instances of the specific ways in which they (as opposed to their partners) contribute to each activity.
Research also demonstrates that people tend to adopt a self-serving orientation when interpreting and responding to negative relationship events. […] Although self-serving biases may benefit the individual partners by protecting their self-esteem, such cognitions may have additional, less-than-beneficial consequences for their relationship. […]

People not only perceive their own attributes, behaviors, and future outcomes in an overly positive manner, but they also tend to idealize the characteristics of their intimate partners and relationships. Several relationship-enhancement biases have been identified. For example, research reveals a pervasive memory bias for relationship events, such that partners recall more positive experiences, fewer negative experiences, and greater improvement over time in relationship well-being than actually occurred (e.g., Halford, Keefer, & Osgarby, 2002; Karney & Coombs, 2000). […]

Not only do people rewrite the history of their relationships, but they also tend to view those relationships (and their partners) in an overly positive manner (e.g., Barelds & Dijkstra, 2009; Buunk, 2001; Buunk & van der Eijnden, 1997; Murray & Holmes, 1999; Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996a; Neff & Karney, 2002; Van Lange & Rusbult, 1995). A large body of research reveals that most of us:

● perceive our own relationships as superior to the relationships of other people;
● view our current partners more favorably than we view other possible partners;
● view our partners more positively than our partners view themselves;
● minimize any seeming faults that our partners possess by miscasting them as virtues (“Sure, she can seem kind of rude, but that’s because she’s so honest”) or downplaying their significance (“He’s not very communicative, but it’s no big deal. He shows his love for me in many other ways”);
● accentuate our partners’ virtues by emphasizing their overall impact on the relationship (“Because she is so honest, I know I can trust her completely—she will never give me any reason to doubt her love”). […]

Together, these findings suggest that most people “see their partners through the filters provided by their ideals, essentially seeing them . . . as they wish to see them” (Murray et al., 1996a, p. 86).
The idealization effect is not limited to perceptions of romantic partners. Research indicates that parents view their children as possessing more positive qualities than the average child (Cohen & Fowers, 2004; Wenger & Fowers, 2008). Similarly, adults rate their friends more favorably than those friends rate themselves (Toyama, 2002). […] In sum, people appear to see their partners as their partners see themselves—only better. […]
Current evidence suggests that […] Partners are happiest and most satisfied when they are realistically idealistic—that is, when they possess an accurate understanding of each other’s most self-relevant attributes but maintain an exaggeratedly positive view of each other’s overall character and their relationship.”

January 23, 2013 - Posted by | Books, Data, Demographics, Psychology


  1. > “many individuals assume that they have adequately conveyed their attraction to a partner when in fact they have not. The signal amplification bias occurs when people believe that their overtures communicate more romantic interest to potential partners than is actually the case; consequently, they fail to realize that the partner may not be aware of their attraction (Vorauer, Cameron, Holmes, & Pearce, 2003). […]

    And they say anime is unrealistic.

    Comment by gwern | January 23, 2013 | Reply

    • I’ve never read anime, but from what you’re saying I’m assuming it deals with these kinds of matters…

      Comment by US | January 23, 2013 | Reply

  2. You’re from the WEIRD population anyway, so although these findings might not be completely generalizable for all peoples, they should apply to you and potential mates.

    Comment by Emil | January 26, 2013 | Reply

    • “Of the American subjects, 67 percent were undergraduates studying psychology”

      I should remind you that I’m not studying psychology (and that people like me are particularly unlikely to participate in such studies).

      But even so – yes, it’s quite true that I’m probably ‘closer’ to the most-often surveyed demographic than are a lot of other people. On the other hand I’d add that you’re making a lot of assumptions in the last part of your comment (specifically the last 3 words).

      Comment by US | January 27, 2013 | Reply

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