Chapter 10 Interpersonal Relationship Types
This chapter focuses on specific relationship types: (1) friendship, (2) love, (3) family, and (4) workplace relationships. We establish what these are and explore how interpersonal communication within each of these relationships can be made more effective. We’ll also examine the dark side of some relationships in the final section. All of these relationships can be face-to-face or online or, as is most often the case, some combination. Online relationships have been increasing since the first online dating service was established in 1995. According to one survey, 38 percent of those who identified themselves as “single and looking” used an online dating service (Smith & Duggan, 2013). Social networking sites such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest; professional sites such as LinkedIn; and the dating sites such as Match.com, eHarmony, and OKCupid (and the numerous apps for your phone such as Zoosk, PlentyofFish, and HowAboutWe) make it increasingly easy and interesting to meet new friends and potential romantic partners, to keep in touch with family (websites that provide family hubs are increasing in popularity), and to conduct much of the business of work. As you’ve no doubt noticed, each type of relationship has both advantages and disadvantages. Here we need to identify just a few of these. One of the advantages to establishing relationships online (though some may say it’s a disadvantage) is that personality outweighs physical appearance. Online communication reveals people’s inner qualities first. Rapport and mutual self-disclosure become more important than physical attractiveness in promoting intimacy (Cooper & Sportolari, 1997). And contrary to some popular opinion, online relationships rely just as heavily on the ideals of trust, honesty, and commitment as do face-to-face relationships (Whitty & Gavin, 2001). Friendship and romantic interaction on the Internet are a natural boon to shut-ins and extremely shy people, for whom traditional ways of meeting others are often difficult. Computer talk is empowering for those with “physical disabilities or disfigurements,” for whom face-to-face interactions are often superficial and often end with withdrawal (Bull & Rumsey, 1988; Lea & Spears, 1995). By eliminating the physical cues, computer talk equalizes the interaction and doesn’t put the disfigured person, for example, at an immediate disadvantage in a society where physical attractiveness is so highly valued. Online you’re free to reveal as much or as little about your physical self as you wish, when you wish. Another obvious advantage of online relationships is that the number of people you can reach is so vast that it’s relatively easy to find someone who matches what you’re looking for. The situation is like finding a book that covers just what you need from a library of millions of volumes rather than from a collection of only several hundred or even thousands. In a study of over 19,000 couples who were married between 2005 and 2012, those marriages that started online had higher marital satisfaction and were somewhat less likely to end in divorce than those that started in offline meetings (Cacioppo, 2013). Another difference that is often discussed is that of deception. It is a lot easier to lie online than in face-to-face situations. However, most people seem to be relatively truthful in their profiles, for example (Dean, 2010b). As noted elsewhere, women take off a few pounds and men add a bit to their height, but for the most part, the profiles prove accurate (Gibbs, Ellison, & Heino, 2006; Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008). But you really can’t tell how much a photo has been enhanced or how long ago the photo was taken. And depending on the technology you’re using, you may not be able to hear the person’s voice; this too hinders you as you seek to develop a total picture of the other person. Online, people can present a false self with little chance of detection; minors may present themselves as adults, and adults may present themselves as children in order to conduct illicit sexual communications and perhaps meetings. Similarly, people can present themselves as poor when they’re rich or as serious and committed when they’re just enjoying the fun and games of this online experience. Although people can also misrepresent themselves in face-to-face relationships, the fact that it’s easier to do online probably accounts for the greater frequency of misrepresentation in computer relationships (Cornwell & Lundgren, 2001).
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10.1 Define friendship and explain how it develops. Friendship has engaged the attention and imagination of poets, novelists, and artists of all kinds. On television, friendships have become almost as important as romantic pairings. And friendship also interests a range of interpersonal communication researchers (Samter, 2004). Throughout your life, you’ll encounter many people, but out of this wide array you’ll develop few face-to-face relationships you would call friendships. Despite the low number of friendships you may form, however, their importance is great. On social network sites, the number of friends can easily be in the hundreds, even thousands. Of course, different definitions of friend are used in each case. The number of friends you have on your favorite social network site depends on several factors (Awl, 2011): your willingness to make new friends and interact with them, the enjoyment you get from communicating with a wide variety of people, and your time constraints. After all, when you have hundreds of friends, it takes time to read their posts and respond as you might like.
Definition and Characteristics
The type of friendship that we’re talking about is the relatively close relationship we have with someone (online or face-to-face) rather than a “friend” who you don’t really know but friended because he or she is a friend of a friend of a friend. In this context, friendship is an interpersonal relationship between two interdependent persons that is mutually productive and characterized by mutual positive regard. • Friendship is an interpersonal relationship. Communication interactions must have taken place between the people. Further, the relationship involves a “personalistic focus” (Wright, 1978, 1984); friends react to each other as complete persons—as unique, genuine, and irreplaceable individuals. • Friendships must be mutually productive. Friendships cannot be destructive to either person. Once destructiveness enters into a relationship, it really can’t be called a friendship. Lover relationships, marriage relationships, parent– child relationships, and just about any other possible relationship can be either destructive or productive, but friendship must enhance the potential of each person and can only be productive. Friendships that are destructive are best viewed as pseudo-friendships. • Friendships are characterized by mutual positive regard. Liking people is essential if we are to call them friends. Three major characteristics of friendship—trust, emotional support, and sharing of interests (Blieszner & Adams, 1992)—facilitate mutual positive regard. In North America, face-to-face friendships are clearly a matter of choice; you choose—within limits—who your friends will be. And most researchers define friendship as a voluntary relationship of choice (Samter, 2004). But throughout human history, in many parts of the world—for example, in small villages miles away from urban centers, where people are born, live, and die without venturing much beyond their community—relationships traditionally have not been voluntary. In these settings, you simply form relationships with those in your village. You don’t have the luxury of selecting certain people to interact with and others to ignore. You must interact with and form friendships and romantic relationships with members of the community simply because these are the only people you come into contact with on a regular basis (Moghaddam, Taylor, & Wright, 1993). This situation is changing rapidly, however, as Internet use becomes universal. With access to people from all over the world via the Internet, more and more relationships will become voluntary.
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One insightful approach to friendship classifies friends into three major types: friendships of reciprocity, receptivity, and association (Reisman, 1979, 1981). Although developed before the advent of social networking, you’ll notice that each type exists in both face-to-face and online friendships. • The friendship of reciprocity is the ideal type, characterized by loyalty, selfsacrifice, mutual affection, and generosity. A friendship of reciprocity is based on equality: each individual shares equally in giving and receiving the benefits and rewards of the relationship. “Friends with benefits”—friends who are not romantically committed to each other but who enjoy a sexual relationship—would be an example of friendship of reciprocity—each person derives equal benefits. • In the friendship of receptivity, there is an imbalance in giving and receiving; one person is the primary giver and one is the primary receiver. This is a positive imbalance, however, because each person gains something from the relationship. The different needs of both the person who receives and the person who gives affection are satisfied. This is the friendship that may develop between a teacher and a student, a doctor and a patient, or mentor and protégé. In fact, a difference in status is essential for the friendship of receptivity to develop. • The friendship of association is a transitory one. It might be described as a friendly relationship rather than a true friendship. Associative friendships are the kind we often have with classmates, neighbors, or coworkers. This is also the type of friendship you have with many people on your social media sites who you friended but without really knowing them or planning on getting to know them. There is no great loyalty, no great trust, no great giving or receiving, no mutual obligations. The association is cordial but not intense.
Friendships serve a variety of important needs. On the basis of your experiences or your predictions, you select as friends those who help to satisfy a variety of basic needs. Selecting friends on the basis of need satisfaction is similar to choosing a marriage partner, an employee, or any person who may be in a position to satisfy your needs. For example, depending on your needs, you may look for friends such as these, whether face-to-face or online (Reiner & Blanton, 1997; Wright 1978, 1984): • Utility: Someone who may have special talents, skills, or resources that prove useful to you, for example, a person who is especially bright who might assist you in getting a better job or in introducing you to a possible romantic partner. Many of the “friendships” formed on professional social media sites like LinkedIn would be of this type. • Affirmation: Someone who affirms your personal value and helps you to recognize your attributes, for example, someone who communicates appreciation for your leadership abilities, athletic prowess, or sense of humor. The friend on Facebook who always comments on your photos and posts would also be serving this affirming function. • Ego support: Someone who behaves in a supportive, encouraging, and helpful manner, for example, a person who helps you view yourself as worthy and competent. • Stimulation: Someone who introduces you to new ideas and new ways of seeing the world, for example, a person who might bring you into contact with previously unfamiliar people, issues, and experiences. Online friendships with those from other parts of the world or of different religions or cultural traditions regularly serve this function, sometimes without being aware of it. • Security: Someone who does nothing to hurt you or to call attention to your weaknesses, for example, a person who is supportive and nonjudgmental.
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Friendship and Communication
Close and lasting friendships develop over time in stages. At one end of the friendship continuum are strangers, or two persons who have just met or just friended each other, and at the other end are intimate friends. What happens between these two extremes? As you progress from the initial contact stage to intimate friendship, the depth and breadth of communications increase; you talk about issues that are closer to your inner core. Similarly, the number of communication topics increases as your friendship becomes closer. As depth and breadth increase, so does the satisfaction you derive from the friendship. This increase in depth and breadth can and does occur in all forms of communication—face-to-face as well as online. It’s interesting to note that establishing and maintaining friendships are the major reasons for Internet communication (instant messaging and texting, social network sites, and e-mail) among college students and among teens (Knox, Daniels, Sturdivant, & Zusman, 2001; Lenhart, Madden, Macgill, & Smith, 2007). And, of course, these forms of communication promote closeness and intimacy and often encourage online partners to meet face-to-face (Hu, Wood, Smith, & Westbrook, 2004). We can identify three main stages of friendship development and integrate some of the characteristics of effective interpersonal communication (Johnson, Wittenberg, Villagran, Mazur, & Villagran, 2003). The assumption here is that, as the friendship progresses from initial contact and acquaintanceship through casual friendship, to close and intimate friendship, effective interpersonal communication increases. However, there is no assumption made that close relationships are necessarily the preferred type or that they’re better than casual or temporary relationships. We need all types. ContACt At the contact stage, the characteristics of effective interpersonal communication are usually present to only a small degree. You’re guarded rather than open or expressive. Because you don’t yet know the other person, your ability to empathize with the other is limited. At this stage, there is little genuine immediacy; you see yourselves as separate and distinct rather than as a unit. Because the relationship is so new and because the people don’t know each other very well, the interaction is often characterized by awkwardness—for example, by overlong pauses, uncertainty about topics to be discussed, and ineffective exchanges of sender and receiver roles. InvolvEmEnt In this second stage, there is a dyadic consciousness, a clear sense of “we-ness,” of togetherness; communication demonstrates a sense of immediacy. At this stage, you participate in activities as a unit rather than as separate individuals. In the involvement period, the other person can be called “friend”—someone you would go with to the movies, sit with in the cafeteria or in class, ride home with from school, or follow (really follow) on social media. At this friendship stage, you begin to see the qualities of effective interpersonal interaction more clearly. You start to express yourself openly and become interested in the other person’s disclosures. Because you’re beginning to understand this person, you empathize and demonstrate significant otherorientation. You also demonstrate supportiveness and develop a genuinely positive attitude, both toward the other person and toward mutual communication situations. There is an ease at this stage, a coordination in the interaction between the two persons. You communicate with confidence, maintain appropriate eye contact and flexibility in body posture and gesturing, and use few of the adaptors that signal discomfort. As friendships develop, whether face-to-face or online, network convergence occurs; that is, as a relationship between two people develops, they begin to share their network of other communicators with each other (Parks, 1995; Parks & Floyd, 1996). And this, at least in online friendships, accounts in great part for the enormous number of friends some people have. CloSE AnD IntImAtE FrIEnDShIp At this stage, you and your friend see yourselves more as an exclusive unit, and each of you derives great benefits (for example, emotional support) from the friendship (Hays, 1989). Because you know each other well (for example, you know each other’s values, opinions, and attitudes), your uncertainty about each other has been significantly reduced—you’re able to predict each other’s behaviors with considerable accuracy. This knowledge makes significant interaction management possible, as well as greater positivity, supportiveness, and openness (Oswald, Clark, & Kelly, 2004). You become more other-oriented and more willing to make significant sacrifices for the other person. You empathize and exchange perspectives a great deal more, and you expect in return that your friend will also empathize with you. With a genuinely positive feeling for this individual, your supportiveness and positive stroking become spontaneous. Because you see yourselves as an exclusive unit, equality and immediacy are in clear evidence. You’re willing to respond openly, confidently, and expressively to this person and to own your feelings and thoughts. Your supportiveness and positivity are genuine expressions of the closeness you feel for this person. Each person in an intimate friendship is truly equal; each can initiate and each can respond; each can be active and each can be passive; each speaks and each listens.
Friendship, Culture, and Gender
Your friendships and the way you look at friendships are influenced by your culture and your gender. Let’s look first at culture. CUltUrE AnD FrIEnDShIpS In the United States, you can be friends with someone yet never really be expected to go out of your way for this person. Many Middle Easterners, Asians, and Latin Americans consider going significantly out of their way an absolutely essential ingredient in friendship; if you’re not willing to sacrifice for your friend, then this person is not really your friend (Dresser, 2005). Generally friendships are closer in collectivist cultures than in individualist cultures. In their emphasis on the group and on cooperating, collectivist cultures foster the development of close friendship bonds. Members of a collectivist culture are expected to help others in the group. When you help or do things for someone else, you increase your own attractiveness to this person, and this is certainly a good start for a friendship. Of course, the culture continues to reward these close associations. Members of individualist cultures, on the other hand, are expected to look out for number one—themselves. Consequently, they’re more likely to compete and to try to do better than each other—conditions that don’t support, generally at least, the development of friendships. Most people, of course, have both collectivist and individualist values, but they have them in different degrees, and that is what we are talking about here—differences in degree of the collectivist versus the individualist orientation. GEnDEr AnD FrIEnDShIpS Gender also influences your friendships—who becomes your friend and the way you look at friendships. Perhaps the best-documented finding—already noted in our discussion of self-disclosure—is that women selfdisclose more than men (e.g., Dolgin, Meyer, & Schwartz, 1991). This difference holds throughout male and female friendships. Male friends self-disclose less often and with less intimate details than female friends do. Men generally don’t view intimacy as a necessary quality of their friendships (Hart, 1990). Women engage in significantly more affectional behaviors with their friends than do males; this difference may account for the greater difficulty men experience in beginning and maintaining close friendships (Hays, 1989). Women engage in more casual communication; they also share greater intimacy and more confidences with their friends than do men. Communication, in all its forms and functions, seems a much more important dimension of women’s friendships. When women and men were asked to evaluate their friendships, women rated their same-sex friendships higher in general quality, intimacy, enjoyment, and nurturance than did men (Sapadin, 1988). Men, in contrast, rated their opposite-sex friendships higher in quality, enjoyment, and nurturance than did women. Both men and women rated their opposite-sex friendships similarly in intimacy. These differences may be due, in part, to our society’s suspicion of male friendships; as a result, a man may be reluctant to admit to having close relationship bonds with another man. Men’s friendships are often built around shared activities—attending a ballgame, playing cards, working on a project at the office. Women’s friendships, on the other hand, are built more around a sharing of feelings, support, and “personalism.” An important element is similarity in status, in willingness to protect a friend in uncomfortable situations, and in academic major. As we move further into the twenty-first century, the ways in which men and women develop and maintain their friendships will undoubtedly change considerably—as will all gender-related variables. In the meantime, given the present state of research on gender differences, be careful not to exaggerate and to treat small differences as if they were highly significant. Avoid stereotypes and avoid stressing opposites to the neglect of the huge number of similarities between men and women (Wright, 1988; Deaux & LaFrance, 1998).
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Friends with Benefits
As noted earlier, a friends-with-benefits relationship—which varies greatly from one couple to another—engage in sexual relationships but without any romantic involvement, dating, or the thought of a shared future together (Mongeau, Knight, Williams, Eden, & Shaw, 2013). Although most often portrayed as a cross-sex relationship, it can apply to same-sex as well as opposite sex pairings. This type of relationship has been around probably throughout time, but it has only recently been given a name and today is largely associated with college students. In one study, over 60 percent of college students surveyed reported having had at least one such relationship (Bisson & Levine, 2009). A friends-with-benefits relationship is somewhere between regular friendship and intimacy and encompasses friendship as well as sex. There is some level of emotional attachment but not to the degree that each member of the couple sees their relationship as a permanent or exclusive one. In fact, most friends-with-benefits relationships are nonexclusive; each person may also be dating others or simply “hooking up” with others. Among the advantages of such relationships are easy access to sex in a safe and comfortable environment with a trusted friend, freedom from commitment or intense involvement,
gaining experience, closeness, and companionship. Among the disadvantages are the possibilities that the friendship will suffer and getting hurt (Weaver, MacKeigan, and MacDonald, 2013). Open, sincere, and direct communication were key factors in ensuring that the relationship has more advantages than disadvantages. More men than women seem to participate in friends with benefits. In a study of over 1,000 college students, approximately 64 percent of the men but only 50 percent of the women indicated they had experience with friends with benefits (Puentes, Knox, & Zusman, 2008). Another study found that 54 percent of men and 43 percent of women reported such relationships (Owen & Fincham, 2009). It was also found that “romantics” (who believe that each person has one true love and that true love comes only once) were less likely to have a friendship with benefits than were “realists” (who believe that there are many possible people you could love). Alcohol was a significant factor in establishing such relationships, especially for women (Owen & Fincham, 2009). Another type of relationship that is closely akin to friends with benefits is the hookup (made very easy with the numerous websites), where people meet just for sex. These relationships (and some researchers would probably not even consider this a relationship) can morph into friendships and then to friends with benefits.
10.2 Describe the various types of love. Of all the qualities of interpersonal relationships, none seems as important as love. “We are all born for love,” noted famed British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. “It is the principle of existence and its only end.” love is a feeling characterized by closeness and caring and by intimacy, passion, and commitment (Sternberg, 1988). It’s also an interpersonal relationship developed, maintained, and sometimes destroyed through communication—and at the same time a relationship that can be greatly enhanced with communication skills (Dindia & Timmerman, 2003). Although there are many theories about love, the conceptualization that captured the attention of interpersonal researchers and continues to receive research support is a model proposing that there is not one but six types of love, originally developed by John Alan Lee (Kimberly & Werner-Wilson, 2013; Guerrero, Andersen, & Afifi, 2013; Lee, 1976, 1988). View the descriptions of each type as broad characterizations that are generally, but not always, true. As a preface to this discussion of the types of love, you may wish to respond to the following statements to get an idea of your love style. For each statement, indicate if it is true (T) of your feelings about love or false (F). The discussion following will elaborate on these six styles of love and these statements. ____ 1. I value physical attractiveness very highly. ____ 2. I would not become romantically involved with someone who was not attractive. ____ 3. I don’t think love should be too intense; it’s best when it’s kept light. ____ 4. I would not love someone who was not interesting or amusing. ____ 5. I seek a love that could be described as peaceful. ____ 6. I don’t think sex is that important to a love relationship. ____ 7. I would only become attracted to someone who would help me in my career. ____ 8. I would select a romantic partner who is similar in attitudes and personality to me. ____ 9. I think love is either a roller coaster or nothing. ____ 10. I see love as total, intense, possessive. ____ 11. I think love is a selfless feeling. ____ 12. I can love someone who doesn’t love me.
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Love Types Let’s look at each of these six types of love: the love of beauty, fun, peacefulness, practicality, elation, and compassion. EroS: BEAUty AnD SExUAlIty (Statements 1–2 in the self-test.) Like Narcissus, who fell in love with the beauty of his own image, eros love focuses on beauty and physical attractiveness—sometimes to the exclusion of qualities you might consider more important and more lasting. Also like Narcissus, the erotic lover has an idealized image of beauty that is unattainable in reality. Consequently, the erotic lover often feels unfulfilled. Erotic lovers are particularly sensitive to physical imperfections in the ones they love. lUDUS: EntErtAInmEnt AnD ExCItEmEnt (Statements 3–4 in the self-test.) ludus love is experienced as a game, as fun. The better you can play the game, the greater the enjoyment. Love is not to be taken too seriously; emotions are to be held in check lest they get out of hand and make trouble; passions never rise to the point where they get out of control. A ludic lover is self-controlled, always aware of the need to manage love rather than allow it to be in control. Perhaps because of this need to control love, some researchers have proposed that ludic love tendencies may reveal tendencies to sexual aggression (Sarwer, Kalichman, Johnson, Early, et al., 1993). The ludic lover retains a partner only as long as the partner is interesting and amusing. When interest fades, it’s time to change partners. Perhaps because love is a game, sexual fidelity is of little importance. In fact, research shows that people who score high on ludic love are more likely to engage in “extradyadic” dating and sex than those who score low on ludus (Wiederman & Hurd, 1999). Ludic lovers also score high on narcissism (Campbell, Foster, & Finkel, 2002). StorGE: pEACEFUl AnD Slow (Statements 5–6 in the self-test.) Storge (a word that comes from the Greek for “familial love”) love lacks passion and intensity. Storgic lovers set out not to find lovers but to establish a companionable relationship with someone they know and with whom they can share interests and activities. Storgic love is a gradual process of unfolding thoughts and feelings; the changes seem to come so slowly and so gradually that it’s often difficult to define exactly where the relationship is at any point in time. Sex in storgic relationships comes late, and when it comes, it assumes no great importance. prAGmA: prACtICAl AnD trADItIonAl (Statements 7–8 in the self-test.) The pragma lover is practical and seeks a relationship that will work. Pragma lovers want compatibility and a relationship in which their important needs and desires will be satisfied. They’re concerned with the social qualifications of a potential mate even more than with personal qualities; family and background are extremely important to the pragma lover, who relies not so much on feelings as on logic. The pragma lover views love as a useful relationship that makes the rest of life easier. So the pragma lover asks questions about a potential mate such as “Will this person earn a good living?” “Can this person cook?” “Will this person help me advance in my career?” Pragma lovers’ relationships rarely deteriorate. This is partly because pragma lovers choose their mates carefully and emphasize similarities. Another reason is that they have realistic romantic expectations. mAnIA: ElAtIon AnD DEprESSIon (Statements 9–10 in the self-test.) mania is characterized by extreme highs and extreme lows. The manic lover loves intensely and at the same time intensely worries about the loss of the love. This fear often prevents the manic lover from deriving as much pleasure as possible from the relationship. With little provocation, the manic lover may experience extreme jealousy. Manic love is obsessive; the manic lover must possess the beloved completely. In return, the manic lover wishes to be possessed—to be loved intensely. The manic lover’s poor self-image seems capable of being improved only by love; self-worth comes from being loved rather than from any sense of inner satisfaction. Because love is so important, danger signs in a relationship are often ignored; the manic lover believes that if there is love, then nothing else matters. AGApE: CompASSIonAtE AnD SElFlESS (Statements 11–12 in the self-test.) Agape is a compassionate, egoless, self-giving love. The agapic lover loves even people with whom he or she has no close ties. This lover loves the stranger on the road even though the two of them probably will never meet again. Agape is a spiritual love, offered without concern for personal reward or gain. This lover loves without expecting that the love will be reciprocated. Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi preached this unqualified love, agape (Lee, 1976). In one sense, agape is more a philosophical kind of love than a love that most people have the strength to achieve. People who believe in yuan, a Chinese concept that comes from the Buddhist belief in predestiny, are more likely to favor agapic (and pragmatic) love and less likely to favor erotic love (Goodwin & Findlay, 1997). Each of these varieties of love can combine with others to form new and different patterns (for example, manic and ludic or storge and pragma). These six, however, identify the major types of love and illustrate the complexity of any love relationship. The six styles should also make it clear that different people want different things, that each person seeks satisfaction in a unique way. The love that may seem lifeless or crazy or boring to you may be ideal for someone else. At the same time, another person may see these very same negative qualities in the love you’re seeking. Remember, too, that love changes. A relationship that began as pragma may develop into ludus or eros. A relationship that began as erotic may develop into mania or storge. One approach sees this developmental process as having three major stages (Duck, 1986): • First stage: Eros, mania, and ludus (initial attraction) • Second stage: Storge (as the relationship develops) • Third stage: Pragma (as relationship bonds develop)
Love and Communication
How do you communicate when you’re in love? What do you say? What do you do nonverbally? According to research, you exaggerate your beloved’s virtues and minimize his or her faults. You share emotions and experiences and speak tenderly, with an extra degree of politeness, to each other; “please,” “thank you,” and similar expressions abound. You frequently use personalized communication, which includes secrets you keep from other people and messages that have meaning only within your specific relationship (Knapp, Ellis, & Williams, 1980; Knapp, Vangelisti, & Caughlin, 2014). You also create and use personal idioms (and pet names): words, phrases, and gestures that carry meaning only for the particular relationship and that say you have a special language that signifies your special bond (Hopper, Knapp, & Scott, 1981). When outsiders try to use personal idioms—as they sometimes do—the expressions seem inappropriate, at times even an invasion of privacy. In online relationships, these romantic messages often move offline or into some private online group. You engage in significant self-disclosure, and when the self-disclosure is extremely significant, you restrict this to this one person, often offline. There is more confirmation and less disconfirmation among lovers than among either nonlovers or those who are going through romantic breakups. You also use more constructive conflict resolution strategies if you feel your relationship is threatened (Gonzaga, Keltner, Londahl, & Smith, 2001). You’re highly aware of what is and is not appropriate to say to the person you love. You know how to reward, but also how to punish, each other. In short, you know what to do to obtain the reaction you want. Among your most often used means for communicating love are telling the person face-to-face or by telephone (in one survey, 79 percent indicated they did it this way), expressing supportiveness, and talking things out and cooperating (Marston, Hecht, & Robers, 1987). Today, you do the same things but often through instant messaging (IM), Facebook postings, and Twitter; you change your status, post photos of the two of you in romantic settings, or simply post “We in love.” Nonverbally, you also communicate your love. Prolonged and focused eye contact is perhaps the clearest nonverbal indicator of love. So important is eye contact that its avoidance almost always triggers a “What’s wrong?” response. You also have longer periods of silence than you do with friends (Guerrero, 1997). In addition, you display affiliative cues (signs that show you love the other person), including head nods, gestures, and forward leaning. And you give Duchenne smiles—smiles that are beyond voluntary control and that signal genuine joy (Gonzaga, Keltner, Londahl, & Smith, 2001). These smiles give you crow’s-feet around the eyes, raise up your cheeks, and puff up the lower eyelids (Lemonick, 2005a). You eliminate socially taboo adaptors, at least in the presence of the loved one. For example, you curtail scratching your head, picking your teeth, cleaning your ears, and passing wind. These adaptors often return after lovers have achieved a permanent relationship. You touch more frequently and more intimately (Anderson, 2004; Guerrero, 1997). You also use more tie signs, nonverbal gestures that show that you’re together, such as holding hands, walking with arms entwined, kissing, and the like. You may even dress alike; the styles of clothes and even the colors selected by lovers are more similar than those worn by nonlovers. Posting such photos on Instagram, Pinterest, or Flickr or on any social network site communicates more publicly your pairing, your connectedness.
Love, Culture, and Gender
Like friendship, love is heavily influenced by culture and gender (Dion & Dion, 1996; Wood & Smith, 2005). Let’s consider first some of the cultural influences on the way you look at love and on the type of love you’re seeking or maintaining. CUltUrE AnD lovE Although most of the research on the six love styles has been done in the United States, some research has been conducted in other cultures (Bierhoff & Klein, 1991). Here are just a few examples to illustrate that love is seen differently in different cultures. Asians, for example, have been found to be more friendship-oriented in their love style than are Europeans (Dion & Dion, 1993b). Members of individualist cultures (for example, Western Europeans) are likely to place greater emphasis on romantic love and on individual fulfillment. Members of collectivist cultures are likely to spread their love over a large network of relatives (Dion & Dion, 1993a). When compared to their Chinese counterparts, American men scored higher on ludic and agapic love and lower on erotic and pragma love. American men are also less likely to view emotional satisfaction as crucial to relationship maintenance (Sprecher & Toro-Morn, 2002). One study finds a love style among Mexicans characterized as calm, compassionate, and deliberate (Leon, Philbrick, Parra, Escobedo, et al., 1994). In comparisons between love styles in the United States and France, it was found that people in the United States scored higher on storge and mania than the French; in contrast, the French scored higher on agape (Murstein, Merighi, & Vyse, 1991). In the United States, Caucasian women scored higher on mania than African-American women, whereas African-American women scored higher on agape. Caucasian and AfricanAmerican men, however, scored very similarly; no statistically significant differences were found (Morrow, Clark, & Brock, 1995).
GEnDEr AnD lovE Gender also influences love. In the United States, the differences between men and women in love are considered great. In poetry, novels, and the mass media, women and men are depicted as acting very differently when falling in love, being in love, and ending a love relationship. As Lord Byron put it in Don Juan, “Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart,/’Tis woman’s whole existence.” Women are portrayed as emotional, men as logical. Women are supposed to love intensely; men are supposed to love with detachment. Women and men seem to experience love to a similar degree, and research continues to find great similarities between male and female conceptions of love (Fehr & Broughton, 2001; Rubin, 1973). However, women indicate greater love than men do for their same-sex friends. This may reflect a real difference between the sexes, or it may be a function of the greater social restrictions on men. A man is not supposed to admit his love for another man. Women are permitted greater freedom to communicate their love for other women. Much research finds that men place more emphasis on romance than women. For example, when college students were asked the question “If a man (woman) had all the other qualities you desired, would you marry this person if you were not in love with him (her)?” Approximately two-thirds of the men responded no, which seems to indicate that a high percentage were concerned with love and romance. However, less than one-third of the women responded no (LeVine, Sato, Hashimoto, & Verma, 1994). Further, when men and women were surveyed concerning their view on love— whether basically realistic or basically romantic—it was found that married women had a more realistic (less romantic) conception of love than did married men (Knapp, Vangelisti, & Caughlin, 2014). Additional research also supports the view that men are more romantic; for example, “Men are more likely than women to believe in love at first sight, in love as the basis for marriage and for overcoming obstacles, and to believe that their partner and relationship will be perfect” (Sprecher & Metts, 1989). This difference seems to increase as the romantic relationship develops: men become more romantic and women less romantic (Fengler, 1974). In their reactions to broken romantic affairs, women and men exhibit similarities and differences. For example, the tendency for women and men to recall only pleasant memories and to revisit places with past associations was about equal. However, men engaged in more dreaming about the lost partner and in more daydreaming generally as a reaction to the breakup than did women.
10.3 Summarize the characteristics of families and distinguish among couple and family types. If you had to define the term family, you might reply that a family consists of a husband, a wife, and one or more children. When pressed, you might add that some families also include other relatives—in-laws, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so on. But other types of relationships are, to their own members, families. One obvious example is the family without children—a pattern that has been increasing. Also on the increase is the single-parent family. Another obvious example is people living together in an exclusive relationship who are not married. For the most part, these cohabitants live as if they were married: there is an exclusive sexual commitment; there may be children; there are shared financial responsibilities, shared time, and shared space. These relationships mirror traditional marriages except that in marriage, the union is recognized by a religious body, the state, or both. Another example is the gay or lesbian couple who live together—whether as domestic partners or in marriage—in households that have all the characteristics of a family. Many of these couples have children from previous heterosexual unions, through artificial insemination, or by adoption. Although accurate statistics are difficult to secure, primary relationships among gays and lesbians seem more common than the popular media lead us to believe. And, most relationship experts agree, being in a committed relationship is the goal of most people, regardless of affectional orientation (Fitzpatrick & Caughlin, 2002; Kurdek, 2000, 2004; Patterson, 2000). The communication principles that apply to the traditional nuclear family (the mother–father–child family) also apply to these other kinds of families. In the following discussion, the term primary relationship denotes the relationship between the two principal parties—the husband and wife, the lovers, the domestic partners, for example; the term family denotes the broader constellation that includes children, relatives, and assorted significant others.