(2) 250 words DQ

Chapter 12:

Attraction and Relationships

Couple stands face to face smiling at each other.


Learning Objectives

By the end of the chapter you should be able to:

Describe how proximity, attractiveness, matching, similarity, equitability, and being "hard to get" influence attraction

Explain the two factors of the need to belong

and how human tendencies toward social bonds,

including what happens when we are deprived,

show the need to belong

Explain the difference between companionate love, passionate love, and compassionate love

Explain the difference between a communal relationship and an exchange relationship

Explain Sternberg's triangular theory of love

Describe how interdependence theory works

Explain the components of the investment model

Describe John Gottman's findings about relationship maintenance

Chapter Outline

12.1 Factors in Attraction

We Like Those Who Are Close to Us

We Like Those Who Are Attractive

We Like Those Who Are Similar to Us

We Like Those We Have Equitable Relationships With

We Like Those Who Are Hard to Get

12.2 Need to Belong

Social Bonds


12.3 Love

Types of Love

Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love

12.4 Relationship Maintenance

12.5 When Relationships End

Chapter Summary

* * *

Around 2 million Americans marry each year, with other couples entering into long-term commitments with a partner or beginning cohabitation (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013; Copen, Daniels, Vespa, & Mosher, 2012). According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010), the average household size was 2.59 in 2010. When it comes to other close relationships, most adults in the United States report that they have around nine close friends (Brewer & Webster, 1999; Carroll, 2004). The majority of people say they have at least one close friend, with fewer than 2% of U.S. residents reporting no close friends. For those who use the social networking site Facebook, the average friend count is 303, though such counts may be artificially inflated by a few users who have a very large number of friends. Younger Facebook users tend to have more friends, with an average of 506 and 510 for those aged 12–17 and 18–24, respectively (Marketing Charts Staff, 2013). Seeking out, forming, and maintaining relationships seem to be major activities among human beings. Who do we tend to form friendships with? Who will become our romantic partners? In this chapter, we explore attraction, the need for social connections, love, and maintaining relationships.

12.1 Factors in Attraction

Many of us meet a variety of people each day. Some we become friends with, others remain strangers. We may begin a romantic relationship with one person but, refuse to even date another. What attracts us to some people and not others? There are a variety of factors related to attraction.

We Like Those Who Are Close to Us

Surprisingly, simple proximity, or propinquity, has a lot to do with who we meet and become friends with. First-year students were more likely to develop a friendship with someone they sat next to during an introductory session than those they were not sitting near (Back, Schmukle, & Egloff, 2008). In a student apartment building, individuals were more likely to make friends with those living in apartments next to theirs, as opposed to those down the hall or up the stairs. The one exception to this was for those living near the mailboxes. The people in the apartments near the mailboxes saw individuals from all areas of the building frequently and thus became friends with residents on different floors or farther down the hall (Festinger, Schacter, & Back, 1950; also Cadiz Menne & Sinnett, 1971). The most important factor in our liking of those who are close to us is repeated exposure. Exposure does not need to be in a face-to-face context. When we frequently interact with someone online, such as in a chat room or online classroom, we show greater liking for that person (Levine, 2000).

This tendency to have greater liking for things we see often is the mere-exposure effect. The familiarity created by multiple exposures creates greater fondness for someone over time. Repeated exposure to people and objects is related to greater liking for those people or objects (Monahan, Murphy, & Zajonc, 2000; Zajonc, 1968). A piece of modern art that you thought was merely interesting the first time you saw it may, with repeated exposure, become well loved. In one study of this phenomenon, women who attended more class sessions were better liked by their classmates, even when they did not interact with those classmates (Moreland & Beach, 1992).

We Like Those Who Are Attractive

Imagine you are beginning school at a large university and have signed up to be part of a welcome week dance. For the dance, you are paired with another student of the opposite sex based on your answers to some questionnaires. You meet your date and the two of you try to get to know each other over the course of the evening. As part of this dance, you are asked to evaluate your partner and consider whether you would like to date him or her again. What might influence your answer? Would how intelligent your date is matter? His or her sincerity? Other personality factors? When researchers did this study, they found none of these predicted evaluations of the date. The only predictor of the evaluation students gave of their partner was how physically attractive the date was. The partners of more-attractive dates liked them more and showed a greater desire to go out with them again (Walster, Aronson, Abrahams, & Rottman, 1966). All other things being equal, we prefer highly attractive individuals: as dates, as friends, and to interact with in a social situation (Black, 1974; Byrne, London, & Reeves, 1967). In a study of speed daters, the strongest predictor of attraction for both men and women was attractiveness of the partner (Luo & Zhang, 2009). In another study involving third and eighth graders, physical attractiveness was an important factor in a desire for friendship with a peer (Zakin, 1983). Physical attractiveness can also play a role in employment. People are more likely to recommend terminating employment of an unattractive employee than a moderately or very attractive employee (Commisso & Finkelstein, 2012).

Social Psychology in Depth: What Is Beautiful?

How do we decide what is beautiful? Why is beauty so important to us? Throughout history and across cultures, there have been different ideals of beauty. In the 1600s, one ideal for beauty in women was conveyed in the art of Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens painted plump, voluptuous women—a portrayal that came to be known for him in the term rubenesque. In contrast, the idea for female beauty in the 1960s was closer to that of Twiggy, an English model who took on the nickname because of her thin, boyish figure.

Two opposing images next to each other. The first is a painting by Peter Paul Rubens depicting a plump, nude woman. The second is a photograph of slim model Twiggy from the 1960s.

©Bridgeman Art Library, London/Superstock; Science and Society/SuperStock

Beauty ideals have varied throughout history. In the 1600s, voluptuousness was most desired, as characterized by the Peter Paul Rubens painting on the left. However, by the 1960s, beauty was connoted by a thin, waif-like figure, like that of model Twiggy.

In research on beauty, the primary focus has been on the face. Researchers have found that symmetrical face and faces with ratios that match the average for the population are more attractive. If you look at your face in a mirror you might notice some asymmetries. For example, your right nostril might be slightly larger than your left or your left ear higher on your head than your right ear. Individuals who have greater symmetry are judged more attractive (Bridgstock & Townsend, 1999; Rhodes, Proffitt, Grady, & Sumich, 1998; Rhodes et al., 2001).

When composite faces are created by a computer from a number of individual faces, composite faces are judged to be more attractive than the individual faces that went into the composite. When faces have features placed in locations that are the average for those found in the population, and the size of features are the average size for the population, such faces are judged to be beautiful (Langlois & Roggman, 1990). The ratios that fit these averages are a vertical distance between eyes and mouth of about 36% of the length of the face. The most beautiful horizontal distance between the eyes is 46% of the width of the face (Pallett, Link, & Lee, 2010). The final set of features that make faces attractive is masculine features in men and feminine features in women. A man's face with a square chin, thick brows, and thin lips is rated more attractive. A woman's face with a smaller chin, smaller lower face area, and fuller lips is judged more attractive (Rhodes, 2006).

According to evolutionary psychologists, beauty may signal fitness. People without genetic disorders and those with good immune system responses to disease have more average faces (Rhodes, 2006). More fertile women have been shown in some samples to have more symmetrical faces (Pfluger, Oberzaucher, Katina, Holzleitner, & Gammer, 2012; for an opposing viewpoint see Silva, Lummaa, Muller, Raymond, & Alvergne, 2012). People's careful attention to attractiveness may, therefore, be based on a desire to choose a mate who will help produce valuable offspring.

Test Yourself

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.

According to the mere-exposure effect, which song would you like more: song A that you heard for the first time today or song B that you have heard 15 times in the last 2 weeks?

All things being equal, who would most people choose to interact with: Mary, a beautiful woman, Joan, a woman of average attractiveness, or Lisa, an unattractive woman?

We Like Those Who Are Similar to Us

While individuals might desire a relationship with an attractive other, an attractive person might not desire a relationship with the not-so-attractive individual. One of the messages that an individual who refuses a date or relationship might be sending concerns the desirability of the other person. In other words, the woman may be communicating to the man she rejects that he is not as attractive as he thinks he is, and is "out of her league." She rejects him because she can do better. Perhaps because of this message, unrequited love tends to reduce self-esteem in the would-be lover (Baumeister, Wotman, & Stillwell, 1993). Most people expect and tend to end up in a romantic relationship with someone who is similarly physically attractive (Berscheid, Dion, Walster, & Walster, 1971; Folkes, 1982; Montoya, 2008; Murstein, 1972). This tendency to have relationships with those who match us is called the matching hypothesis. The next time you have a chance to observe couples, perhaps at a party, look around and notice whether the couples are about the same in attractiveness. When couples do not match, there is often a quality in the less-attractive member that in some way makes up for his or her lack of physical beauty, such as social status, money, education, physical grooming, sense of humor, or personality (Carmalt, Cawley, Joyner, & Sobal, 2008; Feingold, 1981).

According to the matching hypothesis, we tend to end up with those who are similar to us in attractiveness. Beyond that, do the values or interests of a potential relationship partner, either friend or romantic partner, make a difference in our liking of that person? In general, we like and want to interact with those who are similar to us in values, interests, personality, gender, and race (Byrne et al., 1967; Johnson, 1989; Tenney, Turkheimer, & Oltmanns, 2009). Among those who are already our friends, researchers find, the intensity of friendship is greater among those who perceive their friend to be similar (Selfhout, Denissen, Branje, & Meeus, 2009). If a new acquaintance is similar to you, you may feel more comfortable and be able to better predict what the other person would want to talk about or do (Berg & Clark, 1986; Berger & Calabrese, 1975). Similarities can allow interactions to progress smoothly and reduce conflict, particularly at the beginning of a relationship.

Similarity may be a more long-term relationship factor than a short-term factor. For example, speed daters showed no greater attraction to those who were similar; attractiveness was more important (Luo & Zhang, 2009). Greater similarity is attractive for long-term relationships like friendship, or relationships with long-term romantic partners. Even when we desire similarity in our friendships, we may not actually be friends with similar people if our options are limited. Friends in the United States tend to show greater similarity than friends in Japan. Researchers found that this was because of a difference in the ability of individuals within those cultures to form new relationships. The Japanese population, as a whole, is less mobile that the U.S. population, with lesser likelihood of moving away from family or friends for employment or other reasons. With fewer opportunities for new friendships to form, we tend to stick with friends who are not necessarily similar to ourselves but are close in geographic proximity (Schug, Yuki, Horikawa, & Takemura, 2009).

We Like Those We Have Equitable Relationships With

Have you ever had a relationship where you felt you were giving more than you were getting from the other person? If so, you were part of an inequitable relationship. Equity involves receiving benefits proportional to what one provides (Hatfield, 1983). According to equity theory, it is not the overall amount of benefit one receives from a relationship that is important, but whether what one gives and what one gets are equal. Partners who gives more than they receive in a relationship are underbenefited in the relationship. Partners who receive more than they give in a relationship are overbenefited. As you might imagine, underbenefiting is more distressing to individuals. If you have ever invested in a relationship and have not received rewards proportional to your input, you were likely unhappy with that relationship. This theory also predicts that overbenefiting is problematic. When one relationship partner overbenefits, that person gains rewards he or she knows are undeserved, causing distress (Sprecher, 1986; 1992; Stafford & Canary, 2006).

Although there is some support for this theory, the overall amount of benefits in a relationship may be more important than equity (Cate, Lloyd, Henton, & Larson, 1982; Cate, Lloyd, & Long, 1988). If one is in an equitable relationship, but is neither giving nor receiving much from that relationship, it is unlikely to be a relationship for very long. Some people may expect fairness and pay attention to equity; others may be satisfied with an unbalanced relationship (Donaghue & Fallon, 2003). In long-term, intimate partnerships, there may also be certain domains where equity is more important. Housework and childcare often fall inequitably to married women, which can potentially create problems within the relationship (Davis, Greenstein, & Marks, 2007). Equitability in these areas may, therefore, be more important to relationship success for some married couples than equity in other domains (Gottman & Carrere, 1994).

We Like Those Who Are Hard to Get

The idea of playing hard to get is a familiar notion within the dating sphere. Individuals who play hard to get appear to be selective in their social choices, and are not easily swayed by the advances of another. Magazines and websites give men and women advice on how to play hard to get in order to win over the object of their affection (Dahlstrom, 2011). Advertisers use scarcity to suggest their product is particularly desirable, so would the same be true about potential dates? Like that rare painting or limited-edition collectible, are people who play hard to get liked better?

Much of the advice about playing hard to get, and therefore the research on the idea, focuses on women playing hard to get in their potential romantic relationships. In an impressive series of studies, Elaine Walster and colleagues (Walster, Walster, Piliavin, & Schmidt, 1973) investigated whether those who were more selective in their romantic interactions were liked more than those who were less selective. College students who read a story about a woman who was not all that interested in a potential romantic partner (Studies 1 and 2), and male students who called up a woman who was hesitant about accepting his invitation to go out (Studies 3 and 4), did not report more attraction to that person. Researchers used a unique confederate, a prostitute, to show that her clients seemed to like her less and were less likely to call her in the future when she played hard to get (Study 5). Finally, Walster and colleagues discovered that targeted selectivity is what is most attractive about being hard to get (Study 6). Women who appeared to like and want to date the man in question, but not other men, were more attractive than women who were uniformly hard to get or who were willing to date anyone. The men were most likely to report wanting to date the women who liked them but no one else, liked her most, and expected fewer problems in dating.

The strategy of being selectively hard to get is true for both men and women (Wright & Contrada, 1986). Interacting with someone who likes you but not other people may provide a boost in self-esteem (Matthews, Rosenfield, & Stephan, 1979); being singled out by another person makes us feel good. In addition, further work has revealed that uncertainty can be attractive. Women were most attracted to men when they were uncertain how the man had rated them (Whitchurch, Wilson, & Gilbert, 2011). Perhaps a little mystery is motivating in romantic relationships. Hard-to-get tactics also work better for women than for men, and for long-term relationships rather than casual flings. Potential romantic partners report being willing to invest more time and money in a partner who seems hard to get, perhaps because of the concept of scarcity (Jonason & Li, 2013).

Test Yourself

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.

Are people who are very attractive likely to end up in a relationship with someone who is not-at-all attractive?

Which adage is most accurate "birds of a feather flock together" or "opposites attract"?

Within a relationship, is it best to get more than you give, give more than you get, or give and get in equal measure?

Is being universally hard to get attractive?

12.2 Need to Belong

There are a variety of reasons why we might pursue relationships with some people but not others. The question remains as to why we would pursue relationships at all. Given the statistics on marriage, partnerships, and friendships cited at the beginning of this chapter, our behavior suggests we have a need to be part of relationships. Psychologists Baumeister and Leary (1995) argue that we have a need to interact and be in relationships with others. The need to belong has two components: (a) the need for frequent positive contact with others, and (b) the need for enduring connections marked by mutual concern for the welfare of the other.

Social Bonds

This need to belong is evidenced in the ease with which we form social bonds, and the trouble we have breaking those bonds. While waiting in the doctor's office or at the train station, you might find yourself chatting with the person sitting next to you, easily forming a friendship. Or after a short stay at summer camp as a child, you may have promised your bunk mate or the other kids in your cabin that you would be friends forever. Humans quickly, and relatively easily, form social bonds. Research evidence of this can be found in the ease to which the boys in Sherif's study of conflict and superordinate goals made friends with the boys in their own group (Sherif, Harvey, White, Hood, & Sherif, 1961). Recall from the chapter on prejudice that within a week these boys were a close-knit group. Ingroup favoritism quickly developed when participants were placed into groups, even when these groups were based on something as unimportant as the number of dots estimated on a slide (Billig & Tajfel, 1973; Tajfel, 1970).

Attachment theory helps to explain the bonds we have with those to whom we are close. John Bowlby (1969; 1973) first described attachment in the realm of the infant–caregiver relationship. Within these early relationships people develop internal working models of relationships (Bowlby, 1973). These working models tell us what to expect from others. Some people learn that others are available and responsive to needs and that they are worthy of that care, such individuals would be described as having a secure attachment style. Others learn that others may not be around at times when they are needed and come to believe that they are not worthy of care, such individuals would be described as having an insecure attachment style (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). What people learn about themselves and others impacts adult relationships (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). People who have a secure attachment style tend to seek support from others in times of need and provide reassurance to relationship partners when they need it (Collins & Feeney, 2010).

The effect of insecure attachment on relationships can differ depending on the attachment style. Some individuals have difficulty believing others are to be trusted, but think they can deal with stressors on their own—reflective of a dismissing or avoidant attachment style (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). These individuals do not seek or give a great deal of support to others, though they do still benefit from feeling like they belong and are accepted by others (Carvallo & Gabriel, 2006; Edenfield, Adams, & Briihl, 2012; Holmberg, Lomore, Takacs, & Price, 2011; Schwartz, Lindley, & Buboltz, 2007). People who don't believe they are worthy of care by others either trust others and seek close relationships, having a preoccupied attachment style, or distrust others and avoid close relationships, having a fearful attachment style (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). Preoccupied individuals attempt closeness with others, but, because they are concerned about their own worthiness to be loved, they tend to seek extreme closeness and be jealous of other relationships their friends or romantic partners might have (Marazziti et al., 2010; Pietromonaco & Barrett, 2006). Those with a fearful attachment style are fearful of intimacy and tend to avoid relationships (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Edenfield, Adams, & Briihl, 2012; Welch & Houser, 2010).


What happens if we are deprived of belonging? On April 20, 1999, Erick Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 fellow students and one teacher and wounded 23 other people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In the end, they turned their guns on themselves and committed suicide. Since the Columbine school shooting there have been more than 60 other school shootings around the world (Information Please Database, 2012). Many of the student perpetrators of these school shootings had been bullied or ostracized by their classmates (Gibbs & Roche, 1999; Leary, Kowalski, Smith, & Phillips, 2003).

A marked lack of a sense of belonging can have negative consequences. Bullying seems to be both a consequence of and caused by interference with the need to belong. In other words, bullying is due, in part, to a lack of connections with others and desire for acceptance from other children. Boys involved in bullying desired acceptance from other boys involved in the types of antisocial activities they were involved in (other bullies), and from other boys in general (Olthof & Goossens, 2008). These boys used bullying as a gateway to belonging. In some schools, bullying can even denote social status. When the popular kids bully, engaging in bullying is accepted practice that can show or increase one's social status (Dijkstra, Lindenberg, & Veenstra, 2008). Bullying also communicates to bullied individuals that they do not belong, their peers reject them, leading to negative feelings and even suicide (Dill, Vernberg, Fonagy, Twemlow, & Gamm, 2004; Herba et al., 2008). Not fulfilling the need to belong creates behavior that is harmful to others and is dangerous for one's own physical and mental health. Individuals with limited social ties, including family and friendships, had poorer physical health (Berkman, 1995; House, Robins, & Metzner, 1982). Individuals who do not fulfill the need to belong are also more vulnerable to mental illness (Broadhead et al., 1983; Thoits, 1995).

Threats to relationships are associated with negative emotions. The loss of a loved one is very stressful (Holmes & Rahe, 1967). Even the possibility that an important relationship might end is met with sadness or jealousy (Leary, 1990; Leary & Downs, 1995; Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995; Pines & Aronson, 1983). Also, our reactions to discrimination may, in part, be rooted in our need to belong (Carvallo & Pelham, 2006). Discrimination tells us we are not a valued member of the group, in fact, we either may not be part of the group or, if we are, we will not be able to enjoy all of the privileges of group membership.

Lonely student posing while his classmates are talking in the background.

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

When a person is ostracized by peers, loneliness and increased aggression often result.

Depriving others of their connections with us can be used as a tool to control them. Ostracism is the deliberate exclusion of a person from one's social group or from social interactions. Ostracism is something most people experience and use to control others. Individuals with high self-esteem ostracize to end relationships, while those with low self-esteem use ostracism as a defense against the expected rejection or criticism by others (Sommer, Williams, Ciarocco, & Baumeister, 2001). Although the individual being ostracized certainly suffers, ostracism has positive effects for the group excluding the individual, as it increases group cohesion (Gruter & Masters, 1986). A group grows close together by having a common target.

Ostracism interferes with our need to belong, particularly when we are unsure of the cause of our ostracism (Nezlek, Wesselmann, Wheeler, & Williams, 2012; Sommer et al., 2001). Ostracism also affects our self-esteem (Ruggieri, Bendixen, Gabriel, & Alsaker, 2013). Recall from Chapter 2 the sociometer theory, the idea that acceptance and rejection are important for self-esteem. Ostracism tells us that others do not value us as much as we value them (van Beest & Williams, 2006). When ostracized from a social group, we feel pain, anger, and sadness, though initially we may feel numbness (DeWall & Baumeister, 2006; van Beest & Williams, 2006; Williams, 2001). The pain we experience when ostracized is processed in the same locations of the brain as physical pain (Eisenberger, Lieberman, & Williams, 2003). In fact, researchers have found that the pain reliever acetaminophen can lessen the pain of ostracism (DeWall, Pond, & Deckman, 2011). To get back in the good graces of those around us, we often act in compliant or prosocial ways when we have been ostracized (Carter-Sowell, Chen, & Williams, 2008; Williams, 2007). For example, an ostracized teen might buy gifts for the friends who ostracized her in an attempt to secure entry back into the group and demonstrate that she is a valuable member of the group.

When we are ostracized, life seems to lose meaning and we feel out of control (Nezlek et al., 2012; Ruggieri et al., 2013; Stillman et al., 2009; Williams, 1997). Ostracism that affects our sense of purpose or control is more likely to result in antisocial behavior (Williams, 2007). The interaction of ostracism and control may be particularly important for aggression. Warburton, Williams, and Cairns (2006) used a game of toss to ostracize research participants and then expose them to an unpleasant blast of noise. Some of the participants were able to control the noise and others were not. Participants were then asked to decide how much hot sauce to put in the food of a stranger, knowing that the individual did not like spicy foods but would be required to eat all of the food. Participants who had no control over the noise wanted to put four times more hot sauce in the stranger's food than those who had control over the noise. Placing hot sauce in the food of someone who does not like it is an aggressive act, an act made more likely when people felt they were ostracized and had no control over their circumstances. At times ostracism's effect on our sense of control results in depression. When people are chronically ostracized they have less of a desire to exert self-control. This sense of helplessness leads to symptoms of depression (DeWall, Gilman, Sharif, Carboni, & Rice, 2012).

Expand Your Knowledge: Loneliness Scale

A loneliness assessment based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale can be accessed at http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/loneliness.htm.

Another result of ostracism is loneliness. Loneliness is the feeling of being without desired social connections. It is possible to fulfill one piece of the need to belong, frequent contacts, without fulfilling the second, ongoing relationships involving mutual caring. Loneliness involves a problem with the second part of the need to belong. Someone can be lonely, therefore, even when that person has frequent contacts with others. Loneliness may be understood and experienced differently in different cultures. Cultures have different ways of understanding the nature of relationships, so, while loneliness appears to be common across cultures, it is understood differently depending on the culture (Rokach, 2007; van Staden & Coetzee, 2010). Lonely people have the physical and mental health issues discussed above. One major issue with loneliness is that it can lead to depression (Cacioppo, Hughes, Waite, Hawlkey, & Thisted, 2006).

Test Yourself

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.

What are the two aspects of the need to belong?

What are some of the effects of ostracism?

Is it possible to have frequent social contacts with others and still feel lonely?

12.3 Love

In everyday life you may hear a number of different uses of the word love. Overhearing a cell phone conversation on the street, you might hear a woman next to you say "I love you" to her husband before hanging up. Someone else might exclaim "I love donuts" when her friend brings her one to eat. A mother tells her child she loves him. "Love" is a word with a multitude of meanings. To say you love your mother is different from saying you love your shoes or you love your romantic partner or you love chocolate donuts. When Fehr and Russell (1991) asked college students to list all of the kinds of love they could up with, the students were able to list 216 different kinds of love. Puppy love, brotherly love, romantic love, and maternal love are all different types.

To further investigate our conception of love, Meyers and Berscheid (1997) asked people to write down the initials of everyone they loved, everyone they were in love with, and everyone they felt a sexual attraction or desire for. After sorting out where the lists overlapped, the researchers found that the love list was long. We love a lot of people. Most people who were on the in love list were also on the love list (93% of the in love list were on the love list). The love list contained a number of people that were not on the in love list (23% of the love list were on the in love list); when we talk about being in love we are talking about something similar to love, but more selective in some way. Many of the people on the in love lists were also on the "sexual attraction or desire for" list (87% of the in love list were also on the sexual attraction list); when we say we are in love, we are describing a type of love that includes a sexual attraction or desire component.

Types of Love

One way we might break down love is to delineate a few categories; two of these types are roughly analogous to the love versus in love dimensions above. One type of love is the affection we hold for friends and family, what some researchers have deemed companionate love. Companionate love is characterized by deep caring for another person, comfort and trust, and the enjoyment of shared experiences (Berscheid, 2010). Marriages characterized by companionate love tend to be lasting and satisfying (Gottman, 1999). The importance of companionate love may be surprising to some, as a more passionate type of love is often expected and striven for in marriage, but researchers find that a more romantic view of love does not do as good a job of predicting well-being within a marriage or general well-being (Grote & Frieze, 1994; Kim & Hatfield, 2004; Orbuch, Veroff, & Holmberg, 1993). Companionate love does a better job of predicting well-being in these situations.

Young, smiling woman sits on a couch with her laptop computer.


Online dating can be beneficial for widening one's social network thus increasing the chances of finding love. However, experts caution against maintaining online communication with a potential partner for too long, because the longer two people spend interacting online, the more likely they are to be disappointed by each other when they meet in person.

Passionate love would describe the in love type of love mentioned earlier. Passionate love involves intense emotional arousal and physical attraction. (Fehr, 1994; Regan, 1998). This strong desire for another person may be the initial draw in a relationship, which could then transition into a relationship characterized by companionate love (Berscheid, 2010). Unlike companionate love, which seems to increase over time given the right conditions, passionate love tends to decline over time (Hatfield & Rapson, 2008; Tucker & Aron, 1993). Although one would think otherwise, researchers have found that arranged marriages are largely no different in the amount of companionate and passionate love, as marriages where the partners chose one another (Regan, Lakhanpal, & Anguiano, 2012).

Another category of love is the self-giving, caregiving type of love, called compassionate love. Compassionate love might describe a parent–child relationship or a long-term friendship. Individuals who have a secure attachment style are more likely to have compassionate love for their partner than those with an insecure style (Sprecher & Fehr, 2011). Due to their background, securely attached individuals may approach intimate relationships with greater willingness to give care to their partner. Margaret Clark and colleagues describe the caring and concern for the welfare of the other that is present in compassionate love as part of communal relationships (Clark & Mills, 1979; Clark & Monin, 2006). In communal relationships, partners respond to the needs of the other person, not worrying about when or how their contributions will be repaid. Exchange relationships, by contrast, are those where contributions and rewards are counted and immediate repayment is expected. We tend to act in a more communal manner, showing compassionate love, in close friendships or dating or marriage relationships (Sprecher & Fehr, 2005). Exchange relationships are more common in our interactions with acquaintances, strangers, or coworkers.

Social Psychology in Depth: Love Online

It has become popular to look for love online. Estimates vary, but it seems that somewhere around 40% of single Internet users have visited a dating site or posted a profile (Madden & Lenhart, 2006; Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). Seventy-four percent of Internet users who are single and looking for relationships have used the Internet in their quest for love: flirting with someone online, being introduced to someone online, joining a chat group in hopes of finding a date, and even searching for information on a potential date (Madden & Lenhart, 2006). Online daters appear to come from all age groups and income brackets, although individuals who are divorced are more likely than those who are never-married or widowed to use online dating services (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007).

Most daters anticipate meeting and potentially forming intimate relationships with the individuals they find online. Individuals who expect to meet in the real world and establish long-term relationships tend to be more honest in their online communication. They also disclose more information consciously and intentionally (Gibbs, Ellison, & Heino, 2006). That is not to say that online daters never misrepresent themselves, provide idealized portrayals, or are mistaken about their own attributes. Online daters attempt to counter this misrepresentation while looking at online profiles by assuming the image they get from a profile is a bit rosier than reality. Men, for example, might be a little shorter than they claim, women a little heavier (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006).

There is a typical decision process while engaging in online dating. The first step involves looking at profiles. Some profiles are rejected because they do not fit what one is looking for in terms of age, location, or some other factor. Some online daters describe this as shopping for a date. The dater scans what is available and makes a decision based on the presence of desired qualities. Ironically, having more choices has been found to lead to poorer choices, as well as objectification of future partners (Heino, Ellison, & Gibbs, 2010; Wu & Chiou, 2008). Another point in the decision process comes with online communication. A budding relationship may be ended at this point because of rejected overtures for communication or communication that is slow, uncomfortable, or reveals inaccuracies. When communication moves from online to phone or face-to-face, online daters face another decision point. At this point daters need to decide whether the online profile matches reality and whether any chemistry found online is present in the real world (Heino, Ellison, & Gibbs, 2010).

When individuals who met online meet face-to-face, a significant minority experience disappointment. In fact, the longer the couple spends engaging in computer-mediated communication, the more likely they are to be disappointed when they meet face-to-face (Ramirez & Wang, 2004; Ramirez & Zhang, 2007). The limited information an online dater receives about his or her match can lead to idealized or inaccurate ideas of the qualities the potential partner possesses (Hancock & Dunham, 2001). Accurate data on the success of online dating is hard to come by. Of the people who have visited online dating sites, about half say they have had positive experiences, with a third describing negative experiences. The vast majority (97%) of currently married or committed people did not meet online. That number is skewed, however, by the fact that many met before online dating was an option. Many online daters know someone who found a long-term romantic partner online (43%). Of the Americans who have looked for love using Internet dating sites, about a quarter are in committed relationships. Those numbers sound hopeful until you consider that almost half of those who have visited online dating sites have not found a relationship partner (Madden & Lenhart, 2006). The Internet may be a good tool, but it seems finding Mr. or Ms. Right is just as hard as it has ever been.

Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love

Robert Sternberg (1986) divides love into even more distinct categories. In his triangular theory of love, he describes three aspects of love. Each can be thought of as a point on a triangle (see Figure 12.1). Intimacy is one component, described as feelings of closeness or bonds to another person. Intimacy may include sharing of oneself and one's possessions with another, counting on that person in times of need, and receiving emotional support from and providing emotional support to the other person. We tend to grow in intimacy within a relationship. Intimacy is moderately stable over time. Typically, intimacy is quite important in long-term relationships. We have some control over how much intimacy we have in a relationship though we may not be consciously aware of how much we have.

Figure 12.1: Sternberg's triangular theory of love

Illustration showing the types of love according to Sternberg's theory. The illustration is made up of one pink triangle. The only label contained within the triangle is "consummate love (intimacy plus passion plus commitment)". The rest of the labels are on the outside of the triangle. The top point is labeled "liking (intimacy alone)." The bottom left point is labeled "infatuation (passion alone)." The left side of the triangle between these points is labeled "romantic love (intimacy plus passion)." The bottom right point is labeled "empty love (commitment alone)." The bottom side of the triangle (between the bottom left and bottom right points) is labeled "fatuous love (passion plus commitment)." The right side of the triangle (between the top point and bottom right point) is labeled "companionate love (intimacy plus commitment)."

Sternberg's three aspects of love combine to form many different types of love.

From Sternberg, Robert J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review 93(2): 119–135. Copyright © 1986 by the American Psychological Association.

The second and third components of love in the triangular theory are passion and commitment. Passion involves physical attraction to another person or expression of desires and needs. Passion is not necessarily stable in our relationships. Generally, we do not have a great deal of control over passion, though we are often aware of how much passion we are feeling for someone else. The final component is commitment. According to Sternberg, this can be a short-term commitment, the decision to love a particular other person, or a long-term commitment, the decision to stay with someone over the long term. We control the amount of commitment we have in a relationship, and it is important for long-term relationships. Individuals who are securely attached tend to have more intimacy and commitment in relationships, and greater relationship satisfaction (Madey & Rodgers, 2009).

Within the triangular theory of love these three components are combined to describe different kinds of love. For example, infatuated love is a type of love that includes passion but no intimacy or commitment. Companionate love, on the other hand, includes intimacy and commitment but no passion.

Test Yourself

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.

If people were to list the names of all the people they were in love with, is that list likely to contain more or fewer names than a list of people they love?

When Marcus needed help moving, Aaron spent the day moving furniture and boxes, expecting no immediate repayment of the favor. From this evidence, it appears Marcus and Aaron have a communal relationship or an exchange relationships?

The type of love in Sternberg's triangular theory of love that includes passion, intimacy, and commitment is what?

12.4 Relationship Maintenance

What keeps partners in relationships? One way to look at our relationships over the long term is to use the interdependence theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959). With this theory we can determine satisfaction and dependency within relationships. The way satisfaction is determined is by looking at the rewards and costs in a relationship and the comparison level. Imagine you were in a relationship and found there were a lot of costs: your partner left messes around the house, often borrowed money without paying it back, and had several annoying habits. The relationship also held some rewards: your partner was sweet and affectionate and when you went out, heads turned because your partner was very good looking. When you put it all together, though, the costs outweighed the benefits. A relationship where a partner feels appreciated tends to increase the benefits side of the equation and leads to greater commitment to the relationship (Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012). Some individuals do not expect a lot of rewards in their relationships, so having a relationship with a lot of costs and only a few rewards might still be satisfying for these people. Others might be dissatisfied even with large rewards because they expect highly rewarding relationships. This expectation for the outcomes in a relationship is the comparison level.

This theory also involves a calculation of dependence. In this context, dependence is the degree to which we believe our current relationship is the best we can do, in other words, how dependent we are on this particular relationship. Our calculation of dependence includes a comparison level of alternatives. The comparison level of alternatives is the outcome we would expect to receive if we were in an alternate relationship. Imagine you were in a city where a number of neat and solvent relationship partners were available, all of who were also likely to be affectionate and good looking. Given the alternatives, you would be unlikely to stay with your present messy, annoying partner. However, if you looked around and found that alternative partners were no better than or were worse than your present partner, you might stay even though you are unsatisfied. Within this theory you might be satisfied in a relationship (your rewards outweigh the costs) but still leave that relationship because there are other attractive alternatives. When people are less identified with their relationship, they are more likely to pay attention to and change their behavior in response to attractive alternatives. Individuals who are more identified with their relationship naturally and spontaneously discount alternatives, leading to greater survival of their existing relationship (Linardatos & Lydon, 2011).

A senior couple laughs while sitting on a park bench together.

Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Investment is one motivation two people may have for staying together. People who have invested significant time and energy into a relationship are less likely to abandon it, even if they are dissatisfied with aspects of the relationship.

An expansion of this idea is the investment model. According to this model, the level of commitment one has for a particular relationship relates to one's satisfaction with the relationship, the quality of alternatives, and the investments associated with the relationship (Rusbult, 1983). As you might imagine, individuals who are more satisfied with a relationship are more likely to be committed to a relationship. But satisfaction alone is not enough to predict commitment. As in the interdependence theory, alternatives are also important. If one has good alternatives to a current relationship, that person might move to another relationship even if satisfaction is not low. Investment may take the form of intrinsic investments, like time and emotional energy. Investments may also be extrinsic investments, like shared possessions or even mutual friends that might be lost if one were to leave the relationship. Even when satisfaction is low and alternatives are good, people might stay in a relationship because of their enormous investment in the relationship, an investment they would lose by leaving. Putting this all together, a member of a couple who is very satisfied, has few alternatives, and has high investments will likely be quite committed to a relationship and make the decision to remain in the relationship. An individual who is not satisfied, has a number of alternatives, and has a small investment is likely to show low commitment to the relationship (Rusbult, Drigotas, & Verette, 1994; Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998).

Though this may all seem more like economics than relationships, other researchers have also played a numbers game with relationships and have been quite successful in predicting relationship outcomes. John Gottman and his colleagues are able to predict with greater than 90% accuracy the likelihood of divorce for a couple with their mathematical model (Gottman, Swanson, & Swanson, 2002). Couples may follow a variety of patterns, but overall, the researchers found that a ratio of five positive behaviors to every one negative behavior must be maintained for relationships to last. A couple that fights often might have a long relationship if that fighting is balanced with expressions of fondness toward one another (Gottman, 1993). Couples that largely avoid both conflict and positive interactions may last for a while, but eventually divorce (Gottman & Levenson, 2002).

Expand Your Knowledge: John Gottman

Additional information on Gottman and his work, including workshops and DVDs, can be found at his website: http://www.gottman.com/.

A particularly destructive interaction pattern is called the demand-withdraw pattern. One member of the couple brings up an issue he or she needs to talk about and the other member attempts to avoid the discussion. The person bringing up the issue is critical and contemptuous; the member responding comes back with defensiveness, eventually withdrawing (Gottman, 1998). Note that anger is not among these emotions. Properly expressed anger is not necessarily a problem for a relationship, provided it is expressed within the context of positive interactions. Four behaviors—criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (withdrawal)—are so detrimental to the success of a relationship that Gottman calls them the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Gottman, 1994).

A variety of strategies can be employed to nurture good interactions and make negative interactions less likely. Simply having a positive outlook on the relationship and expecting good things is positive for relationships. Openness to engaging in communication is helpful. Self-disclosure is when a person in a relationship tells the other person something, particularly intimate or important information. Self-disclosure by one person tends to lead to self-disclosure by the other, something called disclosure reciprocity. Such reciprocity can lead to deeper commitment by both members. Expressions of love are helpful to relationships. Sharing of responsibilities is also helpful. Finally, couples that have shared social networks tend to maintain their relationship to a greater degree than those who have entirely separate social networks (Adams & Baptist, 2012; Canary & Stafford, 1992).

Test Yourself

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.

Suzanne expects relationships to be very rewarding and have few costs. Annaliese expects relationships to have about equal amounts of costs and benefits. According to interdependence theory Suzanne and Annaliese are different on what variable?

What unique addition does the investment model add to the interdependence theory of relationships?

Leon tells Tara about a frightening episode from his childhood. She responds by telling him about an unpleasant experience she had when she was a teenager. Leon and Tara's behavior is an example of what?

12.5 When Relationships End

About half of all first marriages end in divorce by the 20th anniversary, with subsequent marriages ending at even higher rates (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002; Cherlin, 1992; Goodwin, Mosher, & Chandra, 2010; Rogers, 2004; Glick, 1984). A vast number of nonmarital relationships end each year as well (Sprecher & Fehr, 1998). Many of the same factors that attract us to others and help us maintain our relationships also affect our likelihood of ending a relationship. When relationships do not feel equitable or there are differences in aspirations, relationships are more likely to end. Mismatched couples in terms of attractiveness are also more likely to break up (Hill, Rubin, & Peplau, 1976). Divorce is often preceded by problems like infidelity, incompatibility (general disagreement about a variety of issues), money issues, substance abuse, jealousy, growing apart, and by personal factors like moodiness and irritating habits (Amato & Previti, 2003; Amato & Rogers, 1997).

Expand Your Knowledge: State of Marriage and Divorce

For an interesting report on marriage and divorce within different states, check out the report from the Pew Research Center at http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1380/marriage-and-divorce-by-state. The report looks at age of marriage, rate of divorce, and some correlations to marriage and divorce patterns.

A variety of factors may be behind breakups, but one we often do not think about is the calendar. In one study of college student relationships, the point in the school year had an effect on when couples broke up (Hill et al., 1976). The end of the school year and school vacations are a potentially dangerous time for college relationships. Valentine's Day is also a dangerous time for relationships that are not doing well. A cultural expectation exists for couples on Valentine's Day. For partners whose relationship is already in choppy water, the time and energy needed to successfully navigate Valentine's Day activities may be more than the members can handle. A couple might not want to put the time and money into a Valentine's Day celebration for a relationship that appears troubled, and therefore they break up before getting to Valentine's Day. Couples may also find that the ideal love that Valentine's Day promotes is not present in their own celebration and break up post-Valentine's Day. In a study of college student couples, the number of breakups increased in the two-week time period around Valentine's Day (Morse & Neuberg, 2004).

According to Duck (1982) the breakup process often begins with a personal realization of the need to end the relationship, sometimes by one member of the couple and sometimes by both. Next, the members negotiate with one another about the dissolution of the relationship. At times one member may be resistant and ask that they work harder or go to counseling, but at other times both parties agree that a breakup is an appropriate course of action. A couple is not done breaking up when they have agreed to break up; they must recover from the breakup and others in their environment must be told of the breakup (Duck, 1982). Depending on the type and length of the relationship the entire process could take hours or years.

Someone who wants to break up might use a variety of approaches to dissolve the relationship. These strategies can be grouped into four categories. (1) A person might withdraw from the relationship and avoid contact with the partner, hoping the partner will get the message that the relationship is over. Avoiding one's spouse and hoping he or she realize this means a divorce is coming may be difficult. However, a short romantic entanglement in the teen years may end this way. (2) Another strategy involves using other people or other indirect ways to break up. For example, one might have a friend tell the significant other that the relationship is over. An announcement of being single on a social media platform like Facebook could also send a message to a boyfriend or girlfriend that the relationship has ended. (3) Alternatively, the partner might be more direct but attempt to set a positive tone, describing the other person's positive qualities. Perhaps you have heard the phrase "it's not you, it's me. . . ." (4) Finally, a simple direct approach stating a desire to break up may be used to end the relationship (Baxter, 1982; Wilmot, Carbaugh, & Baxter, 1985). The particular strategy one uses may depend on the relationship type, the reason for the breakup, as well as the degree of compassionate love one has for the partner (Sprecher, Zimmerman, & Abrahams, 2010).

Ripped photograph of couple next to ice cream and tissues.

Tetra Images/SuperStock

The primary emotions that accompany a breakup are love, anger, and sadness. Anger may actually be more beneficial than sadness, as it resolutely breaks the bond between two people, whereas sadness can linger and lead to depression.

A variety of emotions accompany a breakup. The primary emotions are love, anger, and sadness (Sbarra & Ferrer, 2006). If you have experienced a breakup, you may remember the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanied it. Emotions tend to be very variable in the first few weeks after a breakup (Sbarra & Emery, 2005). Love and sadness tend to occur together. For example, one might listen to a song that provides a reminder of the love that was shared and this brings along with it feelings of sadness that the relationship is over. Continued attachment (love) is not generally positive for people and may be associated with depression (Sbarra & Emery, 2005; Sbarra & Ferrer, 2006). Because of intense initial emotions, people often overestimate the length and intensity of the emotions they will feel after a breakup (Eastwick, Finkely, Krishnamurti, & Loewenstein, 2008). Although emotions may be intense at first, sadness does tend to get better with time. In one study of dating breakups in college students, most participants who had been broken up for a month showed no more sadness than those in intact relationships (Sbarra & Emery, 2005). Anger may actually be somewhat of a positive emotion in breakups as it serves to more firmly sever the bond, provided one does not get stuck on anger. In line with the investment model, individuals who had greater investment (were together longer and felt closer) and who saw fewer positive alternatives showed more distress at the ending of a relationship (Simpson, 1987).

Breakups are sometimes mutual, but often not, so the initiator and the partner who is left may be dealing with different emotions (Baxter, 1984; Hill et al., 1976; Sprecher, 1994). Sadness is a common emotion in those who have been broken up with as well as, for some, betrayal (Boelen & Reijntjes, 2009; Field, Diego, Pelaez, Deeds, & Delgado, 2009). For the one who does the leaving, emotions often follow a different pattern. Though regret and guilt about hurting one's partner may be present, there might also be a sense of relief or freedom (Emery, 1994; Sprecher, Felmlee, Metts, Fehr, & Vanni, 1998; Vaughn, 1986). Knowing the relationship would soon end because they were the ones to instigate it, the initiators of the breakup may have already dealt with sadness about ending the relationship before talking to their partner about the disillusion. Generally, the initiator of the breakup does better than the one who is broken up with (Thompson & Spanier, 1983).

Breakups can have a positive impact on someone's life. If a relationship was fraught with conflict or abuse, a breakup of that relationship can produce positive change (Nelson, 1989; 1994). When asked about positive changes that occurred because of a romantic relationship breakup, the most common had to do with things learned about the self. Some people report being more self-confident and independent as the result of a breakup. One factor in recovery from a breakup is the ability to redefine the self. People need to develop a new self-concept that does not include the former relationship partner (Mason, Law, Bryan, Portley, & Sbarra, 2012). Individuals also learn things from the relationship, such as what they want from a relationship or how to do better in future relationships. Other relationships can also grow because of a breakup. Friends and family may be seen as more important, or these relationships might become closer than they were in the past (Tashiro & Frazier, 2003). Sometimes when a relationship is troubled, ending it may be best for everyone and can make someone available for a healthier and happier relationship in the future.

Test Yourself

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.

What major emotions accompany a breakup?

Who usually does better when a relationship breaks up, the one who initiates the breakup or the person who is broken up with?


We like those we interact with often, those who are attractive, those who are similar to us, and those we have equitable relationships with. We also like those who like us exclusively. We form relationships quickly and easily and are happier and healthier because of these relationships. Our need for interaction and close bonds is a need, not just a want, in our lives. Love comes in a variety of guises, at times including passion or friendship or compassion. The staying power of relationships depends on factors inside the relationship, like costs and rewards; factors inside of the person, like comparison level; and factors outside the relationship, like available alternatives. When relationships end, the emotions experienced may depend on one's status as an initiator of the breakup, the type of relationship, and the quality of the relationship before it ended.

Chapter Summary

Factors in Attraction

A variety of factors exist that help determine our liking of others. We like those we see or interact with often, as the mere-exposure effect predicts. We also like those who are attractive. Although we would prefer to interact with those who are attractive, we usually end up in relationships with those who are similar to us in attractiveness, as proposed by the matching hypothesis. We tend to like those who are similar to us in values and interests rather than those who are different. We prefer to not overbenefit or underbenefit in a relationship, but have a relationship characterized by equity. We also tend to like those who like us and only us.

Need to Belong

The need to belong has two components: frequent contact and enduring connections. Evidence of this need is seen in our ease of forming and reluctance in ending relationships. The need is also evident in our happiness when we have social bonds and the negative emotions (anger, sadness) associated with lack of connection. Deprivation is associated with mental and physical health detriments. Ostracism interferes with our sense of self-esteem and brings about feelings of meaninglessness, lack of control, and aggression. We may interact with others when we are lonely, but we do not feel that we have a close connection to anyone.


Love is a concept with many facets. Companionate love involves a deep caring for another person, passionate love includes desire for another, and compassionate love is a self-giving type of love. Love can also be characterized according to the amount of intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment involved, according to Sternberg's triangular theory of love.

Relationship Maintenance

Interdependence theory predicts satisfaction with a relationship by bringing together costs, rewards, and the expectations one has for costs and rewards in a relationship. Dependence on a particular relationship, according to this theory, is determined by costs, rewards, and possible alternatives. The investment model predicts commitment to a relationship through a combination of satisfaction, quality of alternatives, and investments in the relationship. One relationship researcher with an impressive track record at predicting relationship success, John Gottman, notes that a ratio of at least five positive for every one negative behavior must be maintained for relationships to last. Relationships characterized by criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are likely to fail. Having a positive outlook and expressing love for a relationship partner tends to help maintain relationships. Openness, including self-disclosure, can lead to disclosure reciprocity and, therefore, deepening of a relationships. Sharing responsibilities and having mutual friends is also helpful to relationship maintenance.

When Relationships End

Breakups normally follow a pattern of individual realizations about the relationship, a breakup of the partnership, telling others about the breakup, and recovery. Love, sadness, and anger are all emotions felt in a breakup. One's status as initiator of a breakup and quality of the relationship before the breakup can affect the emotions one feels after a relationship dissolves. Ending of relationships is not always negative. Some people learn confidence or independence or other important lessons when a relationship ends.

Critical Thinking Questions

Have you had an experience with any of the factors related to attraction? For example, do you find yourself friends with your neighbors? Is your significant other, if you have one, similar to you in attractiveness?

If you were a scientist looking into liking, what other factors might you want to investigate?

What kinds of situations could you imagine in which someone would fulfill one aspect of the need to belong, but not the other? How would that affect the person?

How could you assist others whose need to belong is not fulfilled? For example, if older adults in nursing homes lack frequent contacts with others, how might that be alleviated?

Some researchers describe three types of love (companionate, passionate, and compassionate), others three aspects of love (passion, intimacy, commitment). Are there other types or aspects of love not covered by these?

Consider some of your own relationships. Based on Sternberg's theory of love, how would you characterize these relationships? How might you apply interdependence theory or the investment model to relationships you are part of or know about?

If you have experienced a relationship breakup, does the research on this topic fit with your experience? Is there anything these researchers are missing?

Key Terms

Click on each key term to reveal the definition.

communal relationships

companionate love

comparison level

comparison level of alternatives

compassionate love


disclosure reciprocity


exchange relationships

hard to get

insecure attachment style

interdependence theory



investment model


matching hypothesis

mere-exposure effect

need to belong




passionate love

secure attachment style


triangular theory of love