Working through minor conflicts can help you and your partner improve your social skills and make the relationship stronger

Working through minor conflicts can help you and your partner improve your social skills and make the relationship stronger

Wellman, B., Quan Haase, A., Witte, J., & Hampton, K. (2001). Does the Internet increase, decrease, or supplement social capital? Social networks, participation, and community commitment. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(3), 436–455.

Media Attributions

  • Figure 7.8

Close relationships in which partners suspend their need for equity and exchange, giving support to the partner in order to meet his or her needs, and without consideration of the costs to themselves.

When we choose to stay in situations largely because we feel we have put too much effort in to be able to leave them behind.

An approach that suggests that there are different types of love and that each is made up of different combinations of cognitive and affective variables, specified in terms of passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Negative cognitions and emotions have an extremely harmful influence on relationships (Gottman, 1994). Don’t let a spiral of negative thinking and negative behaviors get started. Do whatever you can to think positively.

Many people in close relationships, as do most people in their everyday lives, tend to inflate their own self-worth. They rate their own positive behaviors as better than their partner’s, and rate their partner’s negative behaviors as worse than their own. Try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt-remember that you are not perfect either.

The principles of social exchange make it clear that being nice to others leads them to be nice in return.

Relationships in which the partners have positive moods and in which the partners are not bored tend to last longer

When the partners in a relationship feel that they are close, and when they indicate that the relationship is based on caring, warmth, acceptance, and social support, we can say that the relationship is intimate (Sternberg, 1986). Partners in intimate relationships are likely to think of the couple as “we” rather than as two separate individuals. People who have a sense of closeness with their partner are better able to maintain positive feelings about the relationship while at the same time are able to express negative feelings and to have accurate (although sometimes less than positive) judgments of the other (Neff & Karney, 2002). People may also use their close partner’s positive characteristics to feel better about themselves (Lockwood, Dolderman, Sadler, & Gerchak, 2004).

Members of long-term relationships focus to a large extent on maintaining equity, and marriages are happiest when both members perceive that they contribute relatively equally (Van Yperen & Buunk, 1990). Interestingly, it is not just our perception of the equity of the ratio of rewards and costs we have in our relationships that is important. It also matters how we see this ratio in comparison to those that we perceive people of the same sex as us receiving in the relationships around us. Buunk and Van Yperen (1991), for example, found that people who saw themselves as getting a better deal than those around them were particularly satisfied with their relationships. From the perspective of social comparison theory, which we discussed in chapter 3 in relation to the self, this makes perfect sense. When we contrast our own situation with that of similar others and we perceive ourselves as better off, then this means we are making a downward social comparison, which will tend to make us feel better about ourselves and our lot in life. There are also some individual differences in the extent to which perceptions of equity are important. Buunk and Van Yperen, for example, found that the relationship between perceptions of equity and relationship satisfaction only held for people who were high in exchange orientation. In contrast, those low in exchange orientation did not show an association between equity and satisfaction, and, perhaps even more tellingly, were more satisfied with their relationships than those high in exchange orientation.

Although the good news about interdependence and commitment is clear-they help relationships last longer-they also have a potential downside. Breaking up, should it happen, is more difficult in relationships that are interdependent and committed. The closer and more committed a relationship has been, the more devastating a breakup will be.

Activating thoughts and feelings of romantic love reduced attention to faces of attractive alternatives. Attention to other social targets remained unaffected. Data are from Maner et al. (2008).

One way to think about attachment styles, shown in Table 7.1, “Attachment as Self-Concern and Other-Concern,” is in terms of the extent to which the individual is able to successfully meet the important goals of self-concern and other-concern in his or her close relationships. People with a secure attachment style have positive feelings about themselves and also about others. People with avoidant attachment styles feel good about themselves (the goal of self-concern fling com is being met), but they do not have particularly good relations with others. People with anxious/ambivalent attachment styles are primarily other-concerned. They want to be liked, but they do not have a very positive opinion of themselves; this lack of self-esteem hurts their ability to form good relationships. The fourth cell in the table, lower right, represents the avoidant-fearful style, which describes people who are not meeting goals of either self-concern or other-concern.

Despite these potential concerns, research shows that using the Internet can relate to positive outcomes in our close relationships (Bargh, 2002; Bargh & McKenna, 2004). In one study, Kraut et al. (2002) found that people who reported using the Internet more frequently also reported spending more time with their family and friends and indicated having better psychological health.

In part the ideas that Britain’s long-married couple Frank and Anita Milford have about what made their relationship so successful are probably correct. Let’s look at some of the things that they seem to have done and compare them with what we might expect on the basis of social psychological research.

When Relationships End

Agishtein, P., & Brumb). Cultural variation in adult attachment: The impact of ethnicity, collectivism, and country of origin. Journal Of Social, Evolutionary, And Cultural Psychology, 7(4), 384-405. doi:/h0099181

Davis, J. L., & Rusbult, C. E. (2001). Attitude alignment in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 65–84.

Obegi, J. H. (2008). The development of the client-therapist bond through the lens of attachment theory. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45(4), 431-446. doi:/a0014330

Wegner, D. M., Erber, R., & Raymond, P. (1991). Transactive memory in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(6), 923–929.


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