Relationships are one of the central defining aspects of our lives. The majority of people cannot survive without healthy relationships, and gaining the ability to create and maintain them is an important part of the developmental process. There are several theories of how we develop healthy relationships on lives, and the reason why the human need for company is so enduring. The three central theories of why we create relationships are the need to belong, the process of social exchange and the theory of the relational self. Additionally, there are theories on how they are created, including the central ideas of attraction, intimacy, and love. These theories can all be related to real-life scenarios because they relationships are all around us – in our own lives, in the lives of people we know and plastered across the media. It will become clear that healthy relationships are created based on both biological and cultural needs and that they are often a central focus in most people’s lives.
Literature Review & Application
Humans are innately social beings and our personalities are largely shaped by our interactions with others. It is, therefore, important that we develop the ability to create and maintain interpersonal relationships – it is key to our survival as a race (Hardy, 2014). According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, both sexual and non-sexual feelings of love and acceptance from various social groups are central to our feelings of happiness and success (). Although physiological needs are ranked as more important by Maslow, there is evidence that a human desire for relationships may often surpass our safety and health, such as is the case with those who stay in abusive relationships (). Relationships can also work as part of a social exchange, in which they are an example of a reward framework. Finally, it has also been suggested that we cannot create a sense of our own selves without relating to others (Hardy, 2014).
To begin an interpersonal relationship, there needs to be an initial attraction – this is true of both romantic and non-romantic relationships (Hardy, 2014). Attractiveness is somewhat related to our physical appearance (), but is more often based around the similarity effect (). This similarity can be attractive in physical looks, or in a shared social and cultural background. People who were born at similar times of the year or who share a birthday are also more likely to enter into relationships with each other (). In one case, a couple who shared the name of Kelly Hildebrandt met online and married each other (Zap, 2013). This suggests that the ideas behind similarity theory hold true in real-world scenarios.
Another important theory is known as the triangular theory of love. This theory posits that there are three factors that create a healthy relationship – intimacy, passion and commitment (Hardy, 2014). Intimacy can refer to physical intimacy, but in the case of friendships describes a bond and feelings of attachment (Hardy, 2014). Passion is required to create both limerernce and sexual attraction (Hardy, 2014). Limerence is an almost obsessional feeling of attraction towards another individual and an intense desire to have those feelings replicated – in essence, romantic love in the early stages (Bauermeister et al., 2011). Finally, commitment is important in the maintenance of a healthy relationship (Bauermeister et al., 2011).
In application, the triangular theory of love holds. A lack of commitment is one of the most-cited reasons for marital break-up (Sumter et al., 2013), as well as the cause of several less-documented long-term relationship breakdowns (Scott et al., 2013). The idea behind commitment is often strongly tried to trust, which once violated tends to have an impact on the previously healthy relationship (Sumter et al., 2013). If we take famous celebrity examples, such as that of Ashton Kutcher cheating on Demi Moore (Radar Online, 2014), a lack of commitment often leads to a relationship breakdown.
The idea of intimacy is also an interesting one. Sex creates a strong bond between two (or more) individuals, particularly when orgasm is achieved as this stimulates the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin (Knee et al., 2013). Without passion, there is unlikely to be sex, and therefore the creation of this biological bond can also not be successful (Knee et al., 2013). Again, real-world examples suggest that this may be true – several sources state that a lack of sexual attraction or a sexual mismatch is one of the leading causes of divorce and relationship breakdown (Scott et al., 2013). Passion is also intimately linked to the idea of bonding, which is also part of the triangular theory of love and therefore part of a healthy and dynamic relationship.
Conclusion & Summary
In conclusion, healthy relationships need to be created to keep humans sane and to promote the transfer of culture between individuals. Romantic love is often a goal for many people, and can only be achieved with the combination of three factors – commitment, intimacy and passion. These factors are both biological and social in nature and are integral in the creation of short-term and long-term bonds between individuals. Many people often have a desire for romantic love as central in their lives, most likely because it is linked to ideas of reproduction and the progression of the human race. Overall, the theories outlined above have significant evidence in real-world examples for their relevance to the topic. Couples who cheat on each other or who are not committed are more likely to divorce. Trust is also important here, and forms part of the relationship bond. It is a complex but ultimately rewarding process.
- Bauermeister, J. A., Johns, M. M., Pingel, E., Eisenberg, A., Santana, M. L., & Zimmerman, M. (2011). Measuring Love: Sexual Minority Male Youths’ Ideal Romantic Characteristics. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 5(2), 102–121. doi:10.1080/15538605.2011.574573
- Hardy, L. E. (2014). Seeking a better understanding of cyber infidelity: Applying Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love to an atheoretical field. ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY. Retrieved from http://gradworks.umi.com/15/62/1562476.html
- Knee, C. R., Hadden, B. W., Porter, B., & Rodriguez, L. M. (2013). Self-Determination Theory and Romantic Relationship Processes. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1088868313498000. doi:10.1177/1088868313498000
- Radar Online. (2014, July 25). The Truth about Ashton Kutcher. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from https://lockerdome.com/embed/7040306835097921
- Scott, S. B., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Allen, E. S., & Markman, H. J. (2013). Reasons for divorce and recollections of premarital intervention: Implications for improving relationship education. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2(2), 131–145. doi:10.1037/a0032025
- Sumter, S. R., Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2013). Perceptions of love across the lifespan Differences in passion, intimacy, and commitment. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 37(5), 417–427. doi:10.1177/0165025413492486
- Zap, C. (2013, January 14). Couple sharing same name have split. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/couple-sharing-same-name-split-170951408.html