Social Context of Intimate Relationships

Love versus Friendship
Love Has Greater
 Exclusiveness
 Sexual desire
 Depth of caring
 Potential for enjoyment
 Potential for conflict, distress, criticism
Than Friendship
Friendship, Love, and Commitment
Friendship is the foundation for love and
 Love reflects the positive factors that
draw people together
 Commitment reflects the stable factors
that help maintain relationships for better
or worse
All Closely linked
Fabric of Friendship
 Acceptance
 Trust
 Respect
 Mutual Assistance
 Confiding
 Understanding
 Spontaneity
Davis and Todd, 1985
Love and Friendship
Two categories or clusters distinguishing
love from friendship
 Passion Cluster
◦ Fascination
◦ Sexual desire
◦ Exclusiveness
Caring Cluster
◦ Advocacy for partner
◦ Giving the utmost
Davis and Todd, 1985
Love and Friendship
Davis, 1985
Sternberg’s Love Triangle
Argues three dimensions found in love
 Presence or absence of these dimensions
determine type of love
 Dimensions:
◦ Commitment—cognitive aspect
◦ Passion—motivational aspect
◦ Intimacy—emotional aspect
Sternberg’s Love Triangle
The bonding and emotional closeness or
 Involves:
◦ sharing feelings
◦ self disclosure
◦ emotional support
Increases as the closeness grows
 Gains greater depth as a relationship matures
Sternberg’s Eight Types of Love
Addictive Love vs. Mature Love
Addictive Love
 People seek comfort and
stability in love
 Infatuation generates
adrenaline high
 Suffer withdrawal when
not available or breakup
Mature Love
 Each person is valued
 Each person is a better
person as a result of
 Each person has outside
 Relationship is not
totality of life
 Jealousy not present
 Partners are best friends
Peele, 1985
Intimate relationship vs. Intimate
Intimate relationships
◦ Involves sharing intimate experiences in
several areas over time
◦ Difficult to have multiple intimate
◦ Limited areas
Intimate experience
◦ Feeling of closeness or sharing with another
◦ May or may not be perceived similarly
Stability, Security, and Sincerity: Growing a Strong "Us“
by Terry D. Hargrave, PhD
 Security
 Sincerity
Stability is the first developmental necessity. To explain what stability is, imagine that when a couple gets married, they
step side by side into a row boat. Each takes an oar in hand and is ready to set off for a promising and committed ride that
will last a lifetime. They start rowing. Things go okay, but it is hard for the spouses not to notice that the other does not
quite get his or her oar in the water far enough. Or he or she strokes at uneven pace. Or that he or she just does not
row like the family of origin. So, they make suggestions. They become indignant to find out that the other spouse was just
thinking the same thing about them. Imagine, how wrong they can be! They start defending, criticizing, and mocking one
another. Finally, out of frustration, they pull out the oars and start flailing one another. Not only is the relational "us-ness"
going no where, they are doing damage to one another.
Stability is the element in relationships that allows the couple to be assured of a safe, nonthreatening, and nondestructive
relationship. Partners cannot express their deepest thoughts and fears to each other if the information is going to be
misused in some way. Spouses must know that they can live together without hurting each other individually.
In my practice, I usually see instability in couples for two reasons. The first is left over family of origin issues. If a person
marries believing their spouse will take the place of a mom or dad they never had, fill the role of a terrific mom or dad, or
provide the opportunity to work out issues that existed between mom and dad that were never resolved, the marriage
will be in a constant state of instability. Spouses cannot fulfill any role that is parental simply because it is not the same
type of relationship. When partners try to work out their family of origin issues with one another, it is like trying to use
the script to Othello with the actors for Romeo and Juliet. It does not work and it cannot work.
The second reason that couples develop instability is because of conflictual patterns. These patterns perhaps start out as
personality tendencies, but when mixed with the spouse's behaviors, they can be habitual and destructive. Some of these
patterns are well known, distancer/pursuer, blamer/placater, and overfunctioner/underfunctioner. In cases of these
habitual patterns, we must help the couple recognize the destructive sequence and find a healthier substitute.
Stability is born in relationships through spouses displaying patient respect and humility. Respect is the attitude that helps
couples realize that their spouses are precious and fragile human beings that must be handled with care. Humility, the
essential humility, is the recognition that when things don't work in the relationship, many times it is about me and my
past instead of always being about my spouse's shortcomings. Stability is an essential factor in growing new relationships
and thus is most critical to establish in the first two years of marriage.
Security is the second element important to growing strong "us" relationships. Go back to the couple in the rowboat. After they have
established the fact that they can row together without harming or hurting one another, there is important work to be done. Careers
need to be established, work at home to be accomplished and divided, finances to be handled, and children to be raised, just to
mention some of the tasks. In each task, the couple must do their part of the rowing to make sure that the work is accomplished. Not
only once, but these marital tasks, the work of marriage, must be done over again and again. There is always pressure at work, always
something to be done at home, and never enough money. Security in this "us" relationship is established by me being able to lean into
my spouse to count on the fact that if I do my part, she will do her part. In short, it is about trust. This trustworthiness not only
builds the ability to give to one another, it makes the couple partners. That magical part where spouses are confident enough in one
another to become a team.
In order to achieve security, spouses must divide tasks evenly and fairly and take their fair share of responsibility. But taking
responsibility for a task is not enough. Spouses must also execute their responsibilities in a reliable way. Let me illustrate this using
one of my pet peeves--housework. We are in the midst of a profound sociological change. Around 70% of women work outside the
home, yet they perform at least twice as many of the household tasks necessary to make the home function. We've known about this
profound inequity for more than ten years, but have yet to effectively change anything about the problem. Women, who are
overworked by two full shifts of work, are desperate for help. They look at what they consider to be their deadbeat husbands and
disdain their irresponsibility and unreliability. Instead of trusting a secure relationship, they most often consider the male spouse
incapable of changing and permanently immature. Most often, they come to the conclusion, "I don't need another child--I earn an
income and I take care of everything anyway--I'll go it alone." It is one of the contributing, and more subtle factors the high divorce
Now a huge portion of this problem is that both males and females do not take the idea seriously that housework is the obligation of
the male. Males make excuses like "I wasn't raised to do it," or "It's just not that important to me." Females, on the other hand, also
make these excuses like "He just can't do it the right way." or "I'm luckier than most, at least he's giving me some help." Many
professionals complicate this already insecure picture by explaining that it is due to gender differences--You know, Men and Women
are from different planets. Men and Women share Earth and there is a lot of work to be done. Unless both males and females wake
up to the reality that working couples must take equal responsibility for the home, then reliably execute that responsibility, couples
will not trust one another and their relational "us-ness" will be insecure at best. This insecurity will, in turn, breed a lack of giving that
will put the marriage in jeopardy as couples separate and compete for power.
Security is a primary factor for couples that are past the newly married stage, but not quite into the middle years of marriage. These
habits and issues are usually formed through the 2nd to 9th year of marriage. It is a crucial time in which it becomes apparent whether
a couple will consolidate their "us" identity together, or whether they will pull apart and be individuals outside the relationship.
Sincerity is the third growth factor in developing a strong couple "us-ness" and it is perhaps the
most ignored in the field of marital therapy. Sincerity reflects the ability to learn about one's self
and achieve personal growth in the context of the marital relationship. If a couple came to
therapy and was stable and secure, but complaining that they didn't have any goals or that they
seemed to be drifting apart, I use to have a tendency to not get it. I would think, "You don't have
extreme and damaging conflicts, you have found a way to get the work of marriage done--I see
couples all the time that are in real trouble.You two look pretty good." The problem was that I
was not seeing the importance of a couple learning to use the relationship to fulfill personal
growth and build goals and legacy together. Remember the couple in the rowboat?
Sincerity in the relationship is when the couple learns that they can row together safely without
fear of damage or intimidation, they have gotten use to the trustworthy rhythms of how to
work their careers, finances, and parenting together, AND THEN they look at one another and
say, "Where would you like to go? I'm willing to put in some oar time to accomplish something
that is meaningful to you." But this relational sincerity is not only about sacrificial giving, it is also
about the spouses being willing to give up the part of individuality that they hold onto--the part
that is the hardest to give up--the part that is at the heart of our infantile defenses, selfishness,
or unacceptable behavior.