Chapter Summary

What Do We Know about Our Intimate Relationships?

  • Distinctions need to be made between beliefs and values. Beliefs refer to people’s ideas about what the world is like. Values refer to people’s ideas about what the world should be like.
  • People develop lay theories of relationships. These can be divided into general lay theories, which are people’s ideas about relationships in general, and specific lay theories, which are people’s ideas about individual relationships that they have experienced or are experiencing. These theories include ideas about the relationship, and each of the people in the relationship.
  • People’s general lay theories of relationships differ. Some people think that relationships are destined to be either satisfying or dissatisfying, while others think that partners can work on the relationship and grow to be more satisfied. Some people think they have the power to make changes to themselves and their relationship, having an internal locus of control, while others think that the power to make changes to themselves and their relationship is outside of them, having an external locus of control.
  • People have different specific lay theories for different relationships. People may have a secure attachment style within one of their relationships and an insecure attachment style within another one of their relationships.
  • People have different values, or attitudes, about how relationships should be—in general. One way these values differ is in their level of sex-role traditionalism. Another way they differ is in their views of the acceptability of divorce.
  • People have different standards about the sorts of traits and behaviors they realistically want from their partner. These standards can be categorized into areas such as level of desired independence, level of desired egalitarianism, and desired frequency of expression of love and affection. These standards give rise to people’s comparison levels, against which they compare their partner’s traits and behaviors in order to evaluate their relationship satisfaction.
  • People have different ideals about the sorts of traits and behaviors they want from their partner. These refer to the behaviors and traits that would be present in a partner that would give them their highest possible level of relationship satisfaction. There tend to be fewer differences from person to person in ideals than there are in standards.

How Do Our Beliefs and Values Affect Our Relationships?

  • People’s relationship beliefs affect their comparison level. People compare their relationships to their comparison level.  To the degree that their current relationship meets this comparison level, their satisfaction will be higher.
  • The ideal standards model uses the discrepancy between people’s relationships and their relationship ideals to predict satisfaction. According to the model, the closer the match between people’s relationships and what they want in a relationship, the higher their satisfaction will be.
  • People’s beliefs about change affect how they react to discrepancies from their standards. If people think that relationships can grow with time and effort, they may remain with their partner, even if their relationship does not match their ideals. If people think relationships are destined to succeed or fail, or if they are dissatisfied with their relationship, they will end it quickly.
  • People’s beliefs color their interpretations. Through perceptual confirmation, people are likely to explain others’ behavior in a way that supports their expectations and beliefs.
  • People’s beliefs color their behavior. Through behavioral confirmation, people are likely to behave in a way that supports their expectations and beliefs. This affects others’ behavior, causing them to behave in a way that matches their expectations and beliefs. This process is called a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What Is a Healthy Way to Think about Relationships?

  • Research suggests advantages to having high relationship expectations. Through perceptual and behavioral confirmation, high relationship expectations may elicit more positive relationship behavior.
  • Research suggests advantages to having low relationship expectations. Given that partners appear to evaluate their relationships based on whether they match ideals, having lower standards would elicit more relationship satisfaction.

Where Do Our Beliefs and Values Come From?

  • People’s relationship beliefs come, in part, from culture. People learn about relationship norms (e.g., gifts of flowers and chocolate on Valentine’s Day) from the culture they live in.
  • People’s relationship beliefs come, in part, from media. Messages in the media about relationship norms and scripts color people’s expectations, as well as how appropriate they perceive different behaviors to be.
  • People’s relationship beliefs come, in part, from their experiences. People’s family experiences, as well as their romantic relationship experiences, color their expectations and perceptions of their future relationships.