7400.201 Courtship Marriage and the Family
Topic 5: Seeking Intimate Relationships

Humans as Social Creatures
Our need to interact with our kind, with people like ourselves is a basic human need. Loneliness (an absence of social interaction) is defined as a feeling of being isolated from desired relationships. Social loneliness is having less  interpersonal interaction, while Emotional loneliness means having fewer intimate relationships. Neither are related to being alone, which can be a positive or negative condition, depending on the context.

Effects of Loneliness (over time - when chronic)

      • Feelings of worthlessness - Despair
      • Constant worry/anxiety - Irrational fears
      • Lack of Concentration - Irritability & anger
      • Feelings of Guilt - Crying Spells
      • Feeling tired - Insomnia
      • Pains in the heart - Trouble breathing
      • Poor appetite - Headaches
      • Digestive problems - No interest in sex
      • Eating disorders - Serious Illness
      • Having a bad accident
Loneliness (inadequate amount of intimacy) can lead to all these ills-which intensifies our loneliness. Sources of Loneliness
  • Failure to Integrate (feel a part of a group). Slater - Pursuit of Loneliness Modern society makes intimacy difficult
  • Mobility
  • Childhood Experiences & Sadnesses - feeling abandoned during childhood.
Fulfillment through Intimacy - Lonely people relate casually, but have few or no intimate relationships. Healthy, fulfilled people operate from a base of intimacy. Evidence for the human need for intimacy:
  • Harry Harlow's monkey studies pointed out that isolation and lack of intimacy leads to mental and physical health difficulties.
  • Spitz's studies of orphaned refugee babies documented 'failure to thrive", in which babies died from lack of emotional attention.
Intimacy and Well-Being - Feelings of contentment and passion - fulfillment - come from intimacy.
Intimate relationships enhance our sense of ourselves and also act as a buffer against the cold, cruel world.

Perils of Intimacy - the bad news is that by sharing our lives with another person, we open ourselves up for hurt - bitter, painful breakups, hurt feelings. Nothing hurts like an intimate relationship going bad. It is a risk that we want to take, with careful planning and the right kind of communication, we can always win. How do we maintain our individuality and freedom and still commit ourselves to an intimate relationship?

The Nature of Intimacy
The Meaning of Intimacy - Latin intimus - innermost and deepest. Like love, there's no agreed upon definition.  Intimacy is defined as the capacity to commit oneself to concrete affiliations and partnerships and to develop the ethical strength to abide by such commitments, even though they may call for significant sacrifices and compromises. - Erikson. Intimacy includes trust, openness, sharing, mutual trust, self-abandon, and commitment, an orientation to the other & the relationship, where a person's thinking, feelings, & behavior are focused on the other. There is caring and concern for the other, and where sexuality is a part of the relationship, it is focused on the other more that on one's self.

Intimacy and Equity - Equity means fairness, in that a person gets their fair share of rewards and costs of a relationship. People strive to maintain a system of fairness such that each person in the system receives rewards that reflect his contribution. In order to find love and affection and caring, a person has to be willing to give more than they get.  True love - comes when a person is self-sufficient in every way, then allows another to do for term things they can do for themselves.

Characteristics of Growing Intimacy in Relationships

  1. Interaction occurs more often, for longer periods of time, in a wider range of settings.
  2. When separated, the partners attempt to restore proximity and feel more comfortable when it is regained.
  3. Partners disclose secrets, share physical intimacies, and are more open in criticizing and praising each other.
  4. The partners develop agreed-on goals, efficient means of communication, and stable patterns of interaction.
  5. Investment in the relationship increases, enhancing its importance in the couple's lives and the feeling that their personal interests are tied in with the well-being of the relationship. With increasing investment comes greater commitment.
  6. Couple comes to define themselves in terms of the other person - a certain "we-ness" develops.
  7. Love, trust, and caring become stronger.
  8. The relationship becomes viewed in a mystical way, a special one.
Types of Intimacy
  1. Emotional Intimacy- listening and caring
  2. Social Intimacy - spending time together
  3. Sexual Intimacy - sex is exciting prospect
  4. Intellectual Intimacy - mutual thinking through
  5. Recreational Intimacy - similar interests in activities
Intimacy as Self-Sustaining

1. Effective Communication is the key to intimacy
a. Cognitive Information - the content, the words Affective information - the style, the manner, Verbal and Nonverbals
2. Sending - Getting Through to the Other

    • a. Be Specific
    • b. Express feelings & perceptions - don't issue facts or demands
    • c. Check your body language
    • d. Allow for the other person's Perspective
    • e. Use Feedback
    • a. Pay attention
    • b. Reading body language
    • c. Uncovering hidden meanings
    • d. Ask for Clarification
    • e. Maintaining an accepting attitude Interaction is more rewarding when such talk is mostly positive.
    • Mutual Self-Disclosure - the Balance
Telling Secrets - Should we be Completely Honest?
As long as we are absolutely sure about the truth, then complete honesty is probably a good thing.
Truth is sometimes elusive, however.  Articulating a "truth" that turns out to be momentarily true - something that hasn't withstood any test of time may cause harm to our relationships.  Introspection and deliberation is the key to finding truth.

Establishing ground rules for ourselves prior to initiating relationships will help to provide structure to any budding friendship.

  • What are the goals desired in a dating relationship?
  • Assessment of our own intellectual and emotional maturity.
  • How do we want to be treated in a relationship, and what are we willing to do to be treated as desired?
  • Do we want a relationship with complementary roles - each partner enacts the role and carries out the responsibilities not covered by the other.
  • Do we want a more equalitarian relationship with reciprocal roles - mutual give and take
  • Standards of satisfaction are important - How do we know when we are happy?
  • Know that relationship rules are most effective when both people have similar backgrounds, goals, beliefs, and values, when the rules have been discussed and negotiated, when the rules are realistic and comfortable for both, and when the rules are periodically reviewed and updated.
Meeting and Getting to Know Others
Prior to going on the "market", and after gaining some insight into the impression we make on others, and after deciding on the level of commitment we are willing to make to achieve our relationship goals, the determined dater will have also thought about the characteristics they want in a mate - the Shopping List:
  • 1. Personal appearance - height, weight, hair, eyes
  • 2. Personality traits - intelligence, dependability, sense of humor, integrity, honesty.
  • 3. Economic potential - career potential or attainment, future prospects.
  • 4. Beliefs and values - such as attitudes toward sex-roles, religious beliefs, and the values that guide the individual's behavior (morals).
  • 5. Special interests and abilities - athletics, music, conversation


  • 6. Your secret hopes and desires - a fantastic lover, someone who will take you around the world, whatever.
Forming an Impression - First Impressions - How we Perceive Others
First impressions are rarely accurate.  They are also the initial attraction.  By knowing oneself as well as possible, a person is able to maintain or manage impressions they give off to others.  An exercise that will enhance one's own ability to know oneself is to People Watch. - First impressions are formed in a matter of seconds and are difficult to change. These are mental ratings of others, formed by stereotypes, body language, a person's dress - snob, snooty, macho man, know-it-all, pleasant, nice, sweet, sexy, hot. We make mental ratings of others by relying on our perception of three factors:
  • 1. Physical appearance - dress, grooming, stature
  • 2. Person's behavior - readily observed behaviors we are willing to attribute to the person's self or personality.
    • a. External situational determinants
    • b. Internal dispositional determinants
  • 3. interaction possibilities - is this one worth continuing with.
We often ignore those who have no power to meet our needs or influence our welfare - and make great effort to seek out those who do.  We also enlist the help of our friends in this endeavor.  There are simply too many choices to make to allow every possible potential mate to be evaluated.  So we cut the field down to a more manageable size. Which means we make mistakes.

Common Sources of Error in Sizing Up People.

  • 1. Over generalizing - we too quickly arrive at a global evaluation of the person without adequate information.
  • 2. Relying on our own Implicit Personality Theory: -if we believe people are basically honest, we will approach new relationships as if this specific person is basically honest.
  • 3. Assumed Similarity - we tend to use ourselves as a reference point, assuming that other people are pretty much like we are in terms of feelings, beliefs, and values.
  • 4. Use of Stereotypes - an overly simplified but widely shared belief about some group of people that is applied to all members of the group without considering the differences among them. - All black people have rhythm, all white people have middle class values, all women are scatterbrained, all Latinos are hot tempered.
  • 5. The Halo Effect - when first impressions distort our perceptions of the person - What a sweet person!!
  • 6. Fundamental Attribution Error - a tendency to assume that people's behaviors arise from dispositional factors rather than situational factors.
  • 7. Logical Error -if someone is handsome or pretty, then they must also be kind and sweet- and
  • the Leniency effect -giving the benefit of the doubt when evidence tells us not to do so.
What Attracts Us to Others? Studies show that whether or not we admit it, the factors below, in the order of their effectiveness, are the ones that guide our attraction to others:
  • 1. Physical Attractiveness - Beauty/Handsomeness, in conjunction with other desirable traits - dimples, cute butt,
  • 2. Similarity - after some conversation, a heightened sense of happiness with the find - intelligence, dependability , warmth, honesty, and mental health. Also, similarity in background - wealth, beliefs, interests, values, and social background.
  • 3. Complementarity - traditionally men have been valued for their economic success or potential, while women for their beauty. NEED COMPLEMENTARITY - filling in some of our gaps.
  • 4. Mutual Liking - the biggest one - we like people who like us back. Sincere displays of affection go a long way. Studies show that we are more attracted to those whose fondness of us starts out neutral and grows over time.
  • 5. Competence and Special Skills - we are attracted to people who are at least moderately competent at something. People who are vastly superior at many things we ought to be able to do ourselves are a turn off.
Developing a Relationship in Stages
In order to develop a relationship, two people have to have opportunity to meet each other.  In high school, the opportunity occurs because hundreds of attractive people go to the same school.  In college, the numbers are even higher, although it is easier to hide out in a crowd.  After our education is complete, finding places to meet others is more difficult because we are usually working 8-10 hours a day.

At some one we should begin preparing ourselves to engage in the stuff that encounters are made of - small talk.
We have to develop the skill of chatting about seemingly unimportant things because this activity is relatively mindless and allows us to concentrate on the more important factor of managing our impression and evaluating the other person.  There's no shortcut, one has to learn this by doing it.  Happily, the nature of encounters is that most people enjoy meeting other people - interacting, learning about how other people think, testing our abilities to flirt a little.

 How do we go about meeting people and check them out?  We have to go where potential mates congregate - that is, mates that are likely to possess traits we desire. If we want to find someone who likes to drink alcohol, then a good meeting place would be where such activities are encouraged.  If we want to find someone with the same religious beliefs as our own, imagine where such a person might be found?

Further, in our society we have very definite NORMS (also known as behavioral guidelines) that govern initial meetings.  In our society, it is a norm violation to initiate conversations with strangers. We DISTRUST strangers. Speaking to strangers involves RISK of ridicule and rejection.  Therefore, we need an introduction by someone that knows both of us.  Still, even with an introduction, in the beginning of an ENCOUNTER we tend to be a little reserved, hesitant, and uncertain. All this DIMINISHES as we get to know the other.

Our intentions are almost always disguised: A person might be thinking, "I just want sex right now", but he/she manages to move close to another person he/she finds attractive and summon up a comment about their appearance or muscle tone. "You are in great shape - do you work out?"  We tend to start with small talk and move gradually toward more depth and breadth of conversation - ending with fairly revealing statements (revelations) about ourselves.  "I go to Gold's gym, the people there are serious about staying healthy." "Me too, I haven't seen you there." It is absolutely essential that we know ourselves, our interests - desires - hopes - dreams, before we attempt to initiate potentially serious relationships.

Tasks to be performed during the initial encounter

    1.  Determine the person's QUALIFIERS for initiating a relationship. Does this person hold the characteristics you find attractive, appealing, desirable? Check your shopping list?
    2. Determine whether the person is CLEARED for an encounter (isn't "taken" by another, or committed to someone else, who has the same intentions that you have.
    3. Find an OPENER that engages the person's attention "How do you know (the person who introduced us?", "Have you chosen your humanities yet?". Regular stuff - being cool might leave the other person with an unintended impression, such as "Hi, I'm very self-indulgent."
    4. Be ready if you are not the first to Open to respond with FOLLOW-UP OPENERS. Easier than it might appear ... "I know (the person who introduced us) from my service club.", "I'm a little confused about the humanities electives too." Regular answers - one trick is to lean into the conversation a little, which shows the other person you aren't too shy or afraid of them.
    5. If things seem to be going well, finding an INTEGRATING TOPIC that interests both parties will keep interaction going. Through small talk, we cover a lot of social territory. It is called small talk because it is a small world. Any two people, when motivated to do so, can find they have plenty in common. Birthdays, Aunt Edna's, visits to the same city, - It is the Art of Conversation, and it requires a good measure of self-confidence.  Small Talk is very important. It isn't What You Say, as much as how you say it and how you listen. Practice listening to your friends. Appropriate head nods, Smiling at the right time, "un-huh", "me too", "Really!" Small talk is supposed to be informal, warm, inviting, and perhaps a bit titillating.
    6. After evaluating the encounter thus far, if this one still seems appealing - project a COME-ON SELF (a rewarding self) that induces the other to continue the initial encounter and be receptive to future ones. Move in closer when she talks, make plenty of eye contact, use the person's name once in a while ("That's an interesting point, Johnny), and if you feel safe enough - try a touch or two on non sensual body points "Are you a piano player? You have such long, delicate fingers", or the ever popular dusting off the other person's shoulder.
    7. Should you decide that this person is not for you, you will need a set of CLOSERS - remarks that will end the encounter with a minimum of abrasiveness. "Listen, I have to go talk to some other people now".  Also know that CLOSERS of a slightly different kind are used when time is up and you have to go, but would like to extend: "I really must be going, but I enjoyed our conversation. You seem like a nice person, Call me up sometime."
    8. If the person passes the initial tests, it is important to schedule a SECOND MEETING in order to continue the relationship. "I have really enjoyed meeting you. What would you think of going out sometime. You are fun to talk to."  The Second Meeting should be in a setting that accommodates more talk. little more intimate - low noise, nice atmosphere.
Developing Intimacy From Encounters to Relationships
Very few encounters are pursued beyond the initial meeting - because of time limitations, perceived incompatibility, or other reasons. We have no responsibility to continue to see others in order to make them happy. There has been no investment as yet, but sometimes there is INEQUITY in such relationships.

The PRINCIPLE OF LEAST INTEREST is always at work while relationships are forming. Least Interest means that the person with the least interest in continuing the relationship is in the most advantageous position to dominate the form that the relationship will take. (That's why intimacy is so difficult).

When attempting to UPGRADE an encounter to the status of relationship, Ground Rules should be negotiated (what each person will contribute, and what each will get from it). These ground rules are hardly ever verbalized - and there is the rub! Unexpressed expectations can and do lead to misunderstandings, disappointments and malfunctions. So try to make

Social Exchange Theory maintains that the rewards of a relationship minus the costs of a relationship will help determine whether or not it is continued. If costs are perceived by either person to be greater than rewards - it'll end. Exchange theory uses economic terms, such as Investment, Building an Equity in a relationship, Rewards, Costs, Profits, Losses. At first, we tend to stay in relationships that are more rewarding than they are costly  Rewards can vary in the form they take:
We may like the sex, or the financial security that might result. We may like doing things for our new sweetie. We may enjoy the intellectual stimulation. Costs can also vary - the loss of personal freedom that comes with budding commitment, which has nothing to do with the other person specifically or our new sweetie can have problems that embarrass us or gross us out. After a relationship is formed, we tend to stay if either:

The rewards for staying are greater than the costs of staying
The costs of leaving are greater than the costs of staying

Over time, we tend to INVEST in the relationship, delaying gratification, building up equity - so that we can cash in at a later date. Both persons in a relationship tend to try to keep a balance of accounts for rewards between each other. If one person does to much (makes the relationship too rewarding) for the other, these rewards can become a cost. Nobody likes to get into debt - because payback is a drag.  Some other useful terms in Social Exchange Theory:
  • Market Value = your set of characteristics / What are They???
  • Comparison Levels - What you have (in terms of the other person) and what you feel you deserve. These are the standards against which we evaluate our present encounters an relationships.
  • Comparisons can be based on Experience
  • Comparisons can be based on alternatives we perceive as open to us.
The Toll of a Negative Self-Concept on Relationship Development
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in the development of an individual is the development of a negative self-concept. It is a way to control the individual, to make you and me believe that we are just normal, nothing special - or worse - we are substandard - too fat, too skinny, too short, ugly hair, pasty skin, talk funny, walk funny, not very smart, too smart for our own good - there are agents at work right now, trying to tear down the positive images we have of our abilities and qualities. Ever wonder how a relatively plain looking person can have magnetism and grace and charm and wit? Would you go out with someone who really thought they were nothing special.

Being a Rewarding (not Flattering) Person means that before you can really love another person, you have to love yourself. You must understand that you are the hottest thing on two legs. Those lips, those eyes. Experts advise that we should remind ourselves of the good things about our bodies and ourselves. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, don't mess with Mr. In Between. We must learn to sincerely love ourselves. Then we can concentrate on loving someone else. That means we should date them a while.

There are two types of dating: assortative (dating for fun and experience) and exclusive dating (the precursor to engagement/commitment/marriage).  Traditional Dating generally occurs in the Marriage Market - out there, where everyone can be had for a price. Dating is "window shopping" - courtship is "bargaining" - Marriage is sealing the deal.  Each dating participant puts on a face or "mask" by attempting to project personalities that will please and attract the exact type of person they are interested in. This is known as pluralistic deceit, but that doesn't imply real dishonesty. People are just trying to be their most attractive and inviting selves, even though no one is at their best all the time.

Finding People to Date and the Selection of Dating Partners requires Propinquity and the factors of Similarity, Complementarity and Compatibility.  Propinquity - refers to the tendency of people to meet and marry those with whom they have the most contact. So we find mates in school, in the neighborhood d, at church - usually. This puts to rest the notion of there being a "Mr. Right" - or "one and only" just for us. We make that happen. We also find prospects through friends, at work, fix ups, at bars, laundromats, the grocery store. Similarity, Complementarity, and Compatibility - Because of strong social norms surrounding who we date, there are some sociocultural factors influencing our choice of mates:

    a. Exogamy - refers to the pressure to marry outside specified social groups (outside gender, immediate family,
    b. Endogamy - refers to the pressure to marry inside specified social groups (opposite sex, within age limits) within religious and economic limits, within ethnic or racial limits).
    c. Homogamy - refers to pressure to marry people similar to ourselves in social background, values, and beliefs.
Over time in as dating becomes more exclusive, the layers of falsehood are stripped away (erode away) and we begin to know the other more as we show ourselves more.

The Process of Dating into Courtship
We are Initiated into Dating as preparation for marriage:

  • in preschool we see marriage as heterosexual.
  • we pay attention to what mommies and daddies do.
  • Marriage is taught to us as an attractive and desirable status.
  • It is personalized
  • we are quickly pushed together in mixed sex play
  • we develop crushes (these are encouraged), and have imaginary steadies.
  • in adolescence we learn the cues that will serve us later in solving our identity crisis.
The Functions of Dating are Recreation, Social Skills Building, Status Achievement and later Providing a pool for purposes of Mate Selection.

Dating teaches us about members of the opposite sex - how to get along with them and it allows us to improve communication and social skills.  We learn to enhance our social attractiveness and promote intimate interactions. We learn about ourselves through dating, get some understanding of our market value and we learn to establish standards for later mate selection. Sexual exploration can occur and some degree of gratification can be had, but dating is not used for finding sex partners exclusively.  For one thing, a person will probably become too transparent if sex is all they want from a date.  Through dating, we determine compatibility with different partners and eventually select one.

Throughout the last half of the 20th century, dating patterns have changed. Today young people congregate in larger groups and get to know each other more in the context of their respective friendship groups. Thus peer group standards might be stronger in choosing dates today.  Also there is probably a lot more use of media standards to guide both the choice in dates and the expectations of behavior during a given date.

Problems in Dating
1. Gender differences in the first date exchanges: Men feel pressure to "put out" financially Women feel pressure to "put out" sexually While nobody claims to like this system, it is titillating and takes on a "game" nature. Males approach dating from a psychosexual orientation while females approach dating from a psychoaffectional orientation. Little in the way of trust is shared early in the dating process. Both males and females fall back on traditional norms, developing skills in the playing of complex "games" to manage themselves.

Traditional dating has its critics - Dating is: sexist leaving little choice sometimes, it is superficial as all encounters are it is deceitful - we put our best effort, it is often unfair and arouses anxiety - who calls, who waits - etc.
Other problems in dating:

  • difficulty in getting dates
  • initiative is up to the male, leaving the poor female in a submissive stance
  • aversive dating experiences
  • lack of social skills
  • violence and date rape are increasing problems
As we move into an exclusive dating relationship more investment is put into the relationship - matched in equal parts by each partner. Friends who are not in serious relationships tend to be pushed away, replaced by "couples" who will do "couples" things recreationally . We have couples over for dinner parties, instead of catching a buzz with our friends down at the tavern.
Engagement and/or Cohabitation - a period of extended exclusivity.
  • Exclusivity gives time to agree on and work out any fundamental living arrangements - finances, place of residence, spending patterns.
  • Provides time to re-examine the goals and means of the relationship.
  • Allows each other's families time to adjust to the eventual marriage of the two.
  • Provides time to make a final check of each other in terms of common interests, values, goals, comfort in each other's company.
  • Provides time to work out final details of the wedding.
Sex and the Single Person
AIDS has put a damper on sex among some segments. -the average number of sex partners for women was 4 (2-10 with the bell shaped curve) Sex without Intimacy - While sex is viewed as pleasurable (almost recreational at times),

the dominate value in our society seems to tend toward sex with affection (love or something like it).

Booby Traps on the Singles Front such as Sexual Exploitation -Date Rape: 20% to 30% of all college students