Romantic Relationships and Emotions (Lecture 7)
Questions from last class:
- “Attachment Styles:” Can you have just one?
o There are two dimensions so the researchers measure people’s secure attachment
and anxious-avoidant attachments.
- Gender differences in attachment styles?
o Yes, there are gender differences so men are a bit more avoidant and women a bit
more anxious but not very much.
- Long-distance relationships and attachment style?
o No research done on this topic but compared people in long term relationships
than close distance relationship and there was not much difference; but, long
distance ones were more passionate.
- Change over time? More likely to become secure (good news, security is the MOST
o Securely attached are most stable. People get more securely attached if at least
one of the spouses has secure attachment the longer the spouses are married.
Two Types of Love
- Passionate love: feelings of intense longing with physiological arousal; when it is
reciprocated, we feel fulfillment and ecstasy, and when it is not, we feel despair. For
example, someone always on your mind, being in love activates rewarding brain areas,
same areas that cause you to eat when you are hungry.
- Companionate love: feelings of intimacy and affection we feel for another person about
whom we care deeply. (warm, caring, and affectionate love)
- Passionate love peaks around two years and then decreases, and companionate love
increases though the relationship.
- Companionate Love Lasts
o Hundreds of couples married 15 years or longer asked why their marriages lasted
o Two most important reasons:
1) “My spouse is my best friend”.
2) “I like my spouse as a person”.
- Predicaments of Passion
o People often marry out of passionate love, but then long-term commitment is
based on a state which CHANGES. o Passionate love trumps intimacy and commitment, which may bring regret
Commitment (based on the following):
- Satisfaction: How happy are you in this relationship?
- Alternative: How happy would you be in another relationship? Or alone?
- Investment: What have you put into this relationship that you would lose if the
relationship were to end?
- Committed Partners
o Use more plural pronouns (for example, “we”) that signal a sense of shared
o Are more willing to make sacrifices for a partner. (big or small sacrifices)
o Are more willing to forgive a partner
o Derogate tempting alternatives
- Photo Study
o Undergraduate students in romantic relationships viewed photos of attractive
members of the opposite sex
Group 1: told person was professional model in NYC
Group 2: told person was a fellow student on campus
o Person in photo rated for attractiveness o Results:
Group 1:Almost everyone rated the “professional model” highly attractive
Group 2: Highly committed people rated the “student on campus” as lower
in attractiveness than those with lower commitment.
- Investment Pros and Cons
o High investments may enable couples to weather the inevitable stormy times.
o But, they can also trap people in unhealthy relationships
Women with high investments and poor alternatives more likely to return
to abusive partners
- John Gottman
o Kinds of communication partners have that will inform whether or not a
relationship will fail or not
o He conducted research and found that conflict is inevitable in relationships. He
recorded how couples fought and how they experience conflict which will predict
whether they will break up or not.
o Gottmann’s Approach:
Bring couples into the lab
Unobtrusively record behavior, facial expressions, and physiological
Make them fight by having them discuss a contentious issue
Also record their heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
4 BIG issues were found:
1) Sex: unsatisfying sex or sexual frequency (men usually want a bit
2) Money: issues around spending and saving (one partner want to save
money and the other wants to spend money)
3) Housework: equity around daily chores
4) Trust: trust that a partner is going to be responsive to your needs Four Horsemen of theApocalypse:
• Criticism: highlighting your partner’s personality “defects”
• Defensiveness: warding off criticism through counter attack
• Contempt: speaking “down” to your partner (superiority) (best
predictor of divorce)
• Stonewalking: ignoring or shutting
o How to Keep the SparkAlive!:
Try new things: self expansion
Celebrate your partner’s triumphs: capitalization
Focus on what you can give: sacrifice
Appreciate your partner: gratitude
o Self Expansion (trying new things)
In new relationships, people are rapidly expanding their sense of self.
We start to incorporate the other person into our sense of self (self-other
To maintain satisfaction, engage in self-expanding (novel & arousing)
• Couples came into the lab and completed a pre-test measure of
• Group 1: Novel-arousing task
• Group 2: Mundane task (less novel and arousing)
• After task, another measure of satisfaction.
• Couples in mundane task condition became less satisfied with their
relationships after completing their task
• But couples in the novel-arousing condition became more satisfied o Capitalization (celebrating triumphs)
Social support for partner during times of stress is crucial.
But responsiveness in good times is as important as responsiveness in the
Important to celebrate a partner’s triumphs.
“I got an Aon my Social Psych test!”:
• Active constructive: OMG that is so exciting! (Best)
• Passive constructive: That’s nice.
• Active destructive: it must have been really easy since I know you
didn’t study very hard.
• Passive destructive: What’s for dinner?
Sacrifice is essential
Making sacrifices for a partner boosts relationship happiness if done for
the “right” reasons
• Approach goals (to make your partner happy) good for
• Avoidance goals bad for relationships
o Gratitude in Relationships
Appreciate what your partner does for you
Appreciate who your partner is as a person
Both of these kinds of appreciation promote satisfaction and prevent
o Recap: What to do
Try new things
Celebrate your partner’s triumphs
Focus on what you can give rather than what you can get Cultivate gratitude
What is an emotion?
- Happiness, sadness, shame, guilt, gratitude, frustration, anger, proud.
- Four basic properties of emotions:
o 1) Brief:
Emotions: they are brief, might last a few seconds-minutes.
o 2) Specific Cause
Often there is a specific something that happened that made you feel a
We feel emotions about specific people and events
When we are angry we know what we are angry about
Focus of emotional experience = intentional object (we tend to have a
good sense of what causes out emotions)
Usually have a clear sense of the thing that caused the emotion.
o 3) Signaled through face, touch, voice
Different ways of communicating with emotions
Can communicate some emotions better through touch than through facial
o 4) Helps achieve goals
Emotions can be social in nature
- Emotions vs Other States:
o Emotions: they are brief, might last a few seconds-minutes.
o Moods: might last hours to days, or days to weeks
o Emotional disorders: might last months to years o Personality traits: might last years to lifetime
- Functions of Emotions:
o Disgust: avoid contamination of illness
o Fear: maintain physical safety
o Anger: right social wrongs and restore justice
o Guilt: make amends when we have harmed others
o Gratitude: reward others for their cooperative actions
o Compassion: show concern for and help others
Are emotions universal or culturally specific?
- Evolutionary approach: emotions enabled adaptive responses to threats to survival and to
enable people to form relationships critical to gene replication.