This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 16 table of contents.

Finding Romance

Maintaining a happy marriage is fine if you are married, but how do you find someone if you are lonely and have no romantic relationship? Neediness or an apparent eagerness to enter into a relationship can backfire; it is a big "turn-off" to many people, so it may perpetuate the problem.

What problem is faced by "needy" people?

How does pushing for commitment lead to psychological reactance?

Trying to force a commitment from another who is not interested in a commitment usually scares that person off. This is a fine example of psychological reactance which is the motive to fight restrictions on your freedom. When somebody pushes for a commitment before you are ready, it is a major encroachment on your personal freedom. So you are likely to resist. Only when you freely choose commitment does it seem desirable.

Sex between friends often acts like implicit pressure for commitment, even if it is not intended that way by either party. Sex functions as a powerful symbolic as-if commitment that may bring a relationship quickly to an all-or-none decision point. One or both individuals may pull back from a friendship that existed earlier.

How can sex ruin a friendship?

My roommate just ruined a perfectly good friendship she had. She and this guy were such good friends, but two nights ago they went to bed. Now they will not face each other or talk to each other. She hates him now. A one-night stand has ruined their friendship. [Author's files]

What strategy does Dr. Peplau advise, for those who seek a love relationship?

Experts suggest that rather than pushing for commitment, the best strategy may be to proceed slowly. The best love relationships tend to grow out of friendships. In discussing remedies for the "national epidemic of loneliness" in an interview, Dr. Peplau of UCLA recommended concentrating on friendships:

Those who have no intimate relationship should stop their frantic search for the perfect love and instead focus on making friends.... Friendship should be the first goal. A love relationship is more likely to happen when you're not looking for it. (Brady, 1983, p.20)

Concentrating on friendship rather than pushing for a romantic commitment has two advantages. First, it reduces the problem of appearing desperate or needy. Second, it lays the foundation for a good relationship, because friendship is critically important to a long-term love relationship, if one occurs.

If both parties eventually decide they want a long-lasting, romantic love relationship, then-at that time-all out commitment is essential. Most people with really good, long-lasting relationships will gladly inform you that their happiness is no accident. They work at it, not in the negative sense of doing hard labor, but in the positive sense of devoting time, energy, and thought to a major, long-term partnership that benefits them both.

What are the three ingredients of love, in Sternberg's theory?

Will power alone is not enough. Romantic love requires (in Fromm's words) "certain specific, highly individual elements which exist between some people but not between all." Lasting love is based on a combination of chemistry and will power. Or, as psychologist Robert J. Sternberg suggests in his triarchic theory of love, good love requires commitment, intimacy, and passion (Trotter, 1986).

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Copyright © 2007-2011 Russ Dewey