Love, Sex, and Intimacy

Their Psychology, Biology, and History

Elaine Hatfield, Richard L. Rapson

University of Hawaii

Copyright © 1993 by Elaine Hatfield and Richard L. Rapson

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permis­sion, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins College Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hatfield, Elaine. Love, sex, and intimacy: their psychology, biology, and history / Elaine Hat­field, Richard L. Rapson. p.    cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-06-500702-6


Acquisitions Editor: Catherine Woods; Project Editor: Brigitte Pelner; Design Supervisor: Molly Heron; Cover Design: Kay Petronio; Cover Photo: James McLoughlin; Photo Researcher: Leslie Coopersmith; Production Manager /Assistant: Willie Lane/Sunaina Sehwani; Compositor: ComCom Division of Haddon Craftsmen, Inc.; Printer and Binder: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company; Cover Printer: The Lehigh Press, Inc.; For permission to use copyrighted material, grateful acknowledgment is made to the copyright holders on pp. 499-501, which are hereby made part of this copy­right page.

To our friends, Leon and Marjorie Edel

Contents in Brief


Chapter   1


Chapter   2

Passionate Love

Chapter   3


Chapter   4

Companionate Love

Chapter   5

Intimacy and Commitment

Chapter   6


Chapter   7

Emotional Problems

Chapter   8

Relationship Problems

Chapter   9

The Larger World

Chapter 10

Dealing with Emotional Problems

Chapter 11

Dealing with Relationship Problems and Problems in the Larger World

Chapter 12

Dealing with Problems: Communication

Chapter 13

Things Go from Bad to Worse

Chapter 14



Starting Over






Chapter  1          Beginnings



What Is Passionate Love?

What Is Companionate Love?

Love: How to Find It

What Makes Someone Desirable?

What Makes Someone Undesirable?

The Importance of Proximity

Effective Strategies for Meeting Dates and Mates


Chapter   2        Passionate Love



The Evolutionary Soil of Passionate Love

The Triune Brain

Love in Primates

Love in Children

Love in Adults

The Roots of Passionate Love

The Flowering of Passionate Love

The Nature of Passionate Love

The Cognitive Contribution

The Biological Contribution
The Behavioral Contribution
Passionate Love: How Long Does It Last?

Chapter   3       Sexuality
Sex as Sin
Sex Appeal: What Is It?
The Face
The Body

Sexual Traits: The Fundamentals

Men's and Women's Sexual Histories: The Traditional View
The Contemporary View

Adolescent Heterosexual Behavior
Homosexual Behavior
The Experience of Orgasm
Marital Sex

What Do Men and Women Want from Sex?
Extramarital Sex
The Divorced
The Widowed

Chapter   4        Companionate Love



The Evolutionary Soil of Companionate Love

The Chemistry of Companionate Love

The Looks, Sounds, and Postures of Companionate

Companionate Love and Reinforcement Theory
Companionate Love and Equity Theory
The Communal Perspective
The Equity Perspective

Chapter   5        Intimacy and Commitment




Assessing Intimacy

The Components of Intimacy

Theories and Perspectives on Intimacy

Life-Span Developmental Models

Motivational Approaches

Equilibrium Models

Why People Seek Intimacy

Its Intrinsic Appeal 

Its Links to Psychological Well-Being

Its Links to Physical Well-Being

Intimacy: Why Not?

Fear of Angry Attacks

Fear of One's Own Destructive Impulses

Fear of Exposure

Fear of Abandonment

Fear of Loss of Control 

Fear of Having to Take Care of Others

Fear of Losing One's Individuality or of Being

Measuring Fear of Intimacy
Individual Differences in Intimacy
Are There Gender Differences in Intimacy?
A Prescription for Intimacy
Developing Intimacy Skills
Theoretical Background

Chapter   6       Power



The Bases of Social Power

The Limits to Power

Psychological Reactance

The Battle of the Sexes

Men Possess the Most Power

Men and Women Use Different Power Strategies

An Ideal: Egalitarian Relationships

Power in Sexual Relationships

Flirtation: The Power to Be Noticed

The Power to Ask for a Date

The Power to Initiate a Sexual Encounter

Giving Clear /Ambiguous Messages

Power During a Sexual Encounter: Who's on Top?



Chapter   7        Emotional Problems


Diagnosing Depression

What Causes Depression?


Diagnosing Anxiety

What Causes Anxiety?

Anger and Violence

Defining Anger

The Roots of Anger

The "Hard Wiring" of Aggression

The Programming: Social Learning Theory



Chapter   8        Relationship Problems


The Stages of Love

Unmasking and Disenchantment

Role Strain: From the Doctrine of the Two Spheres to the

Second Shift
Attribution Theory: How Couples Explain Their

Emotional Conflict: Exchanges That Spiral from Bad to

Conflict Behavior

Problems with Mates Who Use Alcohol or Drugs

Chapter   9        The Larger World


The Personal World



Rivals: Extramarital Sex



The World-at- Large


Outside the West

Back Home: Some Priorities in America and in


Chapter 10       Dealing with Emotional Problems


Dealing with Problems: The Lazarus Model

Primary Appraisal



Dealing with Emotional Problems

The Cognitive Control of Emotion

The Biological Control of Emotion

The Behavioral Control of Emotion

Should You Try to Control Your Emotions?

Reasons for Sense and Sensibility


Chapter 11        Dealing with Relationship Problems and Problems in the Larger World

Introduction: Relationship Problems
Types of Relationships
Strategies for Dealing with Problems
Gender and Sex Role Orientation Differences in Coping with Conflict
Personality Differences in Coping with Conflict
Managing Jealousy
The Assessment Interview 
The Clinical Treatment of Jealousy 
Problems in the Larger World

Chapter 12        Dealing with Problems: Communication



Conversational Styles

Good Versus Bad Communication

Telling Lies

Nonverbal Communication

Facial Expression of Emotion

Other Forms of Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Lies

Emotional Contagion


The Nature of Emotion

Evidence in Favor of Propositions 1 to 3

Evidence That Emotional Contagion Exists


Chapter 13        Things Go from Bad to Worse


Stages in Relationship Dissolution

The Intrapsychic Stage
The Dyadic Stage
Confronting the Partner
Determinants of Deciding "I Mean It"
Patterns of Deciding "I Mean It"
The Social Phase

The Grave Dressing Stage

Chapter 14       Endings


Breaking Up of Dating Relationships


Problems Associated with Breakups and Divorce

The Emotional Aftermath

The Divorce Settlement

The Impact of Divorce on Children

Agreeing on Custody

Developing a Social Network

Starting Over: Remarriage



Stages of Grief

Who Suffers Grief the Most?

Caring for the Bereaved


Epilogue             Starting Over



... 7 have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to meperhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness. . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead: think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

Letter from Maj. Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah during the Civil War.

One week after he wrote the letter, Sullivan Ballou was killed in the first

battle of Bull Run (Quoted in Quindlen, 1990, p. A 19).


In Western culture, there is nothing most individuals desire more than a loving, intimate relationship that lasts for a lifetime. Yet, as a bewildered population generally recognizes, people rarely achieve such sweet, lasting attachments. Why is that so?

The mystery grows more perplexing as we realize how profoundly our society

xvi        PREFACE

is saturated with self-help books, crammed with advice on how to make relation­ships work; how inundated are the airwaves with talk-show hosts, with soap operas, and with gurus of love. Our disappointments with relationships cannot be ascribed to insufficient attention to the subject; "love" is as magical a word in American culture as is "money."

We believe the problem in making love work is far more difficult than is generally recognized, that it has historical and cultural as well as psychological causes, and that understanding at the deepest and broadest levels is required if we are to make inroads on the problem. Hence in this book we attempt to pool all that we know: as researchers and teachers in the fields of psychology and history, as psychotherapists, and as human beings. We try to weave a seamless web of the latest psychological research, case studies from clinical experiences, the unknown and extraordinary conclusions of a generation of historical scholar­ship, cross-cultural comparisons and cultural analysis, and personal commentary in the effort to beam some light on the complicated and powerful subject of love and intimacy.

We begin the story, as most people do, with insights drawn from our own lives. Both of us were born in 1937, and there is no doubt that we have wit­nessed and are still in the midst of a social revolution of immense historical significance. We speak of the revolution that has changed and continues to alter the very meaning of family, that has launched unparalleled new ventures into sexuality, divorce, women's freedom and the reactions of men to the women's movement, and displaced the associations we attach to the experiences of love and intimacy. It is best for us to describe briefly as separate individuals some bits and pieces of personal experience that hint at the momentous forces reshap­ing all our lives.


I am a professor of history writing about a subject traditionally associated with psychology. I am married to my coauthor, Elaine Hatfield, who is a professor of psychology. We also work together as psychotherapists. Our marriage is rich and close, but it took 45 years of life before we found each other and put behind us some relationships that were not so wonderful.

In my growing up during the 1940s and 1950s, America had reverted to some very traditional and sentimental notions about sex, love, and marriage. Sex was not openly talked about. Boys snickered and bragged about their supposed (and rarely true) exploits. They assumed that they were supposed to accumulate sexual expe­riences with "bad" girls and someday marry a "good" girl, that is, a virgin. The double standard was accepted as self-evident. Homosexuality was regarded as disgusting.

Our ignorance of love and sex was nearly total. For me and, I expect, for many other men, women belonged to another species altogether. In addition to the fact that discussions of sex were circumspect if not taboo, talk—even of love itself and the requirements of relationships—remained shrouded in darkest mystery. Per­haps the mystery magnified romance, but it also created rampant anxiety, unend-

PREFACE        xvii

ing stupidity, unrealistic expectations, warts, pimples, and a host of unfortunate marriages.

Though I received a superb intellectual education at Amherst College, my stupidity about women was not aided by the fact that Amherst was a men's college. The irony was not lost on me when, 27 years after I graduated, my daughter received a B. A. from the same institution. The lack of constant, informal contact with that other species (women) contributed to our easy assumption that marriage was a straightforward matter. We would each choose a good-looking woman with a good college education who would stay home and look after the husbands and the children, while the men ventured into the competitive money-earning world of work. We never thought that money would give us power over our wives; the Doctrine of the Two Spheres and the natural authority of Males simply seemed inevitable ideas.

My education into the reality of relationships began early on in my marriage (which took place in 1959, when I was barely 22). Nothing about the marriage went well, but I had no idea either why things had gone awry or what to do about it. Easy and open talk about relationships, sex, and private matters in general simply was not the norm in society even 30 years ago. If you just stuck to things with a good enough spirit, everything would eventually work out. Only crazy people went into psychotherapy, and I knew I wasn't crazy. Divorce was a no-no. You didn't burden friends or family with your problems. You just hung tough and kept to yourself. And you pursued career success.

Major social changes had begun to take place a decade later when I divorced, was granted custody of our one daughter Kim, and began to discover more about myself and women in a less restrictive nation. The "sixties" were in full flower, and questions were being asked that had rarely seen the light of day in the 1950s. Though the terms "sexual revolution" and "women's movement" require much definition, they were going on and life at its deepest levels was not the same as it had been. Life was, I might add, better.

Better, but not perfect. It was another decade before I married well. Still, in the years between 1970 and 1982 (the year when I married) or the years between the early 1960s and today when the Western world transformed (and is transform­ing) the meaning of family, so much was new that we did not have time to be wise. Men and women burst the bonds of tradition and tasted all kinds of new freedoms, but a deep and troubling circumstance has continued: Few people can sustain good relationships. Personally, I may have been lucky, but as a consequence of becoming a psychotherapist and of my historical scholarship, I have become powerfully aware of the difficulty people have of putting together successful and durable relationships, of the structural and psychological obstacles that stand in the way of that achievement, and how big a part accident played in my own midlife good fortune. Unsentimental humility and common sense are healthier attitudes to carry into relationships than Hollywood-induced fantasies of the ease and magic of love.

As to the connections between history and psychology, I came into my career when presidents, kings, laws, generals, battles, and dates were the common stuff of history. The change in my career and in my interests has paralleled that of society as a whole. Huge battalions of historians, men and women alike, now study

XViii        PREFACE

not only the story of male, white power, but the tales of everyone, the ordinary as well as the powerful, women as well as men, families as well as royal dynasties, inner lives as well as external exploits. The new history is sometimes described as history from "the bottom up" instead of "the top down." In particular, I am interested in psychological history, that is, the history of love, of sexuality, and of emotions, and I have been writing books and articles on these subjects for two decades now.

One thing that history can bring to the study of love and intimacy, which I hope will be apparent in this book, is perspective. We need to know what in our psychic lives today is novel and likely to change, what seems durable and less culture-bound or temporal-bound. This perspective—this enlarged memory— may have incomparable value in helping us devise personal and social strategies for love and intimacy (and many other subjects) and is rarely included in current discussions, either in our popular self-help literature or even in more scholarly approaches to psychological issues.

At the very least, the reader of a book such as this will have knowledge of love and intimacy far beyond what I and my fellows had during our growing up and which, had we taken the data seriously, might have prevented for us all, men and women, a good deal of unnecessary hardship. When it comes to love, only in Hollywood does magic and fantasy work; the exercise of informed intelligence improves the odds in love and need not diminish the romance.

That last idea, the value of intelligence and even of science in guiding us through the treacherous and inviting channels of love, may seem self-evident to many readers these days. But when Elaine Hatfield in the 1960s decided that love, like all other subjects, could be studied empirically, she had to withstand a nation­wide avalanche of ridicule and criticism, led from the august chambers of the United States Senate itself. A dedication in a recent book on love credited her with making "the study of love a respectable scientific endeavor," but that achievement came neither painlessly nor automatically.


From 1955 to 1959 I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, where I studied and was delighted by Clark Hull's behavior theory. I worked with Arthur Melton and David Birch, studying learning and motivation in rats. By 1959, when I entered the Psychology Ph.D. program at Stanford, I had become interested in passionate love, in particular, and emotions in general. It seemed that learning theory didn't do a very good job of explaining these powerful experiences. I decided to conduct some research in those areas. My fellow graduate students, who were mostly hard scientists interested in constructing mathematical models of rat learning, warned me to avoid such topics. They cautioned me that I had to worry about "career management." Passionate love just wasn't a very important phenomenon and there was no hope of finding out very much about it in our lifetime. Worst of all, the whole topic just wasn't very respectable. And it wasn't "hot"; the hot topic was mathematical modeling.

Math modeling and rat runways. If we ignored the first and last thirds of the

PREFACE       xix

runway in rat experiments (too much variability in rat behavior there) and concen­trated on the middle third of the runway (where rat behavior generally settled down) we had a real chance of making a breakthrough. Thus the conventional wisdom.

At the same time, late in the evenings after our work was done, we confided to one another about our personal problems. There, our concerns went beyond the perambulations of rodents. For most people, the rigors of graduate school were taking a toll on their romances. At one time, all the members of our group were having terrible trouble in their close relationships. Some of us couldn't find anyone to date, others were getting divorces. Things were so dismal that one night several students in the corridor lamented that things were so horrific they sometimes thought about committing suicide. One set of topics was interesting during the day; another was a source of near-obsession in our evening chats.

I was always totally unconcerned with career management, so in graduate school, although I spent some of my time on the respectable topics of the 1960s— dissonance theory and interpersonal attraction—I spent most of my time on things I wondered about. These subjects included passionate love, emotions, and the place of physical attractiveness in personal encounters.

Friends sometimes tend to assume that the highly publicized attacks on my research by Senator William Proxmire, with his "Golden Fleece Awards," are today an enjoyable memory for me. They make that assumption because the "taboo topics" I thought were fascinating have been taken up by a generation of young researchers. Today, love and emotion are the "hot" topics. But I remember those "bad, old days" with no pleasure. It was not only Proxmire and many of my colleagues who thought love should be left to the poets and to Hollywood, but public opinion polls about whether scientists should study love nearly always came out against such research. Even my mother's Catholic bishop wrote an article saying that the Catholic Church knew, and had known for centuries, everything that needed to be known about love and sex, and that we should spend our efforts getting people to adhere to Church teachings. The battle, though it had to be fought and despite the agreeable outcome, was never fun.

My personal relationships were not that much fun either, and paralleled developments in the field. When I was young, I knew little about love. In my first marriage, like most "sensible" young women, I chose a husband on the standard of what was supposed to really matter—good looks, intelligence, and a sense of humor. It did not occur to me to ask whether he was interested in putting time into the relationship, whether he was "available" for intimacy, as important criteria.

Twenty years later, in a second marriage, I am much smarter about love. The foregoing factors, particularly intelligence and humor, still matter. But I am aware of a far more complicated and interesting story. I have learned more about the extraordinary variability of humans. People enter relationships with their own physiology, temperament, family history, life experiences, preferences, and expec­tations—and those factors rarely coincide with those of anyone else in the world. Small wonder that couples have trouble figuring out how much time to spend together, how much time alone, how much time pursuing separate activities. And when together, will they agree on the importance of foreign films, trips to England, and classical music? It takes congruence on only a few factors to make

S\/\         I       IIL1    r\VL.

a good date; it requires far, far more commonalities and coinciding interests even to approximate, let alone find, an appropriate marital partner.

In 25 years, the field of social psychology has become much smarter about the nature of relationships as well. In 1969, when Ellen Berscheid and I wrote the first text that considered passionate love (Interpersonal Attraction), we had difficulty finding much material on the topic. Today, however, there is a floodtide of infor­mation available. The 1980s saw a tremendous surge of interest in love and intimacy. In the 1980s, Steve Duck and Robin Gilmour inaugurated a series of volumes on the initiation, maintenance, and dissolution of relationships. Scientists banded together to form four international, interdisciplinary organizations de­signed to foster research on close relationships—the International Society for the Study of Personal Relationships, the International Network on Personal Relations, the International Society for Research on Emotions, and the International Acad­emy of Sex Research. In 1984, Steve Duck founded the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, which is devoted entirely to research on close relation­ships, and thousands of studies and experiments on love, sex, and intimacy have been published in various other journals. In this text, we attempt to review some of the most intriguing outcomes of this research.


Psychologists are well aware that relationships develop over time. In his ABCDE model of relationship development, George Levinger (1983) traced five phases in personal relationships: (1) Acquaintance. (2) Buildup of an ongoing relationship. Couples assess the pleasures and problems of connecting with each other. (3) Continuation. Couples commit themselves to long-term relationships and continue to consolidate their lives. (4) Deterioration or decline of the interconnections. (5) Ending of the relationship, through death or separation.

Similarly, in their sweeping series entitled Personal Relationships, Duck and Gilrnour charted, also in five steps, what was known about the initiation, mainte­nance, problems, repair, and termination of relationships.

In this text, we tell the story of what scientists, scholars, novelists, and wise folk have discovered about the joys and agonies that may wind their way through the various stages of a relationship—heterosexual or homosexual. In the first six chapters, we focus on the delights of love. In Chapter 1, Reginnings, we define passionate and companionate love. We explore what makes men and women desirable either as dates or potential mates. We track some of the effective or foolish ways of pursuing love and intimacy. In Chapter 2, Passionate Love, we begin by sifting through the evolutionary soil of passionate love. We wade into the treacherous waters of contradictory desires: the pleasure and the pain, the desire for closeness and separation, the longing for both security and excitement, which seem to fuel this intense emotion. In Chapter 3, Sexuality, we examine the nature of sexappeal.Whatsortsofsexualhistoriesdomodern-daymenandwomenhave? Chapter 4, Companionate Love, reviews the genesis of companionate love and its connection with parental behavior and tenderness. We review what reinforce­ment theory and equity theory have discovered about the initiation and mainte-

PREFACE        xxi

nance of this gentler kind of love. In Chapter 5, Intimacy and Commitment, we discuss two components of intimacy. We begin by defining intimacy and inquiring why people seek it in the first place. Not everyone embarks on that search and so we explore who are the wary and why. We propose a program for couples who wish to get closer. Finally, we review what we know about commitment. In Chapter 6, Power, we discuss some of the bases of social power and some of its limits. Is there a battle of the sexes? If so, who is winning? We focus particularly on power in sexual relationships.

In the next three chapters we delve into the dark side of relationships. We focus on the problems that couples may confront in their relationships. In Chapter 7, Emotional Problems, we discuss the difficulties individuals and their families may have in dealing with depression, anxiety, or anger. In Chapter 8, Relationship Problems, we focus on dilemmas that couples must confront at various stages in their relationships: the early disenchantments, the conflicts, and inequities with which they must deal, and problems with alcohol or drugs that threaten marriages. In Chapter 9, The Larger World, we remind ourselves that couples do not love in a vacuum. First, they must deal with intimates in their personal worlds—with parents, children, stepchildren, friends, and rivals. They must face up to the demands of careers. They must handle the powerful feelings associated with jealousy. Second, couples must live in the real world. Women growing up in America, Canada, or England, for example, are faced with far different possibili­ties for love, sex, and intimacy than are those growing up in such repressed cultures as China, Japan, or the Arab countries. Men and women caught up in the Holocaust faced issues of life and death; they had little time to brood about problems with their in-laws, stepchildren, or disagreeable bosses. For them, such "worries" would have been a profound relief.

In the next three chapters, things brighten up. We discuss the ways in which couples can deal with relationship problems. In Chapter 10, Dealing with Emo­tional Problems, we explore a variety of techniques—cognitive, physiological, and behavioral—that couples can use to manage their emotions. We remind ourselves, however, that there is room for both sense and sensibility in the universe: It is not wise to exercise so much emotional control that one loses the valuable information that comes to us through our emotions. In Chapter 11, Dealing with Relationship Problems and Problems in the Larger World, we start by recognizing that couples differ in the kinds of relationships they want. Different desires lead couples to prefer different strategies for maintaining and repairing their relationships. We focus on one high-voltage problem, jealousy, in an effort to show how couples might use such techniques to help their marriages survive and flourish. In Chapter 12, Dealing with Problems: Communication, we focus on one of these tech­niques—communication. We review what psychologists and communication re­searchers know about effective and ineffective communication; why people lie to one another. We consider what is known about the nonverbal expression of emotion: the looks, gestures, and vocal cues that signal what we really feel about others and what they feel about us.

Finally, in the last two chapters we discuss what happens when relationships fail. In Chapter 13, Things Go from Bad to Worse, we discuss the stages in relationship dissolution. We track that disintegration from the point where people

begin feeling vaguely uneasy about their dating relationships and marriages, sensing that something is wrong, to when they begin confiding their worries to their partners, and then as things spiral downward, to their relatives, friends, and on to the point when they decide it's over and begin the process of "grave dressing"—preparing an orderly account of its ending. In Chapter 14, Endings, we discuss the experience of breaking up and divorce: the whirl of emotions that lovers feel, the process of working out a divorce settlement, deciding on custody of the children, and forming new relationships. We discuss relationships that end in death, and widows' and widowers' stages of grief.

Finally, in the Epilogue, Starting Over, we sum up what we have learned in our study of relationships. We describe the riches and wonders that can flow from successful love affairs and we try to guess what the future holds for lovers in a world of incredibly rapid and accelerating change.


We would like to thank the following reviewers, who provided helpful comments: Fred B. Bryant, Loyola University of Chicago; Judith G. Chapman, Saint Joseph's University; Dan P. McAdams, Northwestern University; Angela P. McGlynn, Mercer County Community College; Kaisa Puhakka, West Georgia College; Deb­orah R. Richardson, Florida Atlantic University; and Anisa Zvonkovic, Oregon State University.

We would like to thank Cynthia Clement for suggesting and tracking down many literary references. We also thank Susan Sprecher, Illinois State University, for her painstaking review. We also appreciate Phil Giammatteo, Korey Sato and Vinita Shah, who helped us find elusive references.

Elaine Hatfield Richard L. Rapson


Love, Sex, and Intimacy


Chapter 1


Introduction Definitions

What Is Passionate Love?

Passionate Love Versus Infatuation What Is Companionate Love? Love: How to Find It

What Makes Someone Desirable? Good Looks Personality Other Assets What Makes Someone Undesirable? The Importance of Proximity Effective Strategies for Meeting Dates and Mates The Direct Approach The Indirect Approach Conclusion


In modern Western civilization, most people enter love affairs with unbounded hope—believing they have found the perfect mate, imagining ever-thrilling sex, and fantasizing a happy marriage—only to see their joyous dreams turn into a nightmare of disappointment, dashed expectations, and lost faith. In the begin­ning, passionate love's euphoria feeds delightful conversations with friends and a joyful engagement with life. The end of love leaves people stunned; baffled about what has gone wrong. Lots of men and women have gone through this cycle many, many times.


2       CHAPTER 1

Disappointing as the love game is for many people today, it was even worse in the years after World War II when romantics sang mindlessly about how "love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage." The cultural message was clear: Find the "right" mate, marry him or her, and life's major questions will be answered in a life of Happily Ever After. We are more dubious today about that message, but it still carries tremendous power for most individuals.

We recognize this power and take it seriously. It must be noted, however, that in Western culture, love, sex, and intimacy had very different meanings in the past. In much of the non-Western world, they still are viewed very differently. We need perspective on our ideas and assumptions about love and intimacy. Do love and marriage really go together like a horse and carriage? Nearly every society in the world before 1700 would have assumed that such an idea was mad. Marriage-for-love represents an ultimate expression of individualism, a concept that in premodern religious, traditional, and authoritarian societies was considered, as we shall later see, dangerously sinful and traitorous. Today, some nations (such as


China, India, and the Arab countries) still consider "being in love" the worst possible reason for getting married. Individuals do not personally choose to marry other individuals; marriages are arranged by family members and go-betweens, the assumption being that the only sensible approach is for families to marry their offspring into other families.

We consider the attainment of love and intimacy to be one of life's higher goals. The idea that love and intimacy are the sine qua non of life is so deeply felt that we can hardly imagine it to be otherwise. But, again, in history, that is a relatively recent idea; there is no guarantee that it will be a ruling idea in the future. We shall, throughout this book, describe the ways in which others have thought about love, sex, marriage, and intimacy. This may free us to consider our own articles of faith with more freedom, flexibility, and imagination than we usually do. It may open up the question of what makes a "good" life. It may help make us more intelligent about love. When we are smarter about love, we might despair less and understand more. We might be less bewildered when the love affair that started out so magically turns into a flawed relationship between two ordinary mortals trying to get close in a culture committed to personal freedom and individualism.

Nonetheless we must begin with where we actually are: desperately desiring love. And we must start with some definitions.

Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle aged, and the mutual dependence of the old.

John Ciardi


Love is a basic emotion. It comes in a variety of forms. Most scientists distinguish between two kinds of love—passionate love and companionate love. Most of us understand the difference between the two. When Ingrid Bergman told an ardent friend that although she loved him, she was not in love with him, he understood the difference: He committed suicide (Learner, 1986).

Kurt Fischer, P. R. Shaver, and P. Carnochan (1990) pointed out that love, like all other emotions, includes a number of components. They defined emotions as:

organised, meaningful, generally adaptive action systems. . . . [They] are complex functional wholes including appraisals or appreciations, patterned physiological pro­cesses, action tendencies, subjective feelings, expressions, and instrumental behaviors, (pp. 84-85)

They concluded that there are five basic emotions—two positive emotions (joy and love) and three negative ones (anger, sadness, and fear) (see Figure 1.1). There are two major kinds of love: passionate love (which they labeled infatua­tion) and companionate love (which they labeled fondness).

Robert Sternberg (1988) proposed a more elaborate typology of the varieties of love—a triangular model of love (Figure 1.2). He argued that different kinds of love differ in how much of three different components—passion, intimacy, and the


decision/commitment to stay together—they possess. He defined passion, inti­macy, and decision/commitment this way:

Passion encompasses the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, and sexual

consummation; Intimacy encompasses the feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness one

experiences in loving relationships; and A decision/commitment encompasses, in the short term, the decision that one loves

another, and in the long term, the commitment to maintain that love. (p. 32)

, Passionate love (which he labeled infatuation), for example, involves intense passionate arousal but little intimacy or commitment. Companionate love in­volves less passion and far more intimacy and commitment. The most complete form of love would be consummate love, which requires passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Of course, other scientists have proposed still other typologies of love (e.g., see Hendrick & Hendrick, 1989; Lee, 1973; Shaver & Hazan, 1988).

What Is Passionate Love?

Passionate love is a "hot," intense emotion, sometimes labeled obsessive love, puppy love, a crush, lovesickness, infatuation, or being-in-love. We would define the emotion of passionate love in this way:

A state of intense longing for union with another. Passionate love is a complex func­tional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, action tendencies, and instrumental behaviors. Reciprocated love (union with the other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy; unrequited love (separation) with emptiness, anxiety, or despair.

Elaine Hatfield and Susan Sprecher (1986a) designed the Passionate Love Scale (PLS) to tap the following indicants of longing for union. (The PLS is reproduced in Box 1.1.)

Cognitive Components

1.  Preoccupation with the one you love.

2.  Idealization of the other.

3.  Desire to know and be known by the other.

Emotional Components

1.  Attraction, especially sexual attraction, to the other.

2.  Positive feelings when things go well.

3.  Negative feelings when things go awry.

4.  Longing for reciprocity. (Passionate lovers love and want to be loved in return.)

5.  Desire for a complete and permanent union.

6.  Physiological arousal.

Behavioral Components

1.  Attempting to determine the other's feelings.

2.  Studying the other person.

3.  Assisting the other.

4.   Maintaining physical closeness.

Are you in love with someone right now? Have you ever been in love? How intense are your feelings compared to those of other lovers? To find out, circle the numbers on items 1-15 in Box 1.1 that best represent your feelings for the one you love the most. Now, add up the numbers you circled. The total is your PLS score. How does it compare to the average PLS score of people your own age? Elaine Hatfield and Marilyn Easton (cited in Hatfield & Rapson, 1990b) interviewed Caucasian, Filipino, and Japanese men and women. They found that, on the average, men and women from these ethnic groups seemed to love with equal passion (see Table 1.1, p. 8). You can compare your scores with those of other students.


Think of the person you love most passionately right now. (If you are not in love right now, think of the last person you loved passionately. If you have never been in love, think of the person whom you came closest to caring for in that way.) Try to tell us how you felt at the time when your feelings were the most intense. Possible answers range from:

<T)        (2)        (3)        (4)        (5)        (6)        (7)        (8)""    (9)

Not at                                  Moderately                             Definitely

all true                                      true                                       true

1.  I would feel deep despair if_______left me.


2. Sometimes I feel  I can t control my thoughts; they are obsessively on

1     23456789

3.  I feel happy when I am doing something to make_______happy.


4.   I would rather be with_______than anyone else.

1     23456789

5.  I'd get jealous if I thought _______ were falling in love with someone


1     23456789

6.  I yearn to know all about________


7.  I want_______—physically, emotionally, mentally.

1    23456789

8.   I have an endless appetite for affection from_______

1     23456789

9.  For me,_______is the perfect romantic partner.


10.  I sense my body responding when_______touches me.

1     23456789

11. _______always seems to be on my mind.


12.  I want_______to know me—my thoughts, my fears, and my hopes.

1     23456789

13.  I eagerly look for signs indicating_______'s desire for me.

1     23456789

14.   I possess a powerful attraction for________


15.  I get extremely depressed when things don't go right in my relationship with

123456789 Source: Hatfield & Sprecher. 1986a, p. 391.





Caucasians (mainland U.S.)



Caucasians (Hawaii)









Infatuation is when you think that he's as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as

Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen and as

athletic as Jimmy Connors. Love is when you realize that he's as sexy as

Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic

as Henry Kissinger and nothing like Robert Redford in any categorybut

you'll take him anyway.

Judith Viorst

Passionate Love Versus Infatuation In movies, lovers never have any trouble telling whether or not they are in love. Intense passion stalks them, shakes them around, and, struggle as they might, overwhelms them. In real life, people are usually not so certain about their feelings. College students at three universities were asked what one thing they most wished they knew about romantic love (Hatfield, & Walster, 1978). A surprisingly frequent question was: "What is the difference between love and infatuation?" The answer to the love-versus-infatua-tion riddle seems to be that there is no difference. The two do not differ in any way—at least at the time one is experiencing them. Two sex counselors (Ellis & Harper, 1961) who interviewed young adults about their romantic and sexual experiences concluded that the difference between passionate love and infatuation is merely semantic. Lovers use the term passionate love to describe loving relation­ships that are still in progress. They use the term infatuation to describe once-loving relationships that have ended. It appears then that it may be possible to tell infatuation from romantic love only in retrospect. If a relationship flowers, we continue to believe that we are experiencing true love. If a relationship dies, we conclude that we were merely infatuated. Of course, when our friends and parents insist that we're just infatuated they are not really commenting on our feelings. Actually they're telling us whether or not they approve of our relationship.

If I have no love, I am nothing. . . . Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other men's sins, but delights in the truth. . . . Love will never come to an end.

—7 Corinthians 13

What Is Companionate Love?

By contrast, companionate love (sometimes called true love or conjugal love) is a "warm," far less intense emotion. It combines feelings of deep attachment, com­mitment, and intimacy. We would define it as:

The affection and tenderness we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply entwined. Companionate love is a complex functional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, ac­tion tendencies, and instrumental behaviors.

Psychologists have used a variety of scales to measure companionate love. For example, since Robert Sternberg (1988) assumed that companionate relationships possessed little passion, but a great deal of commitment and intimacy, many researchers have assessed companionate love by measuring commitment and intimacy (see Box 1.2).


Please indicate your feelings on the following scale:

1               23456789

Not at             Somewhat              Moderately                   Quite            Extremely



[Sternberg measured commitment by such items as these]:

1.   I expect my love for________to last for the rest of my life.

2.   I can't imagine ending my relationship with________

3.   I am certain of my love for________

4.   I am committed to maintaining my relationship with________

5.   I have confidence in the stability of my relationship with_________


[Sternberg assessed intimacy by such items as]:

1.   I have a warm and comfortable relationship with________

2.   I experience intimate communication with________

3.   I have a relationship of mutual understanding with________

4.   I receive considerable emotional support from_________

5.   I give considerable emotional support to_________

6.   I experience great happiness with________

A total companionate love score would be calculated by adding up respondents' scores on the commitment and intimacy subscales. The more companionately one loves another, the higher a score one would be expected to receive.

Source: Sternberg, 1986.


I can't understand why more people aren't bisexual. It would double your chances for a date on Saturday night.

Woody Allen

There are times in life when people have to start from scratch in constructing their social lives: when a shy teenager yearns to begin dating; when a lonely freshman arrives at college; when a young couple breaks up or a long-married couple divorces; when a mate dies. In such circumstances, men and women face the problem of finding someone to love. People face two looming hurdles in their quest for love and intimacy: (1) to recognize what it takes to attract poten­tial mates, dates, and friends; and (2) to devise a strategy for meeting them. Let us first consider the traits young men and women find attractive in potential dates and mates.

What Makes Someone Desirable?

What attracts men and women to one another? In part, romantic attraction is a mystery. My colleague, Ellen Berscheid (1984), reported the following example:

The author was interested to hear a man of her acquaintance exclaim that he had found, on his recent vacation to the West and after years of search, the woman with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life. When asked what it was about this woman and/or their relationship that produced such unprecedented enthusiasm and willingness to (for the second time) contemplate the marital contract, he replied, and not so unpredictably, "We're so compatible! It's unbelievable!"

This was a striking statement because this man, having experienced a particularly unhappy and "incompatible" first marriage, had given a great deal of thought to the attributes required of the next (if there were to be a next) marital partner. The prerequisites on his lengthly list were specific and concrete: She must, first and foremost, not smoke. In addition, she should not drink. Further, she should be a Protestant and—desirable but not necessary—a faithful church-goer. She should be not older than 30 years of age, and preferably, never married. She should be well-educated and intelligent, and able to discuss some of the more esoteric intellectual writers of the day, as well as contemporary politics. She should—and this for him was a necessary condition—be interested in art and antiques, and if she had a particular interest in American pottery and American Indian baskets, so much the better (and if she happened to own a rare Gruby vase, she could expect a proposal of marriage on the spot). It was also desirable that she be attractive in appearance and, given his personal taste, fair of hair, eyes, and skin.

Now, given the probability that a person who embodied such a constellation of attributes actually existed somewhere on this planet, multiplied by the probability that this man would ever meet such a person, and that probability estimate multiplied in turn by the probability that such a woman would return his overtures, even a begin­ning student of interpersonal attraction would have to predict that this man was destined for a life of singledom. Thus, his announcement that his search had ended was greeted with incredulity.

Pursuing the matter, he was asked just how it was that he and this woman were so "compatible." What followed in reply was a recounting of very specific interaction

episodes, including instances in which a witticism of his was understood and promptly returned, and a mention of the facts that they had played hours of gin rummy together, that they had jogged happily together, and that she had fixed sandwiches for him in preparation for his long car journey home. That was the sum total of his explanation! Even more disconcerting, however, was the fact that in his enthusiastic report of moments shared with the woman, it also emerged, in the most casual and incidental way, that: The woman is a chain-smoker. She drinks. She is Catholic. She is 43 years old. She has been married and divorced three times and recently terminated a three-year cohabitation relationship with a fourth man. She couldn't be less interested in antiques, in general, or pottery and Indian baskets, in particular; in fact, she heaped a pint of fresh strawberries in a $300 Indian basket he had just purchased, realizing neither its antiquity nor its value (this incident related with fond chuckles of amuse­ment). She is largely uneducated, although she is, he said, "good looking"—with dark hair, dark eyes, and a dark complexion! But—and for him this was the joyous bottom line—with no one, ever, had he been so "compatible"! (pp. 144-145)

As you might guess, this affair quickly fizzled out.

Scientists may not know everything about why people are drawn to the people that they are, but they know something. Every culture has standards for courtship and marriage. Without really thinking about it, most of us dutifully follow our culture's dictates. Most of us want dates and mates who are about our own age, from the same socioeconomic class, religion, and educational level. They can't be too short or too tall. Such preliminary screenings cut out a surprising number of candidates. But most of us want more. Often we want someone who is reasonably good looking, personable, warm, and intelligent; someone whose views match our own; and perhaps even more.

Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction.

Jane Austen

Good Looks Handsome men and beautiful women have a huge advantage in the dating market and a head start in the search for a committed relationship. Many young people work furiously hard to improve their physical appearance in the hopes of attracting desirable dates and mates. In 1990, American cosmetics firms racked up more than one and a half billion dollars in sales of beauty products {Time, 1991).

Most people, most of the time, are biased in their reactions to good-looking or unattractive people. This discovery is certainly not new. The Greek philosopher Sappho contended that "what is beautiful is good." (Actually, we will see that while it is an advantage to be good-looking to average in appearance, it is the extremely unattractive who suffer the most.) There are four steps in the stereotyp­ing process:

1.   Most people know that it is not fair to discriminate against the ugly. (They would be incensed if others discriminated against them). And yet . . .

2.   Most people take it for granted that attractive and unattractive people are different. Generally, they assume that "what is beautiful is good; what is unattractive is bad."

3.   Most people treat good-looking and average people better than they treat the unattractive.

4. As a consequence, a "self-fulfilling prophecy" occurs. The way people are treated shapes the kinds of people they become.

In one classic experiment, researchers (Dion, Berscheid, & Hatfield, 1972) showed college men and women yearbook photographs of men and women who varied markedly in appearance and asked them their first impressions of the students. Young adults assumed that handsome men and beautiful women pos­sessed nearly all the virtues. They assumed that the good-looking were more sociable, outgoing, poised, and interesting; that they were warmer, more exciting, and more sexually responsive; that they had better characters, were more nurtur-ant, kind, modest, strong, and sensitive than were their homely peers. Good-looking people were also expected to have more fulfilling lives. Students predicted the good-looking would be happier, have more successful marriages, find better jobs, and, all-in-all, live more fulfilling lives. On only one dimension were young adults suspicious of good looks; judges did not expect attractive people to make especially good parents.

Of course, social observers cannot help but recognize that good looks might have a bit of a dark side. For example, psychologists (Dermer & Thiel, 1975) asked college students to rate college women who varied greatly in attractiveness. In general, subjects did assume that attractive and average women possessed more appealing personalities and were more socially skilled than were unattractive women. In this study, however, researchers also documented some "ugly truths about beauty." Subjects expected attractive women to be more vain and egotisti­cal, more bourgeois (i.e., materialistic, snobbish, and unsympathetic to oppressed peoples), and less committed to their marriages (more likely to have extramarital affairs and/or to request a divorce) than homely women. (Similar results have been secured by Eagley, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Kennedy, 1991.)

It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But . . . it is better to be good

than to be ugly.

Oscar Wilde

In Mirror, Mirror: The Importance of Looks in Everyday Life, Elaine Hatfield and Susan Sprecher (1986b) reviewed a cascade of evidence that people assume the attractive/average are very different from the unattractive. (For recent work in this area, see Buss, 1989; Buss & Barnes, 1986; Feingold, 1988, 1990; Howard, Blumstein, & Schwartz, 1987; or Snyder, Berscheid, & Click, 1985).

What effect does such stereotyping have on men and women? Do the good-looking actually become more socially skilled as a consequence of their privi­leged position? Probably. Expectations have a way of being fulfilled. If men and women expect others to be disagreeable, they tend to treat them in ways that bring out their worst. The existence of such a self-fulfilling prophecy was demonstrated in a fascinating experiment by Mark Snyder, Elizabeth Tanke, and Ellen Berscheid (1977). Men and women at the University of Minnesota were recruited for a study on "the acquaintance process." First, men were given a Polaroid snapshot and biographical information about their partners. In fact, the snapshot was a "fake"; it depicted either a beautiful or a homely woman. Men were asked their first impressions of the women. Those who believed they

had been assigned a beautiful partner expected her to be sociable, poised, hu­morous, and socially skilled. Those who thought they had been assigned to an unattractive one expected her to be unsociable, awkward, serious, and socially inept. Such prejudice is not surprising. We already know that good-looking peo­ple make exceptionally good first impressions.

The next set of findings, however, was startling. Men were asked to get acquainted with their partners via the telephone. Male expectations had a dra­matic impact on the ways they talked to their partners during the telephone calls. That, in turn, created a correspondingly great impact on the response of the women. Men, of course, thought they were talking to a beautiful or homely woman; in fact, the women on the other end of the line varied greatly in appear­ance. (Probably most were average in looks.) Nonetheless, within the space of a telephone conversation, women became what men expected them to be. After the telephone conversations, judges listened to tapes of the women's portions of the conversations and tried to guess what the women were like just from that snippet of conversation. Women who had been talked to as if they were beautiful soon began to sound that way. They became unusually animated, confident, and so­cially skilled. Those who had been treated as if they were unattractive soon began acting that way. (They became withdrawn, lacking in confidence, and awkward.) Men's prophecies had been fulfilled.

How did this happen? When the portions of the men's conversations were analyzed, it was found that those men who thought they were talking to a beauti­ful woman were more sociable, sexually warm, interesting, independent, sexually permissive, bold, outgoing, humorous, and socially skilled than the men who thought they were talking to a homely woman. The men assigned to an attractive woman were also more comfortable, enjoyed themselves more, liked their part­ners more, took the initiative more often, and used their voices more effectively. In brief, the men who thought they were talking to a beautiful woman tried harder. Undoubtedly, this behavior caused the women to try harder too. If the stereotypes held by the men became reality within the ten minutes of a telephone conversation, one can imagine what happens when people are treated well or badly over a lifetime. In fact, researchers have found some evidence that the attractive are in fact unusually socially skilled and experienced (Curran, 1975; Kaats & Davis, 1970).

We have just seen that people are prejudiced in favor of the good-looking, treat them better, and, as a result, that the good-looking become more socially skilled. It is not surprising then that most men and women, regardless of their own appearance, are especially eager to date the good-looking. There is considerable evidence that this is so. In one experiment, Elaine Hatfield and her students (Hatfield, Aronson, Abrahams, & Bottman, 1966) invited freshmen at the Univer­sity of Minnesota to a computer dance. Couples were promised that a computer would match them with a blind date that was just right for them. (In truth, the students were randomly matched with one another; partners' names were drawn from a fishbowl.) When the freshmen arrived to purchase their tickets for the dance, the researchers rated their social desirability—their attractiveness, intelli­gence, personality traits, and social skills. When freshmen signed up for the project, four ticket sellers secretly rated their attractiveness. The scientists as-

sessed the intelligence level of the freshmen by securing transcripts of their high school grades and their scores on the Minnesota Scholastic Aptitude Test. They gauged their personality traits by recording their scores from a battery of tests, including the prestigious Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test and the Califor­nia Personality Inventory.

Subjects were given the names of their computer matches and were encour­aged to meet at the dance. At the dance, the 400 couples talked, danced, and got to know one another. Then, during the 10:30 intermission, the experimenters swept through the building, rounding up couples from the dance floor, lavatories, fire escapes—even adjoining buildings. Researchers asked the students to tell them frankly (and in confidence) what they thought of their dates. Did they plan to ask them out again? If they were asked out, would they accept? Six months later the researchers contacted couples again to find out if they had, in fact, dated. Here are some of the things they found:

1.  When the freshmen signed up for the dance, they were asked what kinds of dates they preferred. Everyone, regardless of what they looked like, preferred (in fact, insisted on) being matched with the best-looking, most charming, brightest, and most socially skilled partner possible.

2.  Those whom fate matched with handsome or beautiful dates were eager to pursue the relationships. Keep in mind that some of the handsome men and beautiful women had expressed total disinterest in their dates, espe­cially if they were unattractive; some even admitted to treating them rudely. No matter. Everyone wanted to see the good-looking computer matches again. When couples were contacted six months after the dance, participants (whether they were good-looking or homely; well treated or not) had in fact tried to date the best-looking. The prettier the woman, the more eagerly she was pursued.

3.  In this study, every effort to find anything else that mattered failed. Men and women with exceptional IQs and social skills, for example, were not liked any better than those less well endowed.

4.  Finally, men and women cared equally about how their dates looked.

The inordinate importance of good looks in blind-date settings has been substantiated by other investigators (see Bull & Rumsey, 1988). Appearance has particular power as the first filter when people meet. Once that first hurdle has been leaped, other qualities begin to assume ever-increasing importance. People begin to care about the personality—the intelligence, kindness, and warmth—of potential dates too. Strange to say, there even exist those odd human beings who find these latter qualities even more important than physical appearance.

What a strange delusion it is to fancy beauty is goodness!

Leo Tolstoy

Personality In the midst of the Great Depression, Dale Carnegie (1936) coun­seled businessmen (in How to Win Friends and Influence People) that there were six ways to make others like you:

Rule 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.

Rule 2: Smile.

Rule 3: Remember that people's names are to them the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Rule 4: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

Rule 5: Talk in terms of the other person's interest.

Rule 6: Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.

Today, the evidence suggests that Carnegie was right. Men and women do prefer to date and associate with friendly, sincere people; people who are interesting and who are interested in them (Byrne, 1971; Kaplan & Anderson, 1973). Let us consider some of these important personality traits in more detail.

Intelligence and Competence People like men and women who are socially skilled, intelligent, and competent. Some women worry that if they dazzle too brightly they might scare men off. Experiments make it clear, however, that both men and women are most attracted to potential dates who are intelligent and competent (Aronson, Willerman, & Floyd, 1966; Helmreich, Aronson, & Lefan, 1970; Solomon & Saxe, 1977). Men's preference for intelligent women seems likely to accelerate in the wake of the women's movement (Muehlenhard & Scardino, 1985).

Balthazar claimed once that he could induce love as a control-experiment by a

simple action: namely telling each of two people who had never met that the

other was dying to meet them, had never seen anyone so attractive and so on.

This was, he claimed, infallible as a means of making them fall in love: they

always did.

Lawrence Durrell

Warmth People like to be liked. There is overwhelming evidence that men and women respond most enthusiastically to those who like them and treat them warmly (Berscheid & Hatfield, 1978; Curtis & Miller, 1986; Folkes & Sears, 1977; Hatfield & Walster, 1978).

In one study, Debra Walsh and Jay Hewitt (1985) studied men's willingness to approach women in a singles bar. The women (college students) and the experimenter sat at an empty table in the bar from 8 to 9 p.m. each night. In the experimental condition, the women were instructed to look at one of the men, catch his eye, and smile. (The experimenter told the women who they were supposed to "give the eye."). In the control condition, the women were told just to look out on the dance floor and smile at no one in particular. Men were far more likely to come over and talk to the women who caught their eye and smiled. Sixty percent of the men approached the friendly, encouraging women; not one man dared to approach the women who failed to give them a friendly signal!

Solomon Asch (1946) argued that certain traits, like warm and cold, are

central traits; they have a profound effect on the way people perceive and feel about others. Try this classic Asch experiment. Your best friend suggests that you go out on a blind date with one of his cousins, Jan or Terry. What are they like? Jan is warm, good-looking, intelligent, and cautious. Terry is cold, good-looking, intelligent, and cautious. Which would you date? When most people are asked their first impressions of Jan and Terry, practically everyone assumes that Jan will not only be warm, but will be happy, generous, humorous, good-natured, popular, sociable, sincere, helpful, and modest as well. They assume that Terry is not just cold but unhappy, moody, irritable, humorless, unpopular, pessimistic, and unso­ciable as well (Rosenberg, Nelson, & Vivekananthan, 1968). No wonder nearly everyone prefers to date Jan. In any case, people generally prefer to date those with affectionate, warm natures.

Birds of a feather flock together. Folk adage

Similarity Most people are attracted, romantically, to those whose back­grounds, personalities, attitudes, and beliefs are similar to their own. Sociologists have long been interested in mate selection. In a classic paper, Alan C. Kerckhoff (1974) observed that in all societies there is afield of eligibles; only certain kinds of people are considered to be suitable as mates. Until recently, American society assumed that suitable dates or mates must be similar in age, race, socioeconomic status, religion, and educational level (Cargan, 1991; Kephart and Jedlicka, 1991; Skolnick, 1992).

Society also restricts young people's field of availables. Young people neces­sarily spend most of their time with people who are much like themselves: people who go to the same schools, live in the same neighborhoods, and engage in the same activities.

Kerckhoff argued that both these influences may be responsible for the strong homogamy that exists in mating. Like may marry like because our culture pre­scribes similarity between spouses on a variety of social characteristics. Like may also marry like because the field of availables is generally made up of people very similar to ourselves. Such preliminary screenings cut out a surprising number of candidates. How rigorous these initial screenings really are became all too evident to some budding computer dating companies when they began to calculate how many men and women they would have to enroll in their programs to accomplish the barest minimum of homogamous matching. These minimum requirements included matching individuals who:

•  Were of the appropriate sex (homosexual clients would naturally request dates of the same sex, heterosexual clients would request dates of the opposite sex, while bisexual clients might specify dates of either sex);

•   Lived in the same town;

•  Were of about the same age;

•  Were of the same race, socioeconomic class, religion, or educational level;

•  Were roughly the same height.

To its dismay, one computer company calculated that it would need more than one million subscribers in order to match on just these basic traits. So much for shared

interests, sexual compatibility, and so on. (Interestingly enough, there is no com­puter-match company now in business with an enrollment figure even close to one million.)

But most of us want more. Most people prefer dates and mates who are similar in personality, attitude, and a host of other traits.

In a classic study, Donn Byrne, C. R. Ervin, and J. Lamberth (1970) intro­duced men and women to one another. Half of the time they told couples that they were very similar in personality and attitudes; in fact, they were. Half were warned, in all honesty, that they were very different. Then the couples went out on a 30-minute blind date. Eventually, the couples wandered back to the experimental office. The psychologists asked couples how much they liked one another. They also unobtrusively recorded how close they stood to one an­other when turning in their questionnaires. (Were they touching one another? Standing at opposite extremes of the desk?) As predicted, the more similar cou­ples were, the more attracted they were to one another and the closer they stood to one another. [Similar results were secured by Cappella & Palmer (1990) and Cavior, Miller, & Cohen (1975).] Recently, scientific teams have doc­umented that people prefer to date and mate people whose personalities and attitudes are similar to their own (Broome, 1983; Byrne, Clore, & Smeaton, 1986; Smeaton, Byrne, & Murnen, 1989).

Researchers didn't stop there. They acknowledge that most people may prefer partners who are startlingly good-looking, intelligent, kind, and so forth. But they find that men and women are likely to settle for partners no better and no worse than themselves on these dimensions:

•   Intelligence and education. People tend to end up with mates who are similar to themselves in intelligence and education (Hatfield et al., 1978).

•   Physical attractiveness. Men and women generally end up dating and marrying those who are about as attractive as they are (Hatfield & Sprecher, 1986b).

•   Mental health. People tend to marry those who are as mentally healthy or neurotic or mentally ill as themselves (Hatfield & Walster, 1978).

•   Physical health. People are likely to date and marry partners with similar physical disabilities (Hatfield et al., 1978). For example, scientists (Spuhler, 1968) reviewed 42 studies of assortative mating. The studies investigated whether like-married-like, on 105 different physical characteristics—rang­ing from such broad characteristics as "general health" (which was assessed via nine different indicants) to such specific traits as "systolic blood pres­sure" and "ear lobe length"! They found that couples generally are well matched. Such homogamy seems to be especially prevalent with respect to deafness. The fact that deaf people tend to marry one another so worried Alexander Graham Bell (1884) that he felt compelled to point out the grave consequences of such homogamy in an article entitled "Upon the formation of a deaf variety of the human race."

•   Other social characteristics. Men and women prefer dates and mates who share their preferences in a variety of activities (Werner & Parmelee, 1979).

People do not, of course, relentlessly seek carbon copies of themselves. Obvi­ously men and women sometimes look for partners who are dissimilar in certain

fundamental ways. For example, as Gerald Maxwell (1975) has wryly observed, most men and women prefer to marry the "opposite" sex. In traditional 1950s marriages, men and women were expected to bring different and complementary skills to their mergers. Men were expected to perform the "heavy" tasks, like mowing the lawn, shoveling the sidewalks, fixing the furnace, tinkering with the car, and taking out the garbage. Women were supposed to do the "light" work: cleaning the house, cooking, canning, shopping, and taking care of the children. These traditional sex-typed roles are changing but the principle that "opposites attract" in the division of labor may remain. Women who loathe cooking may find a man especially appealing if he is a culinary genius; men who can't tell a spark plug from a carburetor may find a woman who can very appealing. Saints may prefer sinners.

Furthermore, not everyone is interested in finding someone just like them­selves to love. Recently, Eastern psychologists Arthur and Elaine Aron (1986) argued that love can best be understood in terms of a deeply felt motivation to expand the self. If men and women had sufficient self-confidence, they argued, they would be more willing to stretch themselves; to try dating people who added something new and different to their lives. There is some evidence that they may be right. In one early study, Elaine Hatfield and G. William Walster (1963) speculated that perhaps young men and women focused so single-mindedly on "similarity" not because of its intrinsic appeal (after all, it is a bit boring to date your clone) but because they were afraid of daring the unknown. [When people are very different from us, their social standards are unclear; we may not be quite sure how we are "supposed" to behave. Even the gentlemanly Marcel Proust (1913/1956) expressed fear that "boors and bounders," unaware of society's rules, would underrate his social value.] If students had more self-confidence (if they were assured they would be liked or if they were assured that it didn't matter whether they were liked), they reasoned, they might be interested in dating someone a bit more "exotic" than usual. In their experiments, the authors found clear support for this hypothesis. As predicted, students who were assured that everyone would like them were eager to associate with the dissimilar. (In fact, they vastly preferred dissimilar people to similar ones.) Students who were warned that they probably would not be liked, and who thought it was important to be liked, preferred to play it safe and talk with similar people. It appears then that the more worried we are about whether others will like us, the more anxious we are to associate with similar others. [Similar results were secured by Broome (1983).] Other researchers document that people who are psychologically secure are especially likely to associate with a wide range of people, similar and dissimilar (Goldstein & Rosenfeld, 1969).

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

H. L. Mencken

Other Assets What else do men and women long for? Hatfield and her stu­dents (Hatfield, Traupmann, Sprecher, Utne, & Hay, 1984) interviewed over 1000 dating couples, 100 newlyweds, and 400 elderly women, asking them to note the rewards (or lack thereof) they found to be most critical in their relationships. Their answers, some of which are shown in Table 1.2, were surprisingly similar.


Personal rewards Appearance (having mates who are attractive and take care of their appearance) Social grace (having mates who are sociable, friendly, and relaxed in social settings) Intelligence (having mates who are intelligent and informed)

Emotional rewards

Feeling liked and loved

Feeling understood

Feeling accepted

Feeling appreciated

Physical affection (being kissed and hugged)


Security (knowing partners are committed and there is a future together)

Plans and goals for the future (being able to dream about your future together)

Day-to-day re wards Smoothly running daily routine Comfortable finances Sociability and good communication Decision making (having partners who take a fair share of the responsibility for making and

carrying out decisions that affect both of you) Remembering special occasions

Opportunities gained and lost "Opportunities gained" include the things that one gets from being married: the chance to

become a parent: the chance to be invited, as part of a "married couple," to social events:

having someone to count on in old age "Opportunities foregone" include the things that one has to give up in order to be in a

relationship: other possible mates: a career: travel: sexual freedom

What Makes Someone Undesirable?

We have reviewed what people desire in potential dates and mates. What makes people dislike and avoid others?

Most people have a secret fear that they will say or do something embarrass­ing in a social situation, and that people will react with stunned silence or snickers. Can you recall making any social gaffes? Who were you talking to? What did you say? How did others react? How did you try to repair the damage?

Mark Knapp, L. Stafford, and J. A. Daly (1986) asked men and women to recall their most regrettable messages; things they wish they hadn't said. Most of us can recall such faux pas as these:

My blind-date said that he sold office safes. I was trying to make conversation so I said "Everything valuable I keep in my drawers." People around us looked, and then started laughing. In fact, they couldn't stop laughing. I was sick with shame.

I was invited to my fiance's home for a special dinner. It was the first time I had met everyone and I was trying hard to impress them. As we sat down to eat, his father turned to me and said, "I hope you'll say grace." I was so unsettled by this request that I immediately bowed my head and said, "Now I lay me down to sleep. . . ." (p. 40)

Young people (in their twenties) suffer the most from the fear that they have made fools of themselves. Perhaps preteens are too young to care much about the impression they make. Perhaps by their thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond, people may learn to be more socially skilled, or, more likely, they may have learned to be kinder to themselves when they make inevitable mistakes. Surprisingly, most people recall making such faux pas not with strangers, but in their closest of relationships. People tended to cringe when recalling the following kinds of regret­table messages:

1.  Blunders (22% of the regrettable messages). (One woman asked "How's your mother?" only to find that she had just died.)

2.  Direct attacks (16%). (People may say "Everyone thinks you are an ego­maniac," or "Your girlfriend is a slut" only to regret it later.)

3.   Group references (14%). (People may spit out racial or ethnic slurs.)

4.  Direct criticism (12%). (The words "You are the worst housekeeper I have ever seen" or "What kind of woman would date a married man with three little children?" may come back to haunt you.)

5.  Reveal/explain too much (11%). (Sometimes in the excitement of the mo­ment, people tell too much. They reveal a painful secret or violate a friend's trust. "Why did I spill my guts to her?" they moan later.)

People were asked why they said what they did. Their reasons were as follows.

1.  Stupid. ("I wasn't thinking" or "It just slipped out.")

2.  Selfish. ("I wanted him to take me to the prom and I thought I could shame him into it.")

3.   Good/innocent intention. ("I was just trying to be nice." "I was just making small talk.")

4.  Bad intention. ("I was jealous and was trying to get even." "I wanted to hurt him.")

5.   Humorous. ("I was trying to be funny. Some joke.")

6.  Out of control. ("I just got carried away." "I was drunk," "nervous," "exhausted," "under stress.")

Most of the time (77% of the time) people realize what they have said the second the words have left their mouths. They feel deeply embarrassed, hurt, filled with regret. Occasionally, they don't realize until later what they have done. Even years later, people blush when they recall their youthful mistakes. People almost always try to repair things. They apologize, deny they meant what they said ("I was just kidding"), attempt to explain, offer excuses, or try to atone for their words. (Only 7% of the time did people "do nothing," and then this was in the hope that others wouldn't notice their faux pas. Hope springs eternal.) Usu­ally, people do pay for their mistakes. (Others are hurt or angry; they walk out in a huff.) Sometimes, however, they understand.

We tend to dwell on such horrors, but in fact, one or two mistakes are unlikely to shake a promising or fulfilling love relationship. In love, people generally get to make hundreds of mistakes; ideally they learn and try harder the next time. Usually, it is permanent personality and character problems that lay waste to promising relationships.

Albert Pepitone (1964) found that people disliked and rejected potential dates and friends who were arrogant, conceited, rude, or who consistently made life difficult.

What makes potential dates just plain boring? Mark Leary, P. A. Rogers, R. W. Canfield, and C. Coe (1986) tried to find out what sorts of communication styles are especially dreary. They asked students to list things "that other people do that make them seem boring to you" (p. 969). They found that eight sorts of conversational habits are especially deadly: (1) Passivity. (Dull people aren't really there—they seem to have no opinions of their own, they can't hold up their end of a conversation, or add anything new to a discussion.) (2) Tediousness. (Tiresome people have a boring communication style—they may talk veeeeeerrrrry slowly, pausing a long time before responding, ramble, include too many annoying details in their stories, or drag on and on. In a classic skit, humor­ists Bob and Ray pretended to interview delegates at a Slow Talkers convention. As the Slow Talkers paused interminably mid-word, members of the audience could barely refrain from rushing on ahead to finish their sentences.) (3) Distract­ing behaviors make interaction difficult. Boring people get sidetracked easily. All their talk is small talk. (4) Low affectivity. (Dull people rarely look others in the eye; their faces are expressionless; their voices monotonous.) (5) Boring ingratia-tion. (Tiresome people try too hard to be funny; try too hard to be nice; work too hard to impress other people.) (6) Seriousness. (Boring people rarely smile; they are too serious.) (7) Self-centeredness. (Dull people are preoccupied with them­selves, with their pasts, and with their own problems. They are negative and constantly complain.) (9) Banality. (People who talk about trivial or superficial things, who are interested in only one topic, or who repeat the same stories and jokes again and again are boring.)

Recently, Milton Rosenbaum (1986) has argued that men and women tend to be repulsed by potential dates and mates who disagree with their cherished attitudes, beliefs, and values. People tend to assume that someone who disagrees with the ideas that seem so reasonable to them must be unethical, short-sighted, stupid, or maybe even a little bit crazy.

In sum: If people want to make themselves as appealing as they can, probably the best strategy is to spend some time improving their appearance . . . but not too much time. The handsome and beautiful have only a slight advantage over the average in the dating market. It is the unattractive who suffer the most. Most men and women would surely do better spending their extra time making more long-term investments—in becoming happy, interesting, personable, kind, intelligent, successful, and fulfilled—people who have a rich life of their own, buttressed with a serious career and friends.

The Importance of Proximity

Often, people's search for the ideal mate ends with the boy or girl next door— or, if they are unusually daring, with the man or woman a mile away. One sociologist (Clarke, 1952) interviewed 431 couples at the time they applied for a marriage license. He found that, at the time of their first date together, 37% of the couples were living within 8 blocks of one another and 54% lived within 16 blocks of one another. As the distance between the residences increased, the

number of marriages decreased steadily. Love seemed unable to survive a very long subway ride.

Recently, Redbook magazine (1977) asked a scattering of celebrities how they had met their matches. Interestingly enough, almost all of these eminent men and women somehow ended up with people whom they saw on a day-to-day basis. President Jimmy Carter began by dating the girl next door and ended up marrying the woman down the street. Barbra Streisand met hairdresser Jon Peters at a party in Paris. Comedienne Joan Rivers met her husband Edgar Rosenberg when he asked her to work with him on a script.

Psychologist Leon Festinger (1951) came up with more solid evidence that people often end up dating and marrying whoever happens to be close by. He examined the development of friendships in a new apartment complex. In the complex, all the apartments, except for the end houses, were arranged around U-shaped courts. The two end houses in each court faced onto the street. Festinger and his colleagues arrived at the unsettling conclusion that, to a great extent, the architects had unknowingly shaped the social lives of their residents. The major determinant of who became friends was mere proximity—the distance between apartments. Friendships sprung up more frequently between next-door neighbors, less frequently between people whose houses were separated by another house, and so on. As the distance between houses increased, the number of friendships fell off so rapidly that it was rare to find a friendship between people who lived in houses more than four or five units apart.

Any architectural feature that forced a resident to bump into other residents now and then tended to increase his or her popularity. For example, people with apartments near the entrances and exits of the stairways tended to meet more people and make more friends than did other residents. The residents of the apartments near the mailboxes in each building also had an unusually active social life.

Any architectural feature that took a person even slightly out of the traffic mainstream had a chilling effect on his or her popularity. In order to have the street appear "lived on," ten of the apartments had been turned so that they faced the street, rather than the court. This apparently small change had a considerable effect on the lives of the people who happened to occupy these end houses. These people—who had no next-door neighbors—ended up with less than half as many friends in the complex as anyone else. Architecture had made them involuntary social isolates.

Effective Strategies for Meeting Dates and Mates

Lonely, desperate people often feel that they have to be "efficient"; they relent­lessly set out to track down the right mate. They try to turn themselves into attractive "packages" so that they can attract the kind of dates they desire. Usually, they are interested in someone who has it all—someone who is good-looking, personable, kind, and rich. If they find a fatal flaw in prospective partners, they quickly discard them and move on to more promising candidates. They are determined not to waste their time. This strategy sounds reasonable, but the evidence suggests it does not work.

In one study, Carolyn Cutrona (1982) interviewed 354 UCLA freshmen two weeks, seven weeks, and seven months after their arrival on campus. At first, almost all the new arrivals, cut off from old romantic partners, family, and friends, were lonely. (Seventy-five percent of new students admitted they had been lonely since their arrival.) Most students were fairly resilient, however. By the end of the school year, most had made a successful social adjustment. Only a few were still chronically lonely. What were the differences between the students who were satisfied with the dates and friends they had made and those who were still miserably lonely at the end of the year? There were personality differences between the well-adjusted and lonely students. Lonely students had lower self-esteem, were more introverted, less assertive, and more sensitive to rejection; such traits slow down the process of social integration.

Well-adjusted and lonely students also tended to differ in the explanations they gave for their initial loneliness. It was disastrous if students attributed their loneliness to their own personal failings (i.e., if they assumed they were lonely because they were homely, boring, or shy) or if they assumed that they, one of the unlucky few, represented an exceptional case. If students realized that nearly everyone started in the same boat, they could more easily set out to meet friends and lovers.

What is the best way to do that?

The Direct Approach There is no reason the lonely cannot embark on a "search and seize" mission aimed at capturing dates and mates. When University of Wisconsin students were asked whether they knew someone they would like to meet and perhaps date, 90% of the men and 80% of the women said "Yes." Men could generally think of 19 women they might be interested in; women could think of 7 men who had sparked their interest (Sprecher & McKinney, 1987). One way people can meet someone, then, is simply to select a few appealing candidates and ask them out for coffee, lunch, to join a study group, to go on a hike, or so forth. The really courageous may invite promising candidates to dinner or to a movie. Taking the initiative may be fine advice for men, but what about women? Traditionally, women have assumed that if they are too forward, men will be scared off. The evidence doesn't seem to support that notion (Kelley & Rolker-Dolinsky, 1987; McCormick & Jesser, 1982; Muehlenhard & Miller, 1983).

But romantic passion . . . is a plant which thrives best in stony soil. Like the geranium in Erica's kitchen, the less it was watered, the better it flowered.

Alison Lurie

Playing Hard-to-Get According to the folklore, a woman should never "throw herself" at a man. He will flee. From Socrates to Ovid to the author of The Kama Sutra all the way to Bertrand Russell and even to that Sage of Sages, "Dear Abby," all agree: they say that love and passion are stimulated by excitement and challenge. The Kama Sutra ofVatsyayana (1963) advises women to use the follow­ing strategy to "gain over a man."

But old authors say that although the girl loves the man ever so much she should not offer herself or make the first overtures, for a girl who does this loses her dignity, and

is liable to be scorned and rejected. But when the man tries to kiss her she should oppose him; when he begs to be allowed to have sexual intercourse with her she should let him touch her private parts only and with considerable difficulty; and though importuned by him, she should not yield herself up to him as if of her own accord, but should resist his attempts to have her. It is only, moreover, when she is certain that she is truly loved, and that her lover is indeed devoted to her, and will not change his mind, that she should then give herself up to him, and persuade him to marry her quickly. After losing her virginity she should tell her confidential friends about it. Here end the efforts of a girl to gain over a man. (p. 138)

To find Wise Folk in such rare accord is refreshing. Research clearly shows that, this time, however, the sages were wrong.

The less my hope, the hotter my love.


In the 1970s, Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues (Hatfield, Walster, Piliavin, & Schmidt, 1973) conducted a number of experiments designed to demonstrate that men and women prefer those who play hard-to-get. Inevitably these experi­ments failed.

We began our research by studying men's preferences. We began not by asking men if they preferred hard-to-get dates, but why they did so. Most men were cooperative. They explained that an easy-to-get woman spelled trouble. (She was probably desperate for a date. She was probably the kind of woman who made too many demands on a man, the kind who wanted to get serious right away. Even worse, she might have a "disease." Today, men would probably mention AIDS.) The elusive woman, on the other hand, was almost inevitably a valuable woman. The men pointed out that a woman could only afford to be choosy if she was popular—and a woman was popular for some reason. When a woman was hard-to-get, it was usually a tip-off that she was especially pretty, had a good personality, was sexy, and so on. Men also were intrigued by the challenge that the elusive woman offered. One can spend a great deal of time fantasizing about what it would be like to date her. Also, since the hard-to-get woman's desirability was well recognized, a man could gain prestige by being seen with her. In brief, nearly all men took it for granted (as we did) that men preferred hard-to-get women and they could supply abundant justification for their prejudice.

A few isolated men refused to cooperate. These dissenters noted that an elusive woman was not always more desirable than an available woman. Some­times the hard-to-get woman was not only hard-to-get—she was impossible to get, because she was misanthropic and cold. Sometimes a woman was easy-to-get simply because she was a friendly, warm, outgoing person who boosted one's ego and ensured that dates were "no hassle." We ignored the testimony of these deviant types.

We then conducted five experiments designed to demonstrate that men valued a hard-to-get date more than an easy-to-get one. All five experiments failed. Let us consider just one of these disasters.

A flurry of advertisements appeared on campus inviting college men and women to sign up for a free computer-date-matching service. In an initial inter­view, men and women told the computer all about themselves. Two weeks later,

the "dating bureau" asked the men to drop by to collect the names and telephone numbers of their date-matches. The dating counselor also asked them for a favor. Would they telephone their dates from the office, invite them out, and then report on their first impression of them? (Presumably, the counselor was interested in how the matches seemed to be working out.)

In fact, the dating bureau had been very busy during the two-week lull. They had contacted the women who had signed up for the computer-matching program and hired them as experimenters. They had given the women precise instructions on how they should act when their computer matches called them for a date. Half of the women were told to play hard-to-get. When a man asked them out, they were to pause . . . and think . . . and think ... for three or four seconds before replying: "Mm (slight pause). No, I've got a date then. It seems like I signed up for that date match thing a long time ago and I've met more people since then— I'm really pretty busy all this week." When the men suggested another time, they were to accept reluctantly. Half of the women were told to act easy-to-get. They were to accept eagerly the man's offer of a coffee date.

All five experiments we conducted had the same results: Some men preferred the easy-to-get women, others the women who were hard-to-get (Hatfield et al., 1973). In a recent experiment, researchers (Wright & Contrada, 1986) found that most people prefer potential dates who are moderately selective to those who are extremely selective or extremely nonselective about whom they date.

So if you're interested in attracting someone, playing hard-to-get isn't neces­sarily the answer. How then should we behave? Should we admit to others that we like them or should we play hard-to-get? The best answer seems to be: Act naturally. It's impossible to predict what others will like. We have seen that, generally, most people are attracted to warm, friendly, and candid types. A few prefer those who are coolly aloof. There's nothing to be gained from playing at one role or another, so you might as well speak frankly and act freely. Express your admiration for those you like and your hopes for the relationship, and voice any doubts you have about either one.

Being Assertive When men are asked how they wish women who are inter­ested in them would act (ask them out, hint that she is interested, or wait for him to ask her out), 30% of men say they wish she would take the initiative and ask them out. Sixty-eight percent say they wish she would hint that she is interested. Only 3% say they prefer her to wait for them to ask her out. Several studies have found that even the most traditional of men are likely to accept if women ask them out. More than 95% of men said that if they were interested in dating a woman, they would gladly accept her proposal (Muehlenhard & McFall, 1981; Muehlen-hard & Miller, 1983). Research documents that it is safer to take the direct approach than one might think (Kelley & Rolker-Dolinsky, 1987; Muehlenhard & McFall, 1982). People have, of course, devised time-worn ways of asking others out without risking too much. "I'm having a few friends over on Friday to cram for the exam. Would you like to come?" "We are all going to the movies. Would you like to join us?" "A friend gave me some tickets to the concert. Interested?" If the other says "No," one is protected, and can pretend he or she was merely making a friendly gesture.

Men prefer women to take some initiative. Yet, when women are asked how they would indicate their interest in a man, only 3% say they would ask him out! Sixty-three percent would hint. A whopping 35% of women said they would simply wait for him to ask them out. Such passivity is probably not a very good idea (Muehlenhard, Koralewski, Andrews, & Burdick, 1986). Very few men are willing to risk asking out a woman who does not even hint that she might be interested (Muehlenhard & Miller, 1986). Men estimated that 62% of the women they asked out for the first time had previously hinted that they would be receptive to an invitation (Muehlenhard et al., 1986).

Thus both men and women, attractive or not, can be expected to do best if they are brave enough to dare to take the initiative. They may risk their pride, but they will not damage their chances for impressing a potential date. Furthermore, they will save a lot of time (see Box 1.3). In fact, many women today are acting on such suggestions. In one study, 90% of college men said that they had been asked out and had accepted the invitation (Kelley, Pilchowicz, & Byrne, 1981).

Direct action might work best, but both men and women seem to feel most comfortable if they first hint at their interest and then watch to see how their tentative overtures are received. About two-thirds of men and women prefer this approach (Muehlenhard et al., 1986). The next question, of course, is: How does one flirt? How can men and women best hint at their romantic interest in others? Charlene Muehlenhard and her colleagues (1986) asked college women to try out various techniques. The following techniques were especially effective (see Table 1.3, p. 28). Both men and women judged women who used these techniques to be unusually attractive. They also sent the message: She was interested. (We might expect such techniques to work for men as well.)

Psychologists also give us some hints as to the best place to look for dates and mates—depending on how good-looking, personable, intelligent, and kind we are. Bernard Murstein (1970) points out that settings can be characterized by how "closed" or "open" they are. In open fields, people can approach anyone they wish. (Singles' bars, mixers, museum tours, and large social gatherings are exam­ples of open fields.) Beautiful women and handsome men are likely to find roman­tic partners in open fields. In closed fields, the same people are forced to interact day after day. (Language classes, work, or hiking tours to Cornwall and Dorset are examples of closed fields.) In closed fields, people get to know one another well. People who have personality, intelligence, and kindness to offer profit from the chance to reveal their personalities to others in closed fields.

For some people, such direct approaches to meeting people work. But for most people, an indirect approach is easier and more effective.

/ don't think you can look for love. All you can do is get yourself in a situation where you don't discourage something that may be rather nice.

Popular singer Linda Ronstadt

The Indirect Approach Many men and women are uncomfortable about asking others out. Researchers (Marwell, McKinney, Sprecher, DeLamater, & Smith, 1982) have asked college students if there is someone they would like to get to know and perhaps date. Almost all answer "Yes." What stops them? Sometimes


In How to Make Yourself Miserable, humorists Dan Greenburg and Marcia Jacobs (1 966) described lovesick women's anguish at waiting for the telephone to ring.

Let's say you are the young lady in this case. How can you make yourself completely miserable while you wait for the young man's call, and perhaps even discourage him from asking you out once he does call?

Begin by assuming that if the young man is going to call you, it will be on the day after the party, some time after work. But (and this is your first anxiety) does he know how late you work?

He does not. Suppose he calls you shortly after 5:00 p.m. and then again at about 5:30, and he doesn't find you in either time because you work till 5:30 and don't get home till 6:00. Will he try again at 6:00? ....

That is the next step, then: You must take off the entire afternoon and wait for his call. Station yourself right next to the telephone and don't leave it for a second, not even to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, by the end of the evening he will not have called. . . .

Maybe he just asked you for your number so he could get away from you gracefully. Not a bad little anxiety. But here's a better one:

Maybe he has been trying to call you all night and the phone just hasn't rung because it's out of order. You must find out if this is true. Pick up the phone—and don't be disappointed when you hear the dial tone. Just because you hear a dial tone doesn't mean your phone is working. You must conduct a more conclusive test,

Call a girlfriend. When she answers say, "Don't ask me to explain, just call me right back," then hang up. Don't be dismayed when she calls you right back. At least you now know the phone is working.

This is the moment for your next anxiety: Maybe he was trying to call you while you were checking to see if the phone was working and he got a busy signal.

Enough anxieties for a single night. Go to bed.

Source: Greenburg & Jacobs, 1966. pp. 81-85.

men and women are thwarted by external barriers. ("I have never been alone with her." "He is going steady with someone else.") Usually, however, people admit they are paralyzed by internal barriers. ("I am too shy to approach him." "I don't think she would be interested in me." "I don't want to make a fool of myself.")

Researchers find that, shy or not, the best way to find a lover is to look for a friend. Most people are introduced to their dates, lovers, and mates by friends

Table 1.3

Verbal cues

1.    She compliments him.

2.    She is helpful.

3.    She keeps talking rather than ending the conversation quickly.

4.    If he asks her out and she has to refuse because she is busy, she adds something like, "Could we put it off until some other time?"

5.    She does not talk as if she is so busy she has no time to date.

6.    She asks him questions about himself.

7.    If he asks for her phone number, she gives it to him.

8.    If there is a short lull in the conversation, she fills in the void.

9.    She mentions an activity that they could do together, such as saying there is a movie she'd like to see. She does not specifically mention their doing the activity together, but that is left as a possibility.

10.   When he is talking she back-channels—that is, says a few words to show she is listening ("Umm hmm" or "Yeah").

11.    She engages in small talk after, rather than before, she asks for a favor. If she talks to him and then asks for the favor, it appears her motive was to ask for the favor; if he has already agreed to do the favor, it appears her motive was to talk to him.

1 2.   If he mentions where he will be at a future time, she says she might see him there.

1 3.   She makes it clear she has noticed him in the past (e.g., she noticed he was absent from

class). 14.   If he asks a question, she gives more than the shortest possible answer. 1 5.   She is responsive to what he says. 1 6.   She starts a conversation with him rather than remaining silent.

Nonverbal cues

1.    Eye contact: She catches his eye now and then.

2.    Smiling: She smiles now and then.

3.    Leaning: She leans toward him slightly.

4.    Distance: She stands fairly close to him.

5.   Touching: She may touch his arm or shoulder briefly now and then.

6.    Catching his eye while laughing at someone else's humor. If the professor makes a joke, she might catch his eye as she laughs.

7.   Attentiveness. She pays close attention to him. Her attention doesn't wander to those strolling by.

8.    Using animated speech. She speaks quickly, accentuating her words with varied facial expressions and body movements.

Source: Muehlenhard et al., 1986. pp. 407, 413.

(Parks & Eggert, 1991). In one study, Gerald Marwell and his Wisconsin students (1982) tried to find out how couples actually get together. They asked a random sample of college students how they had met their last date or mate. Who, if anyone, introduced them? Where did they meet? Often, a relative, good friend, or employer brought the two together. They introduced 33% of the men and 43% of the women to their most recent dates. The rest of the time, men and women initiated the meetings themselves or they just met by "happenstance." But quite


often even these college couples met at parties their friends were giving, when they were studying with friends, and so forth.

Where did most college couples meet? Singles usually meet at parties, social gatherings, work, or bars (Knox & Wilson, 1981; Simenauer & Carroll, 1982). For a list of the settings in which college couples met in the previous study (Marwell et al., 1982), see Table 1.4. In another study (Simenauer & Carroll, 1982) research­ers interviewed 3000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 55 from 36 states. They asked: "Where do you meet most of the men/women you date?" The most common reply was "through friends." Thirty-three percent of the men and 36% of the women met their dates this way.

Why are introductions so important? Gerald Marwell and his colleagues (1982) point out:

The friend has the right to interact with each of the two partners and he/she essentially vouches for the fact that the other person is "all right." The friend also makes it improbable that the other person will behave in a rudely rejecting manner, and may also imply with the introduction that the two partners are both "available" and appropriate for one another, (pp. 5-6)

In the research we described earlier (Cutrona, 1982), researchers found that students who assumed that the only way to end their loneliness was to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend usually failed in their attempts; they were still lonely after a year. Those who focused on finding friends were usually successful and, in consequence, were far happier at the end of the year.

In our clinical practice, when we are working with lonely clients, we usually recommend the following strategy:

1.  People who long for an active social life should not begin by trying to find the perfect mate. If they follow that approach they are likely to make a commit­ment to the first promising person who comes along, invest a great deal of exclu­sive time in the relationship, only to find out months or years later that the person who once seemed so perfect turns out to have fatal flaws.

2.   Instead, people do far better if they concentrate at first on making a few friends. They should go out of their way to say hello and to chat with the men and women they bump into at school, at work, or while participating in daily activities. They should make an effort to meet the most appealing and interesting men and



Meeting location



Party in apartment, dorm, or fraternity/sorority






Bar or restaurant



Dorm (but not a party)



Other public university location (cafeterias, library)



Other (sports, work)



Source: Hatfield & Sprecher, 1986b, p. 133,



women in their classes, dance groups, computer workshops, car repair sessions, or Sierra Club hikes. They needn't worry about the age, or marital status, or attrac­tiveness of these acquaintances. What they are looking for are casual friends. They should ask those acquaintances they like best to lunches, walks, or the movies. Eventually, people are bound to settle in with a best friend or two.

3. Once people have established a network of friends, it is a short and easy step to begin to find suitable dates. People can ask their friends to introduce them to potential dates their friends think they might like. (Instead of one person searching for possible dates, now several matchmakers are involved in the proj­ect.) When in doubt about whether to date someone or not, the best strategy is to go out. Usually, it takes only a few shared interests to make a date interesting. Imagine that, potentially, men and women can "fit" one another on 100 traits. To make a serious love affair or marriage go, couples probably have to match on, say, 85 or 90 of those traits. (In close relationships, little differences can cause big problems.) If casual dates fit on just a trait or two they can probably still have a fine time together now and then. Some dates might share your interest in Woody Allen movies . . . and nothing else. Another might be a great dinner date and serious conversationalist; still another might be just right for spur-of-the-moment sailing trips. Another date, impossible one-to-one, may sparkle at parties. The criterion for a casual date is simply: "Would I rather be alone tonight, or with my friend for an hour or two?" The distance between what is required for an enjoy­able date and what it takes to make a successful, serious relationship succeed is gargantuan.

When we suggest this strategy, men and women sometimes hesitate. Some men, for example, worry that women will think they are "cads" if they date several women at the same time; or that women will fall in love and pressure them for a commitment. Of course, if men pretend to be interested in marriage when they are not, they can expect trouble. But, we reassure men and women that if they practice "truth in advertising," if they make it clear that they plan to date several people for quite some time, most people will accept their reservations. A few will not, but at least they will know they are morally in the right if they have been clear about their intentions. Some women are hesitant to date so casually, because they are afraid to say "No" to sexual overtures. They worry that they might hurt men's feelings. They worry that men may get angry and yell at them. We remind such women that they routinely go out with their women friends; those women don't require something "extra" to make it worth their while to go out. Most men enjoy such casual friendships too. Although, of course, everyone is entitled to say "No" to sex, anytime, a few women find it easier to tell men "I never get involved this early on" if they pay their own way. Many men feel obligated to make a pass at women but a surprising number of men are relieved when women say "No," especially in this day of AIDS. Men, too, worry that their arms are too scrawny, their stomachs too big, or that they will have trouble performing. Thus it is usually fairly easy for women to slow things down so everyone can get acquainted. If all a man is interested in is sex, most women would probably not be interested in him anyway; better to find out early.

4. Once men and women have dated a variety of people, they can make a fairly sensible choice of someone who might be special. Now they can risk "serious" dating. Most experienced people, however, have been burned many times by love. They got serious with someone who was, like most Americans, expert at beginnings only to discover that by the middle of the relationship, things were not going so well. Thus they have learned to protect themselves. Even if their serious relationship is going well, they continue to cultivate men and women friends. They continue working toward stimulating careers. They insist on pursuing personally pleasurable interests, seeing old friends—whether or not their partners share those activities and friendships. With this strategy, most men and women tend to end up with lovers they really care about, a solid network of good friends, and a serious career.

Readers interested in more information about meeting dates or mates or social skills training may consult a variety of primers: See, for example, Philip Zim-bardo's (1977) Shyness text or the book by Eileen Gambrill and Cheryl Richey (1985), Taking Charge of Your Social Life.


In this chapter, we have reviewed the characteristics that make people appealing dates and mates and the strategies that help them meet suitable partners. The reader may notice that the tone of this chapter, although it deals with the begin­nings of love, is not superheated. No one will mistake our writing for that of Barbara Cartland or Danielle Steele.

This is no accident. Modern culture is filled with the exaggerated romanticism of pop music, of steamy romance novels, and of thousands of Hollywood movies guilty of promoting a false view of love. In so doing (in the interests of making money), they have misled the public and created wild expectations about romance that bear little relation to reality. In movies and songs, people "fall in love," knowing they have found their soulmate "at first sight." Their first sexual encoun­ter sets off fireworks, earthquakes, storms—all accompanied by wild waves pounding on the shore. Happily Ever After is quickly and easily earned—no differently from fairy tales. In the Hollywood version there is no room for intelli­gence, experienced observation, or common sense in romance—let alone the distinction between passionate love and companionate love.

The decisions about love are no less important in one's life than those about choosing a career, handling money, or deciding where to live. Yet those latter decisions are rarely made (wisely, at least) on pure impulse and abandon; people gather knowledge and use their heads. We believe people should be as intelligent about love decisions as anything else in life, and we hope to show that considerable knowledge is available on the subject. Too many people are stupid about love, treating the phenomenon as though it were all a matter of magic and hormones. Small wonder that people continue to make unhappy decisions.

Still, there is and should be passion when it comes to love; it's a big part of the fun. In the next chapter we plunge into those wonderful but treacherous waters as we examine more passionate relationships.

Chapter 2

Passionate Love


Definitions The Evolutionary Soil of Passionate Love The Triune Brain Love in Primates Love in Children

The Theory: The Process of Attachment

Separation and Despair

Current Research Love in Adults

The Roots of Passionate Love

Low Self-esteem

Dependency and Insecurity


Neediness The Flowering of Passionate Love

Moments of Exultation

Feeling Understood and Accepted

Sharing a Sense of Union

Feeling Secure and Safe

Transcendence The Nature of Passionate Love The Cognitive Contribution The Biological Contribution

The Anatomy of Love

The Chemistry of Love

Why Is Passionate Love So Passionate? The Cross-Magnification Process


The Behavioral Contribution Eye Contact

One's Inclination Toward Another The Distance One Stands from Another

Passionate Love: How Long Does It Last?



Passionate love is not an invention of the modern world. Expressions of passion have a long and nearly universal history. Literature and life abound in legendary lovers caught up in a sea of passion and violence. The couples are legion: Odysseus and Penelope, Orpheus and Eurydice, Maria and Tony (in West Side Story), Daphnis and Chloe, Dido and Aeneas, Abelard and Eloise, Dante and Beatrice, Romeo and Juliet, and, of course, Elizabeth and Richard. . . . These love affairs have assumed such a central place in Western mythology that it becomes difficult to know which are mythical, which historical. And when historical, how much is "true"?

Such a lineage suggests, when we deal with contemporary passion, that noth­ing much has changed; that we describe the universal and eternal when we wallow in the tales of Taylor and Burton or Edward and Mrs. Simpson. Historical research makes it clear, however, that nothing could be further from the truth. As with everything else connected with love, sex, women's place, family, child rear-

ing, and emotions, the world has ascribed continually changing meanings and purposes to all these activities and happenstances, and that change will continue to be the norm. If so, all the more do we need perspective.

When one gazes at the stories of the great lovers of the past, it is worth noting that nothing worked out well in the end. The romances did not culminate in marriage and happy little families—let alone great sex. They were invariably unrequited, unconsummated, or ended in painful death and profound tragedy.

One major reason for this is that no society in the West before 1700 ever equated le grand passion with marriage or even with sex. This equation plays a large and often misleading part in the ways we think about passionate love today. In many non-Western societies, particularly in Asia, there continue to this day to be echoes of Andreas Capellanus' (1174/1941) statement in the twelfth century, in The Art of Courtly Love:

Everybody knows that love can have no place between husband and wife. . . . For what is love but an inordinate desire to receive passionately a furtive and hidden embrace? But what embrace between husband and wife can be furtive, I ask you, since they may be said to belong to each other and may satisfy all of each other's desires without fear that anybody will object? (p. 100)

And he wasn't even talking about passionate love—just love. To make himself clear, he wrote in the same work: "We declare and we hold as firmly established that love cannot exert its powers between two people who are married to each other" (p. 106).

As late as 1540, Alessandro Piccolomini wrote peremptorily, reflecting com­mon assumptions four centuries later, after the Renaissance, that "love is a reci­procity of soul and has a different end and obeys different laws from marriage. Hence one should not take the loved one to wife" (Hunt, 1959, p. 206). Though Piccolomini began, along with his society, to change his mind before he died, one need only to look to the great societies of Asia—China, Japan, and India (lands of the arranged marriage)—to see remnants of these attitudes alive and well (though winds of change blow worldwide these days) even as we approach the end of the twentieth century.

It is a rigid principle of Eastern life that the stability of the family and the maintenance of the social order always come before the happiness of the individ­ual. A Chinese woman asserted: "Marriage is not a relation for personal pleasure, but a contract involving the ancestors, the descendants, and the property" (Mace & Mace, 1980, p. 134).

Yet the feeling of passionate love, the desire for union, seems wired into our brains. Cultures alarmed by these basic feelings therefore suppress them—some­times fiercely. The response of many lovers to such suppression, well-known in Western history as well, has been suicide. Love suicides in Japan have been an institution since the end of the seventeenth century. In plays and stories, the suicide pacts were dramatized with sensational effect—the journey together to the chosen place, the leaving behind forever of familiar scenes, the agonizing mental conflicts, the last tender farewells. In Japanese thought suicide is not ignoble. It is the final vindication of what a person believes. When it is glorified by frustrated love, it becomes a sublime tragedy (Mace & Mace, 1980).

In earlier times, the actual practice of the lovesick couple was to throw

themselves into the well of the parents who had refused to sanction the mar­riage. This was particularly true in China. In the modern era, the lovers tie themselves together and throw themselves in front of a train. Jumping off a cliff has always been a popular method. On some railroad routes, any young couples purchasing one-way tickets might be under suspicion. At one time the taking of rat poison was in fashion and drugstores were warned not to sell to young cou­ples (Mace & Mace, 1980).

The defiance of young lovers did not always take such extreme forms. In countries where the social system was less rigid than Japan, China, or India— Burma and Thailand, for example—elopement was common, presenting parents with a fait accompli they could not reverse.

These tales of forbidden romance may seem ridiculous, if not tragic, to the young individualistic American and Frenchman today. However, in Western civi­lization, passion and sexuality have been severely restricted throughout most of human history—particularly during the Christian era. For example, for 1500 years—from the earliest days of the Roman Catholic Church to the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation—the Church proclaimed sex (even marital sex!) to be a heinous sin, punishable by eternal damnation. Only recently has Western culture accepted and, yes, promoted the notion that passionate love can and should be transmuted into sex, marriage, and family. It is a new idea, and not an unproblematic one at that. Romeo and Juliet, Ophelia and Hamlet, Abelard and Heloise did not make love, get married, have two children, and live happily ever after. Juliet died of poison. Romeo killed himself. Ophelia went crazy and died. Hamlet was felled by a poisoned sword-point. Peter Abelard (a "real" person) was castrated and his beloved Heloise ended up in a nunnery. The Hollywood happy-ending outcome would have seemed absurd to our brothers and sisters of the preindustrial past. (The "happy endings" in some of Shakespeare's comedies are often seen as signs of the play­wright's "modern sensibility," that of a man far ahead of his times.) The concept of romantic, marital bliss is an idea that could, quite conceivably, seem equally silly in the future. As we examine the nature of the powerful and universal emotion of passionate love, we need to recognize how changeable is its cultural and temporal meaning. Let us begin then with a contemporary love story.

On March 30, 1981, less than two hours before John W. Hinckley, Jr., shot President Reagan, Hinckley scrawled a final plea to the actress, Jodie Foster, with whom he had been obsessed for over two years (The New Yorker, 1984, pp. 46-48).

Dear Jodie.

There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan. It is for this very reason I am writing you this letter now.

As you well know by now I love you very much. Over the past seven months I've left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to bother you with my constant presence. I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance, but I felt that it was the most painless way for me to express my love for you. . . .

Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever.

I will admit to you that the reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you. I've got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake! By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me. This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel. Jodie, I'm asking to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love. I love you forever.

John Hinckley

In F.B.I, questioning after the attempted assassination, Foster denied that she had ever spoken to or met John Hinckley.

Love is the strange bewilderment which overtakes one person on account of another person.

James Thurber and E. B. White


In Chapter 1, we defined passionate love as:

A state of intense longing for union with another. Passionate love is a complex func­tional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, action tendencies, and instrumental behaviors. Reciprocated love (union with the other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy; unrequited love (separation) with emptiness, anxiety, or despair.

Other theorists have labeled this experience puppy love, a crush, fatal attrac­tion, lovesickness, obsessive love, infatuation, or being-in-love. This chapter re­views what psychologists have learned about this fiery, but generally short-lived, emotion.


The Triune Brain

In the 1940s, Paul MacLean (1986) had a brilliant insight. He realized that in the course of evolution humans ended up with a mind/brain that is a "triune struc­ture. In a sense, the brain consists of three different types of brains with different anatomical structures and chemical processes, layered one upon the other. The oldest brain is basically reptilian. The second, the neomammalian brain, is inher­ited from the early mammals, and the third, the late mammalian/early primate brain, from the late mammals and early primates. In their primer, Robert Ornstein and Richard Thompson (1984) provide a simple description of this layering process (see Box 2.1).

MacLean (1986) points out that the reptilian brain was primarily concerned


The brain is like an old ramshackle house that has been added on to over the years in a rather disorganized fashion (p. 3).


The brain stem is the oldest part of the brain. It evolved more than 500 million years ago. Because it resembles the entire brain of a reptile, it is often referred to as the reptilian brain. It determines general level of alertness and warns the orga­nism of important incoming information, as well as handling the basic bodily functions necessary for survival—breathing and heart rate (p. 4).

The cerebellum is attached to the rear of the brain stem. It automatically adjusts posture and coordinates muscular movements. Memories for simple learned responses are stored there.


The next structure on the totem pole, say the authors, is the limbic system. It evolved sometime between 200 and 300 million years ago. The limbic system is highly developed in mammals; thus this "add on" is called the mammalian brain. This brain is strongly involved in the emotional reactions—joy, love, fear, anger and sadness—that have to do with survival.


The largest part of the human brain is the cerebrum. It is divided into two halves, or hemispheres, each of which controls its opposite half of the body. The hemi­spheres are connected by a band of some 300 million nerve cell fibers called the corpus callosum. Covering each hemisphere is a one-eighth-inch thick, intricately folded layer of nerve cells called the cortex. The cortex first appeared in our ancestors about 200 million years ago, and it is what makes us uniquely human. Because of it, we are able to organize, remember, communicate, understand, appreciate, and create (p. 12).

Source: Ornstein & Thompson, 1 984, pp. 3-1 2.

with the preservation of the self and the species. Its primitive structures were designed to guide the reptile in the processes required for obtaining food and mates (search, angry attacks, self-defense, and feeding or sexual activity). By the neomammalian brain, he continued, three new patterns of behavior had evolved. These were primarily designed to facilitate mother-child relationships. Such emo­tions as ecstasy, desire and affection, fear, anger, dejection, and depression all derive from activities in the limbic system. Not until the neocortex evolved in the late mammalian/primate period did symbolic or verbal information become im­portant in shaping primate emotional experience or expression.

Love in Primates

Leonard Rosenblum (Rosenblum, 1985; Rosenblum & Plimpton, 1981) points out that even some primates (such as pigtail macaque monkeys) seem to experience a primitive form of passionate love. In some species, infant primates are prewired to cling to their mothers. Separation can be mortally dangerous. If mother and infant are separated, the infant is unlikely to find a substitute caretaker. To ensure survival, therefore, the "desire for union" is necessarily wired into primates. As long as mother and child are locked in close proximity, all goes well. Should a brief separation occur, the infant will quickly become desperate. He will begin franti­cally to search for his mother. If she returns, the infant will be joyous, alternately clinging to its mother and bounding about with great excitement. If his mother does not return, and his frenetic efforts to find her fail, he will eventually abandon all hope of contact, whereupon despair and probable death will follow. The experience Rosenblum describes, with its alternating lows and highs, certainly sounds much like passionate love's "desire for union." Fervent attachments seem not to be unique to humans.

Harry and Margaret Harlow (Harlow, 1973, 1975; Harlow, Harlow, & Suomi, 1971) also studied the development of love in monkeys. Early theorists had as­sumed that newborns become attached to their mothers and fathers because their presence is associated with feeding. (Food is, after all, the theorists reasoned, a primary reinforcer; snuggling is "merely" a secondary reinforcer.) The Harlows soon discovered that newborns care more about contact comfort than food! They tested this startling hypothesis in a classic experiment. First, they separated mon­key mothers and infants. They reared infants in a cage containing two kinds of artificial "mothers." One surrogate mother possessed a "breast." (A bottle of milk was simply inserted in a cold wire mesh tube.) This wire mother provided food, but she was cold and hard. The other "mother" could not provide any food, but she was warm and soft; the monkey could cling to her. (This second wire cylinder was warmed, wrapped with foam rubber, and covered with terry cloth.) If tradi­tional theorists were right, and infants became attached to mothers only because they happened to provide food, infants should have become most attached to the milk-providing wire "mother." But they did not. Monkeys might be willing to suck from the wire mother, but they certainly didn't want to spend their free time with her. They spent almost all their time tightly clinging to the warm, soft, cuddly mother; rubbing against her.

When monkeys were insecure or frightened, it was the terry cloth mother they ran back to for security. In one experiment, the researchers put a mechanical toy bear, which banged loudly on a drum, in the cage. The frightened infants quickly scrambled to their cloth mothers. What if only the wire mother was in the cage? Even then the infants would not turn to the icy mother; they simply cried and ran aimlessly around the cage; sometimes they froze in terror. Only the warm, soft, terry cloth mother could comfort them.

Harlow and his colleagues (1971) found that monkeys normally follow a predictable sequence in developing attachments. At first, newborns simply cling to anyone. Within a few weeks, however, they become deeply attached to their mothers; they wish to cling only to them. As the infants mature, however, eventu-

ally they become less interested in their mothers and more attached to their peers. They learn to play. Both their initial attachments to their mothers and these early friendships are important to their later ability to develop sexual relationships. For example, if monkeys were raised in isolation, without mothers or playmates, at first they seemed to thrive. At puberty, however, it became clear that they had serious emotional and social problems. Adult female monkeys seemed unwilling and unable to respond to males' sexual overtures. Only 4 monkeys out of 18 were able to conceive. (The others had to be artificially inseminated.) When the isolated monkeys did conceive, they were terrible mothers. Some were merely indifferent. Most were actively rejecting; they roughly pushed their newborns away. In spite of this ill-treatment, most newborns persisted in their attempts to establish a bond with their mothers. Sometimes these determined infants succeeded. They taught their mothers how to mother. In subsequent pregnancies, some of the deprived mothers became more skilled at nurturing their offspring.

Love in Children

Mary Ainsworth (1989) and John Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1980), who were well grounded in evolutionary theory, studied the process of attachment, separation, and loss in children. They found that, at certain stages in their development, infants and toddlers react to separation in the same way as did their primate ancestors. Both seemed to follow the same ancient programming.

The Theory: The Process of Attachment Infants normally progress through four developmental phases during their first year of life (Cohen, 1976). (1) During the first few months of life, infants smile, gurgle, and snuggle into almost anyone. Anyone can provide contact comfort. (2) At about three months of age, the infants begin to notice that their mother is someone special; they respond to her with special interest. (3) At about six to nine months, infants become deeply attached to their mothers. They smile, jabber, and stretch out their arms to her; if they are separated, they protest. No one else will do. They are frightened of strangers and reject their attempts to comfort them. (4) After about 9 to 12 months, toddlers slowly begin to take an interest in a wider circle of people.

Of course, parents and infants differ in skills and temperament. Mary Ains­worth (1989; Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978) found that mothers and children may form different kinds of attachments. Some infants are securely attached to their mothers. Early on, the infants cling to their mothers. As toddlers mature, they become more adventuresome. They begin to go off and explore the world. The mother remains a "safe harbor," but gradually, th infants become more independent. Other infants possess an anxious/ambivalent attachment to their mothers. Early on, their mothers may have been unpredictable. Sometimes they overprotected (even smothered) their infants; sometimes they ignored them. Since these infants have learned they cannot count on their mothers, they tend to be anxious and uncertain in their interactions with her. They themselves may alternately cling or ignore her. Of course, some anxious/avoidant infants were simply born with a fearful temperament. Finally, some infants develop an avoid­ant attachment with their mothers. Perhaps their mothers generally ignored them.

Perhaps the infants were simply lacking whatever it takes to form close relation­ships with anyone. In any case, such infants are unemotional and unresponsive.

Separation and Despair Psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1980) noted the way the desire for security and the desire for freedom alternate in a small child.

James Anderson describes watching two-year-olds whilst their mothers sit quietly on a seat in a London park. Slipping free from the mother, a two-year-old would typically move away from her in short bursts punctuated by halts. Then, after a more prolonged halt, he would return to her—usually in faster and longer bursts. Once returned, however, he would proceed again on another foray, only to return once more. It was [as] though he were tied to his mother by some invisible elastic that stretches so far and then brings him back to base. (1973, pp. 44-45)

In his research, Bowlby has found that when a child's mother is around, he's not very interested in her. He looks at her, sees that everything is all right, and sallies forth. Now and then he sneaks a quick glance to make sure she's still there or to find out whether she still approves of what he is doing, but then he is off again. Should his mother disappear for a moment, it's a different story. The child becomes very distressed and agitated. He devotes all his energy to searching for her. New adventures lose all allure. Of course, once she returns, he's off again. Should she disappear for good, he would sink into a deep despair.

Current Research How early are children capable of falling passionately in love? The answer is: probably very early. In 1886, Sanford Bell (1902) interviewed 1,700 Indiana teachers and observed 800 children. By the end of the study, he had assembled 2,500 case reports of children who experienced intense passionate love. Bell concluded that children could experience "sex-love" as early as 3^ years of age. From 3 to 8 years of age, the passionate longings of children could be read in word and in deed. Children in love hugged, kissed, and sat close to one another. And in time-honored fashion, they scuffled with each other as well. They shyly confessed their love to their beloved. They talked about each other with their friends. They sought each other out; grieved when they were separated; gave gifts of love; willingly sacrificed for the other; were jealous, and so forth (p. 330). Children were most likely to admit to being in love either between 4 and 8 or between 12 and 15 years of age. They were reluctant to admit to feeling "sex-love" from ages 8 to 12.

One hundred years elapsed before researchers returned to the sensitive sub­ject of passionate love in children. Elaine Hatfield and her students (Hatfield et al., 1988) developed the Childhood Love Scale (CLS), a children's version of the Passionate Love Scale (PLS), which we described in Chapter 1. Each item on the PLS was translated into language so simple and so concrete that children could

understand it. For example "I want_______to know me—my thoughts, my fears,

and my hopes" became "I want_______to know me—what I am thinking, what

scares me, what I am wishing for." "I possess a powerful attraction for_______"

became "When _______ is around I really want to touch him (her) and be


Hatfield and her students interviewed more than 200 boys and girls, who ranged in age from 4 to 18, about their romantic feelings. Their results made it clear that Bell was right—even very young children are capable of passionate love. Figure 2.1 depicts how their passions changed as they grew up. Similar to Bell's work, Hatfield and her students found that from ages 4 to 7, children reported strong passionate feelings. Boys seemed to go through a shy period from 8 to 12 years of age, when they were likely to deny they ever had such feelings. Their fervent emotions returned with full intensity during the teenage years (13 to 18).

The authors observed that it was touching to interview children in love. The kids were often very shy. They blushed and hid behind their hands. One 5-year-old girl talked about a boy she loved at the preschool she had once attended. When

asked: "If I could, when I grow up I'd like to marry_______," she began to cry.

"I will never see Todd again," she said woefully. Indeed, she may not, since her parents had no inkling of how deeply she felt. Subsequent research has demon­strated that anxious children who are under stress are particularly prone to fall passionately in love (Hatfield, Brinton, & Cornelius, 1989).

Passionate love becomes very powerful when children enter puberty. Perhaps this is because teenagers experience the return of old separation anxieties during the period. Perhaps they are under unusual stress as they go through the agonies of adolescence. Neurophysiologists remind us that passionate love may also be fueled by pubescent sexual and hormonal changes (Gadpaille, 1975; Money, 1980). Puberty and sexual maturity may well bring a new depth to passion (Rabehl, Ridge, & Berscheid, 1992).

People who are not in love themselves feel that a clever man ought to he unhappy only about such persons as are worthwhile. This is rather like being astonished that anyone should condescend to die of cholera at the bidding of so insignificant a creature as the common bacillus.

Marcel Proust


Psychologists have argued that childhood experiences can shape one's passionate experiences in adulthood. Recently, Philip Shaver and Cindy Hazan (1988) pro­posed that romantic love should be conceived of as a form of attachment. Chil­dren's early patterns of attachment should influence their adult attachments. For example, we have observed that children are likely to become securely attached to their mothers if they are allowed to be both affectionate and independent. The authors point out that such children should mature into secure adults who are comfortable with intimacy and are able to trust and depend on those they care for. Children may become anxiousjambivalent if they have learned to be clingy and dependent, or fearful of being smothered and restrained, or both. Such children should become anxious/ambivalent adults who fall in love easily, who seek ex­treme levels of closeness and are terrified that they will be abandoned. Their love affairs are likely to be short-lived. The avoidant child (who has been abandoned

early on) may well become an avoidant adult who is uncomfortable getting too close and has difficulty depending on others. The authors have amassed consider­able support in favor of the notion that the lessons we learn as children may well be reflected in the romantic choices we make as adults.

How would you categorize yourself? Hazan and Shaver (1987) measured men's and women's attachment styles by a single self-report item (see Table 2.1). Respondents were asked to endorse one of three descriptions of themselves. Which one sounds like you? (Generally, researchers classify 62% of children as securely attached, 15% as anxious/ambivalent, and 23% as avoidant. When a wide-ranging sample of adults rated themselves, 56% rated themselves as se­curely attached, 19% percent as anxious/ambivalent, and 25% as avoidant.)

Kim Bartholomew (1990) proposed that people's adult attachment styles should fall into one of four patterns, depending on their self-image (positive or negative) and their image of the other person (positive or negative). (1) Men and women who have a positive self-image and a positive image of others should be capable of becoming securely attached to others. (2) Those with low self-esteem and a positive regard for others should be preoccupied with intimate relations. (3) Those who have a negative self-image and a negative image of others should be fearful of becoming close to others. (4) Those who have a positive self-image and a negative image of others should be dismissing or detached from others.

Carl Hindy, J. C. Schwarz, and A. Brodsky (1989) tested the notion that children who receive inconsistent love and affection will be "at risk" in their later love relationships. They gave men and women a battery of tests designed to determine the stability of their childhoods. How stormy was the marriage between their parents? Did their parents get a divorce? Then they asked them about their own romantic histories. Did they often fall passionately in love? Or did they go out of their way to avoid entanglements? How jealous were they? When their love affairs fell apart, did they sink into deep depression? They found that young men and women whose parents had been inconsistent in their love and nurturance


Question: Which of the following best describes your feelings?

Secure (56%): I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.

Anxious/ambivalent (19%): I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to merge completely with another person, and this desire sometimes scares people away.

Avoidant (25%): I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others: I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, love partners want me to be more intimate than I feei comfortable being.

Source: Hazan & Shaver, 1987. p. 51 5.

were more "addicted" to love or more afraid of it than was the case with those who came from more secure backgrounds.

In conclusion: Our evolutionary heritage and childhood attachments provide a rich soil for passionate love.

O          3          O

One fifth-century Buddhist poet saw in the common water lily a symbol of transcendence. The lily's roots are bogged in the muck of the earth; yet its stalk bravely pushes up to the clear surface of the pond where it produces creamy blooms of serene beauty. This water lily provides a suitable metaphor for passion­ate love as well. Its roots may lie in the dependence and insecurities of childhood, but its blooms, though brief, are uncommonly beautiful. In the next two subsec­tions we consider some of the humble roots of passionate love and some of its breathtaking flowers.

Passions usually have their roots in that which is blemished, crippled, incomplete and insecure within us.

Eric Hojfer

The Roots of Passionate Love

If passionate love is rooted in the earth of childhood attachments, it would seem that certain types of people, caught up in certain types of situations, should be especially vulnerable to the longeurs of passionate love. Anything that makes adults feel as helpless and dependent as they were as children, anything that makes them fear separation and loss, should increase their passionate craving to merge with the other. There is some evidence to support these speculations.

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

Oscar Wilde

Low Self-esteem Theodor Reik (1949) was one of the first to propose that when self-esteem is threatened, individuals are more likely to fall prey to passion­ate love. Mary McCarthy (1942) in her novel The Company She Keeps offered an example. The heroine Margaret Sargent has been enslaved by love. In therapy, she makes an illuminating discovery:

Now for the first time she saw her own extremity, saw that it was some failure in self-love that obligated her to snatch blindly at the love of others, hoping to love herself through them, borrowing their feelings, as the moon borrowed light. She herself was a dead planet, (p. 303)

The first actual experiment on passionate love, conducted more than 25 years ago, provided support for Reik's hypothesis. Elaine Hatfield (1965) proposed that when people's self-esteem has been bruised, they should be unusually receptive to the love and affection offered by others. To test this hypothesis, she gave Stanford University and Foothill Junior College women a battery of psychological tests—the California Personality Inventory, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personal­ity Inventory, and the Rorschach test. When the women returned to secure their

personality profiles, they were given bogus feedback, designed momentarily to raise, lower, or leave unchanged their self-esteem. If women had been randomly assigned to the low-esteem condition, the analysis stressed their immaturity (e.g., "Although you have adopted certain superficial appearances of maturity to enable you to adjust temporarily to life situations, your basically immature drives re­main"). The analysis criticized their weak personalities, antisocial motives, lack of originality and flexibility, and limited capacity for successful leadership. Women were also told that they possessed an incapacity for openness in their dealings with other people, that their feelings of inadequacy in others' presence contributed to this lack of openness, since they undoubtedly felt it was necessary to cover up their weak points in order to gain social acceptance, and that this led them consistently to overestimate many of their own assets.

For those assigned to the high-esteem condition, the report stressed the great maturity and originality of the woman, her probable underestimation of her own attributes, and stated that she presented "one of the most favorable personality structures analyzed by the staff." She was sensitive to peers, possessed enormous personal integrity, and had a free outlook.

Women who had been assigned to the control condition were told that their tests had not yet been scored. Thus they received no feedback.

Then the experimenter left the room to retrieve the women's files. While she was out of the room, a handsome male graduate student entered the room. As he and the female subject awaited the return of the experimenter, they began to chat. The time and conversation stretched out and the graduate student eventually invited the woman to dinner and a movie the next weekend.

In later interviewing, women were asked their first impressions of the gradu­ate student. As predicted, the women whose self-esteem had been threatened were most attracted to the potential romantic partner. The author speculated that there might be two reasons why the low-self-esteem women were so receptive to a potential romantic partner: first, women with high self-esteem (who feel they have much to offer another) may feel that they, in turn, deserve a more attractive, more personable date than do women with low self-regard; second, when women's self-regard is threatened, they probably feel an increased need for the affection and regard of others. Thus an attractive, loving, and accepting man should arouse unusual passion. [Other theorists have also found a link between low self-esteem and passionate love. See Bartholomew & Horowitz (1991) and Jacobs, Berscheid, & Hatfield (1971).]

Of course, although people with low self-esteem may long for relationships, they sometimes end up sabotaging them once they appear (see Box 2.2).

She's all he's got now, and he's all she's got. Is that love? Maybe it is.

Clifford Irving

Dependency and Insecurity A number of theorists have observed that peo­ple who are dependent and insecure (or who are caught up in affairs that promote such feelings) are especially vulnerable to passionate love. Ellen Berscheid and her associates (Fei & Berscheid, 1977) have argued that passionate love, depen­dency, and insecurity are tightly linked. When people are passionately in love,


they are painfully aware of how dependent they are on those they love; depen­dency naturally breeds insecurity. In an ingenious study, Ellen Berscheid, William Graziano, Thomas Monson, and Marshall Dermer (1976) found clear evidence in support of these contentions. The authors invited college men and women, who

48        UHAMtKI

were not currently involved with anyone but who wished to be, to participate in a study of dating relationships. There was one catch, however. In order to partici­pate, students had to agree to turn their dating lives over to the experimenter for five weeks. They were warned that some of them (those in the high exclusiveness condition) would be assigned to date one person for the entire five weeks. Others (those in the low exclusiveness condition) would date that person and a few others. Still others (those in the zero exclusiveness condition) would be assigned to date a variety of people.

Finally, some of the participants had a chance to get acquainted with one of their dates. (They had a chance to watch him or her take part in a taped discussion of "dating problems on campus.") Sometimes, of course, they knew the date was the only person they would be dating; sometimes he or she was just one of many. In the control conditions, people knew they would not be dating anyone participat­ing in the videotaped conversation. After viewing the tape, participants were asked their first impressions of the discussants.

Students liked the discussants far more when they expected to date them later than when they did not. Furthermore, the more dependent students were on potential dates (i.e., those in the high exclusiveness group compared to those in the low and zero exclusiveness groups), the more they liked them.

An absence, the decline of a dinner invitation, an unintentional coldness, can accomplish more than all the cosmetics and beautiful dresses in the world.

Marcel Proust

Anxiety Numerous theorists beginning with Sigmund Freud (1953) have pro­posed that passionate love is fueled by anxiety and fear (Carlson, & Hatfield, 1992; Hatfield, 1971a,b; Hatfield & Rapson, 1987b). This makes sense; passionate love and anxiety are closely related both neuroanatomically and chemically (Kap­lan, 1979; Liebowitz, 1983).

Researchers have demonstrated that anxious individuals are especially prone to seek passionate love relationships (Peele, 1975; Solomon & Corbit, 1974). In a series of studies, Elaine Hatfield and her students (1989), for example, found that adolescents who were either momentarily or habitually anxious were especially vulnerable to passionate love. In one study, 41 boys and girls from 12 to 14 years of age, of Caucasian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and mixed ancestry, were asked to complete the Child Anxiety Scale (CAS), which measures how anxious teenag­ers are generally. (The CAS includes questions such as "Are you a good or bad child?" "Are you happy or sad?") Later, these same children completed the Juvenile Love Scale, a child's version of the Passionate Love Scale, which was described in Chapter 1. Children who were habitually anxious were most likely to have experienced passionate love. In a second study, 64 adolescent boys and girls, ranging in age from 13 to 16, were given the State—Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, which measures both state anxiety (how anxious children happen to feel at the moment) and trait anxiety (how anxious children generally are). Charles Spielberger and his colleagues (Spielberger, Gorsuch, & Lushene, 1970) defined anxiety as an unpleasant emotional state characterized by "feelings of tension, apprehension,  and  heightened  autonomic  nervous  system responses  such  as

sweating, heart palpitation, restlessness, and respiratory disturbance" (p. 3). Thus, in assessing state anxiety, children were asked to look at statements such as "I am tense," "I am jittery," or "I feel high-strung" and to indicate how they felt right now, at that moment. In assessing trait anxiety, children were asked to look at items like these: "I feel like crying," "I feel that difficulties are piling up so that I cannot overcome them," and "I lack self-confidence," and so indicate how they generally felt. Once again, adolescents who were either momentarily or habitually anxious were especially likely to have fallen passionately in love.

Happy people never make fantasies, only unsatisfied ones do.

Sigmund Freud Neediness    Dorothy Parker (1944, p. 180) observed:

Symptom Recital

I do not like my state of mind:

I'm bitter, querulous, unkind.

I hate my legs, I hate my hands,

I do not yearn for lovelier lands.

I dread the dawn's recurrent light;

I hate to go to bed at night.

I snoot at simple, earnest folk.

I cannot take the gentlest joke.

I find no peace in paint or type.

My world is but a lot of tripe.

I'm disillusioned, empty-breasted.

For what I think, I'd be arrested.

I am not sick, I am not well.

My quondam dreams are shot to hell.

My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;

I do not like me any more.

I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.

I ponder on the narrow house.

I shudder at the thought of men . . .

I'm due to fall in love again.

Social psychologists have found that the psychoanalysts and poets may well be right; acute deprivation does seem to set the stage for passionate love. With two colleagues (Stephan, Berscheid, & Hatfield, 1971) we tested this simple hypothe­sis: When we are sexually aroused, our minds wander, and pretty soon our dazzling fantasies lend sparkle to drab reality.

First, we contacted a number of college men. We identified ourselves as staff members of the Center for Student Life Studies and explained that the center was studying the dating practices of college students. We told each subject that we'd like to know how he felt about a blind date we had picked out for him. Would he participate? Most of the men said: "Sure." While the men sat around waiting to give their first impressions of their date-to-be, they whiled away the time by reading articles lying around the office. This material was carefully selected. One group of men was given fairly boring reading material, articles intended to keep

them cool and calm. The second group was given Playboy type material, designed to make them very "hot."

Finally, the interviewer appeared with the men's files. He showed them a picture of their date (a fairly attractive blond) and told them a little about her. (She seemed to be fairly intelligent, easy to get along with, active, and moderately liberal.) What did they think of her? Well, that depended on what the men had been reading.

We proposed that the unaroused men should be fairly objective. Their fantasy life should be in "low gear" and it should be easy for them to assess the women fairly accurately. The aroused men should have a harder time of it; the luster of their daydreams should keep rubbing off on their dates-to-be. When men were feeling sexy, they should have a greater tendency to see women as sex objects. Hence they should tend to exaggerate two of their date's traits—her sexual desirability and her sexual receptivity. We found that we were right. As predicted, the more aroused the men, the more beautiful they thought their date. In addition, the more aroused, the more likely they were to assume that their dates would be sexually receptive. Unaroused men judged their date-to-be as a fairly nice girl. Aroused men suspected that she was probably "amorous," "immoral," "promis­cuous," "willing," "unwholesome," and "uninhibited."

The Flowering of Passionate Love

We once saw an elderly client, a musician who had played the viola with one of the major symphonies of the world. He entered therapy because he yearned to experience passionate love just one time more before he died. He wanted to feel that rush of exultation, that yearning, the hunger for another person, a sense of complete union, one more time. Alas, there is no way to produce the dizzying ecstasy of passionate love on demand.

The previous sections, dealing with the roots of love, have painted a some­what dismal picture. We have focused on the bruised self-esteem, the depen­dence, and the insecurity that make people hunger for love. In this coda, however, we want to establish a balance. The blooms of love give off a rich bouquet of perfumes.

Moments of Exultation When love is realized, lovers may experience mo­ments of passionate bliss, moments that are epiphanies. It was this feeling that our elderly client longed to experience yet again. Dante Alighieri first saw Beatrice in 1274 a.d., when he was nine years old and she eight. This was his reaction:

Her dress, on that day, was of a most noble color, a subdued and goodly crimson, girdled and adorned in such sort as best suited with her very tender age. At that moment, I say most truly that the spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart, began to tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and in trembling it said these words: "Here is a deity stronger than I; who, coming, shall rule over me." At that moment the animate spirit, which dwelleth in the lofty chamber whither all the senses carry their perceptions, was filled with wonder. . . .

I say that, from that time forward, Love quite governed my soul. (1964, p. 178)

Beatrice married someone else when she was 18 and died a few years later. Dante remained passionately in love with her for the rest of his long life; he dedicated all his writing to her. Several researchers have documented that when we are passionately in love we see the world through rose-colored glasses (Hen-drick & Hendrick, 1988).

[In passionate love] Vanity in a merely personal sense exists no longer. The lover takes a perilous pleasure in displaying his weak points and having them, one after another, accepted and condoned. He wishes to he assured that he is not loved for this or that good quality, but for himself, or something as like himself as he can contrive to set forward.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Feeling Understood and Accepted When men and women are loved, they sometimes feel fully understood, loved, and accepted for the first time. As Laurie Colwin (1981, p. 25) observed:

Love, in its initial stages, takes care of everything. Love transforms a difficult person into a charming eccentric; points of contention into charming divergences. It doesn't matter that popular songs are full of warnings—songs like "Danger, Heartbreak Dead Ahead" are written and sung for those who have no intention of doing anything but dancing to them. And while lovers do almost nothing but reveal themselves, who notices?

Novelist Vivian Gornick (1987) was passionately involved with Joe Durbin, a labor organizer. One day Joe's charming, endless, meaningless chatter over­whelmed her. She felt unbearably lonely and isolated:

"Oh, stop!" I cried. "Please stop. Stop!"

Joe's mouth closed in the middle of a sentence. His head pulled back. His eyes searched mine. "What is it, darling?" he said. He'd never heard me sound this note before.

"Listen to me," I pleaded, "just listen to me." He nodded at me, not taking his eyes from mine. "You don't know me at all," I said. "You think I'm this hot-shot loud-mouthed liberated woman, as brash and self-confident as you, ready to walk across the world just like you, and that's not who I am at all. It's making me lonely now to make love with you, and you not know what my life is about." He nodded again.

I told him then how I had hungered for a life like his but that I hadn't ever had it, that I'd always felt marginal, buried alive in obscurity, and that all the talk I manufactured couldn't dissolve out the isolation. I told him how sometimes I wake spontaneously in the night and I sit up in bed and I'm alone in the middle of the world. "Where is everybody?" I say out loud, and I have to calm myself with "Mama's in Chelsea, Marilyn's on Seventy-third Street, my brother's in Baltimore." The list, I told him, is pathetic.

I talked and talked. On and on I went, without pause or interruption. When I stopped I felt relieved (alone now but not lonely) and, very quickly, embarrassed. He was so silent. Oh, I thought, what a fool you are to have said these things. He doesn't like any of this, not a bit of it, he doesn't even know what you're talking about. Then Joe said, "Darling, what a rich inner life you have." My eyes widened. I took in the words. I laughed with delight! That he had such a sentence in him! That he had spoken the sentence he had in him. I loved him then. For the first time I loved him. (pp. 170-171)

Love you? I am you. Charles Williams

Sharing a Sense of Union In the fifth century B.C., in the Symposium, Plato offered a wry theory about the origins of love. Originally, he contended, humanity was divided into three kinds of people: men/men, women/women, and the an­drogynous—a union of the two. Human beings were round: their backs and sides formed a circle. They had one head with two faces (always looking in opposite directions), four ears, four hands, four feet, and two privy members. They could walk upright and go backward or forward, as they pleased. Or they could roll over at a great pace, turning nimbly on their four hands and four feet like tumblers.

Eventually, the gods and humanity came into conflict. To punish them for their arrogance, the gods cut the men, women, and androgynous beings into two parts, "like a Sorb-apple which is halved for pickling." Since the division, the cleft parts have wandered the earth, each searching for its lost half. In the Platonic scheme, the halves of the once-complete men became "the best of the lot." These men were valiant and manly; they embraced that which was like themselves (other men). The androgynous halves also continued to seek their cleft portion: the men became lovers of women while the women became "adulterous women" who lusted after men. Finally, the halves of the once-complete women continued to seek their lost selves; they yearned for lesbian attachments. Thus humanity is always longing for completion—yearning to meld with another person. This then is the nature of love according to Plato: two deficient beings made whole by union with the other.

Literature echoes the Platonic theme: in love we long to merge with our lost selves. For example, in Emily Bronte's (1847/1976) Wuthering Heights, Cathy pours out her heart to her nurse Nelly. She explains that she loves Heathcliff:

It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. . . .

I cannot express it; but surely you and every body have a notion that there is, or should be, an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and, if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. . . . Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he's always, always in my mind—not as pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself—but, as my own being—so, don't talk of our separation again, (pp. 100-102)

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, in their love letters written before their marriage, referred to themselves as WE—the W standing for Wallis and the E for Edward. Sometimes our clients think of us as one. They often call us Dick-andelaine. This is especially unsettling when only one of us is at the session: "Well, Dickandelaine, it was like this."

Feeling Secure and Safe Lovers may feel safe and secure when they are with someone they love.

In Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936), Ashley Wilkes hears that his wife Melanie is dying and finally expresses his love for and dependence on his wife to Scarlett O'Hara.

His eyes search her intently, hunting, hunting desperately for something he did not find. Finally he spoke and his voice was not his own.

"I was wanting you," he said. "I was going to run and find you—run like a child wanting comfort—and I find a child, more frightened, running to me."

"Not you—you can't be frightened," she cried. "Nothing has ever frightened you. But I—You've always been so strong—"

"If I've ever been strong, it was because she was behind me," he said, his voice breaking and he looked down at the glove and smoothed the fingers. "And—and—all the strength I ever had is going with her."

"Why—" she said slowly, "why, Ashley, you love her, don't you?"

"She is the only dream I ever had that lived and breathed and did not die in the face of reality." (pp. 1013-1014)

Of course, Scarlett is stunned to discover that Ashley loved Melanie, who provided security and safety, more than he loved her own passionate nature.

Transcendence When people fall in love they sometimes are able to transcend their former limitations. For example, poet Elizabeth Barrett was dominated by her selfish and jealous father; she was a recluse and an invalid. When she fell in love with Robert Browning, she was transformed into a vibrant, energetic woman. She and Robert eloped, fleeing a damp, gray England to sunny, flowering Italy. They lived there for 15 years until Elizabeth died in her husband's arms.

In summary: When passionate love is realized, it is often an idyllic experi­ence—allowing a person to feel understood and accepted, safe, and exultant. Of course, love does not always go well. Love may be unrequited or end badly. (We discuss these realities at greater length in Chapter 14, Endings.)

Now that we have reviewed what evolutionary theorists have learned about the evolutionary underpinnings of love, let us turn to what social psychologists have learned about the nature of modern-day passionate love.


Earlier, we defined passionate love as:

A state of intense longing for union with another. Passionate love is a complex func­tional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, action tendencies, and instrumental behaviors. Reciprocated love (union with the other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy. Unrequited love (separation) with emptiness, anxiety, or despair.

Let us now review what social psychologists know about the various com­ponents of love—the subjective experiences, the central, autonomic, and so­matic nervous system reactions, and the behavioral expressions of this bitter­sweet emotion.

The Cognitive Contribution

For centuries, writers, artists, and philosophers have bitterly disagreed over the nature of love. In recent research, Philip Shaver, Shelley Wu, and Judith Schwartz (1991) interviewed young people in America, Italy, and the People's Republic of China about their emotional experiences. In all cultures, men and women identi­fied the same emotions as basic or prototypic emotions. These were joy/happiness, love/attraction, fear, anger/hate, and sadness/depression. They also agreed com­pletely as to whether the various emotions should be labeled as positive experi­ences (such as joy) or negative ones (such as fear, anger, or sadness). They agreed completely, that is, except about one emotion—love. American and Italian sub­jects tended to equate love with happiness; both passionate and companionate love were assumed to be intensely positive experiences. American films, in which couples fall in love and live "happily ever after," seem to promote this benign view of love. For example, in the musical Singin' in the Rain, Gene Kelly fell head-over-heels in love with Debbie Reynolds. After he declares his love for her, his exuber­ant joy as he splashes through a downpour reminds us of the heedless delights of passion.

Chinese students, however, had a darker view of love. In Chinese there are few "happy-love" words. Love is associated with sadness. Chinese men and women associated passionate love with such ideographs (words) as infatuation, unrequited love, nostalgia, and sorrow love. Interestingly enough, the equating of love with sadness seems to be an ancient Eastern tradition. For example, in Five Women Who Loved (Saikaku, 1686/1956), a collection of love stories from seven­teenth century Japan, almost all the love affairs ended sadly. For the heroines, impetuous passion led almost inevitably to ruin—to the suicide or the execution of the lovers. Shaver's students from the East and West never did come to an agreement as to the nature of love. Each cultural group continued to regard one another's visions of love as "unrealistic."

Despite its glories, romantic love is notorious for . . . the pain and suffering

that accompany it.

Ethel Person

In this text, we take a complex view of the nature of passionate love. We would argue that passionate love is a mixed blessing. As the definition of love indicates, passionate love sometimes is a joyously exciting experience, sparked by wondrous fantasies and rewarding encounters with the loved one. But that is only part of the story. Passionate love is like any other form of excitement. By its very nature, excitement involves a continuous interplay between elation and despair, thrills and terror. Think, for example, of the mixed and rushed feelings that novice skiers experience. Their hearts begin to pound as they wait to lurch onto the ski lift. Once they realize they have made it, they are elated. On the easy ride to the top, they are still a bit unnerved. Their hands shake and their knees tremble, but they slowly begin to relax. Moments later they look ahead and realize it is time to push off the lift. The landing looks icy and steep. Their rush quickly turns to panic. They can't turn back. They struggle to get their feelings under control. They jump off the lift, elated and panicky—it is hard to tell which. Then they start to

ski downhill, experiencing as they go a wild jumble of powerful emotions. Eventu­ally, they arrive at the bottom of the hill, elated, relieved. Perhaps they feel like crying. Sometimes, they are so tired they are flooded with waves of depression. Usually, they get up, ready to try again. Passionate lovers experience the same roller-coaster of feelings—euphoria, happiness, vulnerability, anxiety, panic, de­spair. The risks of love merely add fuel to the fire.

Sometimes men and women become entangled in love affairs where the delight is brief, and pain, uncertainty, jealousy, misery, anxiety, and despair are abundant. Recent social psychological research makes it clear that passionate love, which thrives on excitement, is linked to a variety of strong emotions—both positive and negative.

Michael Liebowitz (1983), in The Chemistry of Love, provided a quasi-poetical description of the mixed nature of passionate love:

Love and romance seem to be one, if not the most powerful activator of our pleasure centers. . . . Both tend to be very exciting emotionally. Being with the person or even just thinking of him or her is highly stimulating. . . . Love is, by definition, the strongest positive feeling we can have. Other things—stimulant drugs, passionate causes, manic states—can induce powerful changes in our brains, but none so reliably, so enduringly, or so delightfully as that "right" other person. ... If the relationship is not established or is uncertain, anxiety or other displeasure centers may be quite active as well, producing a situation of great emotional turmoil as the lover swings between hope and torment, (pp. 48-49)

We discuss some of his work on the chemistry of love later in this chapter.

Dorothy Tennov (1979) interviewed more than 500 lovers. Almost all of them took it for granted that passionate love (which Tennov labeled "limerence") is a bittersweet experience. One respondent, Philip, a 28-year-old truck driver, de­scribed his feelings this way:

I'd be jumpy out of my head. It was like what you might call stage fright, like going up in front of an audience. My hand would be shaking when I rang the doorbell. When I called her on the phone I felt like I could hear the pulse in my temple louder than the ringing of the phone, and I'd get into such a panic listening to the ring and expecting Nelly's voice at the other end that I'd have a moment of relief if no one answered. And when she did answer, I wouldn't know what to say even if I'd gone over the whole thing in my head beforehand. And then whatever I did say never seemed to come out right, (p. 49)

Ruth described her feelings this way:

Love is irrational. Whether you call it a mental illness or sublime spirituality, you behave in love in ways that do not represent your own true best interests, ways that deflect from the goals you've built your life around, even if the deflection is slight, even if it is easily rationalized and even when it is disguised as beauty or experienced as ecstasy.

How can I say that my seemingly interminable passion for Eric, a 15-year obses­sion, was reasonable? Consider the 30,000 hours—I actually calculated my estimation, and that's a conservative figure—I spent going over every word he said, every gesture, every letter he wrote, when I might have been reading, or learning a foreign language, or enjoying the company of others. Instead, I was caught in a merry-go-round of

wondering how he felt, wishing he would call, anticipating our next time together, or endlessly searching in my recollections of his behavior and my convoluted reconstruc­tion of the possible reasons for his actions for the shreds of hope on which my madness fed. (p. 105)

The obsessive love of Adele Hugo (novelist Victor Hugo's daughter) drove her to madness. In her teens she fell in love with a soldier. She followed him from posting to posting. When she was on her deathbed he finally agreed to meet this mad beauty who had tracked him so relentlessly. . . . She could not even recognize her beloved. (Somehow she thought that he was taller.) It is clear then that the term passionate love well covers any intense longing for union with another, whether one's love is reciprocated (and thus a source of fulfillment and ecstasy) or unrequited, even uncertain (and thus a source of emptiness, anxiety, or despair).

The Biological Contribution

Since antiquity, researchers have been developing methods to detect "lovesick-ness." Consider this report, written in the second century by Appian of Alexan­dria:

At the beginning of the third century, B.C., Seleucus, one of Alexander's generals and among the ablest of his successors, married a woman named Stratonice. Antiochus, his son by a previous marriage, had the misfortune to fall in love with his new stepmother. Recognizing the illicit character of his love, and the hopelessness of its consummation, Antiochus resolves not to show his feelings. Instead, he falls sick and strives his hardest to die.

We may be sure that many doctors attended the young prince, but to no avail it seems, until the celebrated Greek physician Erasistratos concludes that, in the absence of bodily disease, the boy's malady must stem from some affliction of the mind, "through which the body is often strengthened or weakened by sympathy." (Reported in Mesulam & Perry, 1972, pp. 546-547)

The physician spent several days in Antiochus' chamber, studying the comings and goings of the court. Each time a visitor came by, Erasistratos studied Antio­chus' physiological reactions. Only one person produced a strong reaction in Antiochus—his new stepmother Stratonice. Each time she came to see him "lo, those tell-tale-signs of which Sappho sings were all there in him—stammering speech, fiery flashes, darkened vision, sudden sweats, irregular palpitations of the heart, and finally, as his soul was taken by storm, helplessness, stupor, and pallor" (Plutarch, first century a.d.), reported in Mesulam & Perry (1972, p. 547). On the physician's advice, Seleucus divorced his bride Stratonice so his son Antiochus could marry her; thus his son's life was saved.

Recently, psychologists have assembled information from neuroanatomical and neurophysiological investigations, ablation experiments, pharmacologic ex­plorations, clinical investigations, and behavioral research as to the social psycho-physiology of passion. These authors document that the observations of the an­cients are, in part, correct. Passionate love does produce the skeletal-muscular and autonomic nervous system reactions Plutarch described. Their research also documents the contention that passionate love is indeed a complex phenomenon (Hatfield & Rapson, 1987; Kaplan, 1979; Liebowitz, 1983).

The Anatomy of Love In Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (1924/1969), Hans Castorp described his complicated emotional reaction to Clavdia Chauchat:

In each hour of his diminished day he had thought of her: her mouth, her cheek-bones, her eyes, whose colour, shape, and position bit into his very soul; her drooping back, the posture of her head, her cervical vertebra above the rounding of her blouse, her arms enhanced by their thin gauze covering. Possessed of these thoughts, his hours had sped on soundless feet. . . . Yes, he felt both terror and dread; he felt a vague and boundless, utterly mad and extravagant anticipation, a nameless anguish of joy which at times so oppressed the young man's heart, his actual and corporeal heart, that he would lay one hand in the neighourhood of that organ, while he carried the other to his brow and held it like a shield before his eyes, whispering: "Oh, my God!" (p. 206)

Psychiatrist Helen Singer Kaplan (1979) has explored the anatomy of passion­ate love and sexual desire. Cognitive factors have a profound impact on sexual desire. Thus the cortex (that part of the brain that analyzes complex perceptions and stores and retrieves memories) has extensive neural connections with the sex center.

The brain's passionate love/sex center is located within the limbic system. (The limbic system is located in the limbus or rim of the brain.) Even in primitive vertebrates, this system is the emotional control center. In humans, this archaic system remains essentially unchanged. It is here that the most powerful emotions are generated, powerfully driving behavior. Kaplan points out that the limbic system contains both activating and inhibitory centers; it is tightly tied into the pleasure and pain centers of the brain. All sexual behavior is shaped by the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Passionate love and sexual desire, she argues, generate endorphins (chemicals that resemble morphine, causing eupho­ria and alleviating pain), which stimulate the pleasure centers. The result: ecstasy. Sexual desire may also stimulate the pain centers. If a person's romantic partners or sexual experiences are associated with too much pain, they will cease to evoke sexual desire.

It is not possible to disentangle the different emotions, the pride, humility,

pity, and passion, which are excited by a look of happy love or an unexpected


Robert Louis Stevenson

The Chemistry of Love Researchers are beginning to learn more about the chemistry of passionate love and an array of related emotions. They are also learning more about the way that various emotions, positive and negative, inter­act. Psychiatrist Michael Liebowitz (1983) has been the most willing to speculate about the chemistry of love. He argues that passionate love brings on a giddy feeling, comparable to an amphetamine high. It is phenylethylamine (PEA), an amphetamine-related compound, that produces the mood-lifting and energizing effects of romantic love. He observes that "love addicts" and drug addicts have a great deal in common: The craving for romance is merely the craving for a particular kind of high. The fact that most romances lose some of their intensity with time may well be due to normal biological processes. The crash that follows a breakup may be much like amphetamine withdrawal. Liebowitz also offers some

speculations about the chemistry of the emotions that crisscross the consciousness of lovers as they swirl from the giddy peaks to the gloomy depths of their passions. The "highs" include euphoria, excitement, relaxation, spiritual feelings, and re­lief. The "lows" include anxiety, terrifying panic attacks, the pain of separation, and the fear of punishment. In excitement, naturally occurring brain chemicals, similar to stimulants (such as amphetamine and cocaine), produce the rush that lovers feel. In relaxation, chemicals related to the narcotics (such as heroin, opium, and morphine), tranquilizers, sedatives, or alcohol, and marijuana produce a mellow state and wipe out anxiety, loneliness, panic attacks, and depression. In spiritual peak experiences, chemicals similar to the psychedelics produce a sense of beauty, meaningfulness, and timelessness. The painful feelings of separation anxiety, panic attacks, or depression may be produced in two ways: by the produc­tion of chemicals that produce anxiety, pain, or depression; or by withdrawal from the chemicals that produce the highs. Researchers do not yet know if Liebowitz's speculations on the chemistry of passionate love are correct.

Kaplan (1979) provides some information as to the chemistry of sexual desire. Dopamine (a neurotransmitter) and testosterone (the major libido hormone) stim­ulate sexual desire. Serotonin or 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine) inhibits sexual de­sire. Kaplan observes:

When we are in love, libido is high. Every contact is sensuous, thoughts turn to Eros, and the sexual reflexes work rapidly and well. The presence of the beloved is an aphrodisiac; the smell, sight, sound, and touch of the lover—especially when he/she is excited—are powerful stimuli to sexual desire. In physiologic terms, this may exert a direct physical effect on the neurophysiologic system in the brain which regulates sexual desire. . . . But again, there is no sexual stimulant so powerful, even love, that it cannot be inhibited by fear and pain. (p. 14)

Finally, although passionate love and the related emotions we have described may be associated with specific chemical neurotransmitters or with chemicals that increase/decrease the sensitivity of receptors in the brain, most emotions possess more similarities than differences. Chemically, intense emotions do have much in common. Kaplan reminds us that chemically, love, joy, sexual desire, and excite­ment, as well as anger, fear, jealousy, and hate, are all intensely arousing. They all produce an autonomic nervous system sympathetic response. This is evidenced by the symptoms associated with all these emotions—a flushed face, sweaty palms, weak knees, butterflies in the stomach, dizziness, a pounding heart, trem­bling hands, and accelerated breathing. The exact pattern of reaction varies from person to person (Lacey & Lacey, 1970).

Comedy and tragedy grow on the same tree. A change of lighting suffices to

make one the other.


Why Is Passionate Love So Passionate? The Cross-Magnification Process Passionate love, as we have seen, is associated with a variety of emo­tions, pleasurable and painful. Elaine Hatfield (Carlson & Hatfield, 1992) goes on to argue that such emotional mixtures produce the most intense explosions of feeling.

Logically, when people are exposed to a variety of emotional stimuli, their emotions could interact in three different ways. First, sometimes people are able to identify the ebb and flow of their separate emotions. In such cases, they experience a series of distinct emotions, or emotional blends. (This year, Dick and I took a wonderful walking tour of the Cotswolds. We went to small towns with such names as Chipping-Camden, Folly, Plush, and Midsummer Norton. We separated in London and proceeded on to different conferences, half a world apart. In the following week, we were aware that most of the time we were still delighting in the excitement of the psychology and history meetings and our holiday. When we paused for a moment, however, we were both aware that "deep down," we felt sad and like crying. We missed each other; we were sorry that our holiday was at an end; painfully aware that we would not always be able to enjoy the minds of our aging friends and the beauty of the Cotswolds.) Second, sometimes incompatible emotions may "cancel" one another out. (For example, teenagers, who don't really know whether they should be frightened or angry in a threatening situation, sometimes report that they just feel numb.) Finally, peo­ple most often experience emotional cross-magnification. Passionate love, for in­stance, may actually be intensified by the shyness, anxiety, jealousy, or anger the other sparks in us. It is easy to identify such instances of emotional spillover in our daily lives. When we have been frenetically rushing around all day, we often end up snapping at a friend over some trifle. What would normally be slight irritation has exploded into rage; we have to remind ourselves (or he reminded) to "settle down." Or we trip on the threadbare carpet and catch ourselves just in time from hurtling down the stairs. We dissolve in a fit of giggles. What's so funny about almost being killed? Our sense of the absurd has been magnified by our fear and relief. Elaine Hatfield (Carlson & Hatfield, 1992) argued that in life such emo­tional spillover effects can have powerful consequences. Most intense emotional experiences involve such blends of emotions. This may not be pure coincidence. Perhaps emotions (especially positive emotions) have a better chance to rise to a fever pitch when several emotional units are activated. Love may be more intense than usual when it is fueled by ecstasy and jealousy, insecurity and fear of loss. The death of a mate may be especially hard to bear when combined with guilt about the way we treated the deceased. Add grief and anger at the loss to that guilt, and the darkness deepens. Mixtures of emotions most certainly can fuel passion.

Kisses made more passionate by remorse. Lawrence Durrell

Evidence that Both Pleasure and Pain May Fuel Passion Passionate love is a risky affair. Success sparks delight, failure invites despair. We get some indica­tion of the strength of our passion by noting the intensity of our delight and despair. Trying to dissect the causes of our passionate feelings nonetheless poses difficulties. Are you high because a potential mate is ideal for you? Because the timing is right? Because it is the first day of spring? To what extent is your lover's coolness responsible for your misery? Do you feel so badly because you are lonely? Simply timid about going off on your own? Are you just generally "low"? What-

ever the real reasons, there is an abundance of evidence to support the contention that, under the right conditions, a variety of intensely positive experiences, in­tensely negative ones, or neutral but energizing experiences can add to the passion of passion.

7 believe myself that romantic love is the source of the most intense delights

that life has to offer.

Bertrand Russell

Passion and the Positive Emotions Our definition of love stated that "recip­rocated love (union with the other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy." No one doubts that love is such a "high," that the joys of love generally spill over and add sparkle to everything else in life. What has been of interest to psychologists is the converse of this proposition: That the adrenalin associated with a wide variety of highs can spill over and make passionate love more passionate. (Hence we see a sort of "better loving through chemistry" phenomenon.)

A number of carefully crafted studies make it clear that a variety of positive emotions—amusement (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981), erotic excitement (Istvan & Griffitt, 1978; Stephan et al, 1971), or general excitement (Zuckerman, 1979)—all can intensify passion. In one investigation, for example, Joseph Istvan, William Griffitt, and Gerdi Weidner (1983) aroused men by showing them sexy pictures. Other men viewed nonarousing, neutral fare. The two groups were then asked to evaluate the appeal of some beautiful and some unattractive women. When the women were pretty, the aroused men rated them as more attractive than the other men did. When the women were unattractive, they rated them as less attractive than the others did. Evidently, the sexual arousal of these men spilled over and intensified whatever it was they would normally have felt for the woman, for good or ill. Similarly, sexually aroused women found handsome men unusually appealing, and homely men less appealing, than usual.

And anyway, who could recount, without convincing herself of madness, the true degrees of love? Those endless discussions on that endless theme, the trembling, the waiting, the anguish when he left the room for a moment . . . the terror that each time he left my sight he would die?

Margaret Drabble

Passion and the Negative Emotions In defining passionate love, we also observed that "unrequited love (separation) is associated with emptiness, anxiety, or despair." The world has noted that the failure to acquire or sustain love is an extraordinarily painful experience. Quentin Crisp warned: "One should always be wary of someone who promises that their love will last longer than a weekend." Coco Chanel counseled: "Jump out the window if you are the object of passion. Flee it if you feel it. Passion goes, boredom remains." Psychologists, along with most writers, report the panic, loneliness, and eventual despair that people feel when they are separated from those they love (Peplau & Perlman, 1982).

By now, psychologists have amassed considerable evidence for the proposition that people are especially vulnerable to love when their lives are turbulent. A variety of negative experiences have been found to deepen desire. For example, Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron (1974), in a duo of studies, discovered a close link

between fear and sexual attraction. In one experiment, they compared reactions of men who crossed one of two bridges in North Vancouver, Canada. The first bridge, the Capilano Canyon suspension bridge, was a 450-foot-long span that pitched, reeled, and wobbled over a precipitous drop to the rocks and shallow rapids below. The other bridge was a solid, safe cement structure. As each young man crossed one of the bridges, a good-looking college woman approached him. She explained that she was doing a class project and asked if he would fill out a questionnaire concerning his attitudes toward conservation. When the man had finished, she offered to explain her project in greater detail. She scribbled her telephone number on a scrap of paper, so he could call her if he wanted more information. Which men called? Nine of the 33 men on the suspension bridge called her; only two of the men on the solid bridge called.

This single study can be interpreted several ways. Perhaps the men who called, after making it across the precarious Capilano bridge, really were inter­ested in ecology rather than sex. Perhaps it was not fear but relief at having survived the heights that stimulated their desire (Kendrick & Cialdini, 1977). It is always possible to find alternative explanations for any single study. But by now there is a great deal of experimental and correlational evidence for the intriguing contention that, under the right conditions, a variety of awkward and painful experiences—anxiety and fear (Brehm, Gatz, Goethals, McCrimmon, & Ward, 1978; Dienstbier, 1978; Hoon, Wincze, & Hoon, 1977; Riordon & Tedeschi, 1983), embarrassment (Byrne, Przybyla, & Infantino, 1981), the discomfort of seeing others involved in conflict (Dutton, 1979), jealousy (Clanton & Smith, 1987), loneliness (Peplau & Perlman, 1982), anger (Barclay, 1969; Driscoll, Davis, & Lipetz, 1972), horror (White et al., 1981), or even grief—can deepen passion.

I hate and I love. I feel both . . . and I am in agony. Quintus Valerius Catullus

Love and Hate Writers and artists have long been aware of the shadowy boundary between love and hate. In Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham (1915/1953, p. 159) expressed well this curious blend of conflicting emotions:

When he lay in bed it seemed impossible that he should be in love with Mildred Rogers. Her name was grotesque. He did not think her pretty; he hated the thinness of her, only that evening he had noticed how the bones of her chest stood out in evening-dress; he went over her features one by one; he did not like her mouth, and the unhealthiness of her colour vaguely repelled him. She was common. Her phrases, so bald and few, constantly repeated, showed the emptiness of her mind; he recalled her vulgar little laugh at the jokes of the musical comedy; and he remembered the little finger carefully extended when she held her glass to her mouth; her manners like her conversation, were odiously genteel. He remembered her insolence; sometimes he had felt inclined to box her ears; and suddenly, he knew not why, perhaps it was the thought of hitting her or the recollection of her tiny, beautiful ears, he was seized by an uprush of emotion. He yearned for her. He thought of taking her in his arms, the thin, fragile body, and kissing her pale mouth: he wanted to pass his fingers down the slightly greenish cheeks. He wanted her.

Forty years ago, Theodor Reik (1949) noted that people are often fatally attracted to those who are kindest and cruelest to them. Let us consider just one

example. Many years ago, one scientist (Fisher, 1955), in a study using puppies, systematically varied how he treated the young animals. He treated two groups of puppies very consistently: He always responded to some of the pups with love and kindness; he always punished some of the pups any time they dared to approach him. A third group of puppies was treated in a very inconsistent way: sometimes they were cuddled and petted; other times, for no reason at all, they were punished. The results of this study were rather surprising. As it turned out, the puppies treated inconsistently were most attracted to, and most dependent on, their trainer. This finding, and numerous others, suggests that ambivalence is a potent fuel for passion. Consistency generates little emotion; it is inconsistency to which we respond. If a person always treats us with love and respect, we may start to take him for granted. Similarly, if a person is always cold and rejecting, we eventually tend to disregard his criticisms. Again, we know what to expect. What does generate a spark of interest, however, is if our admiring friend started treating us with contempt or if our arch enemy started inundating us with kindness.

The evidence then suggests that various states of arousal can spill over and influence one another. Adrenalin makes the heart grow fonder. Although most people assume that we love the people we do in spite of the suffering they cause us, it may be that, in part, we love them because of the pain they cause. Love seems to flourish when it is nurtured by a torrent of good experiences, and a sprinkling of unsettling, irritating, and even painful ones.

Passion and Emotionally Neutral Arousal Research indicates that passion can even be stirred by excitation transfer from such emotionally neutral but physically arousing experiences as riding an exercise bicycle (Cantor, Zillman, & Bryant, 1975) or jogging (White et al., 1981). In one experiment (White et al., 1981), some men (those in the high arousal group) were required to engage in strenuous physical exercise; they ran in place for two minutes. Other men (those in the low arousal group) ran in place for only 15 seconds. In and of itself, the exercise did not affect the men's moods; it did, however, affect their levels of arousal.

The men then watched a videotaped interview, which included a woman they expected soon to meet. Half of the time the woman was attractive; half of the time she was not. After the interview, the men were asked to give their first impression of the woman and to estimate her attractiveness and sexiness. They also indicated how attracted they felt to her and the extent to which they wanted to kiss her and to date her. The authors proposed that exertion-induced arousal would intensify the men's reactions to the women. And they found just that. If the woman was beautiful, the men who were aroused via exertion judged her to be unusually appealing. If she was homely, the men who were aroused via exertion judged her to be unusually unappealing. The effect of arousal then was to intensify a person's usual reactions to others. Arousal enhanced the appeal of the pretty woman as much as it impaired the appeal of the homely one. [See Zillman (1984) for a review of this research on excitation transfer. ]

The Behavioral Contribution

People who are besotted with love sometimes devise secret little tests to see if they are loved. Judith Katz (1976) points out that people use several kinds of clues in

deciding how their beloved feels about them. (1) Did he say he loved her, cook her a special dinner, or give her a present without being prompted? If I have to ask, most people feel, it "doesn't count." The intention to please is seen as more important than the gift. (If a secretary picked up the gift, once again it "doesn't count.") (2) Was the action appropriate and timely? If your mate asks you to dinner when you have just signed up for a diet program, that doesn't make it either. (3) Did she sacrifice herself to please you? The more she sacrificed, the more loving she is seen to be. One way people decide if they are loved is to consider the intentions of the other.

Lovers can also analyze the behavior of their beloved. There is no doubt that love leads people to act in ways that are a "tip-off" to their feelings. Some signs of love are blatant. Lovers kiss, hold hands, and embrace (Guerrero & Andersen, 1991; Lockard & Adams, 1980). But there are also more subtle signs that people are passionately in love.

Eye Contact When people are caught up in conversation, they gaze at one another for short periods. One British scientist, Michael Argyle (1967), found that people caught up in conversation look at one another only 30 to 60% of the time. When we love someone, however, we gaze into his or her eyes far more often than that. We may try to catch their eye, even when we are across the room, just for a moment so that, with an almost imperceptible smile, we can share some secret amusement ... or irritation (Morris, 1977; Rubin, 1970).

One's "Inclination" Toward Another Sir Francis Galton (1884), a Victo­rian psychologist, became fascinated by the realization that he could ferret out his friend's most secret desires, without that other realizing it. Galton conceived of a number of schemes for invading privacy, for detecting who was secretly in love with whom. Luckily, he got distracted from putting his schemes into practice. He believed that posture provided clues; we tend to lean toward someone we like and away from someone we dislike. He observed:

When two persons have an "inclination" to one another, they visibly incline or slope together when sitting side by side, as at a dinner table, and they then throw the stress of their weights on the near legs of their chairs. It does not require much ingenuity to arrange a pressure gauge with an index and dial to indicate changes in stress, but it is difficult to devise an arrangement that shall fulfill the three-fold condition of being effective, not attracting notice, and being applicable to ordinary furniture. I made some rude experiments, but being busy with other matters, have not carried them on, as I had hoped, (p. 184)

Contemporary researchers support Galton's postural hypothesis (Mehrabian, 1968).

The Distance One Stands from Another Researchers find that the more we care for someone, the closer we tend to stand. Donn Byrne and his colleagues (1970) demonstrated that standing distance can serve as a useful index of romantic attraction. He introduced men and women students to each other and then sent the couples on a 30-minute "blind" coffee date. Eventually, the couples wandered back to the experimental office. As they checked in, the psychologist unobtrusively

recorded how close to one another they were standing. The more the couple liked one another, the closer together they stood.

The preceding studies thus demonstrate that when people love one another they try to get close in a variety of little ways. Sometimes the desire to get close is not so subtle. In the case with which we began this chapter, John Hinckley stalked Jodie Foster to her classes, dorms, and in the streets. Jealous men and women sometimes camp outside their loved one's house or, more ominously, their rival's apartment. . . aching for a look at the other. Love leads to a desire (literally) to get close.

And vice versa. An odd corollary sometimes takes place as well. If people are forced to act as if they are in love—if they are induced to exchange a mutual unbroken gaze for two minutes with a stranger of the opposite sex, or to recite loving words, or to imitate loving sounds (Hatfield, Costello, Schalekamp, Den-ney, & Hsee, in press), or to stand close to a stranger, for example—their ro­mantic attraction to this new person may be piqued. Let us consider two of these experiments.

Joan Kellerman, James Lewis, and James Laird (1989) investigated the link between love and feedback from expressions of love. The authors observed that "only people in love exchange those long, unbroken, close-up gazes" (p. 145). [We are reminded of the line from the Rodgers and Hammerstein (1943) musical Oklahoma: "Don't sigh and gaze at me . . . people will say we're in love."] To test the notion that love would follow gaze, they asked some men and women to gaze into one another's eyes continuously for two minutes; then they asked them how romantically they felt about one another. How did experimental subjects' feelings compare to the feelings of couples in the control conditions? (The authors devised three kinds of control conditions. In one, a subject gazed into the other's eyes, but the other looked away. In another, both subjects gazed at one another's hands. In yet another, subjects gazed into one another's eyes—but only in order to count how often the other was blinking!) As predicted, the mutual gaze subjects re­ported greater feelings of romantic love, attraction, interest, warmth, and respect for one another than did control condition subjects. In a second experiment, the authors found that passionate and romantic feelings were most powerfully stimu­lated if the subjects were required to gaze at one another in a romantic setting, one in which the room was dimly lit and romantic music played softly in the background.

Love ceases to be a pleasure when it ceases to be a secret.

Mrs. Alphra Behn

In a second experiment, Daniel Wegner and his colleagues (Wegner, Lane, & Dimitri, in press) explored the allure of secret liaisons. They observed:

This experiment was designed in an attempt to capture some of what happens at the height of intrigue in a secret affair. Picture this: The couple have just brushed ankles under the table, and a look flashes between them as they both recognize instantly the precarious situation they have encountered. Others at the table do not know of their relationship—the one that is just now forming as their contact lingers—and they obviously cannot know. But the touch continues. The partners must put on a show of indifference to each other and feign interest in the above-board conversation, all the


while trying not to let their continuing covert activities seep into their minds and actions. Our prediction is that this prototypical secret liaison has the effect of producing in each partner a preoccupation with and attraction toward the other.

They tested this notion in a simple experiment. College men and women at the University of Virginia, who were strangers to one another, were invited in to play a card game. One team was told (privately) that it was their job to play the game using "natural nonverbal communication." They were to keep their feet in contact with their partner's feet for the entire game, so they could send secret signals to one another. Half of the time, in the secret condition, men and women were told that they should not let the other team know they were playing "foot­sie." In the nonsecret condition, everyone knew what was going on. The other team was not allowed to touch. As predicted, men and women felt more romantic attraction for one another if they had been allowed to play a secret game of "footsie." Their competitors, on the other hand, became most aroused romanti­cally when they had been tipped off to what was going on.

Raging fires always die quickly. Lotte Lenya

Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Ambrose Bierce


When individuals are dizzyingly, wildly in love, they are convinced that their passionate feelings will last forever. Yet, when we take an unflinching look at the many dismal marriages around us, it becomes clear that passion is generally fleeting (Berscheid, 1983; Hatfield & Walster, 1978.) Eric Klinger (1977) warned that "highs are always transitory. People experience deliriously happy moments that quickly fade and all attempts to hang on to them are doomed to fail" (p. 116). Richard Solomon (1980) observed that passionate love follows the same pattern as any addiction. At first, passionate love produces giddy euphoria. In time, however, it takes more and more love (or cocaine, alcohol, and so forth) to produce even a weak high. Eventually, highs become transitory. If one loses love (or if one goes cold turkey" on a drug), one must endure the pains of withdrawal—depression, agitation, fatigue, anger, and loneliness. Marriage and family texts also warn that romantic love is temporary. Passion frequently wanes once the couple moves in together. Theodor Reik (1972) warned that the best a couple, once intensely in love, can hope for after several years of living together is a warm "afterglow."

If we'd thought of it, about the end of it . . . we'd have been aware that our love affair was too hot not to cool down.

Cole Porter

There is indeed evidence that passionate love does erode with time. Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues (Pilleman & Hatfield, 1981) interviewed dating cou­ples, newlyweds, and older women, who had been married an average of 33 years.

[   flJJIUHM I  C    l_W V C            O /

(The longest marriage was 59 years.) The authors predicted that passionate love would decline precipitously with time. Over time, passionate love did seem to plummet. Couples started out loving their partners intensely. Both steady daters and newlyweds expressed "a great deal of passionate love" for their mates. But after many years of marriage, women reported that they and their husbands now felt only "some" passionate love for one another.

In Chapter 1, we presented Robert Sternberg's (1988) triangular theory of love, which argued that the various forms of love involve different proportions of passion, intimacy, and commitment. Sternberg (cited in Goleman, 1985) inter­viewed couples married one month to 36 years. Initially, it was passion that drew men and women to one another. As the relationship matured, passion began to fade into the background. "Passion is the quickest to develop, and the quickest to fade (p. 13)," Sternberg wrote. After a while, what mattered most was companion­ate love—which is comprised of commitment and intimacy. It took longer for couples to feel fully committed to their marriages and to become intimate with one another, but in love, these were the things that seemed to last. Figure 2.2 illus­trates the time course of the various components of love.


Love is a powerful emotion. Passionate love is stronger yet, so much so that it generates a congeries of other emotions: euphoric joy, fierce anxiety, episodes of despair alternating with exultant hope. The individual cannot sustain the intensity very long. Passionate love has, historically, been the stuff of poetry and legend. In real life, most cultures thoughout the centuries and, until recently, in the West have placed a terrifying penalty on passion, making it forbidden, sinful, and punishable in quite fearful ways. Religious and secular rulers have unambiguously disconnected passionate love from marriage and family. Despite tendencies to sentimentalize the experience, such love has had little place to go except to disaster and death. Authorities have feared its awesome force and its celebration of individual feeling over communal order.

Add to the combustible power of passionate love the igniting agency of sex, and one produces an explosion which all institutional authorities have conspired to suppress for thousands of years. By and large the authorities succeeded. But no longer: Today passionate love is expected to lead to sexual union, perhaps even to marriage and family. The consequences for individual and society are enor­mous, and we now turn to that "igniting agency"—sex—to examine some of those consequences,

Chapter 3



Sex as Sin Sex Appeal: What Is It?

The Face

The Body

Sexual Traits: The Fundamentals

Smell Men's and Women's Sexual Histories: The Traditional View The Contemporary View


Sexual Fantasy While Masturbating

Adolescent Heterosexual Behavior

Homosexual Behavior

The Experience of Orgasm

Marital Sex

Fantasy During Sexual Relations

What Do Men and Women Want from Sex?


Extramarital Sex

The Divorced


The Widowed Conclusion

"What is love?" . . . [I end by] confessing that, in the case of romantic love, I

don't really know. If forced against a brick wall to face a firing squad who

would shoot if not given the correct answer, I would whisper "It's about 90

percent sexual desire as yet not sated."

Ellen Berscheid


Peter Abelard was the greatest philosopher of the twelfth century. Heloise was his star pupil. When they fell in love, they defied the conventions of the time in two ways. First, they made love. Even worse, they then married. Love and sex in the twelfth century did not go with marriage. These acts enraged Heloise's uncle. In revenge, he hired thugs who castrated Abelard. As a result, Heloise became a nun and Abelard withdrew from the world to be a monk in the Abbey of St. Denis. Throughout their lives, they kept up a passionate correspondence. (Heloise's letters burn with nostalgia, his are holy and world-renouncing.) In one tear-drenched letter Heloise wrote:

As God is my witness, I would rather be your whore than Empress of Christen­dom. ... In my case, the pleasures of love which we have shared have been too sweet—they can never displease me, and can scarcely be banished from my thoughts. Wherever I turn they are always before my eyes, bringing with them awakened longings and fantasies which will not even let me sleep. Even during the celebration of the Mass, when our prayers should be purer, lewd visions of those pleasures take such a hold on my unhappy soul that my thoughts are on their wantonness instead of on prayers. I should be groaning over the sins I have committed, but I can only sigh for what I have lost. (1974, p. 133)

While few lovers today can match either the poetry or the forbidden, exalted sexuality of the two medieval martyrs, their affair strikes a distinctly modern note. Many men and women care deeply about the sexual appeal of their dates and mates. When practical friends confide that they plan to marry someone who is "just a friend," these modern listeners can scarcely credit it. In this chapter we ask a number of questions. What is sex appeal? How similar is the sexual behavior of men and women? How common are sexual fantasies? Are men and women equally "turned on" by pornography? Can sexual passion last?

Love is without law. Barnabe Rich

Sex as Sin

Answers to these questions vary from culture to culture and from time to time. Today's Madonna and her cult would answer these questions very differently than would Christians who followed the Cult of the Madonna in the twelfth century. Sexual desire and sexual activity are hardly modern-day inventions. People have been doing sex as long as our species has existed—else there would be no species. But love and sex need not necessarily be linked nor need sex be viewed positively (despite the fact that it is necessary if the species is to survive). The central myth of Western Christianity—the story of Adam and Eve—does not celebrate sexual desire! Its disgust with lust has played a major part in the oppression of women throughout history by defining women as vessels of tempta­tion corrupted by sinful carnality. Men must avoid that temptation by seeking the purity of Faith in God. Women, only if chaste, could enter the Kingdom of Heaven as virgin madonnas. All other women were whores. Women are still striving today

to negotiate the considerable territory between being a madonna or being a whore, a choice fostered by traditional Christianity in its horror of sexuality.

So while sex has always existed, its meanings have greatly varied with time. Historians John D'Emilio and Estelle Freedman (1988) have noted that sexuality has been associated with a wide range of human activities and values: "the procreation of children, the attainment of physical pleasure (eroticism), recreation or sport, personal intimacy, spiritual transcendence, or power over others" (p. xv). In writing their history of American sexual values, they went on:

The dominant meaning of sexuality has changed during our history from a primary association with reproduction within families to a primary association with emotional intimacy and physical pleasure for individuals. In the colonial era, the dominant language of sexuality was reproductive, and the appropriate locus for sexual activity was in courtship or marriage. In the nineteenth century, an emergent middle class emphasized sexuality as a means to personal intimacy, at the same time that it re­duced sharply its rate of reproduction. Gradually, commercial growth brought sex into the marketplace, especially for working-class women and for men of all classes, (pp. xv-xvi)

In the West, the traditional meanings attached to sexuality derived from Christianity in both its major forms—Catholicism and Protestantism. The Catholic "cult of virginity" and its praise of monasticism yielded in northern Europe and the United States to the Protestant constriction of love to "sober performance of lawful procreative tasks." Both religions, according to the eminent neo-Freudian historian Peter Gay (1986), insisted that "lust is a sin" and both "left deposits of guilt and depression" for centuries on the Western mind (p. 50).

There has been a sexual revolution underway in the West for 500 years, associated with the rise of individualism. For if we imagine that we stand alone as individuals at the core of the great drama (the story of our personal existences) in which we are permitted, even enjoined, to strain for personal happiness (one way to define "individualism"), that happiness will assuredly encompass sexual joy (see Box 3.1).

The sexual revolution picked up tremendous speed during the early decades of this century, spurred by rapidly changing ideas about personal freedom and advances in birth control. But utterly astonishing transformations have taken place since 1960, connected not only with the further expansion of individualism, but with its major offshoot—the latest phase of the women's movement. Historians often stress continuities between the present and past, but there is no question that we are witnessing a renewed sexual revolution of astounding proportions. Sexuality in the twentieth century has attained altogether different meanings than ever before. D'Emilio and Freedman (1988) wrote:

By the twentieth century, when the individual had replaced the family as the primary economic unit, the tie between sexuality and reproduction weakened further. In­fluenced by psychology as well as by the growing power of the media, both men and women began to adopt personal happiness as a primary goal of sexual relations, (p. xvi)

Throughout this chapter, we shall see example after example of profound changes in sexual behavior and attitude in our own lifetimes. In assessing these


In the late nineteenth century, the English were beginning to move from the tight strictures of rigid Victorian society to the unlaced passions of the pre-Raphaelite era. Author John Fowles (1969) dramatized the anguish that accompanied this transition in his depiction of the intense affair between Charles Smithson and Sarah Woodruff in The French Lieutenant's Woman.

He knew why he had come: it was to see her again. Seeing her was the need: like an intolerable thirst that had to be assuaged.

He forced himself to look away. But his eyes lighted on the two naked marble nymphs above the fireplace. . . . They did not help. And Sarah made a little movement. . . .

"My dear Miss Woodruff, pray don't cry ... I should not have come ... I meant not to. . . ."

But she shook her head with sudden vehemence. He gave her time to recover. And it was while she made little dabbing motions with a handkerchief that he was overcome with a violent sexual desire. . . . Her defenseless weeping was perhaps the breach through which the knowledge sprang—but suddenly he comprehended why her face haunted him, why he felt this terrible need to see her again: it was to possess her, to melt into her, to burn, to burn to ashes on that body and in those eyes. To postpone such desire for a week, a month, a year, several years even, that can be done. But for eternity is when the iron bites. . , .

"I thought never to see you again."

He could not tell her how close she had come to his own truth. She looked up at him and he as quickly looked down ... his heart raced, his hand trembled. He knew if he looked into those eyes he was lost. As if to ban them, he shut his own.

The silence was terrible then, as tense as a bridge about to break, a tower to fall; unendurable in its emotion, its truth bursting to be spoken.

Then suddenly there was a little cascade of coals from the fire . . . one or two bounced off and onto the edge of the blanket that covered Sarah's legs ... the blanket smoldered. He snatched it away from her. , . . Both feet were bare ... her hand reached shyly out and rested on his. He knew she was looking up at him. He could not move his hand, and suddenly he could not keep his eyes from hers, . . . How long they looked into each other's eyes he did not know. . . . Their hands acted first. By some mysterious communion, the fingers interlaced, Then Charles fell on one knee and strained her passionately to him. Their mouths met with a wild violence that shocked both; made her avert her lips. He covered her cheeks, her eyes, with kisses. His hand at last touched that hair, caressed it, felt the small head through its softness, as the thin-clad body was felt against his arms and breast. Suddenly he buried his face in her neck. "We must not . . . we must not . . . this is madness."

But her arms came round him and pressed his head closer. He did not move. He felt borne on wings of fire, hurtling, but in such

(Continued on p. 72)

tender air, like a child at last let free from school, a prisoner in a green field, a hawk rising. He raised his head and looked at her: an almost savage fierceness. ... He glanced at the door behind her; then stood and in two strides was at it. . . .

Each reflected the intensity in each other's eyes, the flood, the being swept before it. She seemed to half step, half fall towards him. He sprang forward and caught her in his arms and embraced her. The shawl fell. No more than a layer of flannel lay between him and her nakedness. He strained that body into his, straining his mouth upon hers, with all the hunger of a long frustration—not merely sexual, for a whole ungovernable torrent of things banned, romance, adventure, sin, madness, animality, all these coursed wildly through him. ... He began to undress wildly, tearing off his clothes as if someone was drowning and he was on the bank. A button from his frock coat flew off and rolled into a corner, but he did not even look to see where it went. . . . Then he raised his left knee onto the narrow bed and fell on her, raining burning kisses on her mouth, her eyes, her throat. But the passive yet acquiescent body pressed beneath him, the naked feet that touched his own ... he could not wait. Raising himself a little, he drew up her nightgown. Her legs parted. With a frantic brutality ... he found the place and thrust. Her body flinched. ... He conquered that instinctive constriction, and her arms flung round him as if she would bind him to her for that eternity he could not dream without her.

"Oh my dearest. My dearest. My sweetest angel . . . Sarah, . . . Sarah, ... oh Sarah."

A few moments later he lay still. Precisely ninety seconds had passed since he had left her to look into the bedroom.


They lay as if paralyzed by what they had done. Congealed in sin, frozen with delight. Charles—no gentle postcoital sadness for him, but an immediate and universal horror—was like a city struck out of a quiet sky by an atom bomb. All lay razed; all principle, all future, all faith, all honorable intent. Yet he survived, he lay in the sweetest possession of his life, the last man alive, infinitely isolated . . . but already the radioactivity of guilt crept, crept through his nerves and veins. . . . What a mess, what an inutterable mess!

And he held her a little closer.

Source: pp. 346-351

changes we are handicapped by their rapidity and the novelty of many of the questions we face. There is no guarantee that the movement toward increas­ingly greater sexual freedom will forever continue; the only linear history is the history of technology, and the AIDS epidemic has already slowed the pace of change. But the best bet is that there is unlikely to be a return to sexual "repres­sion" or "restraint" (the term you use depends on your value system), and that means that the questions raised by today's transformations in the West are not likely to go away.

I don't know how it happened but she was in my arms. Then it was like an atomic fire searing through us. We couldn't wait to get at each other. Our clothes made a trail up the stairs to the bedroom. We fell naked on the bed, tearing at each other like raging animals. Then we exploded and fell backward on the bed, gasping for breath.

Harold Robbins. A superheated and fanciful description of sexual attraction. Cited in Bernard Zilbergeld (1978, p. 49)


Scientists and social commentators have spent an enormous amount of effort trying to discover universal standards of beauty. Greek philosophers such as Aristotle assumed that the Golden Mean was the ideal. The Golden Mean repre­sented a perfect balance. The Romans insisted, on the other hand, that the rare and unique were most appealing. In the Renaissance, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci attempted to discover the mathematics of beauty. Charles Darwin's pains­taking observations (1871) finally convinced most scientists that culture set the standard and thus it was futile to search for universals. Any lingering hopes of identifying such sweeping standards were shattered in the landmark survey by Clellan Ford and Frank Beach (1951) of more than 200 primitive societies. They too failed to find any universal standards of sexual allure. Table 3.1 lists some of the traits that people in various societies have considered hallmarks of women's beauty. Let us now consider some of these traits in more detail.

Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl.

Stephen Leacock


Number of societies that Trait                                                     admire this trait

Slim body build Medium body build Plump body build

5 5


Narrow pelvis and slim hips Broad pelvis and wide hips

1 6

Small ankles Shapely calves

3 5

Upright, hemispherical breasts Long and pendulous breasts Large breasts

2 2 9

Large clitoris Elongated labia majora

1 8

The Face

Recently, sociobiologists have revived hopes that more sophisticated sociobiologi-cal theory and research techniques may finally enable scientists to pinpoint some aesthetic universals. In one promising study, Judith Langlois and Lori Roggman (1990) found evidence that the Greeks' Golden Mean may serve as the gold standard of appeal. The authors assembled photographs of the faces of people. Using state-of-the-art video and computer techniques, they generated a series of composite faces (truly average men and women). They found that composites were far more attractive than any of the individual faces. The disconcerting quirks that mar individual faces or give them distinctiveness—the oddly spaced eyes, the ears that are too large, the crooked teeth—are less appealing than the averaged face. The average of many imperfect faces results in . . . perfection. Their conclu­sion? "Attractive faces are only average." Other sociobiologists have embarked on testing the notion that men and women prefer faces that, in a sense, have it all—faces that combine the innocence of childhood with the ripe sexuality of the mature. Early ethologists observed that men and women often experienced a tender rush of feeling when they viewed infantile "kewpie doll" faces—a face with huge eyes, tiny noses and mouths, and adorable little chins (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1971). Other authors (Symons, 1979) proposed that men and women should be aroused by faces that possessed features associated with maturity, especially lush, grown-up sexuality (say, thick hair, dewy skin, and full lips) and/or mature power (say, high cheekbones or a firm jaw and chin). In a recent film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? the sexy "toon" Jessica Rabbit caricatured just these traits. Most recent evidence finds that people like faces that possess both assets: say, large eyes and small noses, combined with full sensual lips and a strong jaw and chin (Cunning­ham, Barbee, & Pike, 1990). Whether these preferences will turn out to be universal is not yet known.

The Body

In many societies, sexual attractiveness is associated with the possession of a great body. What is the ideal shape? Nancy Wiggins and J. C. Conger (1968) tried to find out what American men found sexually appealing. They prepared 105 nude silhouettes. The first silhouette had a Golden Mean sort of body: She possessed average-sized breasts, buttocks, and legs. (If the Greeks and the modern scholars of composite faces were right, men should have preferred her. Alas, they did not.) The remaining silhouettes were systematically varied. The Golden Mean theory turned out to have some validity. Most men thought the women with medium-sized breasts, buttocks, and legs were more attractive than those with unusually small or large features. The American ideal, however, was a woman with slightly oversized breasts, medium to slightly small buttocks, and medium-sized legs.

What about women? What do they think is sexy? Paul Lavarkas (1975) tried to find out. He constructed 19 different types of men's bodies on graph paper— combining the same-size head with bigger or smaller arms, torsos, and legs. Most women were not attracted to the Arnold Schwarzenegger-type muscleman. They preferred instead men with a Tom Cruise, tapered V-look (medium-sized or

slightly larger shoulders, waist, and hips, and thin legs). They were most "turned off" by a pear-shaped look (men with small shoulders and wide hips).

In America, then, there is considerable agreement as to what constitutes a sexually appealing body. Fortunately, there is no evidence that American prefer­ences are universal. In most societies of the world, robust or even fat women are seen as possessing the most sex appeal. Clelland Ford and Frank Beach (1951) report:

[Holmberg writes of the Siriono:] Besides being young, a desirable sex partner— especially a woman—should also be fat. She should have big hips, good but firm breasts, and a deposit of fat on her sexual organs, (pp. 88-89)

This makes a certain amount of sense. In many primitive societies, people are poised on the fine edge of survival. A fat wife is a status symbol. She graphically illustrates her husband's ability to provide ... to excess.

Sexual Traits: The Fundamentals

In many societies, people are focused on the parts of the body associated with sexuality. In America, fairly large breasts are considered sexy. Other cultures have very different standards. Some people prefer small upright breasts. (The Wogeo think breasts should be firm with the nipples still facing outwards. A young girl with pendulous breasts, "like a grandmother," is pitied.) Other peoples most admire long and pendulous breasts.

In many societies, elongated labia majora or minora (vaginal lips) are consid­ered erotically appealing. Before puberty, girls on Ponape undergo treatments designed to enlarge their clitoris and lengthen the labia minora. Impotent old men pull, beat, and suck the labia to lengthen them. The girls put black ants in their vulvas so that their stinging will cause the labia and clitoris to swell. In America, most men are not particularly focused on this area. (Another society's obsessions always seem strange while our own are, naturally, normal.) Pornographic maga­zines featuring "beaver shots" appeal to a minority.

In many cultures, women consider the size and shape of men's penes to be important. In the New Hebrides, men choose to exaggerate their sexual appeal. Anthropologist B. T. Somerville (1894) observed:

The natives wrap the penis around with many yards of calico, and other materials, winding and folding them until a preposterous bundle of eighteen inches, or two feet long, and two inches or more in diameter is formed, which is then supported upwards by means of a belt, in the extremity decorated with flowering grasses, etc. The testicles are left naked, (p. 368)

Lest the obsessions of other cultures with men's genitals seem exotic, note that Rolling Stone magazine once devoted an entire issue to describing how magazines such as Playgirl and Viva tease, cajole, and massage the centerfold's penis to just the right stage of arousal (McCormack, 1975). Elvis Presley often used a toilet paper tube under tight pants while performing on stage to augment his penis size (Wallace, 1981).

The sweet smells of sex. —Psychology Today


Sexual appeal is so mysterious that some scientists have speculated that perhaps its essence lies in sexual "chemistry." In 1880, novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans celebrated armpits as a gift of nature, calling them "spice boxes" that "season and enhance the stew of love." Mammals can distinguish between 10,000 or so scents. Lower animals secrete powerful pheromones (biochemicals), which stimulate sex­ual desire and behavior. For example, butterflies exude perfumes that may smell like roses, sweetbriar, heliotrope, and other flowers; the aroma sexually attracts other butterflies (Ackerman, 1990, p. 27). Do humans secrete and respond to such pheromones? Scientists have speculated that they might. Once, when Napoleon neared the end of a campaign, he sent a famous message to Josephine: "Will be home in three weeks. Don't wash." Odor is a genetic hand-me-down; individual odors are as distinctive as fingerprints or DNA. Even among families, every member has his or her own smell. The only exception to the rule: the identical odor of identical twins. Pheromones might be produced in the armpit sweat glands, by the prepuce of the penis, and by the clitoris. Perfume company scien­tists try to sniff out natural pheromones so that they can duplicate their musky scent. Thus far, however, there is little evidence that humans produce such pheromones or that they are sexually excited by scent (Clegg, 1979; Grifntt & Hatfield, 1985). Madison Avenue, however, has never hesitated to sell dreams.

Some trendy women in Manhattan are wearing a perfume called Pheromone, priced at three hundred dollars an ounce. Expensive perhaps, but what price aphrodisia? Based on findings about the sexual attractants animals give off, the perfume promises, by implication, to make a woman smell provocative and turn stalwart men into slaves of desire: love zombies. The odd thing about the claims of this perfume is that its manufacturer has not specified which pheromones are in it. Human pheromones have not yet been identified by researchers, whereas, say, boar pheromones have. The vision of a generation of young women walking the streets wearing boar pheromones is strange, even for Manhattan. Let me propose a naughty recipe: Turn loose a herd of sows on Park Avenue. Mix well with crowds of women wearing Pheromone eau de cologne. Dial 911 for emergency. (Ackerman, 1990, p. 28)

Most peoples are less interested in pheromones than in cleanliness and getting rid of foul and repulsive odors. Notwithstanding Napoleon, some societies use perfume to cover up "offensive" body odors. The Wogeo, for example, combat the odor of perspiration with aromatic leaves. Many peoples anoint their skin with scented oils. In many societies, men and women wear sweet-smelling flowers in their hair and on their bodies. Caypa men use sweet-scented herbs to attract women; Western Apache women wear aromatic plants to attract men.

In summary: A few sociobiologists are still engaged in the search for univer­sal in sex appeal. However, after a painstaking search, most anthropologists have admitted defeat. Scholars have ended where they began—able to do no more than to point to the dazzling array of characteristics that various peoples in various places, at various times, have idealized.

Lois Banner, for example, has written the major history of America's changing standards of female beauty over the past two centuries. Even in so short a time, the ideals have shifted at a dizzying rate. Before the Civil War, "the frail, pale willowy woman" predominated. In the decades after 1865, "she was challenged by a buxom, hearty, and heavy model of beauty." She, in turn, had to face stiff competition from "the tall, athletic, patrician Gibson girl of the 1890s, whose vogue was superseded in the 1910s by a small, boyish model of beauty exemplified by Mary Pickford and Clara Bow." Banner then continued the merry-go-round:

This "flapper" model of beauty was predominant throughout the 1920s. By 1930 a new, less youthful and frivolous beauty ideal came into being and remained popular through the 1950s, culminating in a renewed vogue of voluptuousness that bore re­semblance to nineteenth-century types. That same decade, however, a youthful, ad­olescent model reappeared and continued in popularity through the 1960s, a decade that witnessed a significant rebellion, not only against the commercial culture of beauty and fashion, but also against the whole notion of a single or standard ideal of beauty based on Western European types. Black women began to be portrayed as beauties within the white community; women of distinctive characteristics such as Barbra Streisand with her Mediterranean looks, created new manners of appear­ance. (Banner, 1983, p. 50)

That last sentence, written about a decade ago in 1983, hinted at the erosion of the tyranny of standardized beauty. But one could argue that, at this writing, no such luck: the anorexic look and the muscular, athletic shape of iron-pumping women rank as the current beau ideals, exerting their awesome power on Ameri­can culture to make the huge majority of women feel inadequate, embarrassed, and fat.

And yet we know the current standards of perfection will shift again in a few years, producing yet more insecurities and feverish efforts to fit the new ideals. Let us consider how people have been found to deal with such unending demands on them.


In the 1940s and 1950s, Alfred Kinsey and his fellows (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953) shocked Americans with their profiles of national sexual habits. Kinsey found that a double standard prevailed in that era. Men were encouraged or at least allowed to be sexual; women were not. Thus it came as no surprise to discover that men and women had very different sexual histories. Most boys, for example, had begun to masturbate by the time they were 13 years old. By 18, the men were beginning to push to have sex. (Men were as interested in sex at 18 as they ever would be.) As men aged, their sexual interest began to decline. William Masters and Virginia Johnson (1966, 1970) found that by the time men were 65 years of age, 25% of them were impotent; by the time they were 75, 50% were impotent.

Women's sexual histories were very different. Women were slow to begin

experimenting; at 15 (when almost all boys had already begun to masturbate), most women were quite inactive. Sometime between the ages of 16 and 20, however, they slowly shed their inhibitions. Now, women were becomingly in­creasingly interested in sex; they continued to be more enthusiastic about sexual activity for fully two decades. Not until their late 40s did their sexual activity begin to ebb. Kinsey and his colleagues (1953) observed that such gender differences guaranteed marital tragedy. When men were interested in sex, women weren't. By the time women were interested, men had lost it.

Theorists offered a variety of reasons as to why men and women might have such different sexual attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.

Men seek to propagate widely, whereas women seek to propagate wisely.

Robert Hinde

Sociobiologists such as Donald Symons (1979) and Jerome Berkow (1989) pointed out that the mind evolved to solve adaptive problems. Symons argued that men and women were programmed to desire very different things. Symon's argu­ment proceeded as follows: According to evolutionary biology, an animal's "fitness is a measure of the extent to which it succeeds in passing on its genes to the next generation" (p. 6). It is to both men's and women's evolutionary advantage to produce as many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as possible. But men and women differ in one critical respect: in order to produce a child, men need only to invest a trivial amount of energy. A single man could conceivably father an almost unlimited number of children. Since women can have far fewer children, it is to a woman's advantage to ensure that the few children she does conceive survive. Symons observed:

The enormous sex differences in minimum parental investment and in reproductive opportunities and constraints explain why Homo sapiens, a species with only moderate sex differences in structure, exhibits profound sex differences in psyche, (p. 27)

What are the gender differences he insisted are wired in? According to Symons:

1.   Men are genetically programmed to impregnate as many women as possi­ble. Women have every reason to be "coy." It takes time to decide if a man is a good genetic risk—that is, is likely to be nurturant and protective.

2.  For men, "sexual attractiveness" equals youth. For women, sexual attrac­tiveness equals political and economic power.

3.   Men are sexually aroused by the sight of women and women's genitals; women are not aroused by men's appearance.

4.  Men desire a variety of sex partners; women do not.

5.  Men are inclined to be polygamous (possessing many wives). Women are more malleable in this respect; they are equally satisfied in polygamous, monogamous, or polyandrous marriages (possessing many husbands).

6.  Men are sexually jealous. Women are more malleable in this respect; they are concerned with security, not fidelity.

7.  Men are intensely competitive with one another. Competition over women is the most frequent cause of violence. Women are far less competitive.

bbXUALIIY         /9

Sociobiologist Jerome Berkow (1989) has speculated that men and women should desire different things in mates. Men should prefer women who are young, who are faithful (so men will not invest resources in unrelated children), and who show intelligence, social skills, and resourcefulness (cues to the woman's maternal skills.) Women should focus on men who show the willingness and ability to invest resources in her and her children.

She's beautiful and therefore to be woo'd. William Shakespeare

Since these contentions were voiced, sociobiologists have begun to test some of these notions. Let us first consider the evidence that men prefer the kinds of women that sociobiologists say they should. Although early sociobiologists pro­vided an evolutionary scenario that emphasized male promiscuity and female selectivity, both men and women turn out to be extremely choosy about whom they are willing to marry (Berkow, 1989). Cross-cultural evidence is now strong that men worldwide prefer marriage partners who are younger than they are (Buss, 1989). In some cultures (but not all) men do value chastity in potential mates somewhat more than women do (Buss, 1989). Men are more likely to divorce wives who are unfaithful than vice versa (Betzig, 1989). In a study of 37 societies, sociobiologists found that in all of them men did prefer intelligent mates (Buss, 1989; Hudson & Henze, 1969).

Only God, my dear, could love you for yourself alone, and not your yellow hair.

William Butler Yeats

Unfortunately, researchers have been less interested in women's preferences in mates. There is some evidence that women in widely varying cultures value status, ambition, and industriousness (Buss, 1989; Hill, 1945) even when they have access to resources themselves (Townsend, 1989).

David Buss and his colleagues (Buss, 1988a, b; Buss & Barnes, 1986) pro­posed that, if the sociobiologists were right, men and women (1) should adver­tise very different assets when trying to attract mates and (2) should look for very different traits in mates. Buss (1988b) found that men and women did use different strategies when trying to impress potential sex partners. Men tended to brag about their status, power, strength, and achievements. Women tried to emphasize their beauty, health, and youth. Researchers (Buss & Barnes, 1986) also confirmed that men and women did look for different qualities in a mate. Everyone wanted mates who possessed intelligence and exciting personalities, mates who were kind and understanding. However, men were most attuned to signs that attested to women's reproductive fitness. (They cared a great deal about physical appearance: they valued youth, health, beauty, clear and lustrous hair, smooth skin, full lips, white teeth, and a lively gait.) Women looked for signs that men were willing and able to protect them and their offspring. (They looked for professional men with ambition, status, and money. They wanted mates who were kind and considerate, easygoing and adaptable, and who liked children.)

Sociobiology is still in its infancy. Many sociobiological predictions seem in-

ou         i_,n/-\r i en o

consistent with our knowledge of human sexual behavior. Nonetheless, behavioral genetics offer a potentially useful perspective.

It has often been pointed out that women depend lopsidedly on love for emotional fulfillment because they are barred from absorbing activity in the public domain. This is true. But it is also true that men depend lopsidedly on participation in the public domain because they are stymied by love.

Dorothy Dinnerstein

Social learning theorists, on the other hand, insisted that most "innate" gen­der differences are actually learned. Men and women are very adaptable. A half century ago, Margaret Mead (1969) in Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies discussed three cultures of New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea) and their gender role standards. She described the gentle Arapesh, a culture in which both men and women had "feminine" traits; the fierce Mundugamur, in which both genders were "masculine"; and the Tchambuli, in which the men were "feminine" and the women were "masculine." Thus, social learning theorists argued, if men and women desire different things from their sexual relationships, it is because they have been taught to do so (Griffitt & Hatfield, 1985; Howard et al., 1986; Reiss & Lee, 1988; Tavris & Offir, 1977). For example, sociologist John DeLamater (1987) pointed out that men and women of the twentieth-century Euro-American world are handed very different sexual scripts by life. In general, women are taught to take a "person-centered" orientation to sexuality. They learn that love, sex, and commitment are inextricably entwined. Men are taught to take a recreational (or "body-centered") approach toward sex. For them the goal of sex is physical gratification. There is some evidence that these social learning theorists are correct.


There are times when I am very sexual, when I'm just hungry, like a lion. But there are times when I can do without it. I don't need it. You know, it's not a necessity in my life. I swear to you, it has a lot to do with when the moon is full. The elements have a real deep effect on me and I respond to them.

Popular singer Whitney Houston

Since Kinsey's day, generations of sex researchers have continued to interview young people. Have they ever kissed? At what age did they begin? Have they touched their lovers' breasts or genitals? Been touched? Had intercourse? Dared oral-genital sex? When we look at the pattern of these studies, it is clear that a sexual revolution has occurred. In Kinsey's era, men's and women's sexual atti­tudes and behavior were very different: the double standard prevailed. (Men could be forgiven, sometimes even admired, for their sexual boldness. Women could not.) In reviewing recent survey research, however, sociologist John DeLamater (1987) concluded that a single, liberal, standard now prevails: "There are few, if any, significant differences between males and females in sexual

attitudes and behavior" (p. 127). Let us consider these divergent results—focusing particularly on the very few gender differences that still appear to exist.

Don't knock masturbationit's sex with someone I love.

Woody Allen


No aspect of sexual expression has escaped the condemnation of religious, medi­cal, or scientific authorities. Theologians argued that masturbation was sinful. In the eighteenth century, physicians argued that, if not sinful, masturbation endan­gered the health of the masturbator. In 1758, the Swiss physician Samuel Tissot published Onania, or a Treatise Upon the Disorders Produced by Masturbation. This influential work claimed that masturbation was a dangerous habit capable of producing every illness known, including pimples, blisters, constipation, consump­tion, blindness, insomnia, headaches, genital cancer, feeblemindness, weakness, jaundice, nose pain, intestinal disorders, confusion, insanity, and a host of addi­tional rather grotesque maladies. Taken together, theology and medical "science" acted in concert to try to persuade people that masturbation was sinful, immoral, and dangerous to mental and physical health. Such views, however, were totally ineffective in eliminating masturbation. By Kinsey's day, most boys had begun to masturbate by age 15; few 15-year-old girls had experimented with such self-pleasuring. (Most women did not begin to masturbate until they were in their 30s!) (See Figure 3.1.) Today, boys still begin to masturbate slightly earlier than do girls (see Table 3.2) but such gender differences are rapidly disappearing.

The social context in which men's and women's early experimentation takes place is still very different, however. For some boys, masturbation is a group event. Some, for example, may engage in a "circle jerk," in which a group of boys races to masturbate to climax. Girls' early sexual exploration is almost always private; only a few learn about masturbation from their friends; some are told about masturbation by their boyfriends.

Sex researchers point out that such differences might have important conse­quences for boys' and girls' sexual attitudes and skills. Since boys masturbate earlier, they may be more confident that they control their own sexuality, have a head start on learning what arouses them, and are more sexually skilled (Rook & Hammen, 1977). Sex therapists generally recommend that men and women who have sexual problems should learn about sex one step at a time. First, they should begin by practicing masturbating (Barbach, 1976; Zilbergeld, 1978). Once they are comfortable with the idea of self-pleasuring, aware of what arouses their sexual desire, and proficient at self-pleasuring, they can move on to the next step— coordinating sexual relations with their partners.

Sexual Fantasy While Masturbating    A woman described her sexual fanta­sies while masturbating as follows (Friday, 1973, pp. 16-17):

In my fantasy I call for him to get up out of bed, I know he isn't sleeping. ... I am about to call him again but another boy, a school friend, comes to call and I let them go off by themselves. . . . They go into the woodshed, and after a little time I creep

down and peek through the planks. They are standing facing each other, their cocks out, stroking each other. I feel so bloody cross, but yet I still feel myself getting wet. I go back to the house and shriek for him to come in. I still feel like hitting him over the head. He comes in half ashamed and sneering; I myself sit down with my legs trembling. I see he has a big bulge there, he seems to be sticking it out more, then, I don't know, I open his buttons and pull his shirt up. I didn't think it was so big. I stroke him, it is hot and throbbing and he comes as quick as that, covering my hand. ... I am shaking with sex.

People often enjoy sexual fantasies while masturbating or having sexual rela­tions. In various studies, 88 to 99% of men and women reported that they have had sexual fantasies (Brown & Hart, 1977; Davidson & Hoffman, 1986); 80% of them fantasize while they masturbate (Hunt, 1974, p. 91). Table 3.3 lists the most




Kinsey et al.

(1948, 1953)

45% 15

Arafat and Cotton (1974)

50% 32

Bell, Weinberg, and



63% 32

Wyatt, Peters,

and Guthrie




Percentage of men

and women having

a given fantasy

Theme of fantasy                                                                   Men               Women

Having sex with someone you love                                      75%                  80%

Having sex with strangers                                                     47                     21

Having sex with several people at the same time                33                     18

Doing "taboo" things                                                            19                     28

Being forced to have sex                                                      10                     19

Forcing someone to have sex                                               13                       3

Having homosexual relations                                                  7                     11

Source: Based on Hunt, 1974, pp. 91-93.

popular masturbation fantasies. In general, men's and women's fantasies are fairly similar. They daydream about having sexual relations with someone they love or find sexually appealing. There are a few differences in men's and women's fantasies, however. Many men are nervous about initiating sexual affairs; they fear rejection, and not without reason. Women's reluctance to have sex is part of the folklore. In Love and Death, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are shown in bed on their wedding night. He timidly starts to caress her shoulder; she jerks away. "Please," she says irritably, "not here." In Play It Again, Sam, a luscious countess confides to Woody that she is a nymphomaniac—she is sexually insatiable. Of course, when Woody tries to kiss her, she is shocked: "What kind of a woman do you think I am?" Given their fear of rejection, it isn't very surprising that many male fantasies center around women who long for sex, beg for it, are indeed insatiable. Men also tend to imagine scenarios in which they are powerful and aggressive; swept up in impersonal and thrilling encounters.

Women's fantasies are more likely to involve romance ... or being forced to submit (DeLora & Warren, 1977). The point of these seemingly radically different fantasies is exactly the same. Both men and women long to be loved and desired. Both also seem to want to shrug off responsibility for doing the forbidden: "It wasn't my fault; she was begging for it." "It wasn't my fault; he made me do it." It is only the way in which their desires are played out that differs.

The sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leap year like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes. . . . and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

—James Joyce

Adolescent Heterosexual Behavior

Most young people in Western cultures begin to experiment sexually in early adolescence. Most boys and girls begin timidly. The boy in the movie theater may awkwardly drape his arm over the back of the chair of the girl sitting next to him. His heart pounds, partly in excitement but mainly in terror. He hopes she will think his arm just happens to be resting there. If she draws away, he can mumble an embarrassed "Sorry" and remove his arm. If she snuggles into his arm, he may more boldly hug her. Probably not. They are thrilled with very little.

With time, and practice, couples move on to more daring behavior—kissing. They learn how to kiss with their glasses or braces on, what to do with their noses. In 1979, John DeLamater and Patricia MacCorquodale interviewed more than 2000 young men and women. They found that today, men's and women's sexual histories are remarkably similar. Men and women begin to kiss, fondle, and have sexual relations at almost the same age. They also progress from kissing, to fondling, to intercourse at about the same pace. This progression usually occurs over a four-year period (see Table 3.4).

Men are somewhat more willing to experiment with recreational sex. Women are somewhat more likely to feel that they should be married, engaged, or in love before they engage in sexual relations. Nonetheless, men and women actually engage in sex for the first time at roughly the same ages (Walsh, 1989).

Men and women generally react very differently to their first sexual experi­ences, however. Young men often think of a sexual experience as a "rite of passage" into manhood (Cams, 1973). Most men said they felt "excited," "happy," "satisfied," and "thrilled" the first time they had sexual intercourse. For women, however, it is more risky to experiment with sex. They feel it is only "legitimate" if they are involved in a serious, meaningful relationship (Cams, 1973). Women often felt guilty, sad, disappointed, and afraid after their first sexual encounters (DeLamater, 1987; Sorensen, 1973). Unfortunately, men were usually unaware of their partners' negative reactions (Sorensen, 1973). Men were likely

to boast to their families and friends about their sexual escapades; their families and friends were likely to approve of their behavior. Women were less likely to confide in others. It is easy to see why. Unless the couple's relationship was a deeply committed one, her family (brought up, as they were, on different and more conservative sexual mores) and even her friends generally disapproved of her behavior (Cams, 1973; DeLamater, 1987).

Nonetheless, men and women begin to experiment with the various sexual activities at roughly the same ages (again, see Table 3.4). One study of college-age individuals found that most young men had had six sexual partners and most women averaged five sexual partners over their dating histories (DeLamater & MacCorquodale, 1979). Women seemed to be more reserved than men in only one type of situation: If both were offered a chance to participate in uncertain, unconventional, or even downright bizarre sexual activities, men were more will­ing to take a risk than were women.

In the Forties, to get a girl you had to be a GI or a jock. In the Fifties, to get a girl you had to be Jewish. In the Sixties, to get a girl you had to be black. In the Seventies, to get a girl you've got to be a girl.

Mort Sahl

Homosexual Behavior

Many teenagers experiment with gay, lesbian, or bisexual relations. A few find that they greatly prefer homosexual love affairs (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983). In the 1940s and 1950s, Kinsey found that 37% of men and 13% of women had had at least one homosexual encounter in adulthood. Recent research suggests Kin-sey's statistics may be a bit high. Today, the best guess is that at least 20% of men and 10% of women have homosexual relations at some time in their lives. As adults, about 7% of men and 4% of women have such experiences (Fay, Turner, Klassen, & Gagnon, 1989). How many people consider themselves to be exclu­sively heterosexual? Bisexual? Gay? Lesbian? Probably 80% of men and 90% of women consider themselves to be exclusively heterosexual. About 2% of men and 1% of women consider themselves to be exclusively homosexual. The remaining men and women are sexually attracted to both men and women at different times (Hyde, 1990).

Whether their sexual orientation is gay, straight, or bisexual, people con­front the same emotional dilemmas in their relationships. Homosexual relation­ship issues differ little from heterosexual ones; they are best understood as human issues, regardless of sexual orientation. Gay men, lesbians, and hetero­sexuals love their mates in the same ways and display the same patterns of satisfaction and unhappiness in their relationships (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Peplau & Amaro, 1982). Their sexual experiments generally follow the sequence depicted in Table 3.4.

Sex with a woman includes: touching, kissing, smiling, looking serious, embracing, talking, digital intercourse, caressing, looking, cunnilingus, undressing, remembering later, making sounds, sometimes gently biting, sometimes crying, and breathing and sighing together.

A woman discussing lesbian sex. Hite, 1976, p. 267

7 like kissing where my partner and I lie together, bodies intertwined, mouth to mouth, tongues touching, moving tongues slowly together, advancing and retreating, kissing sometimes gently, sometimes vigorously.

A man discussing gay sex. Hite, 1981, p. 816

Some people have difficulty imagining exactly what gay couples do in bed. Actually, they suffer from a lack of imagination, since the gays make love pretty much like many "hets." Gay men and lesbians kiss, hug, and pet; they engage in mutual masturbation and oral-genital sex (Jay & Young, 1979; McWhirter & Mattison, 1984). Gay men sometimes engage in anal intercourse (Bell & Wein­berg, 1978; Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983); women sometimes practice tribadism (they rub their bodies together) (Carina, 1979). One lesbian described an espe­cially pleasant sexual experience this way.

We lay on top of each other kissing deeply and stroking each other. Then I started to touch her breasts—softly enveloping my hand around the roundness of her, then focusing on stimulating her nipple. I became more excited and moved my lower body on top other. After a while I needed to suck her breasts and to gently stroke the outside other vagina. I love to nestle my head between her breasts, whispering, "I love you," and moaning. I was kissing her chest and touching her vagina with my index finger, moving it from the lips of her vagina up to her clitoris and slowly back down to the opening of her vagina. I put some of my weight on my knees so that she too could rub my vaginal area and kiss my breasts. I felt warm, wonderful, and full, and could feel those feelings from her. We sensed that we were both very excited. I was almost dizzy. (Jay & Young, 1979, p. 401)

A gay man describes a particularly appealing sexual encounter this way:

When I turned around to pick up his keys, he embraced me from behind, and slowly began undressing me, all the while tonguing every part of me that was freshly ex­posed—neck, nipples, navel, feet. It was all done so slowly and deliberately that I was getting turned on to the point where I thought I'd burst. Unable to wait, I began undressing him. He smelled faintly of musk oil and sandalwood. His silk shirt was smooth and cool, and that contrasted with the feel of old blue jeans was a knockout. We climbed into bed and Roger and I began some of the deepest soul kisses I've ever engaged in. Once again, the traveling over my body began. I'd never had my toes sucked before, and it was a different and wonderful sensation; meanwhile his fingers were going lightly up and down my spine, a feeling that's like a fuse for me. Respond­ing, I left no area unexplored, his erect nipples, his flat stomach, till I got down to his cock. It had to be the most perfectly sculptured one I'd ever seen, long and good-sized but not too much, and shaped perfectly. I went down on him, being unable to control myself, burying myself in his groin, my hand feeling up and down that little body. Roger was moaning in French, as was I, which shocked me since I had always been quiet and reserved with my bed speech. Suddenly with a quick feat of acrobatics Roger switched positions and began sucking my cock, slowly, then quickly, alternating rhythms. I held back as long as I could and finally exploded in his mouth. ... I was tingly all over. (Jay & Young, 1979, p. 446)

Most homosexual (and heterosexual) experiences rarely reach these heights of ecstasy, but they serve as reminders that there is much more to good sex than simultaneous orgasms—touted as late as the 1960s as the sine qua non of all sex.


Indicate whether you think each statement was written by a man (M) or a woman (F).

M        F        1.  I really think it defies description by words. Combination of waves of very

pleasurable sensations and mounting of tensions culminating in a fantastic

sensation and release of tension. M         F        2.  It is a very pleasurable sensation. All my tensions have really built to a peak

and are suddenly released. It feels like a great upheaval; like all of the organs in

the stomach area have turned over. It is extremely pleasurable. M        F        3. A building up of tensions—like getting ready for takeoff from a launching pad,

then a sudden blossoming relief that extends all over the body. M        F        4. An orgasm is a very quick release of sexual tension which results in a kind of

flash of pleasure. M        F        5. It is a great release of tension followed by a sense of electriclike tingling which

takes over all control of your senses. M        F        6. An orgasm is a great release of tension with spasmodic reaction at the peak.

This is exactly how it feels to me. M         F        7. A building of tension, sometimes, and frustration until the climax. A tightening

inside, palpitating rhythm, explosion, and warmth and peace.

1-M; 2-F; 3-F; 4-M; 5-F; 6-M; 7-F. Source: Vance & Wagner, 1976, pp. 95-96.

The Experience of Orgasm

Lovers sometimes wonder if their partners share their delight at lovemaking, their feelings during climax. "How was it for you?" they ask. Alas, most lovers are not very good at describing their sensual feelings. Mythology provides some glib, but misleading, answers. Traditionally, it was assumed that, for men, orgasm was sudden and explosive; for women, it was supposedly more subdued. To find out, Ellen Vance and Nathaniel Wagner (1976) asked 48 young men and women to describe what an orgasm feels like. (A few of their answers are duplicated in Table 3.5.) Then they asked psychologists, medical students, and obstetricians-gynecologists to read men's and women's descriptions and to try to guess whether they were written by a man or a woman. You might try to see if you can guess whether a man or a woman wrote each of the following descriptions, as well. (The answers are provided at the bottom of Table 3.5.)

The authors found that not even experts were able accurately to guess whether the various descriptions were written by men or by women. It appears that both men and women share the same feelings during orgasm. [Of course, some women experience orgasm only now and then; a few never do (Griffitt & Hatfield, 1985).]

Marital Sex

In the United States, about 80 to 90% of all people marry (Gagnon, 1977). When these married couples are in their twenties, they generally have sexual relations

two or three times a week. As they age, they start to have sex less frequently. Once couples are 45 and over, they have sex only about once a week on the average (see Table 3.6).

It is important, however, to remind ourselves that people are enormously variable. Some couples are extremely sexual; they would like to have sexual relations (and often do have sex) several times a day. Others just aren't interested. [When couples are in their twenties, about 5 to 10% of them have intercourse less than once a month and 8 to 12% of them never have intercourse (Hyde, 1990).] In one scene in Annie Hall, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, his lover, were shown on a split screen talking to their respective psychoanalysts. "How often," the analysts asked, "do you have sex." "Almost never," complained Woody—"about three times a week." "Oh, practically all the time," lamented Diane, "at least three times a week." Researchers find that couples sometimes differ in their reports of how often they are having sexual relations. Men and women who wish they were having more sex tend to underestimate how frequently they are having sexual relations; those who wish for less sex overestimate how often they are currently having sexual relations (Masters & Johnson, 1970).

In the 1960s, commentators often talked about the "Sexual Revolution." Today, however, "revolutionaries" such as basketball star Wilt "The Stilt" Cham­berlain (1991), who claimed to have sexual relations with more than 20,000 women, risk AIDS. The old joke—"nobody likes people who are too popular"— may well be true. How much sexual experience do most men and women have? Tom Smith and his colleagues (Greeley, Michael, & Smith, 1989) interviewed a national sample of 1400 adults. First, they asked respondents how many sexual partners they had in the past year. The breakdown appears in Table 3.7.

They also quizzed men and women about the number of sexual partners they had had since they were 18 years of age (see Table 3.8).

The preceding studies provide some information about how often couples prefer and actually do have sex. Other researchers provide information about the kinds of sexual activities men and women prefer.

Since ancient times, statues, paintings, and love manuals such as The Kama Sutra have illustrated a variety of positions for intercourse. In Kinsey's day, the


Kinsey                                         Hunt

(1938-1949)                                  (1972)























55 and over


Source: Hunt, 1974, Table 30. p. 191



number of                    Percent

Marital status                      partners                    abstinent

Married                                  0.96                            9.2%

Widowed                               0.21                          85.9

Divorced                                1.31                          25.9

Separated                               2.41                          20.0

Never married                        1.84                          24.6

Source: Greeley et al„ 1 989.








Marital status

of partners









Never married


"missionary position" (man on top) was used by almost all married couples. Today, most couples prefer to use a variety of different sexual positions. During intercourse, the man may be on top, the woman may be on top, the man may enter the woman from the rear, or couples may have relations side to side (Griffitt & Hatfield, 1985).

One of the most dramatic changes in the past 25 years is in the acceptance of oral sex. In Kinsey's day, only 11 to 12% of couples dared to practice fellatio (the woman's mouth encloses the man's penis) and cunnilingus (the man's tongue caresses the woman's clitoris). By the 1980s, 90 to 93% of married couples prac­ticed both fellatio and cunnilingus (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Griffitt & Hat­field, 1985).

Fantasy During Sexual Relations Many men and women try to enrich their marriages by spinning sexual fantasies. Some men and women get anxious during sexual relations. Some get bored. Sexual fantasies enable couples to transport themselves to more thrilling or more relaxing worlds of imagination and to add variety to their sexual encounters. Sex researchers point out that even rats respond to novelty; they respond more passionately to novel partners than to long-familiar ones. This phenomenon has been labeled, somewhat whimsically, the "Coolidge Effect," after an anecdote concerning President Calvin Coolidge. During a visit to


1.   Thoughts of an imaginary lover enter my mind.

2.    I imagine that I am being overpowered or forced to surrender.

3.    I enjoy pretending that I am doing something wicked or forbidden.

4.    I am in a different place like a car, a motel, a beach, woods, etc.

5.    I relive a previous sexual experience.

6.    I imagine myself delighting many men.

7.    I imagine that I am observing myself or others having sex.

8.    I pretend that I am another irresistibly sexy female.

9.    I pretend that I struggle and resist before being aroused to surrender.

10.    I daydream that I am being made love to by more than one man at a time.

Source: Hariton. 1973, p. 43.

a large chicken farm, his wife walked briskly on ahead. As the story goes: Mrs. Coolidge, observing the vigor with which one particularly prominent rooster cov­ered hen after hen, asked the guide to make certain that the president took note of the rooster's behavior. When President Coolidge got to the hen yard, the guide pointed out the rooster and recounted his exploits. He added that Mrs. Coolidge had requested that the president be made aware of the rooster's prowess. The president reflected for a moment and replied, "Tell Mrs. Coolidge that there is more than one hen" (Blatt & Blatt, 1970).

Earlier in the chapter, we described men's and women's masturbation fanta­sies. But one way couples can also add variety and excitement to their sexual relations is to create passionate fantasies. In one study, 65% of married women said they generally fantasized while having sex with their husbands. Another 28% reported that they had occasional fantasylike thoughts during intercourse (Table 3.9). Only 7% of the women never fantasized. Women who fantasized seemed to have better sexual relationships and to have more orgasms than those who did not (Hariton, 1973). Most men and women settle on a "script" that they find exciting early on. Some couples enjoyed sharing their sexual fantasies; most wished to keep their deepest feelings secret. Some sexual fantasies that are especially common to women are given in Table 3.9.

7s sex dirty? Only if it's done right. Woody Allen

What Do Men and Women Want from Sex?

In 1985, Ann Landers sparked a nationwide debate by asking readers: "Would you be content to be held close and treated tenderly and forget about 'the act'?" When more than 90,000 women cast their ballots, 72% claimed to prefer affection to sex (Angier, 1985, p. 76). Humorists responded by conducting their own polls among men. Art Buchwald observed that, in his bachelor days, he met all 62,000 women who preferred cuddling to sex. Mike Royko (1985) asked men: "Which do you prefer: sex or bowling?" (p. B-2). Observed one respondent, Pat, of St. Louis: "I mentioned to my wife that I had to put down whether I preferred sex

with her or sinking a 40-foot birdie putt. She told me the odds of either happening in the near future were about the same."

1 can go to bed with either sex, but I prefer to wake up with a woman. Women are more emotionally satisfying as companions.

Martina Navratilova

Are men and women as different as Ann Landers suggests? The answer is "no"; but there are some slight differences in what men and women wish for in their current relations. Researchers (Brown & Auerback, 1981) interviewed 100 married couples. Most were happily married, enjoyed sex, and considered it an important aspect of their lives. When couples were asked why they initiated sex, woman generally said that they cared most about "love, intimacy, and holding." Men generally said they hoped for "sexual release." The authors observed: "These responses tend to support and perpetuate the cliche 'men give love to get sex, while women give sex to get love' " (p. 107). The authors sketch a composite picture of what men and women think of as the perfect sexual scenario:

Women basically wanted to be approached in the classical romantic vein—candlelight, wine, music, and romantic settings with time standing still for love and wooing. They did not want a quick grope or a rushed sexual encounter that takes place in bed the last thing at night, but rather a slow, sensual approach with tender, loving caresses, embraces, kisses, and nonsexual body touching or massage with only occasional aggres­sion. The women wanted to be courted, to be spoken to, and to verbally share with their partners their ideas, thoughts, and feelings about nonsexual topics. They wanted to laugh and play and to enjoy their spouses outside of bed. They sought verbal appreciation of themselves as human beings as well as sexual beings. Coitus evolved slowly out of this setting and occurred because the women felt loved and were good companions as well as being sexy. . . .

The responses of the men were of two types. Approximately 40% of the men wanted a soft approach with caressing, massage, seductiveness, and one assumes tenderness. . . . The remaining 60% wanted to be approached in a verbally direct, abandoned, and aggressive manner. For a few men the aggression took the form of their being "attacked" or overwhelmed by their wives, while most of the other men desired aggression along the lines of their wives showing abandon and lack of inhibi­tion, making it clear by their words and actions that they passionately desired their husbands. A refrain that kept repeating itself... "I want to feel that I am irresistible," or "I want to feel there is no sexier man in the world and that she wants me desper­ately." (pp. 112-113)

Men also wish that their mates would take the initiative more often, would be more eager to have sex, and would be more adventuresome (Hite, 1976). For other gender differences see Box 3.2.


Traditionally, it was assumed that while men could be excited by pornography, women were repulsed by it. Kinsey and his co-workers (Kinsey et al, 1953) spent an entire chapter in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female trying to track down the neural mechanisms that would account for these "innate" differences. What


Hatfield and her students (1 988) interviewed casually dating, steadily dating, and married couples about their sexual preferences. They asked: During sex, did they wish for more (or less) of a series of activities? Did they wish their partners to be more loving? (That is, did they desire more loving talk, more warmth, more in­volvement?) How eager were they to try a variety of experiences? (Did they wish their partners would surprise them by initiating sex, be more unpredictable and experimental as to when, where, and how they had sex; talk "dirty," be wilder and sexier?) Men and women were quite similar in their mutual desire for more loving, warmer, and close sexual relationships. They were very different, however, in their preference for raw excitement and diversity. Men wanted their partners to take the initiative and be more dominant. They longed for rougher treatment, dirtier talk, and wilder sex (see Table 3.10).

One surprising finding: Couples seemed to have a communication problem. Both men and women wished their partners would be braver and tell them exactly what they wanted sexually. These same men and women, however, were reluctant to tell their partners what they wanted. They kept hoping their mates would somehow be able to read their minds!


part of the cerebrum was important? The frontal lobes? The occipital lobes? The parietal lobes? The temporal lobes? What part did the hypothalamus play? (He concluded that all these structures were important.)

In Kinsey's era, almost all pornography was written for men. Sometimes, the fabric of erotic literature was threaded through with strands of male power, sexuality, and hatred of women. No wonder women didn't like it. Consider, for example,' this passage from Henry Miller's (1965) semi-autobiographical novel Sexus. Miller (alias Val) is faintly repelled by, and disapproving of, Ida Verlaine, the wife of his best friend. Yet Val maps out a plan to seduce, dominate, and humiliate her. "I just didn't give a fuck for her, as a person, though I often wondered what she might be like as a piece of fuck, so to speak" (p. 228).

I would ask her to prepare the bath for me. She would pretend to demur but she would do it just the same. One day, while I was seated in the tub soaping myself, I noticed that she had forgotten the towels. "Ida," I called, "bring me some towels!" She walked into the bathroom and handed me them. She had on a silk bathrobe and a pair of silk hose. As she stooped over the tub to put the towels on the rack her bathrobe slid open. I slid to my knees and buried my head in her muff. It happened so quickly that she didn't have time to rebel, or even to pretend to rebel. In a moment I had her in the tub, stockings and all. I slipped the bathrobe off and threw it on the floor. I left the stockings on—it made her more lascivious looking, more the Cranach type. I lay back and pulled her on top of me. She was just like a bitch in heat, biting me all over, panting, gasping, wriggling like a worm on the hook. As we were drying ourselves, she bent over and began nibbling at my prick. I sat on the edge of the tub and she kneeled at my feet gobbling it. After a while I made her stand up, bend over; then I let her have it from the rear. She had a small juicy cunt, which fitted me like a glove. I bit the nape of her neck, the lobes of her ears, the sensitive spot on her shoulder, and as I pulled away, I left the mark of my teeth on her beautiful white ass. Not a word spoken. (Miller, 1965, p. 229-230)

Val powerfully dominates and degrades Ida:

"You never wear any undies, do you? You're a slut, do you know it?"

I pulled her dress up and made her sit that way while I finished my coffee.

"Play with it a bit while I finish this."

"You're filthy," she said, but she did as I told her.

"Take your two fingers and open it up. I like the color of it. It's like coral inside. Just like your ears. You say he's got a terrific wang, Bill. I don't know how he ever gets it in there." With this I reached for a candle on the dresser at my side and I handed it to her.

"Let's see if you can get it in all the way . . ."

"You can make me do anything, you dirty devil."

"You like it, don't you?" (p. 231)

Presumably, both Miller and Ida are equally "at fault" for betraying her husband and his friend. Nonetheless, Miller is smugly superior. He revels in his superiority, power, and potency:

Her lips were chewed to a frazzle and she was full of marks, some green, some blue. I had a strange taste in my mouth, of fish glue and Chanel 976|. My cock looked like a bruised rubber hose; it hung between my legs, extended an inch or two beyond its

normal length and swollen beyond recognition. ... A royal bit of fucking, thought I to myself. ... (p. 233)

Ida does not fare so well. Miller (1938/1963) recounts a "cute" story of what happened when Bill Woodruff learns about Ida's extramarital affairs:

This night, however, he (Bill Woodruff) waited up for her and when she came sailing in, chipper, perky, a little lit up and cold as usual he pulled her up short with a "where were you tonight?" She tried pulling her usual yarn, of course. "Cut that," he said. "I want you to get your things off and tumble into bed." That made her sore. She mentioned in her roundabout way that she didn't want any of that business. "You don't feel in the mood for it, I suppose," says he, and then he adds: "that's fine because now I'm going to warm you up a bit." With that he ups and ties her to the bedstead, gags her, and then goes for the razor strop. On the way to the bathroom, he grabs a bottle of mustard from the kitchen. He comes back with the razor strop and he belts the piss out of her. And after that he rubs the mustard into the raw welts. "That ought to keep you warm for tonight," he says. And so saying he makes her bend over and spread her legs apart. "Now," he says, "I'm going to pay you as usual," and taking a bill out of his pocket he crumples it and then shoves it up her quim. (p. 234)

Obviously, this erotic story has a subtext of male dominance and female submission; male sadism and female masochism, male power and female weak­ness. No wonder women didn't seem responsive to this sort of pornography.

In the last two decades, however, research has documented that both men and women can find erotic literature and films sexually exciting. For example, Gunter Schmidt and Volkmar Sigusch (1970) asked 250 men and women university students to watch a series of erotic slides and movies. Both the men and women found the slides and films equally arousing. In fact, women were more likely than men to follow up their viewing with sexual activity.

Is there a difference in the kind of pornography that men and women find sexually arousing? Kinsey and his colleagues (1953) assumed that women, if they could be "turned-on" at all, would be most aroused by stories and movies depict­ing loving romantic relationships; men would be most inflamed by depictions of "raw" explicit sex. Again, the evidence indicates that, contrary to Kinsey's view, both men and women are aroused by much the same kinds of things. Of course, there is some pornography so offensive or so violent that it would be hard for either men or women to find it sexually stimulating. Hence the issue of pornography divides the feminist movement.

Gunter Schmidt, Volkmar Sigusch, and Siegrid Schafer (1973) asked college men and women to read two stories, describing sexual activities of a young couples. In Story 1, love and lust were linked. The couple expressed a great deal of affection for one another. At the same time their sexual activities—flirting, petting, foreplay, and sexual intercourse in various positions—were fully de­scribed. In Story 2, love and lust were isolated. The couple expressed little affec­tion for one another and their sexual activities were described in vulgar and graphic terms. Excerpts from the two stories follow (Schmidt et al., 1973, p. 183):

Story 1: With Affection

1. They walked for a long time in silence. Neither of them seemed to notice where.

He took her into his arms. She cuddled up to him, pressed herself against his body.

Now he wrapped his arms about her tightly, so tightly that they couldn't move at all. His tongue ran tenderly across her lips ... "I like you" he said . . . "You don't want anybody to stare into your eyes and say a lot of deep and fine things. You just love me and I love you and that's all."

2.   He thrust his member into her. He felt his sperm flow into her hot vagina, he arched his back, shuddered moaning, and lay down on her breathing heavily and exhausted. Tenderly he kissed her and stroked her arms. When he slid from her slowly and softly, two glowing, sweat-covered bodies glued to each other separated. It was warm in the room, and the sweat still lay on his forehead. After they had lain there for a while in silence he asked her softly how it had been, and she answered that it was the most delightful and beautiful thing there was. Thus they lay there silently, enchanted by one another, with their hands on each other's genitals. Their limbs locked together, they gazed at one another, caressing each other with their eyes. From time to time he kissed her mouth, her throat, her breasts. . . . Both of them yielded to the pleasantness of their limpness and passivity.

3.  After the orgasm which caused both of them to shudder, they lay there completely satisfied, happily exhausted. Although he knew, he asked her again how it had been. "It was good, it was so good," she whispered tenderly. That made him happy, but he said nothing, only kissed her softly, lay down next to her, and pulled her close to himself. She laid her head on his shoulder, wrapped her leg around his leg, and then she fell silent, devoid of thoughts. And he was still with her, lying there next to her in the same silence.

Story 2: Without Affection

1.  They walked for a long time in silence. Then he took her into his arms, and she pressed her body against his, so that they couldn't move anymore . . . "You're pretty great," he said . . . "you don't want anybody to stare into your eyes and say a lot of deep and fine things about love. You're hot for me and I'm hot for you! That's all."

2.   He shoved his cock into her. He felt his sperm spurting into her hot cunt, he arched his back, shuddered groaning, and lay down on her breathing heavily and exhausted. When he pulled it out and slid down beside her, the two glowing, sweat-covered bodies glued to each other separated. It was warm in the room, and the sweat still lay on his forehead. She lay there stretched out with her hand on his cock. . . . Both of them yielded to their limpness and passivity.

3.  Exhausted and completely satisfied, they fell apart. He turned over and reached for a cigarette. That was a good fuck, he thought.

After reading one of the stories, men and women were asked to rate their own level of sexual arousal. Both men and women found Story 1 (which linked affection and sex) somewhat more arousing than Story 2 (which separated the two). Both men and women admitted to being equally aroused by both stories. Almost all of them reported experiencing physiological correlates of sexual arousal while reading the stories. Most men (90%) had at least a slight or mod­est erection. A few (2%) ejaculated. Most women (80%) felt genital sensations; some reported vaginal lubrication (28%). A very few (1%) had orgasms. Some researchers have done more than ask men and women about their sexual feel­ings. Some have actually measured men's and women's sexual excitement (see Box 3.3).

C3U        i^nMr i en o


In a classic study, Julia Heiman (1 977) did more than ask men and women how "turned on" they were. She measured their sexual responses. Students were asked to listen to a series of erotic audiotapes designed to provoke sexual fanta­sies. Some tapes were "innocent" and very romantic. Couples expressed love and tenderness for one another, but they did not engage in sex. Some tapes were unblushingly erotic. They contained powerful explicit depictions of masturbation and sexual intercourse. Some tapes were both romantic and erotic. Finally, some tapes (control tapes) were not at all sexy; they simply reproduced a typical low-key conversation.

Heiman assessed sexual response to the various tapes in three ways. First, she simply asked the men and women to describe their levels of sexual arousal. She didn't just take their word for it, however; she also measured their levels of sexual excitement. Male sexual arousal was calibrated by attaching a plethysmograph to the mens' penes. (This is a flexible loop that circles the penis and expands as the erection does.) Female arousal was assessed by inserting a vaginal photoplethys-mograph (a device about the size of a tampon, which measures vasocongestion or sexual arousal) inside the entrance to the vagina. Heiman found that the women were more sexually excited by the erotic tapes than the men! Both groups were most turned on by the erotic or the romantic-erotic tapes. Neither men nor women found the romantic or the control tapes at all exciting. Women, and perhaps men, were most aroused by "unconventional" tapes (stories in which women initiated the sexual activity and most of the attention was focused on their sexual responses).

Interestingly enough, Heiman found that although men always knew how sexually aroused they were (it is pretty hard to miss an erection), women were often unaware of how aroused (physiologically) they were. About half the time, when women said they were feeling "no sexual arousal at all," the photoplethys-mograph told a very different story—documenting that they were extremely sexu­ally excited physiologically.

Extramarital Sex

The overwhelming number of Americans disapprove of extramarital sexual rela­tions. In national opinion polls, 87% of Americans say that extramarital relations are "always wrong" or "almost always" wrong (Atwater, 1982). Some Americans are more permissive of extramarital activity than others, of course. Ira Reiss and his colleagues (Reiss, Anderson, & Sponaugle, 1980) have explored the back­ground characteristics, attitudes, and experiences that shape people's extramarital sexual permissiveness. [In this research, permissiveness was measured by a single question: What is your opinion about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than the marriage partner? Is it always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all? (Reiss, et al., 1980, p. 396).] He found that several factors were related to extramarital permissiveness:

SEXUALITY       97

Background Factors

Gender. Men are slightly more approving of extramarital relations than are women.

Age. Younger men and women are slightly more tolerant of extramarital sex than are older people.

Education. The better educated are slightly more tolerant.

Religiosity. Extremely religious people tend to disapprove of extramarital relations slightly more than do others.


Premarital sexual permissiveness. Those who approve of premarital sex are more tolerant of extramarital experimentation as well.

Gender equality. People who believe that men and women are of equal worth are slightly more permissive.

Political liberality. Conservatives disapprove of extramarital relations slightly more than do liberals.

Marital Happiness. Happily married men and women are more likely to disapprove of extramarital sex. Only 13% of happily married men and women accept the idea of extramarital sex, while 43% of unhappily married people do (Sponaugle, 1976). Only 20% of happily married wives actually engage in extramarital relations while 55% of unhappily married wives do. (Comparable figures are not available for husbands.)

People generally agree that extramarital relations are wrong. How do they behave? In the 1940s and 1950s, Kinsey found that approximately 50% of all married men and 26% of all married women had engaged in extramarital sex at some time during their lives (Kinsey et al., 1948, 1953). Other early studies came to much the same conclusion (Hunt, 1974). Studies in the 1980s confirm that here too the double standard is dying. Men and women are becoming quite similar in their willingness to experiment with extramarital sex. Almost equal numbers of men and women, about 50%, now engage in extramarital sex (Rlumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Thompson, 1983). We discuss this topic in greater detail in Chap­ter 8, Relationship Problems.

The Divorced

Morton and Bernice Hunt (1977) interviewed 984 divorced men and women. The authors concluded that many people go through a predictable series of stages. Phase One is the stage of ego repair. In their marriages, most men and women suffer a series of devastating blows to their self-esteem. They reenter the dating world uncertain about their desirability and sexual adequacy. At first they feel extremely shy and uneasy about the idea of starting to date once again. They don't know what the rules are.

98        CHAPTER 3

Once they begin dating, they generally discover that dating relationships are now far more open and sexual than during their teens. Women are often stunned when men they barely know casually invite them to have sexual rela­tions. Men are equally startled when women call them, invite them out, and sometimes even hint that they might like to have sex. The authors found that in the months following a divorce, men and women often acted a bit "wild"; they engaged in a great deal of sexual experimentation. For most of them, such ex­periments worked. They started to feel better about themselves. As one 28-year-old automobile mechanic said:

My ex was so cool that a blowtorch wouldn't have warmed her up. She always told me it was my fault. She said I didn't turn her on. I just didn't have it. She said it and I believed her. Well, after we split I started going out with these divorced women and doing exactly the same things. And they got turned on plenty; they liked me, they really took to me. It was terrific for my morale. I liked myself better than I ever did in my life. I don't think a person who hasn't been through this can understand what it means. (Hunt & Hunt, 1977, p. 147)

Phase Two consists of exploration of the sexuality of oneself and others. People discover how different others' sexual preferences and experiences are.

A woman may be amazed to learn that one man can be so rough, another so tender; how hasty and self-absorbed is one, how patient, caring, and communicative another. A man might find one woman slow to respond, another astonishingly swift, one tepid and restrained, another lusty and unfettered, (p. 150)

Such experiences give men and women a clear idea about what does or does not fit their needs. Some men discover that they are delighted with passionate women; others that they like women who are a bit more restrained. Some women go for men who are excited quickly and intensely; others respond to men who are slower, who enjoy longer, more loving foreplay.

Sooner or later, people enter Phase Three: the period of reconstruction. Most people eventually tire of dating and sleeping around. They begin to hunger for a more loving, committed, deeper, sexual attachment. They are ready for a serious relationship.

All the passions are extinguished in old age.



When we are young, we callowly take it for granted that sex is reserved for the young, beautiful, and healthy. The elderly should be "beyond all that." If an elderly person expressed sexual interest in someone, they were quickly dismissed as a "dirty old man" or an "old fool" (Riportella-Muller, 1989). We can recall visiting one of our grandmothers in a nursing home. Some of the elderly women had their arms tied to the arms of their hospital beds. Their crime? "They are senile; they keep trying to touch themselves," said the attending nurse in disgust. In Kinsey's day, it was assumed that marital sex not only should but did decline dramatically with age. A popular adage wryly observed:

SEXUALITY       99

From your wedding night until your first anniversary, put one bean in ajar every time you have sexual relations. From your first anniversary on, take one bean out of the jar every time you have sex. When you die, the jar will still be half full of beans.

In a series of early studies, researchers painted a dismal picture of the decline of sexuality with age (see Figure 3.2). As people aged, their sexual interest seemed to decline steadily.

Even today, many people assume that it is unseemly for the elderly to express an interest in sex. As we were writing this chapter, a Washington columnist lambasted Senator Ted Kennedy for spending the weekend drinking and socializ­ing with young women. He grumbled:

People have grown tired of a man who is out of control. And they are weary of paying attention to a public person nearing 60 years of age who seems not to have the personal discipline to stay home and leave public skirt-chasing to those young enough to partici­pate. This has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with common sense. (Quoted in Saul & Waldman, 1991, p A31)

Recent research sketches a different picture. In the Starr-Weiner Report (1981), 75% of elderly men and women said that today sex still felt as good (or even better) than when they were young. The scientists interviewed 800 men and women from senior centers from a wide variety of social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. They concluded: "The unmistakable conclusion is that indeed older people do it . . . they like sex, want sex, feel they need sex for their physical and psychological well-being, and are frustrated when they do not have sex" (Starr,

1985, p. 106). While sexual interest and behavior do decline somewhat with age, substantial numbers of elderly men and women have extremely active sex lives, even in their eighties and beyond. Researchers interviewed over 200 healthy 80-to 102-year-olds; most were still sexually active. Most men (88%) and women (71%) still fantasized or daydreamed about being in an affectionate, close, and intimate relationship with the opposite sex. The authors note: "Touching and caressing without sexual intercourse was the most common activity for both men (82%) and women (64%), followed by masturbation for both men (72%) and women (40%), followed by sexual intercourse for both men (63%) and women (30%)." Interestingly enough, only 29% of the men and 14% of the women were still married (Bretschneider & McCoy, 1988, p. 125).

Some elderly couples do give up sexual relations. Usually, in this case, they do so because the husband finds it impossible to get and maintain an erection; generally, their wives are still eager to have sexual intercourse (Kinsey et al., 1948, 1953).

I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. Job, Old Testament

The Widowed

In 1985, there were 11.5 million men and 17 million women over 65 in the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1987). By the time men and women are 65, the sex ratios are extremely unbalanced. Elderly men find it surprisingly easy to attract desirable sexual partners; elderly women find it almost impossible to do so. There are several reasons why the sex ratios so favor men: On the average, women live eight years longer than men do. To make matters worse, men gener­ally marry women three to four years younger than themselves. Thus, after 65, although 78% of men are married, only 40% of women are. While only 14%) of the men have been widowed, 50% of the women have lost their husbands (Butler & Lewis, 1986). Thus it is not surprising that when men are widowed, they are almost certain to become sexually active before one year has passed, while only 43% of widows ever become active again (Beghard, 1968). If widowed men and women do find sexual partners, they are likely to find their sexual relations extremely satisfying (Gebhard, 1968).


In summary, recent evidence makes it clear that a sexual revolution has occurred. Men and women are becoming increasingly similar in their sexual preferences, feelings, and experiences. More important, the tendencies are largely in the direction of greater sexual freedom for all individuals. Furthermore, it is hard to imagine that non-Western cultures can long hold off the same spirit of sexual experimentation any more than they can restrain the deeper advancing current of individualism. As existential theory suggests, the ways in which people experience sex and their own sexuality are in no small part a function of their belief systems

OCAUMLI IT            | U I

and perceptions. As those belief systems become more universally "Westernized," we can anticipate the spread throughout the world of Western modes of sexual conduct.

But the "West" is not all that uniform when it comes to sexuality. Not all feminists, for instance, are certain that the revolution has been good for their cause. Some contend that the encouragement of sexual freedom for women simply plays into the hands of men who, some feminists maintain, simply use sex to enhance their power over women. Other women's rights leaders say the issue that counts is choice for women, in sex as well as in everything else.

Traditionalists worry that the erosion of sexual restraint encourages selfish­ness at the expense of communal concern, pleasure at the expense of responsibil­ity, sensualism at the expense of religion, tradition, and sobriety.

Sexual doubts have always resided close to the center of the great ethical and political conflicts within all cultures and throughout history. Today's sexual revolu­tion will hardly put these debates to rest. They are sure to be argued more furiously than ever as the revolution continues along its bumpy but inexorable course.

Chapter 4

Companionate Love

Introduction Definitions

The Evolutionary Soil of Companionate Love The Chemistry of Companionate Love The Looks, Sounds, and Postures of Companionate Love The Look of Love The Sounds of Love The Postures of Love Other Indicators of Love Companionate Love and Reinforcement Theory Companionate Love and Equity Theory The Communal Perspective The Equity Perspective The Theory The Research Conclusion


Passionate love rarely lasts. Companionate love is a heartier variety of love. Until the recent liberalizing of cultural norms about divorce and divorce laws, most marriages did last until "death do us part"—which in the days before the Indus­trial Revolution began 250 years ago was not very long. Early death ended most marriages. What does the traditional rarity of divorce say about the history of companionate love? That people loved "better" in the good old days?

The answer seems to be no. One of the hardest, most interesting, and most


>^wivi r /-mm i^»im/-\ | c   LUVC           I UO

important of historical debates centers on the when, how, and why of the tender emotions. Historians know that marriage for love did not begin in the West before the eighteenth century, and even then it was practiced only among a minority of the population in a minority of countries. Outside the West, marriage for love has still not established itself as the norm even today, but change in that direction is proceeding quite rapidly.

But what about marriages that had been made between families for economic and social purposes and that were not initiated for reasons of personal love? Did love eventually develop and grow between husband and wife, knowing as they did that divorce was not an available option for them? Because most humans before the eighteenth-century Enlightenment neither read nor wrote, it is not easy for historians to find sufficient evidence to answer this question. It is the opinion of Lawrence Stone (1977) in his pathbreaking The Family, Sex, and Marriage: England 1500-1800 that companionate love and intimacy were very scarce com­modities before the modern age. In describing the family pattern of the late medieval period and the sixteenth century (roughly 1400 to 1600) in England, Stone emphasized the importance of the extended family and the community in raising children (as distinct from the nuclear family) and went on to note the absence of many features of family life that we today tend to take for granted.

There was no sense of domestic privacy, and interpersonal relations within the conju­gal unit, both between husbands and wives and between parents and children were

necessarily fairly remote, partly because of the ever-present probability of imminent death, partly because of cultural patterns which dictated the arranged marriage, the subordination of women, the neglect and early fostering out of children and the custom of harsh parental discipline. Child-rearing practices, especially swaddling, the lack of a single mothering figure, and the crushing of the supposedly sinful will by brute force at an early age, tended to create special psychological characteristics in adults. (Stone, 1977, pp. 408-409)

At this point Stone indulged in some fascinating speculation in which he attempted to connect his report of distant and raw family relations—a family system featured by "psychological distance, deference" and a lack of privacy (p. 409)—to a general emotional profile of sixteenth century England. English adults, he thought, tended to display "suspicion towards others, proneness to violence, and an incapacity to develop strong emotional ties to any one individual" (p. 409).

Stone's challenging explorations have generated lively debates among histori­ans and many other scholars. Can one properly connect so directly the emotions generated by family practices to the overall history of society? Were those emo­tions as crude, ugly, and remote as he characterized them? Some historians suggest that a strong and warm emotional bond might biologically have been inevitable between mother and infant when the mother fed her baby at her breasts. They and others propose a modestly brighter scenario about pre-Industrial intimacy in general (Gadlin, 1977; Ladurie, 1979; Taylor, 1989). The questions are intriguing, but whatever the eventual answers (should any emerge), Stone has, in fact, made a most persuasive case for likely and suggestive linkages between family life and emotional outcomes of that life with the overall history of nations and empires.

That the very ideas of emotional warmth, intimacy, and kindness to others may be quite new goals in human history has been given further weight by the great art historian Kenneth Clark (1969). In Lord Clark's depiction of the signal achievement of the nineteenth century—a moment ago in historical time—he singled out an idea often assumed to have been around forever: that feeling of responsibility to other people, which we call "humanitarianism." Clark (1969) described it in his TV series, Civilisation, as "the greatest achievement of the nineteenth century," and went on to indicate how new a notion it was.

We are so much accustomed to the humanitarian outlook that we forget how little it counted in earlier ages of civilisation. Ask any decent person in England or America what he thinks matters most in human conduct: five to one his answer will be "kind­ness." It's not a word that would have crossed the lips of any of the earlier heroes of this series. If you had asked St. Francis what mattered in life, he would, we know, have answered "chastity, obedience and poverty"; if you had asked Dante or Michelangelo they might have answered "disdain of baseness and injustice"; if you had asked Goethe, he would have said "to live in the whole and the beautiful." But kindness, never. Our ancestors didn't use the word, and they did not greatly value the quality, (p. 329)

The development of kindness in human life was inhibited by the ghastly conditions under which most humans labored before the coming of the Industrial Revolution—conditions that led to early death, nearly constant misery, and a dark

view of earthly existence. It is small wonder that promises of the afterlife seemed so appealing to the poor people who lived like the peasants of early modern France portrayed in Robert Darnton's (1984) The Great Cat Massacre. Noting that family size was kept down by the ubiquity of death, that of the mother and those of her babies during childbirth and infancy, Darnton offered this general picture of rural life in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries:

Stillborn children, called chrissons, were sometimes buried casually, in anonymous collective graves. Infants were sometimes smothered by their parents in bed—a rather common accident, judging by episcopal edicts forbidding parents to sleep with children who had not reached their first birthdays. Whole families crowded into one or two beds and surrounded themselves with livestock in order to keep warm. So children became participant observers of their parents' sexual activities. No one thought of them as innocent creatures or of childhood itself as a distinct phase of life, clearly distinguish­able from adolescence, youth, and adulthood by special styles of dress and behavior. Children labored alongside their parents almost as soon as they could walk, and they joined the adult labor force as farm hands, servants, and apprentices as soon as they reached their teens.

The peasants of early modern France inhabited a world of step-mothers and orphans, of inexorable, unending toil, and of brutal emotions, both raw and repressed. The human condition has changed so much since then that we can hardly imagine the way it appeared to people whose lives really were nasty, brutish, and short, (pp. 27-29)

Darnton and Stone may have a somewhat bleaker view of the crudity of emotional life as the norm for the pre-modern past than some other historians. Yet it is quite clear that there exists precious little evidence of companionate love as a social standard before 1700—historically again, only yesterday. Even though there was a tender aspect in much of history's great literature from Sappho's lesbian poetry in the Roman era to Jesus preaching for kindness on the Mount to Japanese court poetry of the early Middle Ages to the early medieval Cult of the Madonna to the love-longings of the late medieval troubadors to the sublimities of Shakespeare, the hard historical truth is that, insofar as they are thought to address the real lives experienced by the vast majorities, these have been marginal voices. The brevity and difficulty of pre-Industrial life rendered irrelevant for most humans the tender sensibilities. Intimacy was an indulgence affordable by few. Intimacy, like kindness, is a relatively new idea in history.

Why then its development in the past 250 years? There are two leading general paradigms to explain this phenomenon: first, that humans are biologically wired to be intimate, second, that intimacy is primarily a social construction, a product of time-bound human-made definitions of what is good and desirable.

In this chapter we address the debate as psychologists see it today. But if the historical perspective is useful, the newness of companionate love and intimacy as norms gives—in this particular context—somewhat greater weight to the "social constructionist" view. If intimacy comes naturally, how could it have been so successfully repressed by political and religious authorities and by patriarchy for so long?

That must remain an unanswered question; but more certain is that if the modern age has validated kindness and if the great accompanying modern ten­dency has been the advance of individualism, it is not farfetched to imagine that

expressions of companionate love and the willingness to stay in a relationship have something to do with the personal rewards realized by the individual in the relationship. Expressions of self-interest and behavior based on it no longer result inevitably in incarceration, torture, death, and damnation. With the liberalization of divorce laws and attitudes, if the personal rewards in a relationship are out­weighed by negative experiences, individuals simply leave that relationship and consciously seek out a better one.

Love is friendship embellished by pleasure; it is the perfection of friendship. It

is the supreme sentiment that focuses all our behavior, that employs all our

faculties, that satisfies all our desires, that combines all our pleasures. It is the

masterpiece of our being.

Destutt de Tracy


In Chapter 1, we defined companionate love as:

The affection and tenderness we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply entwined. Companionate love is a complex functional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, ac­tion tendencies, and instrumental behaviors.

Sometimes companionate love is called tender love, marital love, or true love. What does it mean when we say companionate lovers' lives are "deeply en­twined"? Earlier, we saw that Robert Sternberg (1988), in his "triangular model of love," assumed that unlike passionate love, a "hot" emotion, companionate relationships were "warmer"; they possessed little passion but a great deal of commitment and intimacy. C. S. Lewis (1960, pp. 55-57) described it this way:

Its object must be familiar . . . the use of "old" or vieux as a term of affection is significant. . . . This taking for granted, which is an outrage in erotic love, is here right and proper ... it fits the comfortable, quiet nature of the feeling. There is ... a peculiar charm . . . about those moments when Appreciative love lies, as it were, curled up asleep, and the mere ease and ordinariness of the relationship (free as solitude, yet neither is alone) wraps us round. No need to talk. No need to make love. No needs at all except perhaps to stir the fire.

Recently, Harold Kelley and his colleagues (1983) observed that in close, companionate, relationships, couples' thoughts, emotions, actions, and lives are profoundly linked. They observed: "The close relationship is one of strong, fre­quent and diverse interdependence that lasts over a considerable period of time" (p. 8).

Ellen Berscheid (1983) points out that in a marriage, the couple's plans, behaviors, or organized action sequences ("intrachain and interchain sequences") may be more or less tightly linked. For example, imagine that every Sunday John and Susan invite their best friends to brunch. John's and Susan's actions could be fairly independent. (Their action sequences could be independent.) He might take full responsibility for the Sunday brunch on the first and third Sundays of the

month—inviting people, cooking the meal, and cleaning up. She might take full responsibility on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.

On the other hand, John's and Susan's lives could be tightly meshed. (Their action sequences might be almost completely interdependent.) If they are a compatible couple, their interactions would be facilitative. They might decide who they'd like to see together; make a shopping list together. When they shop for brunch, she might read through the grocery list item-by-item. He might run from aisle to aisle, tossing the items in their cart. And they might cook breakfast and clean up together. If John and Susan are a strife-torn couple, their connec­tions would be disruptive. As Susan reads through the grocery list, John might sigh in irritation, shifting from foot to foot in boredom. Then pushed beyond endurance by her need for an extra bottle of Worcestershire sauce, he might begin to berate her for her extravagance. This cheery conversation may soon degenerate into claims and counterclaims against their respective families. They might begin fighting about the right way to serve orange juice or prepare eggs Benedict as they fix the breakfast. Now they're on a roll, as they continue their squabbling right on through brunch, enlisting guests on one side or the other in their battle.

Berscheid points out that whether intimates love, hate, or are indifferent to their mates, they are nonetheless likely to be intensely "emotionally invested" in them. When relationships end, through breakup or death, people's lives are often severely disrupted. When individuals lose their mates, they lose, in part, the ability to run off their well-oiled action sequences. Now Susan may keep losing her place in the grocery list. She can't find anything on the shelves. It was John who knew where everything was. He has no one to share "that look" with when their friends begin to argue about whether or not George Bush should have invaded Iraq. There are no hidden understandings. In our definition of companionate love, then, two things are required: (1) Couples must love or like one another, and (2) their lives must be deeply entwined.

Now that we have defined companionate love, let us turn to a discussion of its possible origins.

Love between men and women . . . is a hunger that mere possession can never quench.

Joyce Carol Oates


Theorists who try to explain the origins of any emotion such as love generally take an evolutionary approach. Robert Plutchik (1980), for one, argued that at every phylogenetic level (from the lowest single-celled organisms, to reptiles, to mam­mals, up to the highest primates) organisms face the same problems. If they are to survive and reproduce they must find food, avoid being killed, and reproduce. Emotional "packages" are inherited, adaptive, patterns of emotional experience, physiological reaction, and behavior. You will recall that, in Chapter 1, emotions were defined as:

organised, meaningful, generally adaptive action systems. . . . [They are] complex functional wholes including appraisals or appreciations, patterned physiological pro­cesses, action tendencies, subjective feelings, expressions, and instrumental behaviors. (Fischer et al„ 1990, pp. 84-85)

Presumably, the reason such emotional patterns developed in the first place, were shaped and reshaped over the millennia, and continue to survive is because they were once adaptive. These adaptive reactions include protection responses (flight, avoidance, hiding, and playing dead), destruction responses (clawing, biting, and hitting), and, most important for our interests here, reproduction responses (court­ing, copulating, and egg laying). Many theorists believe that companionate love is built on the ancient circuitry evolved to ensure that mammals and primates mate, reproduce, and care for the young. Recently, neuroscientists and anthropologists have begun to learn more about companionate love. They have begun to study the subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, and action ten­dencies associated with this form of love's ancient heritage.

The Chemistry of Companionate Love

Neuroscientists know very little about the biological bases of companionate love and tenderness. Researchers have just begun to speculate. Recently, neuroscien­tists identified a hormone, oxytocin, which seems to promote close, intimate bonds. Oxytocin is a tiny, powerful peptide secreted by the almond-sized pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The brain has receptor areas for this hormone in the ventral medial nucleus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus—areas that are involved in joyous (Caldwell, Jirikowski, Greer, & Pedersen, 1989), affectionate, sexual, and reproductive behavior (Carlson & Hatfield, 1992; GrifBtt & Hatfield, 1985; Pedersen, Caldwell, Jirikowski, & Insel, 1991). Zoologist Sue Carter (An-gier, 1991) observes: "It [oxytocin] facilitates tactile contact between animals, and that's an early step in the development of social attachment" (p. R8).

In studies of rats, rabbits, sheep, and other animals, researchers have discov­ered that oxytocin acts on the regions of the brain involved in affectionate and sexual behavior. Oxytocin is the spark that makes animals (primed by sex hor­mones such as estrogen and testosterone) seek out sexual and reproductive part­ners. It also intensifies the pleasure of sexual arousal and climax (Carter, 1991). Psychiatrist Frank L. Moore (Angier, 1991) found that in the moments preceding orgasm, men's and women's blood contains three to five times their normal levels of oxytocin.

Oxytocin also promotes more intense bonds between parents and children; it increases eagerness to nurture the young. Mother rats given extra oxytocin tend to pick up and nuzzle their pups more frequently than they normally would. Father rats given oxytocin are more likely to build a nest for the pups and to guard them more fiercely than usual. (When father rats are injected with a drug that blocks the activity of oxytocin, they not only become less nurturant, but they sometimes eat their offspring!)

Finally, oxytocin appears to increase contact between same-sexed pairs as well. Researchers at the National Institutes of Mental Health in Maryland noted that if the brains of field mice are responsive to oxytocin, the mice tend to crave

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the companionship of other mice. If these same mice are given extra oxytocin, they tend to become exceptionally eager for physical contact, "striving to get so close that they are practically crawling beneath one another's fur" (Angier, 1991, p. R8).

The Looks, Sounds, and Postures of Companionate Love

Love's ancient beginnings can be read today in the look, gaze, and sounds of companionate love.

Love is ... a tender look which becomes a habit.

Peter Ustinov

The Look of Love Emotions researchers have found that the universal emo­tions—joy, love, sadness, fear, and anger—are associated with certain character­istic facial expressions (Ekman, 1982). In recent research, scientists have tried to pinpoint the facial expressions associated with joy and love (Rox 4.1).

Scientists (Ekman, Friesen, & O'Sullivan, 1988) have discovered that when people are experiencing joy, they display a characteristic face in which they smile brightly and crinkle up their eyes. When men and women are experiencing com­panionate love their faces are just a bit different (Hatfield et al., 1991). They take on the expression mothers often display when they are happily, tenderly gazing at their young infants. They gaze downward (at the child). Their faces soften, and a slight, tender smile plays about their lips. [Rloch, Orthous, & Santibanez (1987) secured much the same results.]

Love must be fostered with soft words.


The Sounds of Love French psychophysiologist Susana Rloch and her col­leagues (1987) argued that not just joy but also passionate love ("eroticism") and companionate love ("tenderness") are associated with different breathing pat­terns and sounds. Mothers often coo or croon softly with their mouths held near the infant's head. They speculated that such tender maternal sounds become the forerunners of the breathing patterns and sounds associated with love. She studied the basic emotions of joy, love/eroticism, love/tenderness, fear, anger, and sadness and discovered that the breathing patterns associated with eroticism and tender­ness were somewhat different:

In eroticism, the principal feature of sexual activation is an even breathing pattern which increases in frequency and amplitude depending on the intensity of the emo­tional engagement; inspiration occurs through a relaxed open mouth. The face muscles are relaxed, and the eyes are closed or semi-closed. In the female version of the erotic pattern, the head is tilted backwards, and the neck is exposed, (p. 6)

On the other hand, in tenderness, the emotion in which we are most in­terested:

The breathing pattern is of low frequency with an even and regular rhythm; the mouth is semi-closed, the relaxed lips forming a slight smile. Facial and antigravitational muscles are very relaxed, eyes are open and relaxed, and the head is slightly tilted to


In one experiment, Elaine Hatfield and her students (Hatfield, Costello, Schale-kamp Denney, & Hsee, 1 991) asked men and women to read scripts depicting the five universal emotions—joy, love, sadness, anger, and fear. They assumed their reading was done in private. Actually, however, it was secretly filmed on video­tape. (At the end of the experiment, the experimenters secured the subjects' permission to view their videos.) If students had been assigned to read a script in which they expressed joy and happiness, the script went like this:

Today is the happiest day of my life. It's my twentieth birthday. Some buddies of mine decided to throw a surprise birthday party for me. They rounded up a bunch of my friends, snuck into my apartment, decorated it, and waited for me to come in from work. When I walked in the door, there they were! I couldn't believe it. There was screaming and shouting and I could hardly stop laughing. I can't imagine I'll ever have a day like that again.

If they had been assigned to read a script in which they declared their love and delight in another, the script went like this:

Well, let me tell you. Now that I'm in love, I think about John (Susan) constantly. I can twist any conversation around in my mind so that it's really about him (her). I imagine what he (she) would say to me and how I might tell him (her) things I have never told anyone else before. When I see him (her), POW!, my heart takes a leap, my cheeks flush, and I can't help smiling. At night before I go to bed, I think of how adorable he (she) is and how much I love him (her).

The authors found that there was indeed a characteristic look of love. People who read the loving script not only came to feel more loving than those who read any of the other scripts, but judges rated their faces as looking "more loving" than the faces of men and women who had read any of the other scripts. The subjects' faces seemed softer, more tender and relaxed.

the side. The postural attitude is one of approach. Vocalization includes a humming type lullaby sound, (p. 6)

The Postures of Love    Desmond Morris (1971, p. 12) observed:

These, then, are our first real experiences of life—floating in a warm fluid, curling inside a total embrace, swaying to the undulations of the moving body and hearing the beat of the pulsing heart. Our prolonged exposure to these sensations in the absence of other, competing stimuli leaves a lasting impression on our brains, an impression that spells security, comfort and passivity.

After birth, mothers instinctively try to re-create the security of the womb. Mothers kiss, caress, fondle, and embrace their infants; they cradle them in their arms. In the womb, neonates hear the steady drumbeat of the mothers' heart— beating at 72 beats per minute. After birth, mothers instinctively hold their babies


with their heads pressed against their left breasts, closest to the maternal heart, (Toy companies have taken advantage of this discovery by marketing stuffed animals that beat in time to the mother's heart.) When their infants fret, mothers unconsciously rock them at a rate of between 60 and 70 rocks per minute, the rate that is most calming to infants. Morris points out: "It appears as if this rhythm, whether heard or felt, is the vital comforter, reminding the baby vividly of the lost paradise of the womb" (p. 14). Of course, in adulthood, these same kisses, tender caresses, and embraces continue to provide security for men and women—uncon­scious of their early origins.

Other Indicators of Love Finally, anthropologist Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1971), in Love and Hate, observed that primate mothers and infants reveal their close bonds in certain characteristic ways. Human mothers and their infants express their feelings for one another in much the same ways. And, in adulthood, men and women in all cultures cannot help but show their companionate love in the same ways they did as infants. For instance, newborn infants rhythmically rotate their heads from side to side as they root for their mothers' nipple. You might observe yourself, sometime, as you playfully nuzzle someone you love. Perhaps you will find yourself using motions and gestures and rhythms from the distant past: holding his or her head in your hands or rubbing your lips against his or her cheek with a sideways movement of your head. Eibl-Eibesfeldt graphically illustrates the kissing, mutual feeding, and embracing that bond people together. We see then that people telegraph their feelings of companionate love for one another in their looks, sounds, and postures.

We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As infilling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.

James Boswell


Many psychologists cite reinforcement theory principles to explain why people are attracted to some people and repelled by others (Berscheid & Hatfield, 1969; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959).

If you would marry wisely, marry your equal.


Sociologists observe that Americans tend to choose marital partners who are very similar to themselves in age, race, religion, and educational attainments (Scanzoni and Scanzoni, 1988).

Love begins with love. Jean de La Bruyere

According to reinforcement theory we come to care for those who provide us with important rewards and dislike those who punish us. The human mind is like

a giant computer. It swiftly tallies up how pleasurable or painful a lifetime of fleeting encounters with a person has proved to be, sums and "spits out" an emotional reaction. A very handy tally indeed. If, for example, we receive a letter from a former girlfriend (we immediately recognize her flowing handwriting and the violet ink on the envelope) and our heart sinks, we would be wise to heed that bodily warning. Regardless of how we think we "should" feel about her, our emotions tell us how in fact we do feel. We can be fairly sure that, on balance, our past encounters with her have not gone well and that we are doomed to more bad stuff if we keep up an active correspondence.

At first glance, our reaction to this "law of attraction" might be, "So what? We figured that out long ago!" Reinforcement theory, however, leads to some conclu­sions that are not so obvious. Researchers have found that people also come to like and love people who are merely associated with pleasure and to dislike those who are merely associated with pain. For example, when you are sitting on the beach, gazing at a sunset, you might feel a rush of affection for the date seated next to you who just happens to be sharing your experience. Conversely, if you have a splitting headache and are under pressure to finish a project, you may explode in anger when your sweetheart interrupts you to read you choice bits from The New York Times.

Social psychologists have amassed considerable evidence for their contention that we all practice love or hate, by association. In one experiment, James May and Phyllis Hamilton (1980) showed women photographs of college men and asked them to rate the appearance, interpersonal attraction, intelligence, and morality of the men. Sometimes women rated the men while pleasant light-rock music was playing. Sometimes, the room was silent and at other times unpleasant, dissonant avant-garde classical music was playing. Women were most attracted to the men if they assessed them while the light rock was playing. The men fared poorest when the dissonant music pierced the ears.

Other researchers have documented that men and women are more positive about one another when they meet in pleasant surroundings (in rooms with soft lighting, elegant draperies, beautiful paintings and sculpture, and plush, comfort­able chairs) than when they meet in ugly rooms (rooms that have harsh lighting, torn window shades, drab walls, and are shabby, dirty, and littered with cigarette butts) (Maslow & Mintz, 1956). Men and women also like others better when they meet in cool, temperature-controlled rooms than when they meet in hot, damp, sticky rooms (Griffith, 1970). In reinforcement theory, then, we like people who reward us and we dislike those who punish us. We also like (or dislike) people who are merely associated with reward (or punishment).

What rewards seem to matter most in companionate love relationships? Donn Byrne and Sarah Murnen (1988) argued that if couples wish to maintain a loving relationship, they must be careful to keep communicating their positive feelings to one another. In new affairs, this is easy. Couples can't help themselves; they unconsciously express their intense feelings for one another in a thousand little ways—by physical closeness, eye contact, expressing sexual interest, uttering kind words, holding hands, giving presents, and generally expressing their affection. The authors observe: "Very often, a given act—a thoughtful phone call informing a partner you will be late, a sexual interaction, or a birthday gift—is more important for the message of love it sends than for its intrinsic value" (p. 301).

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Unfortunately, as couples settle into a routine, kind words are often replaced by harsh evaluations, thoughtful courtesies by neglect. For some reason, married couples frequently treat one another worse than they would treat total strangers. Some couples stop looking at each other, stop touching, stop talking kindly. Byrne and Murnen observed: "We also seem to feel free in a close, loving relationship to criticize, nag, and complain. . . . Compounding the problem is the fact that negative words and deeds from someone we like is unexpected and more upsetting than such responses from someone we dislike" (p. 302).

John Gottman and his colleagues (Gottman, Notarius, Gonso, & Markman, 1976) contrasted the behavior of married couples who were reasonably happy with those who were distressed. They found that happy couples generally had positive exchanges. They smiled, nodded, and made eye contact. They spoke to each other in soft, tender, happy voices. They leaned forward to catch one an­other's words. Distressed couples had evolved corrosive patterns of interacting. They tried to bludgeon one another into agreements by complaints and punish­ment. They sneered, cried, and frowned at one another. Their voices were tense, cold, impatient, whining. They made rude gestures, pointed, jabbed, and threw up their hands in disgust; or they simply ignored one another. As soon as one partner resorted to these tactics, the other began to respond in the same way, leading to an escalation of reciprocal aversiveness. Gary Birchler, Robert Weiss, and John Vincent (1975) observed married couples chatting or discussing fairly serious issues with one another and then with strangers. They found that both happily married and distressed married couples were less positive toward their mates than they were toward complete strangers! Even the happily married couples gave their mates (compared with the strangers) 30% fewer rewards (smiles, touches, or agreements) and 80% more punishments (criticisms, ignoring them, or disagree­ments)!

Byrne and his colleagues contend that companionate love and liking are the most important rewards/costs involved in a relationship. In Chapter 1 (Box 1.1) we listed a number of other personal, emotional, and day-to-day rewards, along with the opportunities gained and lost that seem to be critically important in love relationships. As an old song goes: "You've got to ac-cen-tu-ate the positive/ E-li-mi-nate the negative/Latch on to the affirmative/Don't mess with Mr. In-Between."

Love and you shall be loved. All love is mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an algebraic equation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Couples care both about how rewarding their relationships are and with how fair they seem to be.

Marry her, Charlie. Just because she's a thief and a hitter doesn't mean she isn't a good woman in all other departments.

Anjelica Huston to Jack Nicholson in the movie Prizzi's Honor

The Communal Perspective

A few theorists would disagree with the assertion that lovers care about fairness. They argue that companionate relationships are special relationships. For exam­ple, Margaret Clark and Judson Mills (Clark & Reis, 1988) have argued that people have very different ideas as to the nature of appropriate behavior in communal relationships (such as love relationships, family relationships, or close friendships) as opposed to exchange relationships (such as encounters with stran­gers or business associates). In communal relationships, people feel responsible for one another's well-being (Williamson & Clark, 1989b). They wish to benefit others, to show their love and affection, or simply to help them. They expect nothing in return. In exchange relationships, on the other hand, acquaintances do not feel particularly responsible for one another. They care very much about "what's in it for me?"

In a series of experiments, college men, who were naturally eager to meet suitable women, were introduced to a beautiful, single woman. In the communal condition, she too was said to be potentially available for a romance. (She had just arrived in town and was eager to meet men.) In the exchange relationship condi­tion, she was, alas, married. (She had presumably been in town for a long time and was not eager to meet anyone new.) The authors found that men treated the beautiful, single woman very differently than the married woman. In the commu­nal condition, men were unusually alert to the beautiful woman's needs. They were delighted to help her, especially if she was sad and needy (Clark, Mills, & Powell, 1986). They were disappointed, in fact, if she insisted on paying them back in kind immediately (Clark & Mills, 1979). They did not keep track of who contributed what to joint tasks; they preferred to think of their projects as a joint effort (Clark, 1984). Even if the men ended up providing all the help, they did not feel exploited (Clark & Waddell, 1985). In the exchange condition (when the woman was married), on the other hand, men were concerned with the short-term equity of the relationship; that is, they liked the married woman most if she kept track of who contributed what to the various tasks they both performed (Clark, 1984) and if she paid them back for their help (Clark & Mills, 1979). In fact, they felt exploited when their help was not reciprocated (Clark & Waddell, 1985).

Clark and her colleagues (Clark, Ovellette, Powell, & Milberg, 1987) argued that men and women might differ in whether they prefer communal or exchange rules to operate in their companionate love relationships. Men may be more exchange oriented. They may get upset and feel unjustly treated if people are ungrateful for their contributions and if no effort is made to repay their benefits. Women may be more communally oriented. They may be particularly upset and feel unjustly treated if others do not welcome their help (or even seem to resent it!) or if their needs are not met. Love relationships, the authors argue, probably go best if both couples are high in communal orientation. Obviously, couples do worst if they are mismatched.

The Equity Perspective

Most theorists, however, take the equity perspective. They assume that couples must be careful to ensure that their partners feel loved, rewarded, and fairly


treated. Otherwise, love relationships will suffer and possibly dissolve. Zick Rubin (1973, pp. 82-83) clearly stated this point:

Exchange theory postulates that human relationships are based first and foremost on self-interest. . . . Such characterizations contrast sharply with what many of us would like to think of friendship and love, that they are intimate relationships characterized at least as much by the joy of giving as by the desire to receive. But although we might prefer to believe otherwise, we must face up to the fact that our attitudes toward other people are determined to a large extent by our assessments of the rewards they hold for us.

Gerald Patterson (1971, p. 26) added:

There is an odd kind of equity which holds when people interact with each other. In effect, we get what we give, both in amount and in kind. Each of us seems to have his own bookkeeping system for love, and for pain. Over time, the books are balanced.

Persons generally believe that if their partners loved them they would wish to treat them fairly; but it doesn't always work that way. If men and women get too much or too little from their relationships for too long a time it leads to serious trouble. Let us begin by reviewing equity theory (Hatfield et al, 1978, 1984) and then proceed to discuss some research findings.

The Theory    Equity theory is a simple theory; it consists of four propositions:

Proposition I: People will try to maximize their outcomes (their rewards minus costs).

Proposition II: Groups can maximize collective reward by evolving accepted systems for equitably apportioning resources among members. Thus, they will evolve such systems of equity and will attempt to induce members to adhere to them. They will reward people who treat others equitably and punish those who do not.

Proposition III: When people participate in inequitable relationships, they will become distressed. The more inequitable the relationship, the more distress they will feel.

Proposition IV: People who discover that they are in inequitable relationships will attempt to eliminate their distress by restoring equity. The greater the inequity, the harder they will try to restore equity. (Hatfield et al„ 1984, pp. 1-2)

Essentially, then, the equity argument goes as follows: People may be moti­vated by self-interest, but they soon learn that the best way to survive is by following social rules ... or at least to appear to be doing so. Thus men and women all-in-all will feel most comfortable when they are getting roughly what they deserve from their relationships—no more and certainly no less. If men and women exploit their mates, or allow themselves to be exploited, they will experi­ence distress. If you think about the affairs of some of your friends, you can probably come up with some examples of people who are always willing to give too much ... or who are emotionally stingy and willing to give too little in relationships . . . and how these unbalanced affairs have worked out. Here are some of ours.

One of our clients was very paternal; he was always attracted to "wounded birds"; beautiful young girls who were so troubled, so uneducated, that they couldn't make it on their own. He tried to anticipate all their needs and showered them with expensive presents. Anytime trouble threatened, he tried harder and

gave yet more. Inevitably, his relationships fell apart. His young girlfriends were grateful; they felt they should love him (and were ashamed that they couldn't). But they just didn't. "Where was his self-respect? Why was he so desperate?" They felt smothered. They couldn't bear to touch him. They had to flee.

Another of our clients was appallingly narcissistic. He was good-looking and had a sort of raffish charm, but he wasn't willing to make any compromises. "You compromise once," he said, "and you set a precedent; there's no end to it." In singles bars, women swarmed around him. However, once they started spending time with him, they soon became irritated. At first they could convince themselves that it was "just this once" that they would be stuck in the kitchen preparing a "spontaneous" dinner for ten while he watched the Super Bowl with his friends. Only this once would he ask her to research and type his term papers while he took a nap. But as the days turned into weeks and the "just-this-onces" became routine, the rationalizations turned to seething rage. They felt "ripped off." Even­tually they left the kitchen, the typewriter, and the relationship.

Researchers have devised a simple scale for measuring how equitable men and women believe their relationships are. Technically, an equitable relationship is said to exist if both partners are doing equally well in the marital give-and-take:

(Oa ~ h)= (Ob ~ h)                                   (4 1}

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In the preceding formula, / indicates what persons A and B are investing or putting into their relationship; O indicates what they are getting out of it. This formula then says that in a fair relationship, the more men and women put into a relationship, the more they should get out of it. Relationships are patently unfair if person A does all the giving and person B does all the taking. Researchers, such as Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues (Hatfield et al., 1984, p. 1), measured how equitable couples perceive their relationships to be by asking each of them:

Considering what you put into your (dating relationship) (marriage), compared to what you get out of it . . . and what your partner puts in compared to what (s)he gets out of it, how does your (dating relationship) (marriage) "stack up"?

+ 3 + 2 + 1 0 -1 -2 -3

I am getting a much better deal than my partner.

I am getting a somewhat better deal.

I am getting a slightly better deal.

We are both getting an equally good, or bad, deal.

My partner is getting a slightly better deal.

My partner is getting a somewhat better deal.

My partner is getting a much better deal than I am.

On the basis of their answers, persons were classified as overbenefited (receiv­ing more than they deserve), equitably treated, or underbenefited (receiving less than they deserve).

How do couples, caught up in unbalanced relationships, generally handle their feelings of distress? Men and women have been found to reduce distress via three techniques:

1.  Restoration of actual equity. One way individuals can restore equity to an

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unjust relationship is by voluntarily setting things right... or at least urging their partners to do so. There is a great deal of evidence that couples do often make considerable effort to balance things out. The husband who has been irritable because of stress at work may try to make amends by taking the family on a holiday when the pressure lets up.

2. Restoration of psychological equity. Unfortunately, couples in inequitable relationships can reduce distress in a second way. They can distort reality and convince themselves (and perhaps others as well) that things are perfectly fair just as they are. A variety of studies document the imaginative techniques that men and women use to justify injustice. Some studies find, for example, that harm doers rationalize the harm they inflict on others by denying they are responsible for the victim's suffering ("I was just following orders"), by insisting that the victim deserved to suffer, or by minimizing the extent to which the victim suffered from their actions (Brock & Buss, 1962; Glass, 1964; Sykes & Matza, 1957). There is even some sparse experimental evidence that under the right circumstances, victims will justify their own exploitation (Austin & Hatfield, 1974; Leventhal & Bergman, 1969).

One of the first experiments to demonstrate that men and women routinely justify the pain they inflict on others was conducted by Keith Davis and Edward Jones (1960). The authors recruited college students to take part in an experiment on "first-impression" formation. The students were told their main task was to form a first impression of a fellow student in an adjoining room. First, the experi­menter interviewed the man while the students listened. (Actually, the inter­viewee was an actor who answered all the questions in a friendly way; he seemed slightly nervous and eager to create a good yet honest impression of himself.) When the interview was over, the experimenter asked students to give their first impressions of the interviewee. Then the experimenter said that there was a second part to the experiment: He was interested in finding out how the man would respond to flattery or insults. He showed students two scripts. The compli­mentary evaluation contained statements like:

You sound like one of the most interesting persons that I have met since I came to Chapel Hill. I would really like to get to know you much better, (p. 404)

The harsh evaluation said:

As I understand it, my job is to tell you in all honesty what my first impression of you is. So here goes: I hope that what I say won't cause any hard feelings, but I'll have to say right away that my overall impression was not too favorable. To put it simply, I wouldn't go out of my way to get to know you. . . . Your general interests and so on just strike me as those of a pretty shallow person. To be more specific: Frankly, I just wouldn't know how much I could trust you as a friend after hearing your answers to those moral questions, (p. 405)

Would the student read the harsh evaluation to the fellow student (in reality, the actor), pretending that he agreed with those views? Almost all students agreed to cooperate. After the students had delivered the insulting evaluation, the experi­menter asked them to rate the man's likability, warmth, conceit, intelligence, and adjustment. The authors found that students generally salved their consciences by

convincing themselves that their fellow student (actor) deserved what he got. After they had delivered the sharp critique, students tended to put a bad face on the other student's likability, warmth, modesty, intelligence, and adjustment. Researchers have often found that people justify the harm that they do. The paradox exists, then, that people come to love those they treat with kindness and to despise those they abuse. One implication of the paradox is that relationships should go best when they are balanced, when both people love one another, sacrifice for one another, and are loved in return. Often, people, desperate to make their relationships go, forget this principle. They assume that the more they love others and sacrifice on their behalf, the more solid their dating relationship or marriage will be. They are wrong. Love and kindness do strengthen a relation­ship ... up to a point. However, men and women have to be able to set limits. If loving people become aware that their mates are acting like "spoiled brats," they must have the strength to complain, withdraw, or draw the line. Otherwise, the relationship becomes a dangerously inequitable one. Similarly, if men and women know deep down that they are taking advantage of their partners, they should be warned that they may be playing a dangerous game. Sometimes, people win all the battles only to lose the war. Their partners give in and give in, until finally they have had enough: They get fed up and leave.

3. Finally, if couples are unable to restore equity to their intimate relation­ships, there is a third way they can try to set things right. They can leave the relationship. This does not always mean divorce. A person will sometimes "opt out" by abandoning their partners emotionally. New mothers, less attracted to their husbands than to their newborns, may insist that their infants sleep between them. This is a most effective strategy for keeping the couple apart. Or couples may spend all their leisure time "drinking with the boys" or "shopping with the girls," ensuring that they will rarely spend time alone together as a twosome. Both partners may risk their hearts in extramarital affairs. Or, finally, they may simply leave altogether. [See Sprecher & Schwartz (1992) for a review of the popularity of these alternative strategies.]

The Research Now that we have described equity theory, let us review the research that exists in this area. In a number of studies, equity considerations have been found to be extremely important in determining who gets into relationships in the first place, how those relationships go, and how likely they are to endure. Specifically, researchers find that:

Dating couples who feel that their relationships are equitable are most likely to progress to even more intimate relationships. When pop-psychological coun­selors give advice, they often act as if everyone is entitled to "the best." People are eager to take such "advice." We once asked one of our clients, who felt all the good men were taken, what she was looking for in a mate. She quickly produced a list of qualities she thought were most important in a husband:


Neat and tidy

Personally and professionally self-confident

Organized—personally and professionally

Sexually adventurous (variety)—not inhibited

Good sense of humor—laughs easily; tells jokes; any humor fine

Loves to travel


Physically fit—not obsessive with exercise routine

Loves to eat—follows my food preferences

Successful in business, rich


Adventurous and outdoorsy

Loves horses

Tasteful dresser, wears no "plastic" fabrics


Has lotsa $ (financially independent; makes it himself or from retirement)

Understands "private time"

Is a "controlled" spender

$ generous

Good taste/taste good

Likes to hike

Likes motorcycles

Is imaginative with gifts

Sends flowers


Good w/my family

Good, warm (<J>)

Likes nature

Well connected

Good personal hygiene

Has a "crazy" side of personality

Generous with my family (time, $, whatever)

Does not want children

Likes spur of the moment activities

Must like oral sex (either way)

Patience—in general and with me

Willing to help with housework

Likes to cook (so so)


Has good credit


Penis not too big



Loves to go out to eat

Loves to eat in general

Avant-garde dresser

Compatible astro sign (preference)


Smooth, soft skin



Caucasian—close to a must

OK to be a little overweight

Able to defend himself (me too) faced with violence

Smells good naturally

Not argumentative

Able to share (feelings)

Keeps his word (trustworthy)

Sensitive to my moods


Good companion

Good communicator (listener/talker)


Sex a few times a week (3 x )

Appreciative (of me too)


Physically strong

This list was presented without a trace of irony! Many people, sad to say, think very much along these lines (though in perhaps less exaggerated form) and are convinced that they are entitled to and can "have it all." And, you may ask, why not?

To equity theorists, such expectations are wildly impractical. Of course every­one longs for perfection. Unfortunately, it simply does not exist. While in fairy tales the perfect man might be able to attract the perfect woman, and vice versa, in real life, imperfect humans with run-of-the-mill flaws like all of us had better resign themselves to the fact that they will have to settle for other humans no better and no worse than themselves.

One dimension of equitability in mergers centers on "looks." There is consid­erable evidence that couples are more likely to pair up if they are comparable in physical attractiveness. Irwin Silverman (1971) observed couples in several natu­ral settings—in movie theater lines, in singles bars, and at assorted social events. A team of researchers rated the daters' looks. Most couples were found to be remarkably similar on the attractiveness dimension. A beautiful woman was most likely to be standing with a handsome man. A homely man was most likely to be spotted buying a drink for a homely woman. Furthermore, similarity did seem to "breed content." The more alike the couple was in physical appeal, the more delighted they seemed to be with each other, if intimate touching was any indica­tion of their feelings. Sixty percent of the couples comparable in attractiveness were engaged in some type of fondling, while only 22% of mismatched couples were touching.

In a later study, Valerie Folkes (1982) secured similar results. Individuals were invited to join a video-dating service. They could come in, check out a selection of videotapes, read background information about the occupations, at­titudes, interests, and backgrounds of the prospective dates. Then they could invite anyone they found appealing for a date. Of course, anyone they contacted had the option of checking them out before they accepted or rejected the date. Which couples ended up dating? The more similar men and women were in appearance, the more likely they were to date one or more times. Gregory White (1980) found that first-time or casual daters were only somewhat matched in attractiveness. Serious daters, engaged couples, and married couples were far more comparable.

Physical appearance is hardly the only issue in mate selection. Couples can be well or ill-matched in a variety of ways. For example, Olympic skier Ivana Trump (and model Maria Maples. . . . and model Rowanne Brewer) chose "the Donald," who was not equally good-looking but was unusually bright, charming, and (at the time!) very rich. Recently, a columnist speculated that Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, who have clashing political passions, must have fallen in love because few other equitable relationships were available!

After two failed marriages apiece, Ted and Jane have found each other, and become the embodiment of the new power couple. Their kids are grown, they have known

much wedded unhappiness, any official coupling will cost them a fortune in lawyers' fees, and still they believe in marriage. Even more unusual is that they are the same age. In Hollywood, where youthful beauty is everything, the idea that a powerful, famous 52-year-old man would choose a woman his own age (Fonda, 53, is actually 11 months older) is downright incredible. Of course, Jane Fonda does possess one of the most fit bodies in town.

"I think that from her point of view he's one of the most interesting, fascinating, globally thinking people she's ever encountered. From his point of view, she's serious and smart and beautiful and passionate, and that's a very powerful energy when it comes together," says a Fonda friend.

"I think what intrigues everyone about them is that they're equals," says one Fonda associate. "Given who they are, the probability of them each being with an equal is unlikely." (Hall, 1991, p. 20)

The evidence supports the contention that people do engage in such complicated balancing and counterbalancing when selecting mates (Hatfield & Sprecher 1986b).

After 1 have looked around the world for a mate, then I might fall back on you. When I am convinced that there is no better fate, then I might decide if you will do.

Romantic song from the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein musical Showboat

A proposal of marriage in our society tends to be a way in which a man sums up his social attributes and suggests to a woman that hers are not so much better as to preclude a merger or partnership in these matters.

Erving Gojfman

In one study, 537 dating college men and women were interviewed (Hatfield et al., 1978). The researchers found that couples in equitable relationships were most likely to become sexually involved and to fall in love. Couples in inequitable relationships tended to stop before "going all the way." Couples who were sexu­ally intimate were asked why they had made love. Couples in equitable affairs were most likely to say that both of them wanted to have sexual intercourse. Couples in inequitable relationships were less likely to claim that sex had been a mutual decision; many felt pressured into having sexual relations in order to keep the relationship alive. It is not surprising then that couples in equitable relation­ships have more satisfying sexual lives (Traupmann & Hatfield, 1981).

Leslie Baxter (1986) asked undergraduates who had decided to break up with a dating partner in the past 12 months to write an essay on "Why we broke up." She found that about 12% of them mentioned the lack of equity as a precipitating factor. Women were most likely to mention inequity as the reason they wanted out.

Other studies document that judiciously matched couples expect their rela­tions to evolve into more permanent ones. [For some recent research on this topic, see Berg & McQuinn (1986); Cate, Lloyd, & Long (1988); Matthews & Clark (1991); Michaels, Acock, & Edwards (1986); or Van Ypern & Buunk (1990).]

A poor man who marries a wealthy woman gets a ruler and not a wife.


Equitable Relationships Are Comfortable Relationships Researchers have interviewed dating couples, newlyweds, couples married for various lengths of time, and the long married. In all these circumstances they find that equitable relationships are the most comfortable at every stage.

In part, lovers sometimes wish to demonstrate their love by sacrificing for their beloved. The popular arts and culture contributed to the myth that self-surrender is the very essence of love. In Charles Dickens's (1859/1962) A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Darnay and Sidney Carton are virtually indistinguishable; both are besotted with Lucie Manette. But Lucie loves Darnay. Thus Sidney Carton sacrifices his life for Lucie's happiness. (He takes Darnay's place and is sentenced to death by the guillotine.) Schoolchildren throughout the world thrill to Carton's ringing declaration, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known" (p. 358).

Mutual love is especially poignant. To love and to be loved is a heady combi­nation. The lovers, for example, in O. Henry's (1906/1942) short story The Gift of the Magi, a poor couple, are doubly appealing; each sells his most precious possession in order to buy a Christmas gift for the other. Delia crops off her long brown hair so she can sell it to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim's gold watch. Jim, meanwhile, has sold his antique watch (his only inheritance from his father and grandfather before him), in order to buy Delia a set of tortoise shell combs to wear in her beautiful hair. The double sacrifice is doubly rewarding: They have ex­changed gifts of the heart.

But there are limits. If lovers give too much and receive nothing in return (not even gratitude), they eventually begin to feel uneasy. Does the other really love them? If so, why doesn't he seem to appreciate their sacrifices? The selfish person usually begins to have his doubts too. What kind of a woman would allow herself to be made a doormat? Doesn't she have any pride? There is considerable evi­dence that inequity is distressing for couples of all ages and at all stages of a relationship. Men and women who receive far more than they deserve have been found to feel slightly uneasy (they often feel loved and slightly guilty and dis­tressed). Not surprisingly, those who receive less than they deserve feel far more upset (more angry, distressed, and depressed). It appears that one never gets used to injustice. [See Sprecher (1986) and Sprecher & Schwartz (1992) for a review of this research.]

Equitable Relationships Are Especially Stable Couples are most committed to their relationships and less willing to end them when they feel equitably treated [see Sprecher (1992) for a review of this research]. Equitably treated men and women are reluctant to risk their marriages by getting sexually and emotionally involved with someone else. Elaine Hatfield, Jane Traupmann, and G. William Walster (1979) found that in equitable relationships, both partners are motivated to be generally faithful. Inequitable relationships are more fragile. The under-benefited, who feel they are not getting their just deserts in their marriages, are

more likely to explore fleeting or even permanent love affairs. The tendency for the underbenefited to have more extramarital affairs sooner in the relationship is depicted in Figure 4.1. [Similar results were secured by Prins, Buunk, & Van Ypern (1991).]

Researchers disagree as to how important equity is in determining whether or not couples remain together, separate, or divorce [see Sprecher & Schwartz (1992) for a review of this research].

In many ways I haven't changed a bit. I am still the same self-absorbed guy I was when I married Ava [Ava Gardner]. I like to do what I want, when I want, where I want, without much thought for the wants of others. The people around me fare best when they do not challenge me.

Film star Mickey Rooney

Gender Differences in Willingness to Sacrifice Equity researchers who have studied couples' implicit marriage contracts (their unspoken assumptions as to what constitutes a balanced give-and-take) have attempted to determine how fair men and women perceive their marriages to be. Researchers have generally found that regardless of whether couples are newlyweds, married for several years, or

LUMPANIUNAI b LUVb         1 l<a

long married, both men and women agree that men are getting the "best deal." Both genders concur that, in general, men contribute less to a marriage than women do and get more out of it (Buunk & Van Yperen, 1989; Hatfield et al., 1984; Sprecher, 1988; Van Ypern & Buunk, 1990, 1991).

I have always thought that every woman should marry, and no man.

Benjamin Disraeli

Jesse Bernard (1973) provided additional support for the notion that women sacrifice more for love than men do. In her review of the voluminous literature contrasting "his marriage versus her marriage," she observed a strange paradox. Women are more eager to marry than men; yet women are the losers in marriage. She noted, for example, that "being married is about twice as advantageous to men as to women in terms of continued survival" (p. 27). As compared to single men, married men experience far better mental health, greater happiness, in­creased earning power, better health after middle age, and, to top it off, they live longer. The opposite is true for married as compared to single women. For exam­ple, all symptoms of psychological distress among married women show up more frequently than expected: nervous breakdowns, anxiety, inertia, insomnia, trem­bling or perspiring hands, nightmares, fainting, headaches, dizziness, and heart palpitations. They show up much less frequently than expected among unmarried women. These data then suggest that, like it or not, women sacrifice the most for love. Perhaps, for women, marriage should carry a warning label: "This relation­ship may be hazardous to your health."

Individual Differences in Concern with Equity Of course people differ in how much they care about justice and fairness. Most people are exquisitely attuned to the delicate balances of relationships. However, a few people are narcissistic and selfish; the feelings of others mean nothing to them. A few "people who love too much" have learned to neglect their own feelings and interests and focus overmuch on those they love. Researchers have speculated that some people may care more about equity and fairness than do others (Clark et al., 1987; Murstein, Cerreto, & MacDonald, 1977; Murstein, Wadlin, & Bond, 1987). In a revision and extension of an earlier scale (Murstein et al., 1977), Susan Sprecher (1992) developed an Exchange Orientation Scale to show how concerned men and women would be if they were overbenefited (the OEO scale) or underbenefited (the UEO scale). Typical items from these scales appear in Box 4.2.

Sprecher found that the scales were useful in distinguishing exchange orienta­tion. The higher people scored on the OEO scale, the more upset they were when they received far more than they deserved and the more likely they were to try to set things right. The higher they scored on the UEO scale, the more upset they became when they were cheated and the more determined they were to try to get what they deserved.

Differences in Casual Versus Intimate Relationships Finally, equity re­searchers point out that intimate and casual relationships differ in certain ways


Please indicate your answers on the following scale:

1   = strongly disagree (definitely not)

2  = mildly disagree (probably not)

3  = undecided (not sure)

4  = mildly agree (I believe so)

5  = strongly agree (definitely yes)

The Overbenefiting Exchange Orientation (OEO) Scale

1.   I usually do not forget if I owe someone a favor.

2.  When I exchange gifts with a significant other on an important occasion (Christmas, anniversary), I feel badly (guilty) if I have spent significantly less money on him/her than he/she has on me.

3.  If my partner does dishes three times a week, then I expect to do them three times a week also (or something equivalent).

4.   It bothers me if people I like do more for me than I do for them.

The Underbenefiting Exchange Orientation (UEO) Scale

1.   I usually do not forget if someone owes me a favor.

2.  When I exchange gifts with a significant other on an important occasion (Christmas, anniversary), I feel badly (cheated) if I have spent significantly more money on him/her than he/she has on me.

3.   If I do dishes three times a week then I expect my partner to do them three times a week also (or something equivalent).

4.   It bothers me if people I like do less for me than I do for them.

Source: Sprecher, 1992; adapted from earlier work by Murstein, Cerreto, & MacDonald, 1977: and Murstein, Wadlin, & Bond, 1987: p. 60.

that affect how the partners calculate equity and how eager they are to restore equity in the short versus the long run.

1.  Intensity of loving/liking. Couples who companionately love one another care far more about one another than do casual acquaintances. In part, then, lovers' joys and sufferings are necessarily entwined.

2.  Length of relationship. Intimate relationships are expected to endure and generally do endure over a long period of time; casual relationships are usually short term. This fact should have two important consequences for the way equity/ inequity principles operate in intimate versus casual relationships.

The reason that husbands and wives do not understand each other is because they belong to different sexes.

Dorothy Dix

(a)  Perception of inequity. It should be easier to calculate equity in casual relationships than in intimate ones. Over a short span it is easy to assess who owes whom what. Strangers in a bar need only remember who bought the last drink to determine who should pick up the tab for the next round. In intimate relationships it is far more difficult to calculate equity. We have all heard fights that escalate interminably: She: "I asked him to come over because I was jealous and desper­ate, but he just abandoned me." He: "Well, the last time I came over when we'd both been drinking, we got into a fight and you called the police. I can't trust you." She: "Well, I haven't learned to trust you yet. You hit me. I can never forgive you for that." Soon our brains blow a fuse as we try to record their complicated calculus of grievances. How far back in a relationship is it fair to go in making such calculations? In short-term relationships, participants can usually distinguish with some ease what is equitable and what is not. Participants in intimate relationships often have a far harder time defining equity/inequity.

Keep thy eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards.

Benjamin Franklin

(b)   Tolerance of perceived inequity. Participants in casual versus intimate relationships may differ in their insistence that perceived inequities be redressed immediately. Casuals may be fully aware that unless existing imbalances are redressed soon, they will probably never be redressed at all. Intimates, committed to long-range interaction, should be more tolerant of momentary imbalances, since they know they will have ample time in the future to set things right.

The movie Paper Moon provides a comic illustration of this point. Nine-year-old Addie has convinced herself that Mose (a traveling con man) is her father. As long as they have a father/child relationship, she allows him to spend her money freely on himself. The moment she realizes that their "partnership" is about to end, however, her feelings change precipitously. She suddenly begins to insist loudly, "I want my $200!"

3. Value of resources exchanged. A variety of exchange theorists have ob­served that as a relationship grows in intimacy, the potency of the rewards and punishments a pair can give one another increases.

A friend's frown is better than a foe's smile.

James Howell

(a) Value of rewards. Many theorists have observed that intimates' rewards are especially potent. The same reward—"I love you. You are a wonderful wife"—is far more potent when it comes from a loved one than from a casual acquaintance.

In addition, companionate lovers possess a bigger storehouse of rewards than do casuals. Generally, people are more willing to invest their resources in intimate relationships than in casual ones. Thus intimates usually provide their partners

with more and more valuable rewards (time, effort, intimate information, money) than do casuals.

Those have most power to hurt us, that we love. We lay our sleeping lives

within their arms.

Francis Beaumont

(b) Value of punishments. Intimates' rewards may be unusually potent, but so are the punishments they can inflict on each other. For example, if a stranger at a party loudly announces that I am a selfish bore, I lose little; I can dismiss his words as those of a creep who doesn't really know what kind of a person I am. But if my husband were to tell me the same thing, I would be crushed—he knows me, and still thinks that! Intimates command one unique and potentially potent pun­ishment: They can threaten to end the relationship. People feel that love relation­ships should be long-term relationships. Husbands and wives should remain mar­ried "until death do us part." Thus if an intimate is willing to suffer himself, he has the power to deliver a devastating blow to his partner. He has the power to expose his partner to public humiliation; to make it clear to everyone that his mate is a "defective" person. The intimate who is willing to "cut off his nose to spite his face" can punish his partner in more practical ways. People take their relation­ships for granted; they come to depend on them. When a person precipitously terminates an intimate relationship, he abandons his partner to a lonely and painful unknown.

Marriage is something we make from available materials. In this sense it's

improvised, it's almost offhand. Maybe this is why we know so little about it.

It's too inspired and quicksilver a thing to be clearly understood. Two people

make a blur.

Don DeLillo

4. Variety of resources exchanged. As a relationship grows in intensity, the variety of rewards and punishments a pair can give one another increases. Recent theoretical and empirical work by Uriel Foa (1971) provides a useful framework for discussing this point. He has argued that the resources of interpersonal ex­change fall into six classes—love, status, information, money, goods, and services. Theoretically, all resources can be classified according to their "particularism" and "concreteness" (Foa & Foa, 1974). The dimension particularism refers to the extent to which the resource's value is influenced by the person who delivers it. Since money is valuable regardless of its source, it is classed as nonparticularistic. Since love's value depends very much on who is doing the loving, it is classed as "particularistic." The dimension concreteness refers to the resource's characteris­tic form of expression. Since money, goods, and services involve the exchange of tangibles—things you can see, smell, and touch—they are classed as concrete. Since love, status, and information are usually conveyed verbally, they are classed as symbolic.

We suspect that casual versus intimate relationships may differ markedly in both the variety and types of resources participants commonly exchange. In ca­sual exchanges, participants generally exchange only a few types of resources.

LUIVirANIUNAIt   LUVt          I ZS

In addition, since casual relationships are such short-term relationships, we sus­pect that casuals probably feel lucky if they can manage to negotiate an ex­change of resources whose value is commonly understood. Casuals simply aren't "in business" long enough to work out any very complicated or trouble­some exchanges. Thus we suspect that casuals' exchanges are generally focused primarily on nonparticularistic and concrete resources (i.e., money, goods, ser­vices, and information).

We suspect that in intimate exchanges, however, participants generally ex­change resources from all six classes. Like casuals, intimates can exchange nonpar­ticularistic and concrete resources. But, in addition, they can, and do, go to the trouble of negotiating more complicated exchanges. They can work out exchanges of symbolic and particularistic resources (love, status, services, and information). (It may even be that intimates are primarily concerned with such exchanges.)

If casuals usually exchange concrete and nonparticularistic resources, while intimates exchange not only these but a variety of other resources, whose value depends on each person's idiosyncratic evaluation of both the giver and the reward, this fact provides a second reason why it is easier in casual than in intimate affairs to calculate equity. Casuals are exchanging resources of set value; thus it is fairly easy to calculate equity. Intimates exchange these set-value com­modities, plus a potpourri of ambiguous value commodities. It is no wonder then that intimates may find the calculation of equity/inequity a mind-boggling task.

5. Interchangeability of resources. We venture into far shakier territory with our next characteristic of intimacy. We would speculate that, within a particular exchange, casuals tend to be limited to exchanging resources from the same class. Intimates, on the other hand, have far more freedom to exchange resources from entirely different classes. Casual relationships usually exist in a single context, where like is exchanged for like. If I lend my notes to the classmate I see three times a week, I expect to be repaid in kind the next time I miss a lecture. If I am invited to my neighbor's parties with great regularity, I know full well that unless I reciprocate and invite her to mine, I will be considered antisocial, unapprecia-tive, and will very likely be dropped from her guest list. But inviting her to my parties is all I need do, unless I want the relationship to progress to deeper levels, perhaps to intimacy. (In that case, I would attempt to exchange with her some of the resources characterized above as typical of intimates: affection, status, disclo­sures of personal information.)

In contrast, intimate relationships exist in a variety of contexts. Participants have at their disposal the whole range of interpersonal resources and freely exchange one type for another. Thus the wife whose husband has been working two jobs to help pay her graduate school fees can pay him back in a number of ways: She can defer to his conclusion that he is entitled to go golfing on Sunday (status), make him a special dinner (services), or tell him how much she loves him and appreciates his generosity (love). Her husband may well prefer these gifts to direct monetary repayment. Intimates spend considerable time negotiating the values and exchangeability of various behaviors; negotiating the "terms" of their relationship.

Once again, our comparison of the variety of resources involved in casual versus intimate relationships leads us to the conclusion that it is easier for every-

IJU        in«ri en h

one to calculate equity in casual relationships than in intimate ones. We have just concluded that participants in casual relationships trade "in kind." Intimates may trade vastly different resources. It is easy enough to know that a round of beer on Monday night equals a round on Tuesday. It is far more difficult to decide if dinner at an expensive restaurant on Monday balances out three nights of neglect due to a heavy work load.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto

his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Old Testament

6. The unit of analysis: From "you" and "me" to "we." We've seen how many of the unique characteristics of intimate relationships make assessments of equity, from outside as well as inside the relationship, a formidable task. Another characteristic of intimate relationships, which may add complexity, is that inti­mates, through identification with and empathy for their partners, come to define themselves as a unit; as one couple. They see themselves not merely as individuals interacting with others, but also as part of a partnership, interacting with other individuals, partnerships, and groups. This characteristic may have a dramatic impact on intimates' perceptions of what is and is not equitable.

Just what do we mean when we say intimates see themselves as a "unit"? Perhaps the simplest way of describing this wholeness is by saying the unit is a "we." Examples of this "we-ness" are the joy and pride a parent feels at the success and happiness of his child ("That's my boy!"); the distress a wife experi­ences when her husband has been denied a hoped-for opportunity; the intense pleasure a lover feels while working to make his beloved happy. Now, certainly in the examples above, the "identifiers" are directly affected by what happens to their partners. The parents may be supported in their old age by a successful son, the wife's household allowance as well as the husband's suffers when he is denied his hoped-for promotion, the lover may receive affection for his labors. But the intimates' identification with their partners may cause them to experience genu­ine, "firsthand" emotions aside from these returns. Intimates' outcomes often become hopelessly intertwined.


In sum, we see that people care about both how rewarding their relationships are and how fair they seem to be.

In the great debate over whether companionate love and intimacy are instinc­tive and "hard-wired" into humankind or whether they are better explained by less sentimental "programming" models, which suggest that people must be taught to behave in fair and loving ways, we wish we could be romantic and opt for biology and instinct. But though the evidence is not complete, and though psychologists, historians, philosophers, theologians, poets, and scientists continue to struggle with the issue, it looks to us that companionate love and intimacy are primarily social constructions. They are relatively new in human history and not inevitable partners of our future destiny. And they are derived significantly from

personal calculations of reward and punishment, allowed expression as long as individualism continues to be the cultural standard—a standard that might seem universal and eternal to white, middle-class North Americans and Europeans but that in actuality is accepted even today by only a minority (though a rapidly growing minority) of the whole human family.

Researchers (Sternberg, 1988) have pointed out that companionate love is comprised of two components—commitment and intimacy. Let us now consider these two components of love in greater detail.

Chapter 5

Intimacy and Commitment


Introduction Definitions

Assessing Intimacy The Components of Intimacy Love and Affection Personal Validation Trust

Self-disclosure Nonverbal Communication Theories and Perspectives on Intimacy Life-Span Developmental Models Motivational Approaches Equilibrium Models Why People Seek Intimacy Its Intrinsic Appeal Its Links to Psychological Weil-Being Its Links to Physical Weil-Being Intimacy: Why Not?

Fear of Angry Attacks Fear of One's Own Destructive Impulses Fear of Exposure Fear of Abandonment Fear of Loss of Control Fear of Having to Take Care of Others Fear of Losing One's Individuality or of Being Engulfed Measuring Fear of Intimacy

Individual Differences in Intimacy

Are There Gender Differences in Intimacy? A Prescription for Intimacy Developing Intimacy Skills

Encouraging People to Accept Themselves as They Are Encouraging People to Recognize Their Intimates for What They

Are Encouraging People to Express Themselves Teaching People to Deal with Their Intimates' Reactions Commitment Definitions

Theoretical Background Conclusion

INTIMACY Introduction

In the United States and much of the Western world, the word "intimacy" has taken on a cachet not unlike "motherhood" and "apple pie." The achievement of intimacy in one's life is a worthy goal. People want intimacy; they celebrate it; they honor it; they envy others who seem to have it. It seems to express a noble achievement in human evolution.

The glorification of intimacy is not senseless. The ability of individuals to be close to others, to disclose themselves and to be open to the revelations of others, requires human capacities of a very high order and speaks well of our aspirations. Yet it is important to remember that the attainment of intimacy was rarely even a desideratum in the West before the Renaissance 500 years ago and hardly existed as a reality before 1800. Even today, few achieve intimacy, despite its honored reputation. And many in the West, particularly men, still fail to take it seriously enough to learn about it or develop techniques to aid in gaining a measure of it. Indeed, for many men, "intimacy" only means "sex." Anything else seems high-falutin', exotic, or even "a woman's thing."

Outside the West, the weak hold of intimacy as a life goal is yet more striking. Many Arab men and women, Japanese and Chinese, South Asians, and Africans reading the first paragraph of this chapter might find it totally incomprehensible. In poor societies, that constitutes no surprise; intimacy means little when there is insufficient food. But in wealthy Japan, intimacy was never a goal nor is it yet today; a complex set of rituals defines human relationships in the service of stability and the avoidance of shame.

So when we talk about the rich rewards of intimacy in this chapter, we are describing something quite new in human history and quite culture-bound. Ten­der feelings and the capacity to get close to other humans elevate our species far beyond the norms of practically the entire planetary past: violence, raw and repressed emotions, primitive hatreds and vendettas, submission to authority (worship of the "alpha-male"), short and brutal lives.

Fragile flower though it is, intimacy's seeds are spreading. If the grandest historical movement of the past five centuries has been the advance of individual­ism, its manifestations have been manifold. In political life democracy and pro­tected human rights are expressions of valuing and dignifying the individual. In economic life, materialism is its offspring. In intellectual life, creativity and free­dom of expression are children of individualism. And in psychological and philo­sophical arenas, the very notion of personal happiness as a goal in life represents the fullest flowering of this extraordinary modern idea.

Unfettered individualism, however, can lead to loneliness and narcissism. Intimacy works as a counterpoise to such isolation. One cannot get close to another human without self-awareness and the capacity derived from the awareness—to feel empathy with and care for that other person. But intimacy is not only the offspring of individualism; it ameliorates the dangers of individualism's isolating powers.

Does our praise of intimacy suggest a certain cultural insensitivity, since the high value placed on intimacy is so Western? (So is rampant materialism!) That is a difficult question, making it deceptive to hide behind the mask of objectivity. The very existence, after all, of the discipline of psychology, the study of the psyche—of the self—reveals a bias in the direction of individualism and intimacy. Right now, the question of cultural relativism may be moot. For better or for worse, we believe that individualism continues to spread and that we are witness­ing its slow, uneven conquest of the world. As that happens, we expect that the desire for intimacy will become increasingly a universal rather than a Western phenomenon, and that the better we understand it, the better will be our chances for attaining this profoundly rewarding state.


The word intimacy is derived from intimus, the Latin term for "inner" or "in­most." It may be defined as "a process in which one person expresses important self-relevant feelings and information to another, and as a result of the other's response comes to feel known, validated, and cared for" (Clark & Reis, 1988, p. 628).

Recently, Daniel Perlman and Beverley Fehr (1987) reviewed the way most theorists have used this term. They found that almost all of them assumed that intimate relationships involved affection and warmth, self-disclosure, and close­ness and interdependence.

What do most people mean by "intimacy"? Vicki Helgeson, Phillip Shaver, and Margaret Dyer (1987) asked college men and women to tell them about times when they felt most intimate with (or most distant from) someone they cared about. Presumably, as people recalled these intensely intimate moments, their unspoken implicit definitions of intimacy would come spilling out. For most peo­ple, intimate relations were associated with feelings of affection and warmth, with happiness and contentment, talking about personal things, and sharing pleasur­able activities. And what sorts of things put an impenetrable wall between cou­ples? Distant relationships were associated with anger, resentment, and sadness as well as criticism, insensitivity, and inattention.

Men and women seemed to mean something slightly different by intimacy. Women tended to focus primarily on love and affection and the expression of warm feelings when reliving their most intimate moments. They rarely mentioned sex. For men, a key feature of intimacy was sex and physical closeness.

Assessing Intimacy

Mark Schaefer and David Olson (1981) developed the most popular intimacy measure, the Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships (PAIR). They have identified five types of intimacy:

1.  Emotional intimacy—experiencing a closeness of feelings;

2.  Social intimacy—the experience of having common friends, similarities in social networks, and so forth;

3.  Intellectual intimacy—the experience of sharing ideas;

4.  Sexual intimacy—the experience of sharing general affection and/or sexual activity;

5.  Recreational intimacy—shared experiences of interests in hobbies, mutual partici­pation in a sporting event, (pp. 8-9)

The PAIR defines and assesses how much intimacy couples expect and actually realize in their close relationships. (You might try to find out how intimate your love affair is by answering the sample questions that appear in Box 5.1.)

Other researchers (Guerney, 1977; Miller & Lefcourt, 1982; Tesch, 1985; Waring, 1984) have developed still other scales for assessing intimacy.

The Components of Intimacy

The threads of intimacy—affection, trust, emotional expressiveness, communica­tion, and sex—are so entwined that it is almost impossible to tease them apart.

Love and Affection Men and women generally feel more love and affection for their intimates than for anyone else; such mutual affection is probably the first condition of intimacy. When people know they are loved and liked, they naturally become more willing to risk exposing their ideas and feelings (Berscheid, 1985; Gottman, 1979). That is not as easy as it sounds, for people are often more timid than one might think. Even a hint of rejection seems to inhibit self-disclosure (Taylor, Altman, & Sorrentino, 1969). People rarely confide in others who are uncaring or disinterested (Reis & Shaver, 1988). And some cultures actually dis­courage self-disclosure.

If you talk about yourself, he'll think you're boring. If you talk about others, he'll think you're a gossip. If you talk about him, he'll think you're a brilliant conversationalist.

Linda Sunshine

Personal Validation At various times in our lives, most of us feel that we don't quite fit in. The wail of the adolescent is "Nobody understands me!" One of the most transforming things about a love relationship is that, finally, someone loves, understands, and approves of you. One of our middle-aged clients instantly fell in love with her husband when he was delighted by her most embarrassing


INSTRUCTIONS: This inventory is used to measure different kinds of intimacy in your relationship. Indicate how intimate your relationship is on the following five point scale.

0                        12                       3                        4

Strongly        Somewhat        Neutral        Somewhat        Strongly disagree______disagree___________________agree________agree

I.   Emotional Intimacy

"1.  I often feel distant from my partner.

2.   My partner can really understand my hurts and joys.

3.   My partner listens to me when I need someone to talk to.

4.   I can state my feelings without him/her getting defensive.

II.   Social Intimacy

1.   Having time together with friends is an important part of our shared activi­ties.

2.  We enjoy spending time with other couples. *3. We usually "keep to ourselves."

*4. We have very few friends in common.

III.   Sexual Intimacy

1.  I am satisfied with our sex life.

*2. I "hold back" my sexual interest because my partner makes me feel un­comfortable.

*3. I feel our sexual activity is just routine.

*4.  My partner seems disinterested in sex.

IV.   Intellectual Intimacy

*1,  I feel "put-down" in a serious conversation with my partner. *2.  I feel it is useless to discuss some things with my partner. 3. We have an endless number of things to talk about. *4.  My partner frequently tries to change my ideas.

V.   Recreational Intimacy

1.  We enjoy the out-of-doors together.

2.  We enjoy the same recreational activities.

3.   I think that we share some of the same interests.

4.  We like playing together.

"These items are scored in the reverse direction; they tap a lack of intimacy.

To calculate your PAIR score, simply add up your rating on each of the individual items. The higher your score, the more intimate your relationship is. (Remember to reverse the scoring on items preceded by an asterisk. These items indicate a lack of intimacy, of course.)

Source: instructions—Olson & Schaefer. 1981 (PAIR item booklet)' items—Schaefer & Olson, 1981, pp. 53-54,

flaw—her inability to explain herself. She was bright enough, but when she tried to make a point, her ideas spun out in a hopeless tangle. She would breathlessly present her main point, hurriedly anticipate any and all objections, and rush on to a muddled defense. Usually people looked at her blankly and then went on. When she was dating the man who became her husband, however, he immediately grasped what she was trying to say. To the assembled group, he said: "What a brilliant idea!" He proceeded to explain slowly what she had been trying to say to everyone else. This time, her ideas sparked excited conversation. His explana­tion for her problem was equally kind-spirited. He took it for granted that she was just so brilliant that she could grasp the big picture instantly. She simply had to learn to slow down enough so that mere mortals could work their way through what she was trying to say. No wonder she loved him. Everyone, not just our client, finds such validation extremely liberating (Derlega, Winstead, Wong, & Greenspan, 1987; Gottman, 1979).

Trust People seldom risk exposing their dreams or fears to people unless they know it is safe to d o so. Sometimes, all it takes is one bad experience to make intimates withdraw. Another of our clients, a military officer, once told his wife that he had been molested as a child. Soon after, in a fight, she used that secret knowledge to hurt and humiliate him. It didn't matter to him that moments later she was appalled at what she had said and apologized. She didn't get a second chance.

Self-disclosure In his classic book, The Transparent Self, Sidney Jourard (1964) presented The Self-Disclosure Questionnaire, designed to assess the extent to which individuals reveal their attitudes, feelings, and experiences to others. (See Box 5.2 for a sampling of his questions. You might see how self-disclosing you tend to be.) Jourard contended that when men and women are able to reveal their inner feelings and experiences to others, relationships bloom. Caring and trust may be the soil in which self-disclosure thrives, but self-disclosure, in turn, nourishes love, liking, caring, trust, and understanding.

A whirl of research followed in the wake of Jourard's book. Psychologists


Read through each item and indicate on the following scale the extent to which you have talked about that item to the person to whom you are closest.

0  Have told the other person nothing about this aspect of me. Or: Have lied or misrepresented myself to the other person so that he has a false picture of me.

1   Have talked in general terms about this item. The other person has only a general idea about this aspect of me.

2  Have talked in full and complete detail about this item to the other person. He knows me fully in this respect and could describe me accurately.

Attitudes and Opinions

1.  What I think and feel about religion.

2.  My views on the present government.

3.  My personal views on sexual morality.

4.  My personal standards of beauty and attractiveness in women.

5.  The things that I regard as desirable for a man to be.

Tastes and Interests

1.   My favorite foods, the ways I like food prepared, and my food dislikes.

2.   My likes and dislikes in music.

3.  The kind of party or social gathering that I like best, and the kind that I wouldn't enjoy.

Work (or Studies)

1.  What I find to be the most boring and unenjoyable aspects of my work.

2.  What I enjoy most and get the most satisfaction from in my present work.

3.  What I feel are my shortcomings and handicaps that prevent me from getting further ahead in my work.

4.  What I feel are my special strong points and qualifications for my work.

5.  How I really feel about the people that I work for, or work with.


1.   How much money I make at my work, or get as an allowance.

2.  Whether or not I owe money; if so, how much.


1.  The aspects of my personality that I dislike.

2.  The facts of my present sex life—including knowledge of how I get sexual gratification; any problems that I might have; with whom I have relations, if anybody.

3.  Whether or not I feel that I am attractive to the opposite sex.

4.  Things in the past or present that I feel ashamed and guilty about.

5.  The kinds of things that make me just furious.

6.  What it takes to get me feeling real depressed or blue.

7.  What it takes to get me real worried, anxious, and afraid.

8.  What it takes to hurt my feelings deeply.

9.  The kinds of things that make me especially proud of myself, elated, full of self-esteem or self-respect.


1.   My feelings about the appearance of my face—things I don't like, and things that I might like about my face.

2.  How I wish I looked.

3.  My past record of illness and treatment.

4.  Whether or not I now make a special effort to keep fit, healthy, and attractive.

5.   My present physical measurements.

The higher the score, the more intimate a person is with those who are close.

Source: Jourard & Lasakow, 1958, p. 92.

Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor (1973) reviewed a series of studies on the "social penetration process." They made two major discoveries. (1) Intimacy takes time. As couples began to get better acquainted, they began to disclose more. At first, they began to increase the breadth of the topics they touched on in conversation. Later, as they came to feel even closer to one another, they increased the depth of their revelations. There seemed to be no such thing as "instant intimacy." (2) Acquaintances tended to match one another in how intimate their disclosures were. In some relationships, both participants were willing to reveal a great deal about themselves. In others, both confined themselves to small talk.

Recently, researchers have observed that intimates confide two very different kinds of information—feelings and facts—to one another. Teru Morton (1978) distinguished between evaluative self-disclosure (in which people reveal their deepest personal feelings) and descriptive self-disclosure (in which people simply recite the facts of their lives). When men and women first meet, they are generally fairly wary. While they are eager to make a good first impression—to attract appealing potential dates and gracefully to get rid of unappealing ones—they have no time to worry about intimacy (Miell & Duck, 1986; Miller & Read, 1987). People tend to "freeze out" undesirable potential dates by refusing to self-disclose (Davis, Dewitt, & Charney, 1986). The date might try to get a conversation going,

but if the other isn't interested, his bored and unresponsive "Uh-huh" soon puts a dismal end to things. If he is interested, however, he is likely to be animated, responsive, and far more forthcoming (Berg & McQuinn, 1986). On a first encoun­ter, however, acquaintances usually reveal only the bare facts of their lives; they talk little about their feelings. ("Where are you from?" "Stamford, Connecticut." "Where are you from?" "Detroit." "Do you know Mary Brown?") New acquaint­ances are careful not to reveal too much too soon; and not to reveal much more than their partners do (Morton, 1978; Won-Doornick, 1979).

Daters tend to warm up fairly quickly, however. After six weeks or so, people are already confiding in one another at about as high a level as they ever will (Hays, 1985). It is in long-term love relationships that intimates can be most relaxed and trusting. Once couples know each other well, the recital of mere facts counts for little; it is the communication of feelings that is critical to dating and marital satisfaction (Fitzpatrick, 1987, 1988). In long-term relationships, moment-to-moment reciprocity becomes unimportant. Things can wait.

When relationships are about to end, however, the pattern of self-disclosure changes. Now, words can be used to wound. Altman and Taylor (1973) assumed that as relationships began to dissolve, couples would begin to confide in one another less and less. Recent studies make it clear that this is not the case. In terminal relationships, couples often begin to spew out the ugly accusations that they have kept hidden. They begin to spill out years of hatred, anger, and exag­gerated grievances. Couples may begin to talk through the night, trying to figure out what went wrong and if there is any chance to set things right (Baxter, 1987; Tolstedt & Stokes, 1984).

There is no disguise which can for long conceal love where it exists or simulate it where it does not.                                                _Dyc ^ La Rochefoucauld

Nonverbal Communication Intimates feel comfortable in close physical proximity. They sneak little looks at their mates to convey shared understandings, gaze at one another (Argyle & Dean, 1965; Rubin, 1970), touch, stand close (Allgeier & Byrne, 1973), and even lean on one another (Galton, 1884; Hatfield, Roberts, & Schmidt, 1980). Of course, people can reveal how alienated and distant they feel from one another via the flip side of these same techniques. If a woman feels that a man she has just met is moving too fast and she is starting to feel cornered, she can reduce intimacy in several ways—by averting her gaze, shrink­ing back, shifting her body orientation, or simply by changing the subject and steering clear of intimate topics. We all know how enemies behave when they want to sever all contact. They glare, clench their jaws, sigh in disgust, or walk on ahead. Once a teenage boy visited us in Hawaii. For some reason, he became furious at his girlfriend when she mentioned that he had better bring some shoes so they could go right from the beach to dinner. He glared at her, his jaw thrust out, his body became rigid. He spit his words out through clenched teeth: "Fine. I'm not going to the beach. I'll just get dressed up right now, if that's what you want." The sight and sounds of distance.


Recently, Daniel Perlman and Beverley Fehr (1987) observed that theorists had taken a trio of approaches to intimacy.

Life-Span Developmental Models

Developmental theorists have observed that young people must learn how to be intimate. Erik Erikson (1982) pointed out that "anything that grows has a ground plan, and that out of this ground plan parts arise, each part having its special time of ascendancy" (p. 92). Infants, children, adolescents, and adults face a continuing series of developmental tasks (see Table 5.1). If loved and nurtured, infants develop a basic trust in the universe. They develop the ability to hope. In early, middle, and late childhood, children learn to be autonomous, to take initiative, and to be industrious. They develop a will of their own, a sense of purpose, and a belief in their own competence.

The next two stages are those in which we are primarily interested. In adoles­cence, teenagers must develop some sense of their own identity. They may care­fully observe movie, TV, and sports stars in an attempt to find their bearings. Only when adolescents have formed a relatively stable, independent identity are they able to master their next "crisis"—to learn how to become intimate with someone, to learn how to love. Mature relationships, according to Erikson, involve an ability to balance intimacy and independence.

Most Americans are wonderful at beginnings. At first, lovers can be swept along in a slaphappy haze; they love; they are sure that love will last forever. Then they bump rudely into reality; they hit the middle of a relationship. Often, at that point, things fall apart. Sometimes heartsick lovers, exhausted from their repeated romantic failures, berate themselves. "What's wrong with me?" "What did I do wrong?" They fail even to ask two possibly more relevant questions: "Is there anything wrong with him or her?" "Has he or she ever been intimate with anyone else?" Erikson's model makes it clear that not everyone successfully navigates the shoals of psychosocial development. Many people have not yet learned how to be

Table 5.1     MAJOR STAGES IN PSYCHOSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OVER THE LIFE SPAN Stages                                         Psychosocial crisis                        Basic strengths/weaknesses

1.  Infancy                           Basic trust versus basic mistrust                      Hope/withdrawal

2.  Early childhood              Autonomy versus shame and doubt                Will/compulsion

3.  Play age                         Initiative versus guilt                                         Purpose/inhibition

4.  School age                     industry versus inferiority                                 Competence/inertia

5.  Adolescence                   Identity versus identity confusion                     Fidelity/repudiation

6.  Young adulthood           Intimacy versus isolation                                  Love/exclusivity

7.  Adulthood                      Generativity versus stagnation                          Care/rejectivity

8.  Old age                           Integrity versus despair                                    Wisdom/disdain

intimate/independent. They are incapable of being deeply intimate with anyone. When faced with the seductions of intimacy, they run.

Researchers provide some evidence in support of Erikson's theorizing. In one study Jacob Orlofsky and Sheila Ginsburg (1981) interviewed young people about their dating and marital experiences. They found that men and women, and their relationships, fell into five different categories. Couples in relationships that in­volved closeness, caring, mutuality, respect, and open communication could be classified as either preintimate or intimate, depending on whether the couple was poised on the brink of a love affair or firmly committed to one another. Many men and women were involved in flawed relationships—relationships that were either superficial or constricting. Relationships were classified as stereotyped if they were conventional and superficial or as pseudointimate if they possessed neither closeness nor depth. Isolates avoided all social relationships. Stephanie Tesch and Susan Whitbourne (1982) found, as Erikson might have foreseen, that men and women who had established solid identities were most capable of the higher levels of intimacy. [Bellew-Smith and Korn (1986) secured similar results.]

Perlman and Fehr remind us that other researchers have taken a different approach to intimacy.

Motivational Approaches

Psychiatrists and psychologists have pointed out that people are motivated to be intimate (Maslow, 1968; Sullivan, 1947). One of the most modern advocates of that position is Don McAdams (1992). Intimacy reflects an "individual's prefer­ence or readiness for experiences of closeness, warmth, and communication" (McAdams, 1982, p. 134). McAdams and his colleagues (McAdams, 1992) found that people who were high in intimacy motivation were different from their peers. They were more loving and affectionate, warmer, and more egalitarian and less self-centered and dominant. They spent more time thinking about people and relationships, more time talking and writing to others; they were more tactful and less outspoken. They stood closer to others. Not surprisingly, others liked them too.

Equilibrium Models

Researchers point out that people prefer an optimal level of intimacy. Too much or too little intimacy makes everyone uncomfortable. Miles Patterson (1976) pro­posed that when people get close to us, we become physiologically aroused. If we feel positive about this arousal we will get closer to them. If it is "too much" we will back off. Michael Argyle and Janet Dean (1965) tested such an equilibrium model. We literally back up when someone gets too close too fast. We move forward when they seem to be slipping away. In one study, for example, they found that people unconsciously signal "come closer" by making eye contact, smiling, moving closer, or starting to talk about very intimate things. If an ac­quaintance begins to get too close, however, people unconsciously signal that she should "back up" by looking away, looking stonefaced, moving away, or changing the subject to a less intimate topic. Such intricate ballets ensure that equilibrium is continually maintained. To test their model, the scientists asked subjects to


stand "as close as is comfortable to see well" and slowly to approach either a life-sized photograph of a person or the same person (in the flesh) whose eyes were either open or shut. (Presumably, it is most intimate to stare at someone who is staring back.) As predicted, subjects stood 11 inches closer to the photograph than to a living person and 85 inches closer to a person whose eyes were shut than one whose eyes were open. The authors also studied the flip side of the equilibrium process. Students were seated either 10, 6, or 2 feet from one another. As they talked, one student (an experimental confederate) gazed into the other's eyes for three minutes during the conversation. As soon as the confederate began to stare, most subjects immediately reduced eye contact. They looked away or down— anywhere but right at him. The closer they were, the more they averted their eyes. Perhaps you have seen the same sort of intimacy regulation operating in elevators. When people are forced to stand much too close to strangers, they tend to look nervously up at the ceiling or down at the floor, anywhere, avoiding one another's eyes.

Two features of the Argyle-Dean model are worth noting. First, they view intimacy from a dialectical perspective. They see people as constantly adjusting the level of their intimate encounters. Second, they point out that once the inti­macy equilibrium has been disturbed, any of several different techniques can be used to set things right.

Harry Reis and Phillip Shaver (1988) pointed out that people differ markedly in how much intimacy they desire. (Of course, many non-Westerners come from cultures that traditionally do not value intimacy to begin with. However, even Americans and Europeans differ in how much they value intimacy.) We know couples who wish to be together most of the time. They tell one another little jokes, talk in silly voices, bump into each other. We have other married friends, in Germany, who cherish their time alone. Recently, they bought a duplex. His half is a stark artist's studio; hers is a cozy apartment crammed with knick-knacks. A wall with a locked door separates them so that they can be together when they want and separate when they don't. For years, they would try living together in the conventional way. They would fight. (She wanted him to pay his income taxes; she worried that his cavalier attitude would land them in jail. He wanted her to quit inviting over hordes of friends late at night.) They would separate. They would get lonely, get together and things would go wonderfully. Then they would start to fight. After going through this cycle again and again, they finally got it. Their current unconventional arrangement has worked wonderfully now for two decades.

Attaining the "right degree" of intimacy often requires a delicate balancing act. In any relationship, lovers' yearning to be close pushes them toward more profound encounters. Their fears of intimacy pluck them back from the depths of intimacy. Rut even in splendid relationships, enough can be enough. People crave closeness some of the time, but they also need time to be alone (sometimes just to stare at the walls and allow the brain to fire randomly). They need to work and to be with their own friends and acquaintances. Theorists have learned more about how couples subtly negotiate a compromise between how much intimacy they want and how much intimacy their partners feel comfortable with.

Let us now consider some of the factors that propel people toward intimate


relationships, the factors that draw them back from the brink of intimacy and the ways in which people settle on the level of closeness that works best for them.


It seems a bit odd to ask why people wish for intimacy. When scientists ask men and women what they most desire in life, they generally mention a close intimate relationship (Astin, 1985; Rerscheid & Peplau, 1983). In a classic monograph, Robert Weiss (1973) pointed out that people can feel sad and lonely for two very different reasons. Some lonely people are experiencing emotional loneliness; they hunger for one special intimate. Others are experiencing social loneliness; they merely lack friends and casual acquaintances. Of the two, it is emotional loneliness that is the more painful. Contentment is better predicted by the existence of intimacy (i.e., lack of loneliness) than popularity, the frequency of contact with friends, or the amount of time spent with acquaintances (Cutrona, 1982; Wheeler, Reis, & Nezlak, 1983). Theorists contend that intimacy has three major beneficial effects.

Its Intrinsic Appeal

Jonathan Freedman (1978) found that if people were happily in love, over 90% of them were also "very happy in general." If they were generally unhappy, most thought that love was the one thing that they needed to be happy. So people long for intimacy in and of itself. Intimacy also has some side benefits (Rook & Pietromonaco, 1987).

Its Links to Psychological Well-Being

Dan McAdams and George Vaillant (1982) interviewed single and married men when they were 30 years old and then again when they were 47. Those men who valued intimacy when they were 30 had the happiest and stablest marriages two decades later. A number of studies document that intimacy and psychological health seem to go hand-in-hand (McAdams, 1992). In early adulthood, intimate relationships foster creativity, productivity, and emotional integration (Erikson, 1959). Intimacy has been shown to be associated with happiness, contentment, and a sense of well-being (Loevinger, 1976; Reis, 1987). Happy (intimate) mar­riages provide real social support (Gove, Hughes, & Style, 1983). Intimacy prob­lems are closely linked to many mental health disorders (Fisher & Strieker, 1982).

Its Links to Physical Well-Being

A number of medical researchers have confirmed that intimacy and physical well-being are connected. Intimate relationships apparently buffer the impact of stress (Jemmott & Magloire, 1988; Miller & Lefcourt, 1982). If persons have a chance to disclose emotionally upsetting material to someone who seems to care,

I to         i_nMr i en u

they exhibit improved mental and physical health in follow-up physical examina­tions (Pennebaker, 1990; Pennebaker & Beale, 1986).

Most of our knowledge about the ties between intimate relationships and physical health comes from studies of the impact of a husband's or wife's death on the survivor's mental and physical health. Investigators find that bereavement increases the likelihood of a host of mental and physical problems (Stroebe & Stroebe, 1987; Traupmann-Pillemer & Hatfield, 1981). Bereavement (1) increases vulnerability to mental illness; (2) produces a variety of physical symptoms, in­cluding migraines, other headaches, facial pain, rashes, indigestion, peptic ulcers, weight gain or loss, heart palpitations, chest pain, asthma, infections, and fatigue; (3) aggravates existing illnesses; (4) causes physical illness; (5) predisposes a person to engage in risky behaviors—such as smoking, drinking, and drug use; and (6) increases the likelihood of death.

Murray Parkes (1964) found that of 4486 widowers 55 years or older, 213 died within six months after the death of their mates. This was 40% above the expected statistical rate. After six months, the rates gradually fell back to normal. The stress of bereavement may elevate the risk of death in several ways. It may lead to depression, and the depressed may then neglect their own health (Satariano & Syme, 1981); or in extreme cases, depression may lead to drug abuse and/or suicide (Schuckit, 1977; Sendbuehler & Goldstein, 1977). The stress may also lead to dysfunctions in neuroendocrine balance and, in turn, a reduction in immunity to disease (Timiras, 1972). For example, the bereaved are at risk for coronary heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver (Jacobs & Ostfeld, 1977).

Of course, a "close" relationship filled with hatred and strife can be worse than no relationship at all for couples' mental and physical health (Barbee, Gulley, & Cunningham, 1990; Rook & Pietromonaco, 1987).

7 have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. William Butler Yeats


Given all the advantages of intimate relationships, why would people ever be reluctant to become intimate with others? As discussed previously, in earlier eras marriages were more distant (Gadlin, 1977) and in some other cultures they still are (Dion & Dion, 1988). Hatfield (1984) points out that there could be several valid reasons why, even today in the Western world, men and women are hesitant to get too deeply involved with others.

Fear of Angry Attacks

One reason people are reluctant to reveal themselves to others is the fear that the other person will get angry and attack them for daring to tell the hard truth. A client, Sara, was a Mexican-American army wife. Her parents had divorced when she was three. Her father was granted custody, and thereafter abused her both


sexually and physically. Sara was justifiably proud of the fact that she had learned to be a "perfect lady" in even the most impossible of circumstances. Her voice was always calm, her emotions in control. She took pride in not ever needing anyone for anything. Her only problem was that she did not have a single friend in whom to confide. At long last, she decided to trust one of her sisters. She painfully revealed that her marriage was falling apart and that she was contemplating filing for divorce. Her sister became enraged and denounced her. What kind of Catholic was she! She had had a sick relationship with their father and now she was destroying her husband's and child's life. Similarly, a powerful businessman we interviewed observed that were he to reveal that he was worried about getting old, worried that he was not as smart as his computer-age competition, he could expect his competitors to seize on his revelations with glee and exploit the weak­nesses. Sometimes it is dangerous to trust.

Fear of One's Own Destructive Impulses

Many of our clients keep a tight lid on their emotions. They fear that if they ever got in touch with what they are feeling, they would begin to cry ... or kill. One of our Korean clients was a short but powerfully built man, a Tai Chi expert. He possessed traditional macho values. As he sat in our office he often explained that men had to be icy cool. He refused even to allude to the things that were bothering him. Yet it was obvious to us that he was anything but cool. As he explained "analytically" how he felt about things, his eyes blazed, his jaw clenched, he smashed his fist into the palm of his other hand. He had to stay cool at all times he insisted . . . otherwise he would kill. He was undoubtedly wrong. We have found in therapy that as people learn to be ever more aware of what they are feeling, they find that their emotions are not so powerful, not nearly so overpower­ing or threatening as they had assumed. They discover the possibility of expressing feelings in a controlled, constructive, and liberating way. Yet the fear is real.

Never let them see you sweat. Axiom for business people

Fear of Exposure

In deeply intimate relationships we disclose far more about ourselves than in casual encounters. As a consequence, intimates share profound information about one another's histories, values, strengths, weaknesses, idiosyncracies, hopes, and fears. One reason then that all of us are afraid of intimacy is that those we care most about are bound to discover all that is "wrong" with us—to discover that we possess taboo thoughts and feelings and have done things of which we are deeply ashamed. Worse yet, we know that when this affair is over, there is a possibility that a vindictive date or mate may confide the innermost details of our lives to subsequent dates, mates, and business associates. In the movie Manhattan (Allen, 1982), Ike Davis's (Woody Allen's) worst nightmares become reality when he discovers that his ex-wife Jill has written a best-selling autobiography of their married life. He confronts her with "Everybody who knows us is going to know

I4B        LHAM tM D

everything. You're going to put all the details in the book, right?" She does. After publication, his current lover (Diane Keaton) reads exerpts from the book aloud in his presence:

friend: "Is it true, did you make love with Jill and another woman?" woody: "She wanted to. I didn't want to be a bad sport." keaton: "He was given to fits of rage, Jewish liberal paranoia, male chauvin­ism, self-righteous misanthropy, and nihilistic moods of despair. He had complaints about life, but never any solutions. He longed to be an artist, but balked at the necessary sacrifices. In his most private moments, he spoke of his fears of death, which he elevated to tragic heights, when in fact it was mere narcissism." (pp. 258-259)

We have all met angry individuals who collar us at parties to tell us their stories, their bitter tales of how hideously they were treated by someone we barely know. As we recall our own relationships that have ended badly, leaving behind a disappointed or enraged suitor, we might think that "there but for the grace of God go I."

If you never want to see a man again, say, "I love you, I want to marry you. I

want to have children." . . . they leave skid marks.

Rita Rudner

Fear of Abandonment

A fourth reason people fear exposure is because they are wary that if others get to know them too well, they will be abandoned. One of our friends was a beautiful Swede. She seemed to be self-confident, bright, and charming. At one time, three appealing men were in love with her. Her problem? In promising affairs, each time she tried to be herself and admit how massively insecure she felt at times, the men quickly lost interest. They wanted to be in love with a star, a fantasy of perfection, not a mere mortal. In her autobiography, film star Rita Hayworth claimed that her five marriages floundered for exactly that reason: "Men go to bed with Gilda, but wake up with me" (Learning, 1989, p. 122). Disillusioned, they all left.

Many people are frightened to admit that they are in love. In Strangers and Brothers (C. P. Snow, 1960/1981), the world-weary Lady Boscastle talks to the story's narrator, Lewis, about her niece Joan, who is about to reveal her feelings to her boyfriend and thereby "make a hash of it."

As for her niece, Lady Boscastle had a pitying affection.

She speculated on what was happening that night. "There's thunder in the air," she said. She looked at me.

"I know nothing," I said.

"Of course, he's breaking away," said Lady Boscastle. "That jumps to the eye. And it's making her more infatuated every minute. No doubt she feels obliged to put all her cards on the table. Poor Joan, she would do that. She's rather unoblique."

Lady Boscastle went on:

"And he feels insanely irritable, naturally. It's very odd, my dear Lewis, how being loved brings out the worst in comparatively amiable people. One sees these


worthy creatures lying at one's feet and protesting their supreme devotion. And it's a great strain to treat them with even moderate civility. I doubt whether anyone is nice enough to receive absolutely defenceless love."

"Love affairs," said Lady Boscastle, "are not intriguing unless both of you have a second string. Never go lovemaking, my dear boy, unless you have someone to fall back upon in case of accidents." (p. 157)

A second reason then that people are reluctant to risk intimacy, to admit how needy they are, is that they are terrified that those they love will flee at the news and abandon them.

Beware of men who cry. It's true that men who cry are sensitive to and in

touch with feelings, hut the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in

touch with are their own.

Nora Ephron

Fear of Loss of Control

Another hazard of closeness involves the fear that one might lose control. Men may be particularly afraid of intimacy and the loss of power that might follow (Hatfield, 1982b). Bryan, a pilot with a faltering eastern airline company, and his wife Betty came to see us for marital therapy. They wanted to work on their "communication problems." She knew he loved her "deep down," but he just couldn't seem to express it. He turned out to be communicating perfectly well. He had things exactly as he wanted them in the marriage and he wanted to keep it that way. He liked her to be at home, warmly welcoming, when he arrived. The problem? She never knew when, or if, he would arrive. (He had to fly when the opportunity presented itself.) When he was home he was "crabby and rude"; he bossed everyone around. (He was under "a great deal of stress"; "the company was on the rocks," he countered.) She was bored and lonely. (She should "just be patient until all this blew over.") He didn't want his wife running around at night with a bunch of women on the prowl. How could she take a job? He wanted to go hunting with her if he ever got any free time. (She hoped he didn't get enough time for that. She hated standing wet and cold in duck blinds, for hours at a time.) She kept trying to get him to talk; he kept refusing. He wasn't stupid. He knew that if they ever started talking, things would have to change . . and he didn't want that.

Traditionally, men are supposed to be in command—of themselves, of other people, and of the situation. The ideal man carefully controls his thoughts. He presents himself as logical, objective, and unemotional. He hides his feelings, or if he does express them he carefully collapses the complex array of human emo­tions into a single powerful emotion: anger. Many "real men" hold in their feelings for a long time until that volcanic eruption of fury ruptures all possibilities of communication.

The ideal woman, in contrast, is supposed to be expressive and warm. She excels at expressing a rainbow of "feminine" feelings—love, anxiety, joy, and depression. (She may be less in touch with anger.) She is responsive to other people and the environment. Inge Broverman and her colleagues (Broverman,

i yj\j         *^n/-\r i tzn  u

Vogel, Broverman, Clarkson, & Rosenkrantz, 1972) asked psychiatrists, psycholo­gists, and people in general what men and women should be like; and what they are really like. The answer from both sexes: Men should be (and, they believed, in fact are) in control and instrumental. Women should be (and in fact are) expressive and nurturant. According to some theorists, this suggests marked gen­der differences in three areas. Men more than women have the desire to be "in control," the desire to dominate their partners, and the desire to "achieve" in love and sexual relations. If such gender differences exist, it is not surprising that women feel more comfortable with intimacy than do men. Unfortunately, al­though a great deal has been theorized about these topics, there is almost no research documenting that such gender differences do in fact exist (Hatfield, 1982b). If they do exist, the question lingers as to whether they are biologically or culturally based. The advance of the women's movement is already producing millions of women who would be skeptical that such gender differences should or do exist today.

Fear of Having to Take Care of Others

Many people rightly fear that if they get too close to others they will have to take care of them. Some women who have been forced to care for an ailing husband for 20 years resolve that they will never get married again after their mates' deaths. They are tired of sacrificing themselves for spouses, children, and friends (Hobfoll & Stokes, 1988). Many young men hesitate to get too close to women. They think of women as weak and needy and worry that if they ever let their guard down, they will be stuck taking care of someone who will have every right to make terrible claims on their time, energy, and money. They do not realize that they have the right to expect women to be equals; the right to say "No."

Dolores, I live in fear. My love for you is so overpowering, I'm afraid that I will disappear.

Paul Simon's (1977) lyrics from the song "Slip-Slidin' Away"

Fear of Losing One's Individuality or of Being Engulfed

One of the most primitive fears of intimacy is the feeling that if people acknowl­edge that they love another they will be engulfed. Vivian Gornick (1987) in Fierce Attachments felt overwhelmed by her powerful, intrusive, and controlling mama:

My skin crawled with her. She was everywhere, all over me, inside and out. Her influence clung, membrane-like, to my nostrils, my eyelids, my open mouth. I drew her into me with every breath I took. I drowsed in her etherizing atmosphere, could not escape the rich and claustrophobic character of her presence, her being, her suffocat­ing suffering femaleness. (pp. 79-80)

A few people worry that they will literally disappear as they lose themselves in the other (Diamond & Shapiro, 1981). More commonly, individuals worry that if they love someone, they will become responsible for never hurting the other; thus to avoid causing their partner pain, they will have to surrender themselves to the whims of the partner. Better to stay away.

Lovers who fear that those they love will try to change them have legitimate


concern. One of the hardest things for people to learn is that others are not like themselves. Thus, even with good intentions, individuals will indeed often try to control the one they love the best. Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, for example, inevitably fell in love with the cool unattainable women he chose to star in his pictures—Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint, and Tippi Hedren—and just as inevitably set out to remake them. He didn't just want to direct them on the set. He wanted to control their every move, onscreen and off. When, for instance, he chose Tippi Hedren to star in The Birds, he began with gentle persuasion. He reminded her that he had rescued her from obscurity; he could make her a major Hollywood star. She should be grateful for his advice. He wouldn't hear that she didn't want to be a star. He had chosen her, he was training her, and that was that. On the set, he meticulously directed every shot. He told her how to move her eyes and how to hold her head. Then he began to try to control her behavior offscreen. He began to tell her what to wear after work, what she should eat, which friends she could see. He drew up lists of who was "good enough" for her company. He hired crew members to keep a check on her when she left the set. Whom did she visit? Where did she go? How did she spend her free time? He became furious if she didn't ask his permission to visit friends in the evenings and on weekends. Tippi Hedren despised his attentions. She became more and more anxious. After that experience she left films, never again to return (Spoto, 1983, pp. 481-482).

Leslie Baxter and William Wilmot (1985) interviewed men and women about their platonic friendships, potential romantic relationships, and established ro­mantic relationships. What sorts of topics were taboo, off-limits, in these affairs? The authors found that women felt more topics were taboo than did men. Men and women were most hesitant to talk about the state of their relationship (see Table 5.2a). They worried that by saying too much they might frighten their dates or hurt them and destroy what they had. One woman said:

For me right now, there's no way I'll get married, but sometimes I think he's more serious. . . . It's a sore subject and it makes me feel on the defensive, (pp. 259-260)


Relationship type









Taboo topic




State of the relationship




Extrarelationship activity




Relationship norms




Prior relationships




Conflict inducing




Negatively valenced self-disclosure








Source: Baxter & Wilmot, 1985, p. 259,


1.   The state of the relationship 41%    Relationship destruction 19%    Individual vulnerability

17%    Effectiveness of the tacit mode 14%    Futility of talk 10%    Closeness cueing

2.   Extrarelationship activity

63%    Negative relational implications

1 5%    Right to privacy

11%    Negative network implications

3.   Relationship norms

55%    Negative relational implications 32%    Embarrassment

4.   Prior relationships

50%    Relationship threat 27%    Irrelevance of the past 14%    Impression management

5.   Conflict-inducing topics

6.   Negative self-disclosure

Source: Baxter & Wilmot, 1985, p. 260.

Other people simply felt that a person risked too much, became too vulnerable by raising such issues:

The relationship itself [is a taboo]. I just never talk about those kinds of things. Never. Big mistake. Actually the only time I talk about those kinds of things is when I'm really drunk . . . 'cause then I don't care [what I find out]. It's a big mistake to talk about it because you leave yourself very vulnerable, which I don't like to be—your feelings can get hurt. (p. 261)

Others felt that words were a poor substitute for what is "just understood," that it was useless to talk ("What will be will be), or that it was too early to raise such issues:

The only thing we can't talk about is how much we really like each other; not in a romantic way or anything but just caring and liking. A serious talk about it would imply something that neither of us wants. So we just joke around about it. (p. 262)

People provided additional reasons why they didn't talk much about rival relation­ships either. Many knew their dates or mates would simply get angry or jealous if they knew what was going on:

I spent the summer in Guatemala and met this guy there. I write to him regularly, but I wouldn't tell this to my boyfriend because I don't want to hurt him. He's the all or nothing sort of person. It is all him or nothing. I don't want to make waves, (p. 262)

Others felt that they had a right to privacy; or that if they told their romantic partners everything that they would be betraying confidences or getting someone

else in trouble. For other reasons why men and women felt certain topics were taboo, see Table 5.2b.

Other theorists have detailed a host of other practical problems that emerge when we are intimate with others (Pollak & Gilligan, 1982; Rook & Pietromonaco,



Many people, then, with good reason, are acutely aware of the risks associated with intimacy. How much do you fear intimacy? Constance Pilkington and Debo­rah Richardson (1988) developed a scale to measure Perceptions of Risk in Inti­macy. Some sample items appear in Box 5.3.


Using the scale below, indicate the extent to which you agree with each statement by writing the appropriate number in the blank beside each item.

1   = Very strong disagreement

2  = Moderate disagreement

3  = Slight disagreement

4  = Slight agreement

5  = Moderate agreement

6  = Very strong agreement

1. ________   It is dangerous to get really close to people.

2. ________   I prefer that people keep their distance from me.

3. ________   I'm afraid to get really close to someone because I might get hurt.

4. ________   I find it difficult to trust other people.

5. ________   I avoid intimacy.

6. ________   Being close to other people makes me feel afraid.

7. ________   I'm hesitant to share personal information about myself.

8. ________   Being close to people is a risky business.

The higher the score, the more people perceive intimacy to be a risk rather than a pleasure.

Source: Pilkington & Richardson, 1988, p. 505.

The authors found that people who exaggerate the dangers of intimacy pay a cost. They have neither a romantic partner nor very many close friends; they distance themselves from others. They are less sociable, assertive, and trusting than others.


Of course, people differ both in how interested they are in intimate relationships and even more in how capable they are of maintaining them. They differ markedly in the "preference or readiness for experiences of closeness, warmth, and commu­nication" (McAdams, 1982, p. 134). Dan McAdams (1980, 1992) found that soror­ity and fraternity members who were high in intimacy motivation were warmer, more loving and sincere, and less dominant, outspoken, and self-centered than their peers. Not everyone has what it takes to maintain an intimate relationship. Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver (1987) have argued that if there are problems in the infant-caregiver attachment, adults may well have serious intimacy problems in later life. There is some evidence for this contention. Researchers have found that young men and women who have problems getting close to others or who are too dependent find it difficult to establish deeply intimate relationships (Levitz-Jones & Orlofsky, 1985).

Are There Gender Differences in Intimacy?

Researchers have observed that there is a gap between men and women in their ideas of what constitutes intimacy. Ted Huston interviewed 130 married couples at the University of Texas (Goleman, 1986). He found that for the wives, intimacy meant talking things over. The husbands, by and large, were more interested in action. They thought that if they did things (took out the garbage, for instance) and if they engaged in some joint activities, that should be enough. Huston found that during courtship men were willing to spend a great deal of time in intimate conversation. But after marriage, as time went on, they reduced the time for close marital conversation while devoting increasingly greater time to work or hanging around with their own friends. Huston observed: "Men put on a big show of interest when they are courting, but after the marriage their actual level of

IN I IMALY ANU IUMM   I MtN I          I 30

interest in the partner often does not seem as great as you would think, judging from the courtship. The intimacy of courtship is instrumental for the men, a way to capture the woman's interest. But that sort of intimacy is not natural for many men" (p. Y19). Women complain about men's "emotional stinginess" (Christensen & Heavey, 1990 Fishman, 1978; Roberts & Krokoff, 1990). Huston suggested a compromise: Couples should try to engage in the sort of intimate conversation that springs spontaneously from shared interests. This requires, of course, that couples share some interests—that they read books, or watch films, or plan trips to Europe together, and so forth.

Carol Gilligan (1982) pointed out that men are taught to take pride in being independent while women take pride in being close and nurturant (see also Goleman, 1986; Pollak & Gilligan, 1982). Erik Erikson (1959) contended that as men mature, they find it easy to achieve an independent identity; they experience more difficulty in learning to be intimate with those they love. Women have an easy time learning to be close to others; they have more trouble learning how to be independent (Hodgson & Fischer, 1979; White, Speisman, Jackson, Bartis, & Costos, 1986). Family therapists such as Augustus Napier (1977) are acutely aware of what happens in any relationship when one person is desperate for intimacy, willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship work, and terrified of rejection and abandonment. . . while the other fears being suffocated and stifled. He observed that couples' efforts to get as close as they would like often spark a vicious cycle. Wives (seeking more closeness) clasp their husbands tightly, "smoth­ering" them. Husbands (seeking more distance) retreat, which causes their wives to panic, inducing further "clasping." In therapy, one way to short-circuit this problem is to focus on the people who are craving more closeness. People who crave intimacy surely have a right to expect some of their needs to be fulfilled by their mates. But they may have to have some of their intimacy needs satisfied by friends, children, work, and activities. People who are easily overwhelmed by too much intimacy may be able to learn to be a little more loving and attentive, but usually things will go best if they learn to recognize when they are starting to feel overwhelmed, and let their mates know they temporarily need more distance; often their mates can learn to give them a little breathing room—confident that they'll soon be back together.

There is considerable evidence that men are less comfortable with intimacy than women. Researchers have found the following:

1. In casual encounters, women disclose far more to others than do men (Cozby, 1973; Jourard, 1971). In our culture (at least since the beginning of the nineteenth century), women have traditionally been encouraged to show feelings. Men have been taught to hide their emotions and to avoid displays of weakness (Pleck & Sawyer, 1974; Rubin, Hill, Peplau, & Dunke-Schetter, 1980). Kate Millett (1970) observes that "women express, men repress." In a study of college students, Mayta Caldwell and Anne Peplau (1982) found that women's friend­ships were more deeply intimate than were men's. (Androgynous men's friend­ships were far more intimate than were those of traditional men.) Women place great emphasis on talking and emotional sharing in their relationships. Men tend to emphasize shared activities; they generally limit their conversations to sports, muscles, money, and sex.

2. In their deeply intimate relationships, however, men and women differ little, if at all, in how much they are willing to reveal to one another. Rubin and his colleagues (1980), for example, asked dating couples via the Jourard Self-Disclosure Questionnaire how much they had revealed to their steady dates. Did they talk about their current relationships? Previous affairs? Their feelings about their parents and friends? Their self-concepts and life views? Their attitudes and interests? Their day-to-day activities? Overall, men and women did not differ in how much they were willing to confide to their partners. They did differ, however, in the kinds of things they shared. Men found it easy to talk about politics; women found it easy to talk about people. Men found it easy to talk about their strengths; women found it easy to talk about their own fears and weaknesses. Interestingly enough, traditional men and women were most likely to limit themselves to stereotyped patterns of communication. More modern men and women were more relaxed about discussing all sorts of intimate matters—politics, friends, their strengths, and their weaknesses.

In her biography of her father John Cheever, Susan Cheever (1984) contrasted her mother's and her father's ways of being:

My father was drawn to strength. My mother is drawn to need and the sweetness of the needy- An injured animal, a waif, a person in trouble—all elicit overwhelming concern from her. . . . My warmest memories of my mother are from times when I was sick, or in pain, or in some kind of trouble.

My father, by the way, would have nothing to do with discussions like this. He never spoke about feelings or allowed himself to speculate on the inner mechanics of the family. "I love you all equally," he would say, or "I adore your mother." People remember my father's candor. "Although his manner was reticent, there was nothing John would not say about himself," Saul Bellow recalled in his eulogy at my father's funeral. In a way, that was true. He would tell you exactly what he had done to this or that mistress in a room at the St. Regis or in a motel in Iowa, and he would tell you that The New Yorker had paid him less than $1,000 for a story, and he would tell you that he took two Valiums and drank a pint of gin every day before noon. That was different, though. He did not like to talk about how these things felt; he did not like to talk about human emotions. He did talk, often eloquently, about human behavior. Are they really the same? I don't think so. (pp. 76-77)

Recently, Deborah Tannen (1990), a linguist, in You Just Don't Understand, has detailed some communication problems that men's and women's different orientations cause (see Box 5.4).

Some authors have observed that currently neither men nor women may be getting exactly the amount of intimacy they would like. Women tend to desire more intimacy than they are getting; men may prefer more privacy and distance ("Just leave me alone!"). Couples tend to negotiate a pattern of self-disclosure that is bearable to both (Derlega & Chaiken, 1975). Unfortunately, in the words of My Fair Lady, this may ensure that "neither really gets what either really wants at all."

3. Women receive more disclosures than do men. This is not surprising in view of the fact that the amount of information people reveal to others has an enormous impact on the amount of information they receive in return (Altman, 1973; Hill, Rubin, & Peplau, 1979). In any case, both men and women seem to feel

UN I 1MALY ANU  IUMMM MtN I          ID/


According to Tannen, many men are socialized to think of themselves as part of a hierarchical social order; they are either one-up or one-down. Conversations are negotiations in which they try to achieve and maintain the upper hand (if they can) or at least protect themselves from others' attempts to put them down. Life is a struggle to preserve independence. Many women, on the other hand, see themselves within a network of connections. Conversations are negotiations for closeness in which people try to reach consensus and to give and get support. They try to protect themselves from others' attempts to push them away. Life then is a struggle to preserve intimacy and avoid isolation. These themes show up, she argues, when we eavesdrop on men's and women's conversations:

Example 1: "Put down that paper and talk to me."

In public, men dominate conversations. They lecture. They speak more and at greater length. They interrupt. Yet many women complain that, at home, men suddenly become silent. They bury their heads in their newspapers; lose them­selves in their favorite television programs. How is it that men are such impressive public speakers and often such poor conversationalists in private? Tannen sug­gests an answer:

For everyone, home is a place to be offstage. But the comfort of home can have opposite and incompatible meanings for women and men. For many men, the comfort of home means freedom from having to prove themselves and impress through verbal display. At last, they are in a situation where talk is not required. They are free to remain silent. But for women, home is a place where they are free to talk, and where they feel the greatest need for talk, with those they are closest to. For them, the comfort of home means the freedom to talk without worrying how their talk will be judged, (p. 86)

Example 2: Talking at Cross Purposes

Eve had a lump removed from her breast. Shortly after the operation, talking to her sister, she said that she found it upsetting to have been cut into, and that looking at the stitches was distressing because they left a seam that had changed the contour of her breast. Her sister said, "I know. When I had my operation I felt the same way." Eve made the same observation to her friend Karen, who said, "I know. It's like your body has been violated." But when she told her husband. Mark, how she felt, he said, "You can have plastic surgery to cover up the scar and restore the shape of your breast."

Eve had been comforted by her sister and her friend, but she was not comforted by Mark's comment. Quite the contrary, it upset her more. Not only didn't she hear what she wanted, that he understood her feelings, but, far worse, she felt he was asking her to undergo more surgery just when she was telling him how much this operation had upset her. "I'm not having any more surgery!" she protested. "I'm sorry you don't like the way it looks." Mark was hurt and puzzled. "I don't care," he protested. "It doesn't bother me at all." She asked,

I oo         unftr i en v

"Then why are you telling me to have plastic surgery?" He answered, "Because you were saying you were upset by the way it looked." . . . Eve wanted the gift of understanding, but Mark gave her the gift of advice. He was taking the role of problem solver, whereas she simply wanted confirmation for her feelings, (pp. 49-50)

[A side note: In therapy, it often comes as a big relief to men when Dick tells them that when women cry, or recount problems, all they're hoping for is that their boyfriends and husbands will listen and be sympathetic. Many men assume that they are expected somehow magically to "fix things." When they can't, or when she's not interested in their "solution," they feel helpless and react with anger.]

Tannen suggests several techniques by which men and women can open lines of communication. First, men and women benefit simply by understanding that different people may have very different ways of communicating. It helps just to realize that people communicate differently, not because they are stupid, wrongheaded, or mean, but just because they are different. It helps even more if men and women develop more flexible conversational skills. Men can learn to be more interested in others, to become better listeners; to learn to get close without seeing it as a threat to their freedom. Women can learn to become more "selfish"; to be less obsessed with being liked and nurturing others; to become more inde­pendent; more comfortable with competition and conflict. They can learn to become better at getting the things they want.

most comfortable confiding in women. Modern tradition dictates that women should be the "intimacy experts."

What happens if, stimulated by the growing independence of women, this situation changes? Such social changes have already begun (Rubin et al., 1980). The prognosis is mixed. Young women usually say that they would be delighted if the men they love could be more intimate. We are a bit skeptical that it will be this easy. Change is always difficult. More than one man has complained that when he finally dared to reveal his weaker aspects to a woman, he soon discovered that she was shocked by his lack of "manliness." Family therapists such as Napier (1977) have warned us that the struggle to find individuality and closeness is a problem for everyone. As long as men were fleeing from intimacy, women could safely pursue them. Now that men are turning around to face them, women may well find themselves taking flight. In any case, the confrontation is likely to be exciting, surprising, and profoundly significant. The women's movement brings change as far-reaching for men as for women.


Most humans appear to flourish in a warm intimate relationship. Yet intimacy is risky. What then is the solution? How can one secure the benefits of closeness while not being engulfed by its dangers? Social psychological research and clinical experience furnish some hints.

According to theorists, one of the most primitive tasks people face is to learn

how to maintain their own identity and integrity while yet engaging in deeply intimate relationships with others (Erikson, 1982). Intimacy and independence are not opposite personality traits but interlocking skills. This is not a self-evident point since our movies, television, and pop songs have repeatedly linked depen­dency with intimacy. What higher love, they insist, than "I need you! I can't live without you"? Desperate, needy, clingy love has been the ne plus ultra of love—as portrayed in popular culture.

But the clingy, desperate person, when faced with the need to criticize a partner, may demur out of fear that the partner will get angry and leave. The needy person cannot risk such intimacy because she (or he) fears she can't "make it" without the other. So she stuffs her emotions and discards intimacy. The persons who know they can survive on their own, who are independent, can more easily risk saying the hard things that need to be said simply because they are not dependent. Hollywood notwithstanding, intimacy goes with independence, not dependence. This crucial point is not generally acknowledged, and we shall have much more to say about it later in this book. In therapy, we often try to help couples develop the confidence that they are separate people, with separate ideas and feelings, who can sometimes come profoundly close to one another: two separate individuals who are part of a couple.

Intimacy is called forth in only a handful of our social encounters. Most of the time one has to be at least tactful. With 99% of the human race we can only practice ritual courtesy. When a stranger asks "How are you?" we are not re­quired to tell the total truth! In a few situations we must learn to be downright manipulative in order to survive; not everyone has our best interests in mind. But on those rare, special occasions when real intimacy is possible, men and women can recognize its promise, seize the opportunities, and take a chance.

Despite good reasons for fearing it, humans appear to blossom with intimacy. So we are back to the question: What advice can social psychologists give as to how to secure the benefits of deep commitment without being engulfed by its dangers?

Developing Intimacy Skills

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.

Janis Joplin

Encouraging People to Accept Themselves as They Are We are greatly tempted to dwell in the Kingdom of the Absolutes. Religion has not been alone in often casting people as either saints or sinners. Men have traditionally defined women as either madonnas or whores. We wish ourselves to be perfect; we often can't settle for less. Yet saintliness/evil do not describe the most interesting of human conditions. Real life is lived in the rich, fertile territories between these two extremes. Real humans inevitably exhibit some real strengths. But we carry within ourselves, simultaneously, "forbidden" impulses, quirky attributes, pro­found terrors, and irksome shortcomings that practically define what it means to be human and that make us what we are. The real challenge to living a rich and valuable life is not just to tolerate this complexity within oneself, but to relish it and work with it within oneself and with others.

A first step in learning to be independent/intimate is to come to accept the fact that we are entitled to be what we are—to have the ideas we have, the feelings we feel, and to do as well as we can based on the full truth of who we are. Honest self-recognition is not all there is to life, but it is not a bad place to start.

In therapy, we try to move people from the notion that one should come into the world perfect and continue that way unto death. We prefer the realization that wisdom often grows in small steps. We cannot be anything we wish to be just by willing it. The Religion of Positive Thinking, most pronounced in America, goes much too far and often results, because of the untruthfulness of its basic premise, in depression. We can change behaviors and ideas, however, by proceeding one step at a time. That way change is manageable and possible (Watson & Tharp, 1990). Accomplish Behavior One and move on to Two. Perfection lies beyond our reach (thank goodness!); but improvements do lie within our grasp.

A good man doesn't just happen. They have to be created by us women. A guy is a lump like a doughnut. So, first you gotta get rid of all the stuff his mom did to him. And then you gotta get rid of all that macho crap that they pick up from beer commercials. And then there's my personal favorite, the male ego.

Roseanne Arnold

Encouraging People to Recognize Their Intimates for What They Are

People may be hard on themselves, but they are generally even harder on their partners. Most people have the idea that everyone is entitled to a perfect partner, or at least one a little bit better than the one available (Hatfield & Rapson, 1990b). If people are going to have an intimate relationship, they have to learn to enjoy others as they are, without engaging in secret strategies to fix them up.

It is extraordinarily difficult to accept that friends and loved ones are entitled to be who they are. From the individual vantage point, it seems obvious that everything would be far better if our mates became the people we wanted them to be, if they realized our plans and fantasies for them. "Why don't they? Why are they so stubborn? If they really loved me, they'd change." It would take so little for them to change their entire character structure!

If we can come to the realization that our lover or friend is the person who exists right now—not the person we wished for in our dreams, not the person he "could" be, but what he is—once that realization occurs, the possibilities for intimacy are greatly enhanced. Behavior can change, but basic personalities rarely do.

Encouraging People to Express Themselves Next, intimates have to learn to be more comfortable about expressing their ideas and feelings. This is harder than one might think. Intimate relations are usually our most important relationships. When passions are so intense, consequences so momentous, people are often hesitant to speak the truth. From moment to moment, they are tempted to present a consistent picture. If they are in love, they are hesitant to admit to their nagging doubts. What if they hurt the person they love? What if their revelations destroy their marriage? And on the far extreme, when they are angry, they don't speak with complexity about their love, self-doubts, or hurt; they want to lash out against the other.

To be intimate, people have to push toward a more honest, graceful, com­plete, and patient communication, to understand that a person's ideas and feelings are necessarily complex, with many nuances, shadings, and inconsistencies. In love, there is time to clear things up. In love, many mistakes and false starts are allowed. In true love, no single attempt at truth-telling can be fatal.

One interesting thing that people often discover is that their affection in­creases when they begin to admit their irritations. People are often surprised to discover that sometimes, just when they think they have fallen out of love, or that they are "bored" with the other, things change when they begin to express their anger and ambivalence; they often feel their love come back in a rush. In The Family Crucible, Augustus Napier and Carl Whitaker (1978) described just such a phenomenon:

What followed was a classic confrontation. If John's affair was a kind of reawakening, so now was this marital encounter, though of a very different sort. Eleanor was enraged, hurt, confused, and racked with a sense of failure. John was guilty, also confused, but not apologetic. The two partners fought and cried, talked and searched for an entire night. The next evening, more exhausting encounters. Feelings that had been hidden for years emerged; doubts and accusations that they had never expected to admit articulated.

Eleanor had to find out everything, and the more she discovered, the more insatiable her curiosity became. The more she heard, the guiltier her husband became and the angrier she grew, until he finally cried for a halt. It was his cry for mercy that finally led to a temporary reconciliation of the couple. They cried together for the first time either of them could remember.

For a while they were elated; they had achieved a breakthrough in their silent and dreary marriage. They felt alive together for the first time in years. Somewhat mysteriously, they found themselves going to bed together in the midst of a great tangle of emotions—continuing anger, and hurt, and guilt, and this new quality: abandon. The lovemaking was, they were to admit to each other, "the best it had ever been." How could they have moved through hatred into caring so quickly? (p. 153)

Teaching People to Deal with Their Intimates' Reactions To say that you should communicate your ideas and feelings, must communicate if you are to have an intimate affair, does not mean your partner is going to like it. You can expect that when you try to express your deepest feelings, it will sometimes hurt. Your lovers and friends may tell you frankly how deeply you have pained them, and that may make you feel extremely guilty. Or they may react with intense anger.

Intimates have to learn to stop responding in automatic fashion to such emo­tional outbursts from the other—to quit backing up, apologizing for what they have said, measuring their words. They have to learn to stay calm, remind them­selves that they are entitled to say what they think, feel what they feel, listen to what their partners think and feel, and keep on trying. We often learn from pain • ¦ . and so might our partners who may not be beyond using guilt and anger to shut us up.

When we realize we are entitled to try to speak truthfully—a realization that may require bravery—only then is there a chance for an intimate meeting.

What a woman says to her lover should be written in wind and running water.




In Chapter 1, Robert Sternberg (1986, p. 6) pointed out that "decision/commit­ment refers, in the short-term, to the decision that one loves a certain other, and in the long-term, to one's commitment to maintain that love."

Marriage and family researchers sometimes use the Broderick Commitment Scale (Table 5.3) to assess dating couples' commitment to their relationships and husbands' and wives' commitment to their marriages.

Theoretical Background

It is not always easy for people to know how committed they are to others. Pam Houston (1992), in Cowboys Are My Weakness, is a shrewd observer. She admits that she often thinks she wants commitment, only to run when she gets it. She realizes she is attracted to the unattainable.

It was the old southern woman next door, the hunter's widow, who convinced me I should stay with him each time I'd get mad enough to leave. She said if I didn't have to fight for him I'd never know if he was mine. She said the wild ones were the only ones worth having and that I had to let him do whatever it took to keep him wild. She said I wouldn't love him if he ever gave in, and the harder I looked at my life, the more I saw a series of men—wild in their own way—who thought because I said I wanted security and commitment, I did. Sometimes it seems this simple: I tamed them and made them dull as fence posts and left each one for someone wilder than the last. Jack is the wildest so far, and the hardest, and even though I've been proposed to sixteen times, five times by men I've never made love to, I want him all to myself and at home more than I've ever wanted anything, (pp. 25-26)

All she wants is what she can't have. Naturally she's heartbroken when she can't have it. The cowboys, hunters, and trackers in her life are equally ambivalent.

The hunter will talk about spring in Hawaii, summer in Alaska. The man who says he was always better at math will form the sentences so carefully it will be impossible to tell if you are included in these plans. When he asks you if you would like to open a small guest ranch way out in the country, understand that this is a rhetorical question. Label these conversations future perfect, but don't expect the present to catch up with them. Spring is an inconceivable distance from the December days that just keep getting shorter and gray.

He'll ask you if you've ever shot anything, if you'd like to, if you ever thought about teaching your dog to retrieve. Your dog will like him too much, will drop the stick at his feet every time, will roll over and let the hunter scratch his belly.

One day he'll leave you sleeping to go split wood or get the mail and his phone will ring again. You'll sit v