ChoiceWe enter into romantic relationships through choice, selecting not only with whom we initiate involvements but also whether and how we maintain these bonds. Contrary to widespreadbelief, love doesn’t “strike us out of the blue” or “sweep us away.” Choice plays a role even in arranged marriages: the spouses’ families and social networks select an appropriate partner, and in many cases the betrothed retain at least some control over whether the choice is acceptable (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1992).
CommitmentRomantic relationships often involve commitment: a strong psychological attachment to a partner and an intention to continue the relationship long into the future (Arriaga & Agnew, 2001). When you forge a commitment with a partner, positive outcomes often result. Commitment leads couples to work harder on maintaining their relationships, resulting in greatersatisfaction (Rusbult, Arriaga, & Agnew, 2001). Commitment also reduces the likelihood that partners will cheat sexually when separated by geographic distance (Le, Korn, Crockett, & Loving, 2010).Page 292Although men are stereotyped in the media as “commitment-phobic,” this stereotype is false. Bothmen and women view commitment as an important part of romantic relationships (Miller, 2014). Several studies even suggest that men often place a higher value on commitment than do women. For example, when asked which they would choose if forced to decide between a committed romance and an important job opportunity, more men than women chose the relationship (Mosher & Danoff-Burg, 2007). Men also score higher than women on measures of commitment in college dating relationships (Kurdek, 2008). These trends aren’t new. Throughoutfifty years of research, men have consistently reported more of a desire for marriage than have women and described “desire for a committed relationship” as more of a motivation for dating (Rubin, Peplau, & Hill, 1981).TensionsWhen we’re involved in intimate relationships, we often experience competing impulses, or tensions, between ourselves and our feelings toward others, known as relational dialectics(Baxter, 1990). Relational dialectics take three common forms. The first is openness versus protection.As relationships become more intimate, we naturally exchange more personal information with our partners. Most of us enjoy the feeling of unity and mutual insight created through such sharing. But while we want to be open with our partners, we also want to keep certain aspects of our selves—such as our most private thoughts and feelings—protected. Too much openness provokes an uncomfortable sense that we’ve lost our privacy and must share everythingwith our lovers.The second dialectic is autonomy versus connection.We elect to form romantic relationships largely out of a desire to bond with other human beings. Yet if we come to feel so connected to our partners that our individual identity seems to dissolve, we may choose to pull back and reclaim some of our autonomy.