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Liking and Loving

15 February, 2016 - 10:55

Chapter Learning Objectives

  1. Initial Attraction
    • Summarize the variables that lead to initial attraction between people.
    • Outline the variables that lead us to perceive someone as physically attractive, and explain why physical attractiveness is so important in liking.
    • Describe the ways that similarity and complementarity influence our liking for others.
    • Define the concept of mere exposure, and explain how proximity influences liking.
    • Explore the relationship between affect and attraction.
  2.  Close Relationships: Liking and Loving over the Long-Term
    • Outline the factors that define close relationships.
    • Distinguish between communal and exchange relationships.
    • Explore Sternberg’s triangular theory of love.
    • Review research on romantic love and attention to others.
    • Outline the role of attachment style in close relationships.
    • Consider the impact of Internet behaviors on intimate relationships.
    • Review some important factors that can help romantic relationships to be successful.
    • Explore key factors that contribute to the ending of close relationships.

Britain’s Longest Married Couple Celebrate a Quiet 80th Anniversary

Frank and Anita Milford are in some ways your average couple: They met in 1926 at a YMCA dance, married in 1928, had two children, and lived together in the same three-bedroom house their entire lives. But unlike many other couples, Frank and Anita’s marriage lasted—in fact, it really lasted. In May 2008, the pair equaled the record for being Britain’s longest married couple—80 years of marriage.

To celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary, Frank (100 years old), and Anita (99 years old) spent a quiet weekend together—pretty typical of most of their days.

“At our age that’s all you need,” said Mr. Milford. “Just us together, no big fuss.”

Frank and Anita indicated that one of the secrets to a successful marriage was to “share a little kiss and cuddle every night before bed. It’s our golden rule.”

The Milfords believe that making time for one another is vital to keeping the relationship healthy. They claimed that respect and a process of “give and take” are great ways to sustain a relationship.

“We do everything together even after nearly 80 years.”

Like most couples who have been together for a number of years, there are still some cross words and everyday squabbles. Regardless, their relationship remains one that is loving and healthy.

Source: Miller, V. (2008, 24 May). Britain’s longest married couple celebrate a quiet 80th anniversary. The Telegraph. Retrieved from

In prior chapters, we have already begun to talk about some of the ways that we think about and interact with the people in our social worlds. In Social Cognition, for instance, in our exploration of social cognition, we considered how limited abilities to forecast others’ trading behaviors and overconfidence in the decisions that investors made helped to create the global financial crisis in 2008. In The Self, in examining social influences on the self, we saw how the cultural groups we belong to can influence our sense of who we are. When we discussed person perception processes in Perceiving Others, we saw that we often put too much weight on people’s personal characteristics and not enough on the situations they are in when we try to make sense of their behaviors. A lot of these areas of research, though, have explored our cognition and behaviors regarding other people in general, rather than specific people we are close to. In this chapter, we will turn our attention to our significant others and explore social psychological contributions to our understanding of close relationships.

We all have many basic desires and needs that are often met in our close relationships, particularly with those others who provide social support, which is the approval, assistance, advice, and comfort that we receive from those with whom we have developed stable positive relationships (Taylor, 2007).

Close relationships are relationships between people that are characterized by loving, caring, commitment, and intimacy—such as those between adult friends, dating partners, lovers, and married couples (Clark & LeMay, 2010; Hendrick & Hendrick, 2000). These relationships are determined by biological, evolutionary, individual, and cultural factors. Successful close relationships, like Anita and Frank Milford’s 80-year marriage, often involve the positive influence of cognitive variables, including perceptions of similarity with the other, interdependence, commitment, and the incorporation of other into the self-concept, as well as affective variables, including attachment, intimacy, and commitment. Our close relationships help us meet the goals of self-concern and other-concern.

In this chapter, we will consider the benefits that come from our close relationships, the principles that lead people to become attracted to others, and the variables that help create stable, healthy, and happy close relationships. In addition to being vitally important to us in an evolutionary sense (e.g., effective child rearing requires committed and effective parents), close relationships bring us health and happiness when we are able to create successful ones; they may produce a profound sense of loneliness and sadness when we are not.

Figure 7.1 Close relationships form the basis of human reproduction, child rearing, and life satisfaction. 

People are well aware of the importance of having other people in their lives. When they are asked what makes them happy, people of all ages indicate that having friendships and good relationships with others is what they care about the most (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). And, as we saw in The Self, our self-esteem is strongly influenced by how much we feel that we are accepted by others (Leary, 2005; Leary & Cox, 2008). People who do not feel that they are able to develop the types and quality of social relationships that they would prefer to have are lonely—a highly unpleasant and potentially unhealthy state (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008).

Close relationships also keep us healthy. People who do not have adequate social support in the form of friends and family have more physical and mental health problems than do those with adequate social relationships (Cacioppo, Hawkley, & Bernston, 2003; Cacioppo et al., 2002).

In summary, our close relationships make us happy and healthy, and the lack of them leaves us lonely and hurting. We experience higher self-efficacy, self-esteem, and positive mood when we believe that our friends and partners are responding to us supportively and with a concern for our needs and our own welfare. Our relationships with others help us buffer the negative effects of stress, avoid unhealthy behaviors, and cope with serious physical illness. And our close relationships allow us to express our fundamental desires to reach out and respond to other people.


Baumeister, R., & Leary, M. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.

Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L. C., & Bernston, G. G. (2003). The anatomy of loneliness. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(3), 71–74;

Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L. C., Crawford, E., Ernst, J. M., Burleson, M. H., Kowalewski, R. B,…Berntson, G. G. (2002). Loneliness and health: Potential mechanisms. Psychosomatic Medicine, 64(3), 407–417.

Clark, M. S., & Lemay, E. P., Jr. (2010). Close relationships. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 898–940). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons;

Hendrick, C., & Hendrick, S. S. (Eds.). (2000). Close relationships: A sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Leary, M. R. (2005). Sociometer theory and the pursuit of relational value: Getting to the root of self-esteem. European Review of Social Psychology, 16, 75–111.

Leary, M. R., & Cox, C. B. (Eds.). (2008). Belongingness motivation: A mainspring of social action. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Taylor, S. E. (2007). Social support. In H. S. Friedman & R. C. Silver (Eds.), Foundations of health psychology (pp. 145–171). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.