Analyze why relationships may ch

Analyze why relationships may change or end

Sternberg (1986) suggested the triangular theory of love with three components that many psychologists believe are important in close relationships:

  • intimacy (feeling close, connected, and bonded)
  • passion (romance and physical and sexual attraction)
  • commitment (desire to maintain the relationship in spite of adversity and costs).

Partners begin to develop an interdependent relationship from the beginning of their relationship and they gradually increase their mutual involvement. Successful couples tend to develop more commitment and intimacy over time than less successful couples.

Buunk (1998) Characteristics of happy and unhappy couples

Happy Couples

Unhappy Couples

  • Express their feelings openly and disclose their thoughts.
  • Show conflict-avoidance (e.g. not wanting to discuss problems).
  • Show affection and understanding of each others’ feelings (empathy and perspective taking).
  • Demonstrate soothing (e.g.ignoring or covering up differences).


  • Take part in destructive communication (e.g. criticizing, disagreeing, complaining).

Equity theory and relationship satisfaction

  • According to equity theory there must be a balance between the two partners in a relationship, i.e. the relationship should be perceived as fair. People compare their own gains compared to that of the partner’s and may look for alternatives if they are not satisfied.

Investment model of commitment (theory)


  • Rusbult et al. (1991) suggested the investment model of commitment with the concept of accommodation as an important strategy to maintain a relationship (i.e. ensure longevity of the relationship).
  • Accommodation means that a person is willing to adopt a constructive approach and inhibit the impulse to react destructively (i.e. retaliation) when a partner displays destructive behavior. High levels of accommodation are consistently associated with well-being.
  • Murray and Holmes (1997) found that over time partners in committed relationships created “positive illusions” of their partners. The idealization of the partner was positively associated with relationship satisfaction and fewer conflicts. Confidence in the partner seems to foster a sense of trust and security (secure attachment), which in turn promotes accommodation in conflicts. Idealization could also be a potential threat to a relationship if the partner cannot live up to the high expectations.

Study to use: Sprecher (1999)