A romantic relationship is a relationship between people who have the desire to become intimate with each other both parties therefor have a mutual attraction to each other. Psychologist theories have tried to explain how relationships form and the theory of similarity (Bryne, Clore and Smeaton) and the theory of the reward need satisfaction theory are two of which I am going to describe and evaluate in this essay.
Bryne, Clore and Smeaton claim that similarity breeds liking, and that the more similar a person is to their potential partner the more likely the relationship is to succeed. Firstly people sort potential partners from the population and avoid those who possess different personality and attitudes from their own. Secondly from the remaining group they then choose someone who is similar to us in terms of personality and attitudes to find the partner who is more similar and therefore most suitable. Festinger claims proximity is a key feature of similarity in which a couple need to possess and Zojonc recognizes exposure as being the factors which if they are similar to the potential partner will in fact make you like them more.
Support for this theory comes from Casp and Herber who found that married couples with similar personalities were happier than couples with less similar personalities therefore recognising that that attitude alignment is an important factor in the formation of relationships. This attitude alignment occurs where one or both partners modify their attitudes inline with each other and disagreements do not occur. This similarity is important as it reduces our chance of rejection from others, thus the reason we seek a partner who is similar to ourselves. Further support of this theory comes from Burgess and Walin who found from research on 1000 engaged couples that they showed similarities of personality interests. This is a large sample and is therefore reliable research, however the couples were only engaged, would the case be the same if they were just partners or married? Ethics can also be used when evaluating this research because this is a socially sensitive topic, extra care must be taken when discussing, furthermore most research into relationships was carried out in a lab and is therefor artificial and lacks ecological validity. Rosenbaum criticizes this theory and says that it is in fact dissimilarity that is the most important factor and it is this, which enables a relationship to form and develop successfully. This repulsion theory has been tested in different cultures to avoid culture bias (which many researchers into this theory have ignored as most of this research has taken place in the western world) where it has received some support and some rejection. Yoshida also criticises this theory claiming that it is not just similarity that affects the ability of a relationship to form but other actors must also be included such as economic status, physical appearance and their status in society. Therefore this produces a debate of reductionism as it only focuses on one factor and ignores all others. Determinist is also another value that this theory possesses as free will and choices are ignored when choosing a romantic partner. Further research from Winch further supports the similarity theory and says that we are happiest when our partner’s characteristics compliment our own.
A second theory is the reward need satisfaction theory Byrne & Clore 1970 state we like people we associate with pleasurable feelings with, often referred to as classical conditioning, If we meet someone when we are in a positive mood we are more likely to like them than if we meet them when we are in a negative mood. This theory argues that the balance of positive and negative feelings is crucial in relationship formation and relationships where the positive feelings outweigh the negative are more likely to be