Cultures also differ in the degree to which relationships reflect the interests of the individual or the family. In individualist cultures, individual interests are deemed more important & romantic relationships are more likely to be formed on the basis of love & attraction. In collectivist cultures, relationships are more likely to reflect the interests of the entire family. Cultures differ greatly in terms of the norms that apply to the development of romantic relationships. These norms act as guidelines for appropriate behavior within a culture & dictate how people relate to and communicate with each other in the development of romantic relationships. For example, Ma studied self-disclosure (revealing your motives and intentions) in Internet relationships and found that American students self-disclosed sooner than East Asian students. Cultures differ in terms of the rules that apply to the development of romantic relationships. These rules can include courtesy and social intimacy. Argyle et al. studied relationships rules in the UK, Italy, Hong Kong and Japan, and found that different relationship rules applied to each of these cultures.
However, some rules such as the showing of courtesy towards a partner were present in each culture. Although it might be expected that more voluntary relationships based on love would produce more compatible partners and therefore be more successful, this is not necessarily the case. In cultures where families play a key part in arranging a marriage, parents may be in a better position to judge compatibility, as they are not ‘blinded by love’. There is research support for this idea that non-voluntary relationships can work as well as, if not better than relationships based on love. Epstein found that in cultures with reduced social mobility, non-voluntary relationships appeared to work very well, with lower divorce rates than Western marriages.
However, this may be due to different cultural attitudes towards divorce. Marital satisfaction was the same for voluntary and non-voluntary relationships, suggesting that they work equally well. In contrast to this finding, a Chinese study by Xiaohe & Whyte found that women who had freedom of choice and who married for love were happier than women in arranged marriages.
This study appears to support the claim that freedom of choice – which is more common in Western cultures – promotes marital stability. Unlike the cultural approach, the evolutionary approach to romantic relationships suggests that relationships are largely universal and thus that culture should have little effect. This