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Relationship Initiation

Theories Of Relationship Initiation, Stages Of Relationship Development, Relationship Openers, Strategies That Influence Relationship Initiation


Romantic relationships and marriages have to start somewhere. People need to meet, find one another attractive and interesting, and decide to move further into a relationship.

Why do people initiate relationships in the first place? Research suggests that four reasons are especially important. First, individuals initiate relationships with those they see as attractive. Physical appearance is a critical cue in forming first impressions. When people are in social settings where they are likely to meet a potential partner, they worry a great deal about their appearance. Some evidence in the field of evolutionary psychology suggests that males view the physical attractiveness of potential partners as more important than do females (Buss 1989; Sprecher, Sullivan, and Hatfield 1994), but it is clear that both men and women see appearance as an important criterion for meeting others (Berscheid and Walster 1974; Hatfield and Sprecher 1986). Second, individuals tend to develop relationships based on proximity. People are far more likely to meet, date, and marry someone who is geographically close to them than someone who lives a great distance away. Third, individuals often initiate relationships with partners who are useful to them. For instance, someone may pursue a relationship with a medical specialist not because of her attractiveness or proximity, but because she knows things that individual needs to know. Finally, people develop relationships with others because humans are naturally social. Being alone, for long periods of time, is not appealing to most people. Indeed, most individuals see solitary confinement as a particularly cruel form of punishment.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationships