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Dating Scripts

Suzanna Rose and Irene Frieze (1989), who have studied men's and women's scripts for first dates, point out that the behaviors expected of men form the more rigid script. For this reason alone, men may dread asking women out or making mistakes, thus anticipating rejection more than they otherwise might. As noted earlier, men were traditionally expected to be the initiators, the planners, and the decision makers about dates. Women primarily reacted to men's actions. In Rose and Frieze's study, men and women disagreed about only two of forty-seven script items (twenty-seven for men, twenty for women) which suggests that the expectations for each sex are well known by members of both sexes. It also means that first-date behavior is highly predictable and, as also noted earlier, tends to follow traditional lines from beginning to end (i.e., man calls for woman at her home; man attempts a good-night kiss).

Why is it that dates are so highly scripted especially in individualistic cultures like that of the United States, which appear to value openness, naturalness, and spontaneity? First, scripts help daters to make a good first impression (without which there would be no second date). Second, they ease whatever awkwardness daters may feel in view of the fact that they are probably relative strangers.

Following first dates, what motivates daters to continue to go out together? Bert Adams (1979) has identified some of the conditions under which the relationship is likely to continue: (1) if significant others react favorably to the relationship; (2) if the partners react favorably to one another's self-disclosure; (3) if the partners have good rapport; (4) if the partners agree on values; (5) if the partners are at about the same level of physical attractiveness and have similar personalities; (6) if the partners are role compatible (e.g., both traditional or both egalitarian); (7) if the partners can empathize with one another; and (8) if the partners define each other as "right" or even as "the best I can get."

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsDating - Competitiveness, Sexuality, Delights And Discontents, Communication And Deception, Making Initial Contact, Dating Scripts