The Mating Game: A Primer on Love, Sex, and Marriage

Books

Pamela C. Regan

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Copyright

    Acknowledgements

    For my girls—Emma, Piper, and Phoebe.

    Preface

    “Is She ‘The One’?” (Men’s Health)

    “How to Know If a Guy Likes You” (Glamour)

    “New Tricks for the Bedroom” (Maxim)

    “10 Little Ways to Say ‘I Love You’” (Woman’s Day)

    “Is She Flirting or Just Being Nice? Here’s How You Know for Real” (AskMen)

    “What Everyone Else Is Really Doing in Bed” (Cosmopolitan)

    “Love vs. Lust: How You’ll Know the Difference” (Woman’s Own)

    “Why Do Men and Women Cheat?” (Woman’s Day)

    “10 Red Flags to Watch Out for in a Significant Other” (Maxim)

    “How to Get Over an Ex” (CosmoGIRL!)

    “8 Ways to Ask for What You Want in Your Relationship” (Women’s Health)

    “Help Your BFF Through a Breakup” (Seventeen)

    “5 Problems That Can Sink Your Relationship” (Men’s Health)

    These quotations, taken from the headlines of several contemporary men’s and women’s magazines, underscore the deep interest (and even fascination) with which many of us approach topics of love, sex, and romance. And our interest is certainly justified. The intimate connections that we establish with other people, whether for a few moments or for a lifetime, affect our emotional and physical well-being and even the survival of our species. Without love and sex—without mating and pair-bonding and reproduction—we would feel empty, isolated, and lonely; our societies would wither; and humankind would literally perish.

    My goal in writing this book is to bring together in one text past and present theory, supposition, and knowledge about human mating relationships. The first section of the text focuses on mate selection and marriage. We begin with an examination of theoretical frameworks for understanding human mating, and we consider research on men’s and women’s mate preferences. We then explore the early stages of romantic relationship formation with a particular focus on attraction and affiliation (in both face-to-face and online encounters), flirting, and courtship. Theories of relationship development are discussed, along with research on mate choice and marriage, conflict and dissolution, and therapeutic interventions for distressed relationships. The next two sections of the text focus on two important aspects of mating relationships—love and sexuality. First, we consider the topic of love, beginning with an exploration of theoretical discourse (and empirical investigation) into the nature of love. Special attention is given to the two love types that have received the most scrutiny from social and behavioral scientists: passionate and companionate love. The section ends with a consideration of problematic aspects of love relationships, including unrequited love, obsession and relational stalking, relational aggression or intimate partner violence, and loss of passion. The third section of the text explores relational sexuality. We examine men’s and women’s beliefs and attitudes about the role of sex in dating and marital relationships, and we consider sexuality—frequency, preferences, and practices—in beginning and established relationships. Problematic aspects of relational sexuality are considered, including sexual disinterest, sexual assault, sexual infidelity, and sexual jealousy. The final section summarizes what is currently known about individual differences in relationship orientation. We consider how maleness and femaleness, global personality traits, and interpersonal belief systems may influence a person’s romantic opportunities, behaviors, and outcomes.

    WHAT’S NEW IN THIS EDITION?

    This third edition differs from the second in a number of ways:

    The chapters in each section of the textbook have been updated (with more than 400 new references and numerous real-life examples) to reflect and illustrate the most recent theoretical and empirical advancements and have been expanded to cover additional areas not included in earlier editions. Specifically, in Part I (Mating Relationships), Chapter 1 (Mate Preferences) includes an updated discussion of methods used to examine mate preference, presents new work on historical changes in men’s and women’s partner preferences and the ways in which individuals are willing to compromise or alter their mate selection standards, and considers additional research that speaks to the issue of whether or not investigations of people’s ideal preferences reveal anything truly meaningful about the mating decisions they make in real life. Chapter 2 (Attraction, Affiliation, and Courtship) has been renamed and expanded and now includes brand-new sections on the factors that influence romantic attraction and affiliation in initial encounters (such as similarity, familiarity, physical attractiveness, responsiveness, accessibility, and so on), additional research on flirting or the communication of romantic interest, and a section devoted entirely to E-courtship—that is, attraction, affiliation, and flirting in cyberspace (e.g., web-based environments, chat rooms, online dating sites). The material in Chapter 3 (Relationship Development) has been reorganized in order to incorporate new empirical evidence on the process of relationship development. Chapter 4 (Marriage and Mate Selection) has been significantly updated to reflect recent changes in the legal status of same-sex marriage in the United States (and worldwide), as well as new research on polygamy or plural marriage, cohabitation, and the recently-identified phenomenon of “stayovers” among partners in long-term romantic unions. Additional material in Chapter 5 (Conflict and Dissolution) includes an expanded discussion of the role played by attributions in conflict, an entirely new section on how conflicts end, and new research on relationship dissolution, bereavement, and loss. The first section in Chapter 6 (Intervention) on identifying distressed relationships now includes research on dysfunctional attributional styles, and the remainder of the chapter presents new details on the techniques and clinical effectiveness of each of the major forms of couple therapy.

    Like Part I, Part II (Love) has been thoroughly updated. Chapter 7 (General Theories of Love) includes new information on the reliability of scales used to assess different types of love, as well as new empirical research on individual and group differences in love. The material presented in Chapter 8 (Passionate and Companionate Love) on the characteristics of the two most important types of adult romantic love—passionate and companionate love—has also been updated to reflect current findings from the social and behavioral sciences. For example, there are new sections exploring specific components of passionate love (including partner idealization and cognitive preoccupation, exclusivity, and sexual attraction) and new material on the features of companionate love as well as the biochemical underpinnings of both of these love varieties. Chapter 9 (Love Gone Bad: Problematic Aspects of Love) has been reorganized and significantly expanded. For example, to address the burgeoning empirical work on relational stalking, there are now separate sections detailing the prevalence of obsessive pursuit and stalking, factors (individual, interpersonal, and sociocultural) that are implicated in the occurrence of relational stalking, the consequences of stalking for victims as well as the prevalence and relative effectiveness of various coping methods, and the growing problem of cyberstalking. This chapter also now includes an entirely new section on relational aggression or intimate partner violence, with particular emphasis given to situational couple violence and domestic abuse.

    Although the general organization of Part III (Sex) is unchanged, the material has been extensively revised. For example, Chapter 10 (Sexual Attitudes) includes discussion of recent national and global surveys that allow for an examination of individual and cultural differences (and similarities) in sexual attitudes and an entirely new exploration of the topic of consensual non-monogamy (swinging, open relationships, and polyamorous relationships). Chapter 11 (Sex in Beginning Relationships) includes new information on the factors that make up “sex appeal” in men and women, the relative importance placed on chastity or premarital virginity in various cultures around the world, and the relational consequences of a couple’s decision to have sex early (as opposed to later) in the developmental trajectory of their relationship. All of the material in Chapter 12 (Sex in Established Relationships) focusing on sexual frequency, sexual preferences and practices, sexual satisfaction, sexual communication, and the link between sexuality and relationship satisfaction has been updated with particular emphasis on the results of recent national and international surveys, as well as research on the experiences of men and women in same-sex relationships. Chapter 13 (Sex Gone Bad: Problematic Aspects of Relational Sex) has undergone the most significant change; the section on sexual dissatisfaction has been replaced with an in-depth discussion of sexual disinterest or diminished sexual desire (a particularly painful form of interpersonal rejection). Similarly, entirely new material on the prevalence, types, origins, and consequences of nonconsensual sex between partners in intimate relationships is now provided, as is an updated discussion of infidelity and sexual jealousy in the United States and other countries.

    The three chapters comprising Part IV (Individual Differences) also have been updated, with new material presented on the major individual difference variables that are associated with interpersonal behavior and relationship outcomes, including maleness and femaleness (biological sex and psychological gender and gender role orientation) in Chapter 14; global personality attributes (the supertraits of extraversion or positive affectivity and neuroticism or negative affectivity), self-monitoring, and sociosexual orientation in Chapter 15; and interpersonal belief systems, including attachment styles, rejection sensitivity, and romanticism in Chapter 16.

    This new edition remains highly “reader friendly.” Each chapter includes a detailed outline that serves to guide readers through the material, and I provide a list of key concepts (with page references) to assist readers in identifying and comprehending important terms, theories, and findings. Most chapters also now include real-life examples provided (anonymously) by men and women who have experienced the interpersonal events or phenomena discussed in the chapter (e.g., passionate love, online dating, relational stalking, nonconsensual sex, etc.). Each chapter presents readers with a set of recommended readings, as well as updated discussion questions that are designed to spark debate and discussion about the chapter content. These questions may also be used as in-class or take-home activities. Most, if not all, of these essential features are missing from current texts in this area; I hope that their inclusion will promote active learning and enhance readers’ educational experience.

    And finally, a multiple-choice test bank is now available for instructors to use in creating quizzes and exams for their students.

    Love, sexuality, and mate selection are fundamental human experiences. I believe that the comprehensive review and up-to-date information contained in this text will not only provide answers to questions about these important life events but also encourage readers’ interest in the diverse and multidisciplinary field of interpersonal relationships.

  • Concluding Remarks

    What does it mean to be in love with someone? Are there different ways of loving someone? How long does love last? What characteristics make someone desirable as a romantic partner? What role does sex play in love relationships? What variables influence whether marriages and other romantic relationships endure or dissolve? How can people effectively resolve conflict and other difficulties that may arise in their intimate relationships? Is there a “good” way to end a relationship, or to repair a damaged one? My purpose in writing this text was to address these questions (and, I hope, to provide some answers to them) by considering theories of mate selection, attraction and affiliation, relationship development, love, and relational sexuality, and by reviewing empirical research on these interlinked life experiences.

    We have seen that romantic relationships provide people with the opportunity to experience a panoply of positive and affirming events—passion and joy, affection and trust, desire and sexual expression. We have also seen how they can be a source of unhappiness and torment, ranging from incompatibility and dissatisfaction to obsession, coercion, jealousy, and sometimes even violence. Whatever their outcomes, and regardless of the form they take, the mating relationships that we form with others clearly have profound implications for the quality of our lives. I hope that this text has shed some small light on these important and fascinating human experiences.

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    Author Index