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Love and Marriage

Article · April 2015

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Richard Li
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The University of Hong Kong
Department of Psychology

2014-2015 2nd Semester


PSYC1001 Introduction to Psychology

Individual Research Paper

Topic: Love and Marriage – falling in love and continuing love

Paper submitted by:


Li Yu Tung Richard BSS(GL)&LLB I

Paper submitted to:


Dr. Chia-huei Tseng, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of
Hong Kong ; Ph.D. (University of California, Irvine)

Word Count: 1,176


Love and Marriage - falling in love and continuing love

1. Introduction

Love and marriage is always a hot topic for psychological research. It is natural that
the intensity of love and romantic feeling fades as time goes by which might lead to
unsatisfactory and separating relationship among couples. This paper first examines
how we fall in love at the beginning and what makes us continue love, then sought to
prove whether the western idea of avoiding boredom is effective in sustaining satisfying
and close relationships in an Asian society, in particular Hong Kong. This research aims
to find out what is ultimately important for Asian couples to continue loving each other,
and the hypothesis is that boredom plays an insignificant role in our context.

2. Literature Review

Regarding interpersonal attraction, past researchers have discovered the “Halo effect”
(Strong B., Cohen T. 2013) where people often infer good-looking persons with
desirable qualities such as being sensitive and responsive1. The “Filter Theory” (Harry
T. Reis, Susan Sprecher 2009) also suggests that propinquity or geographical proximity
primarily influence attraction.2 Further, the “Self-Expansion Theory” (Konrath S. 2007)
tells us that positive feeling of growth in one’s self-concepts could prevent decline in
relationships3. As for the significance of boredom, a journal report (Tsapelas, Aron, and
Orbuch 2009) has predicted less satisfaction and closeness between couples who feel
bored over time4. Besides, the report has suggested that there should be cross-cultural
research in the future which forms the rationale behind the study of this paper5.

1
Strong B., Cohen T. 2013. The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. Cengage
Learning pp.163-164
2
Harry T. Reis, Susan Sprecher 2009. Encyclopedia of Human Relationships SAGE. Vol. 1 pp.360
3
Konrath S. 2007 "Self-Expansion Theory." Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2007. 827-29.
pp.827
4
Tsapelas, Aron, and Orbuch 2009. Psychological Science 20: 543-545 pp.543
5
See n 4 above pp.545
2
3. Methodology

The two main methods adopted in this research are conducting interviews and
collecting online data from classmates. I have interviewed 2 pairs of dating couples and
2 pairs of married couples on how they fall in love in order to find out the factors leading
to interpersonal attraction. Besides, I have collected 22 couples’ responses via Moodle
regarding first, the factors making relationships sustainable; and second, the
significance of boredom in affecting satisfaction and closeness of relationships,
measured by the three items used in Tsapelas, Aron, and Orbuch (2009)6.

4. Results and Discussion

4.1 Factors contributing to attraction and sustainable relationship

Physical beauty, good inner personality traits and having unique romantic
experiences are the common factors leading to inter-personal attraction as answered by
the couples in the interview. They emphasized the notion of “love at first sight” where
there is a sudden and irrational attraction which makes them fall in love. They would
also expect that the other is perfect, confirming the “Halo effect” described above. After
that, they would eventually reveal their inner-side such as their personality. Special
memorable events such as having the first dinner and going to theme parks would then
reinforce their attraction and increase the bonding between the partners. Besides,
intimacy, loyalty, similarity, sense of security and emotional support are the crucial
factors making a relationship sustainable and satisfactory as recognized by the couples.
While loyalty includes trustfulness, staying true and respect, similarity refers to having
common interests and goals. Moreover, economic security is especially important for
married couples, whereas emotional support such as caring and staying optimistic are
beneficial and more appealing to young dating couples.

6
See appendix at p.7
3
4.2 Effects of boredom on satisfaction and closeness

Table 4.1 Degree of satisfaction7


Feeling of boredom8 Very/Somewhat Very/Somewhat
Very Satisfied
(responses) 22 in total Satisfied Dissatisfied
Sometimes/Often (12) 9 (75%) 3 (25%) 5 (41.7%)
Rarely/Never (10) 9 (90%) 1 (10%) 9 (90%)

It is discovered that less feeling of boredom is associated with higher degree of


satisfaction. From table 4.1, 90% of the couples who rarely or never feel boredom (R/N
couples) are very or somewhat satisfied with their current relationship, 15% higher than
that of the couples who sometimes or often feel boredom (S/O couples). Further, 90%
of R/N couples are very satisfied with their relationship, more than a double of the
41.7% of the S/O couples. This shows that in order to achieve a more perfect
relationship, considerable excitement is helpful and beneficial. However, it is arguable
that the 15% difference of the number of couples having good satisfaction between S/O
and R/N ones is not large enough to show the decisive effect of boredom in reducing
satisfaction as 75% is still a considerably high percentage for S/O couples. At least a
20%-30% disparity is required to illustrate that effect.

Table 4.2 Degree of closeness denoted by overlapping % of circle9


Feeling of boredom 50% Overlapping10 >50% overlapping Most overlapped
(responses) 22 in total
Sometimes/Often (12) 3 (25%) 9 (75%) 3 (25%)
Rarely/Never (10) 0 (0%) 10 (100%) 3 (30%)

In addition, couples with less feeling of boredom are more likely to have a closer
relationship with each other. From table 4.2, all R/N couples have chosen the pairs of
circles which are overlapped for more than their half, which is 25% more than the S/O
couples. Thus it could be deduced that R/N couples tend to devote more time and efforts
to each other, meaning more chances to do something new and exciting together,
therefore forming a cycle that would in turn increase closeness and satisfaction. This
result is consistent with the findings in Tsapelas, Aron, and Orbuch (2009)11.

7
See n 4 above; As the 2nd item: Participants are asked to indicate whether they are very/somewhat satisfied/dissatisfied with
their current relationship
8
See n 4 above; As the 1st item: Participants are asked to choose whether they sometimes/often/rarely/never feel that their dating
is in a rut
9
See n 4 above; As the 3rd item: Participants are asked to choose among 7 pairs of overlapping circles of different degree to
show the closeness of their relationship
10
The fourth diagram in the Inclusion of Other in the Self (IOS) scale where the circles are 50% overlapping (Aron et al, 1992) /
See Appendix at p.7
11
See n. 4 above
4
5. Implication

I would argue that the role of boredom in facilitating satisfaction of relationships in


an Asian society is not as significant as in the western world. As reflected in table 4.1,
even if the couples feel bored, a vast majority (75%) of them still regard their
relationship as satisfactory. This may be due to the fact that Chinese people are less
adventurous and they value stability more such as the ability to buy property and having
a well-paid job. Yet it does not displace the stimulating effect of excitement thus couples
are encouraged to be adventurous in order to maximize satisfaction. What I am trying
to argue is that excitement should not be treated as overwhelmingly effective in
repairing broken or obsolete relationships, there ought to be different kinds of things
that are more valuable cross-culturally. Therefore, future researches should focus on
activities with different degree of excitement that are compatible with different cultures.

6. Limitation

It is difficult to make accurate generalizations of the factors that contribute to


attraction and sustainable relationship because interviewees used different expressions.
Some responses are too vague (i.e. romance) whilst some are too specific (i.e. having
dinner every night). It is easy to miss out something. Thus it would be better to have a
predesigned list containing 10 abstract factors, and let the interviewees to choose a
maximum of 5. In this case, generalization would be more valid. Further, it is definitely
not enough to construe the effects of boredom towards satisfaction and closeness of
relationship by simply using three items. Therefore we should ask participants to choose
the reasons of satisfaction from several choices including boredom immediately after
asking the second item so as to double-check the validity of the correlation.

7. Conclusion

Love and marriage are important elements of life. They affect the overall mental
healthiness of citizens in urban societies as they help mitigate stresses and negative
perceptions of the working population. We need to prepare and make ourselves both
internally and externally energetic to attract people, as well as do more exciting
activities to sustain relationship. Yet in Hong Kong, economic and family stability still
have significant effects in continuing a fruitful relationship, therefore we should not
focus too much on avoiding boredom such as always going to travel or playing
exhaustive sports which we could not withstand at the expense of financial security and
safety.

5
Reference List

 Harry T. Reis, Susan Sprecher (2009). Encyclopedia of Human Relationships


SAGE. Vol. 1 pp.360
 Konrath S. (2007) "Self-Expansion Theory." Encyclopedia of Social Psychology.
Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. 827-29.
Retrieved from: http://www.ipearlab.org/media/publications/Self-
Expansion_Theory___Encyclopedia_of_Social_Psychology.pdf
 Parker-Poke, T. (2010, December 30). The happy marriage is the ‘me’ marriage.
The New York Times.
Retrieved from:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/weekinreview/02parkerpope.html?_r=2&
 Strong B., Cohen T. (2013). The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate
Relationships in a Changing Society. Cengage Learning
 Tsapelas, Aron, and Orbuch (2009). Psychological Science 20: 543-545

6
Appendix

Sample transcript of interviews and sample data collected via Moodle

Dating couples / Married couples

10 factors that they think are most important in sustaining a satisfying relationship
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

During the past month, how often did you feel that your dating was in a rut (or getting
into a rut), that you do the same thing all the time and rarely get to do exciting things
together as a couple? (pick one)

Often --------- Sometimes --------- Rarely --------- Never

All in all, how satisfied are you with your dating relationship? (pick one)

Very satisfied ------ Somewhat satisfied ------ Somewhat dissatisfied


------ Very dissatisfied

(Aron et al, 1992)

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