Psychology of Social Connection

Pursuit, Security, & Maintenance of Romantic Relationships

April 4th, 2022 · 20 Comments

Love can be a complicated thing, whether it be for friends, family, or that special someone. In class, we discussed several ways of starting as well as maintaining a romantic relationship, and even tried out Aron’s 36 Questions ourselves. Our blog post follows a structure similar to that of the stages of a relationship itself; Maya wrote about the initiation of a relationship, Helena speaks to how one gets closer in a relationship, and Sofie discusses bettering committed relationships with ToM and perspective taking. While complicated, we must also keep in mind that love is such a special, beautiful aspect of our lives.

The Pursuit of a Romantic Relationship – Maya

Last week my favorite song, “You Belong with Me” by Taylor Swift, started playing over the loudspeaker at an event that I was at with my friends. My friend and I were dancing when all of a sudden a man approached us and stuck out his hand to introduce himself to me. My friend slowly floated away into the crowd (not a great friend move) and I was left alone with this guy I had never met. He began asking me questions about what school I went to and told me all about why he was in town. All I could think of were two things – “don’t be an asshole, Maya” and “I really want to just go back to dancing to You Belong with Me with my friend.” The conversation continued as I replied with one word answers hoping he would get the hint. Finally I caught the eye of another friend of mine and made a wide-eyed look that screamed please help me!! She waltzed over, grabbed my hand and started dancing with me – saving me from that horribly awkward and uncomfortable situation.
When reflecting on this week’s readings and lecturette I started replaying moments like these in my head and why they make me so uncomfortable. One reason I could think of is that I seem to care a lot about what the other person will think of me. Upon reflection I think I do not want to come across as “better than them” and I always want to assume the best intention and feel guilty outright rejecting someone. Many of us have likely found ourselves in situations like these where a rejection feels “wrong” because we are worried that there may be costs associated with our reputation or we do not want to make false assumptions. But as Bohns et al., 2018 points out “uninterested targets ultimately find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.”

Gender Dynamics:
Furthermore, the Bohns reading made me reflect on the gender dynamics at play in these situations. The Bohns paper opens with a quote from a Title IX investigator who says, “I can think of several cases I’ve investigated where the (usually male) perpetrator is completely oblivious, and the (usually female) target feels like she’s trapped and can’t really say “no.” Right off the bat the Bohns paper touches on some of the stereotypical gender dynamics that can happen with romantic advances. They generally allude to the dynamic in which the “suitor” is a male and the “target” is a female. They support this by making the conclusion that “women were more than twice as likely to report having been pursued by someone whom they were not interested in than men.” This fact in and of itself is quite startling but also perhaps makes sense given the frequency to which a male may act as the “suitor” compared to the female. In fact, another study by Hafen et al., 2014 suggests that women will use “self-silencing” as a coping mechanism in instances in which they “experience worry over rejection.” This supports the thought that perhaps women feel less empowered to reject as they are worried about the repercussions of their actions in both a social setting and in work or school dynamics, and instead remain silent in instances of discomfort. Moreover, the male “suitor” may have a more difficult time understanding “the difficult position they put targets in” due to their lack of experience in the reverse role. So the question remains how does one pursue a romantic advance in a comfortable and balanced manner?
*I would also like to note that I was surprised at the degree to which this paper decided to focus on only two genders and not explore some of the dynamics outside of the male and female gender paradigm.*

Shouldn’t We Shoot Our Shot?
While I have always been one for “shooting your shot,” the Bohns paper provides some clear cut points for why we perhaps need to rethink exactly how we do this. With complex gender dynamics at play, perhaps it is worth it to rethink how romantic advances could play out. I personally think we should all continue “shooting our shot” as it is important to put yourself out there and meet new people, but that being said, I think it is vital to be cautious as to how the person you approach reacts and responds. Look for the signs and do not make too many leaps too quickly. Rather than jumping to ask for their “snapchat” or number, start off by making simple conversation in order to sense their comfortability.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, because it is not an easy question and there are no simple answers – what are solutions to this issue and how would you approach someone who you were interested in given this newfound knowledge from the Bohns et al., 2018 paper?

 

 

Security of a Romantic Relationship – Helena

Quite often, society places a heavy emphasis on getting into relationships, whether it’s the how or when or who. But then this excitement slows once we get into the stages of the actual relationship, and discussions regarding how to get closer in a relationship and how to best maintain one become muted in significance. Yet, this is arguably one of, if not the most important stage of any relationship, since, after all, what is a relationship if it cannot be sustained?

For better visualization, let’s narrow down a situation while simultaneously putting this idea into a big picture concept: looking ahead, as we grow older and start developing long-term relationships, we’re warned about this time period, this standstill that occurs in a relationship. Early on, relationships are easy; everything is new and exciting, full of dates and time spent together to get to know each other more. Then, after a while, a feeling of being comfortable with them creeps in, and maybe it’s a little too comfortable (Butler & Randall, 2013). Having been with my significant other for over 4.5 years now, this feeling certainly isn’t foreign. Relationships aren’t supposed to be one event after the other after the other. There are pauses and lulls, whether it be the feeling of comfort or having too many priorities to focus on in life, and this is where the feeling of being at a standstill comes in, and that’s completely okay. However, this is when it is most crucial to continue to develop closeness to maintain the relationship. Aron et al. speak towards specific tasks designed to generate closeness, starting with a series of 36 questions and then following with staring into the others’ eyes for four minutes (Aron et al., 1997). The main findings here were that reciprocal self-disclosure plays a crucial part in building closeness in a relationship, even more so than things like agreeing with one another, mutual likings, and goals.

While Aron brings up a lot of interesting points, upon reading Aron’s papers, a feeling of discomfort settles in at the bottom of my stomach. Particularly, the line regarding, “presents a practical methodology for creating closeness in an experimental context […] we have tried to make being in a relationship accessible to laboratory study and experimental manipulation”. The idea of having a relationship be put in an experimental setting such that closeness can be created and taken away by others is so incredibly strange, and yet we see this all the time. There are numerous articles online discussing “A 4-Step maintenance plan to keep your relationship going”, or “8 Steps to Having a Lasting Romantic Relationship”. Confining a relationship and defining it merely to steps to take in order to be successful seems like boxing in something that is so beautiful, and the steps that one has to take in a relationship just seems so artificial in and of itself. Quite frankly, it seems to be the exact opposite of what love is supposed to be like; instead, we think of it to be something generated purely from the heart. So, if love is something that can be accelerated from a few simple steps, whether it be the 4-step maintenance plan or even from 36 questions, what truly is love?

I think this comes with the notion that there’s a difference between falling in love, and staying in love. Falling in love, as Maya spoke to above, is a wonderful thing. Then, there’s value in maintaining a relationship, and making the choice to push ourselves to commit to someone. As French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir proposes, authentic love is about supporting each other in discovering themselves, and ultimately, enriching the world together. Perhaps we should worry less about what love is and instead, be more interested in how we can love better.

 

 

Maintaining a Romantic Relationship: Perspective-taking, Empathy and Theory of Mind – Sofie

One important lesson which I’ve learnt about romantic relationships in the last few years has been that at the core of understanding and communication is learning to put yourself in your partner’s shoes when working through a situation. My partner and I met in Hong Kong during COVID and we are extremely different people – he is much older, grew up in New Zealand in a very stoic, masculine environment where vulnerability is not encouraged whereas I wear my heart on my sleeve, am sensitive and very open about my emotions and like talking about feelings in general. I am also always aware that men vs. women have different approaches to their relationships as well. A lot of the time, I start difficult conversations with my partner like this if I am having trouble perspective-taking because of a barrier (such as gender):
“This is how I feel about ____. A lot of the time women will feel this way when ___ happens. I’m not sure how the majority of men approach a situation like this but please help me understand how you perceive it because I can’t know unless you tell me.”

Ramezani et al. find that empathy plays an important role in maintaining romantic relationships. Specifically, they looked at how Theory of Mind (ToM) training can improve empathy between married couples. Theory of mind refers to the ability to ascribe independent mental states to self and others to explain and predict social behavior. It is very related to the ability to perspective-take, which is a social skill in which you are able to mentally represent the mind (beliefs, desires, intentions, emotions included) of another person. The ability to perspective-take helps with being able to anticipate what another person is thinking or feeling. In the study, they found that there is an association between efficient ToM training and improvements in empathy within couples. Even though I have not done any official ToM training, I have always felt that empathy, perspective-taking, and theory of mind have been strengths of mine. In my relationship, I find myself trying to put myself in my partner’s shoes and think about the way they would perceive a situation before getting upset. I feel like this has helped me maintain the relationship because we are able to communicate honestly with one another, trying to understand the way the other person perceives something. In past relationships, I’ve noticed there were a lot more arguments, I would get upset a lot more, and overall it felt like there was a lot less commitment to wanting to understand one other’s perceptions. I also feel like as we get older, meet more people and have more experience, perspective-taking becomes easier so it would be interesting to see if there is any existing research linking age & maturity with empathy or perspective-taking. Even though the 36 questions that we went through in class was presented as a study for a “way to fall in love” I actually also believe they can help strengthen and maintain a relationship because the more questions you’re asking each other, the more you’re learning and able to then perspective-take and empathize (Catron, 2015). It would make sense that the better you know someone, the easier it is to empathize.

 

 

References

Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R. D., & Bator, R. J. (1997). The experimental
generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 363-377.

Bohns, V. K., & DeVincent, L. A. (2018). Rejecting unwanted romantic advances is more
difficult than suitors realize. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10(8), 1102–1110. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550618769880

Butler, E. A., & Randall, A. K. (2013). Emotional coregulation in close relationships. Emotion
Review, 5(2), 202-210.

Catron (2015). To fall in love with anyone, do this. New York Times.

Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Professor of Psychology. (2022, January 21). A 4-step maintenance
plan to help Keep Your Relationship Going Strong. The Conversation. Retrieved April 1,
2022, from https://theconversation.com/a-4-step-mai…

Gillette, H. (2021, October 14). 8 Tips for a Lasting Romantic Relationship. Psych Central.
Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/health/how-to-m…

Hafen, C. A., Spilker, A., Chango, J., Marston, E. S., & Allen, J. P. (2014, March 1). To accept or reject? the impact of adolescent rejection sensitivity on early adult romantic relationships. Journal of research on adolescence : the official journal of the Society for Research on Adolescence. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article…

Ramezani, A., Ghamari, M., Jafari, A., & Aghdam, G. F. (2020). The effectiveness of a Theory
of Mind (ToM) training program in promoting empathy between married couples.
Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 19(1), 1-25.

Tags: Uncategorized

20 responses so far ↓

  • Do Kim // Apr 4th 2022 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you all for this interesting post! Maya, I thought the anecdote you provided about the interaction you had last week fit so well with the rest of your points! As you discuss, there are so many ways that gender roles and norms can be seen as women and men interact. I think your point about the gender dynamics at play when women and men interact with each other, as well as the importance of reaching outside of just the “male and female gender paradigm,” also speaks to the larger role of power dynamics that impact each interaction we have. This really makes me wonder about the ways that other differing power dynamics, or imbalances of societal power (e.g., based on race, class, sexuality), impact interactions like the one you begin your piece with, as well as just the navigation of romantic advances in general, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Nia Fernandes // Apr 4th 2022 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing Maya! I really liked your personal anecdote of navigating rejection when a man approaches you on the dance floor. This speaks to the discussion we had in class of why we are egocentric in romantic relationships. Assuming monogamy, putting yourself out there is very vulnerable because you are admitting to a person they can fulfill that one open slot you have for a romantic relationship. The part you mentioned on gender dynamics based on the Bohns reading made me wonder why the vulnerability and awkwardness of these situations remains consistent across the gender spectrum, yet nonconsensual romantic advances does seem to be rooted in stereotypical gender dynamics. I assume this is rooted in how women have naturally learned to cope by throughout patriarchy with as Hafen et al. 2014 stated “self-silencing”. Remaining silent may prevent dangerous situations over confrontation over rejection. I am curious what you all think about this phenomenon and how “self-silencing” has harmed women progression and breaking silence. The #MeToo movement continues to encourage women to break their silence when it comes to sexual assault, but have stereotypical gender dynamics changed all that much in our everyday lives on college campuses? How have you experienced discomfort at parties when navigating romantic encounters and what role did gender stereotypes play?

  • Mitchell Saron // Apr 4th 2022 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks so much for the post guys.

    I definitely agree that there is a distinction between falling in love and staying in love. Most relationships during this
    “falling in love” period are extremely exciting as they are filled with dates and new experiences. Most of the effort and empathy being put into a new relationship seems effortless for both parties. However, once this period is over most relationships fail at staying in love.

    I think a lot of people focus too much on finding the perfect person and assume that when the “falling in love” period is over they are in fact with the wrong person and their significant other is to blame for any negative changes to the relationship. Nevertheless, I think people are too quick to end a relationship when problems arise or there is a lack of excitement. When a person decides to end a relationship when problems arise, they are merely going to have to deal with new problems when they arrive at the “staying in love” period in their next relationship. I think finding the “perfect person” to be with is only possible when two people are willing to deal with their partners’ problems instead of giving up and searching for something new. More people need to focus on creating and working towards the perfect long-term relationship instead of finding the perfect partner. In every relationship, you are going to have to deal with your partner’s problems. All that matters is if you and your partner are willing to work through them instead of giving up and exchanging them for someone else’s.

  • Jessica Lee // Apr 4th 2022 at 5:34 pm

    Maya, I definitely related to your post about discomfort with rejecting advances. In situations when I am made uncomfortable, I do frequently consider the social context and worry about what might happen after I reject someone. I appreciate how you challenge the phrase “shoot your shot” and modify it to consider how the receiving party feels.

    Helena, thank you for normalizing the pauses and lulls in a relationship. While the beginning of a relationship is fast-paced and exciting, things do inevitably slow down and become more comfortable. I really liked how you called this state “staying in love.” Like we talked about in class, who you choose to keep around in your life (maintaining a relationship) is so telling, and there is definitely value in doing so.

    Sofie, thank you for talking about the importance of empathy, perspective-taking, and theory of mind in relationships. They also come relatively intuitively to me, but there are also times when I struggle to understand the way the other person feels or perceives something. Your post encouraged me to go through the 36 questions!

  • Lane // Apr 4th 2022 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on that anecdote, Maya. I think you are right on in that it is difficult for men to fully understand how uncomfortable women can be regularly dealing with unwanted advances considering men experience it nearly as often. From the male perspective, I would honestly prefer being rejected directly rather than seeing a girl’s friend grab her hand and pull her away. This reminds me of one of the studies we read from earlier in the semester, in which we found that being ignored by someone you know very little about hurts more than being ignored by someone you got to know better first. In the same vein, while rejecting someone is difficult to do, it may create some closure and make someone feel like they know the rejector better as a person afterward (because how you reject someone reveals a lot about you), making the rejection sting less than in the alternative situation. If I were to advise a woman in this situation I would tell them to be honest with the guy, but wrap the message in something akin to a compliment sandwich, the same way you would give feedback. Something along these lines comes to mind: “Hey I appreciate you coming over here to introduce yourself. That was a nice gesture. My favorite song just came on though, and I really want to dance with my friend, so I’m gonna go find her. I hope you enjoy the rest of your night!”

  • Kara Xie // Apr 4th 2022 at 6:19 pm

    Maya, Helena, Sofie – amazing job!

    Maya, the anecdote about the unwanted attention from a guy and wanting to return to friends was so relatable. Bringing in gender dynamics in situations like these is a must. The finding that women were more than twice as likely to report having been pursued by someone whom they were not interested in than men was something that I was not shocked to read about. This immediately reminds me of unwanted moves made on dating apps, usually by men. I’ve seen stories on Reddit, Tiktok, etc. This makes me wonder if the reverse is actually better – women as suitors and men as targets in heterosexual relationships. It makes me question if Bumble, a dating app where women make the first move, is a better alternative. It also makes me question if the men on Bumble are better too – they are willing to be in a place where they give women the power. Does this make them kinder? Less toxically masculine? Better people? Hard to say, but this is definitely an interesting question that this blog post raised for me.

  • Iris // Apr 4th 2022 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you all for writing!

    Maya – thanks especially for bringing up gender as a variable in romantic… relationships? Encounters? Situations? Anyway: I thought it was interesting the extent to which the Bohns et al. paper framed itself as a men-accosting-women dynamic, like you mentioned, when the results of the paper suggested that the suitor-suitee dynamic was more important. You called these gendered interactions “complex,” and I think complex is the right word.

    Also! Because you mentioned how hetero- and cis-normative the article was: I agree, and thought it was a confusing oversight. As a gay person, in a long-term relationship with another gay person, who moves in queer & trans social circles, I found this week’s articles not very representative of queer experiences. For one, I’m great at telling men “no.” Like, really. Amazing at it. But more than that… I don’t know, it’s just different! Gay dating apps are their own beast (and different for men vs. women); the dynamic between friends and partners changes in LBGTQ friend groups; the kinda-offensive 2004 drama “The L Word,” which is based on the premise that all queer women in LA have slept with each other at least once, gets some stuff uniquely right about queer communities. For me, not just being gay, but presenting as gay (for years I had a pixie cut & wore only Hawaiian shirts or muscle tanks) has *absolutely* mediated how I experience gender and relationships. Sorry for rambling, but thank you for giving me a chance to yell about this!

    And thank you for writing, Helena and Sofie! I’m already at my personal word limit here, but I really enjoyed your sections.

  • Spencer Carter // Apr 4th 2022 at 9:21 pm

    Helena,

    Hi! I really liked that you focused your piece on maintaining and strengthening romantic relationships. I agree that this is not talked about enough given how important it is.

    I thought that your critique of online articles that provide people with tips about how to maintain their relationships was interesting, though I actually view articles like this in a different way. Rather than necessarily confining a relationship or making it artificial, I think that advice on relationship maintenance can give people important knowledge about how to best treat their partner (even if lots of the articles are bad). After all, we’re not born knowing how to have a healthy romantic relationship, and I view articles like this, if they’re used in the right way, as an opportunity for authors to share their wisdom about what makes a relationship last. If people follow this wisdom with a genuine desire to make their partner happy, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    To connect this topic to a broader evolutionary theory, learning from others and accumulating collective knowledge is one of the things that makes humans unique compared to other animals. Humans aren’t confined to the here and now — we can study others’ successes and failures across space and time to live our own lives in a more informed way. I don’t see why we should look down at people’s attempts to learn from others about relationship maintenance, even if it comes in the form of silly or formulaic online articles.

  • Jonathan Yuan // Apr 4th 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you all for this incredible blog post!

    Maya, I find your points about the complexities of starting a romantic relationship to be really insightful. I think you address the question of “shooting your shot” in a really clear and compelling way, to try to engage in more perspective-taking and understanding of the other person’s view of the interaction before committing to it. I also wonder if the knowledge of these kinds of patterns makes an impact on behavior, and if there are certain kinds of training or thinking that we can encourage ourselves to do to try to make better assessments about the minds and perspectives of others.

    Helena, I find your points about getting closer in a relationship to be really interesting. I like what you say about self-disclosure and how that creates a sense of intimacy and vulnerability, which generates a lot of closeness. I also find your point about the experimentation of relationship-building to be really interesting too. I wonder if this sense of inauthenticity was felt by participants in the study or had an impact on how people felt during the experimentation.

    Sofie, I really like your focus on perspective-taking as a way of strengthening a committed relationship. I think that lesson is super valuable and the way you have established a solid method of communicating and aiding in the process of theory of mind seems really powerful!

    Thanks again!

  • Gayoung Choi // Apr 4th 2022 at 10:22 pm

    Maya–thanks for the topic because I had similar thoughts reading the Bohns paper as well. Funnily, though, I’ve been in a relationship that I essentially had to be persuaded to be in. We were best friends, but afraid of commitment and change, I hesitated a lot after he “shot his shot” with me. And he didn’t stop asking me out after getting rejected once, and when he kept asking me, I accepted eventually. This is why I have such a hard time grappling with this paper–had I kept rejecting him and he had given up on pursuing anything with me, I wouldn’t have been able to enter such an important relationship that shaped me then. I definitely see the importance of no means no, and in most circumstances (e.g. if it’s a stranger or an acquaintance that you’re asking out), you should definitely not try to persuade the target to say yes. But I wanted to add a point of discussion and an example of when I personally benefited from the suitor (my best friend at the time) being persistent.

  • Lake // Apr 4th 2022 at 11:35 pm

    Maya, first off, I love Taylor Swift – great song choice!! I really liked how you connected Bohns’s point on uninterested targets to Hafen’s study on “self-silencing” as a coping mechanism. I couldn’t agree more about trying to put yourself in their shoes, or as you mention the lack of experience in the reverse role. In an attempt to answer your question, I would say that both parties should try to be conscious of what the other is thinking/feeling. I’d also say the place/location is extremely important. For instance, when the music is so loud it’s hard to hear what your friends are even saying, it’s just not an appropriate place for trying to get to know someone.

    Helena, it was great to see you bring up falling in love vs. staying in love and put the cherry on top with maintaining a relationship as I personally can relate. Being able to commit to someone after the “falling in love” period is so essential to a long lasting relationship. You have to be able to deal with problems and ones that come. Often people run when it gets hard but I think that’s truly a defining long term relationship accomplishment if able to be worked through.

  • Olivia // Apr 5th 2022 at 12:00 am

    Thank you all for such thoughtful writing and research. Sofie, I was particularly struck by your remarks on the importance and implications of continued perspective-taking within an ongoing relationship, not just at the initial stages. I share your curiosity about the possible relationship between age/maturity and the ability (and willingness) to improve perspective taking and empathy. When reading and discussing the 36 questions in class, I had the thought that if I could go through this set of deep, reflection-provoking questions with all of my closest friends, then we would become tangibly closer still. I also begin to wonder about my desire to know a potential romantic partner first as a really good friend before being willing to commit to a deeper relationship, and it all keeps coming back to being able to perspective take and understand each other in a comfortable and continuous rhythm.

  • Julia Prior // Apr 5th 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Great blog post!

    Maya – I think it is really interesting how you pointed out that part of the reason why uninterested targets feeling so uncomfortable with rejection can come from a place of not wanting to come across as “better than them.” This is a concern I tend to have and I would be interested to see if suitors who are rejected believe that the target said no because the target thinks they’re better than them, and if these varies by gender.

    Helena – I really enjoyed your perspective on the difference between falling in love and staying in love. I too was struck by the experimental approach to creating a sense of closeness and the idea that a series of questions could make people fall in love. I think that self-disclosure and the vulnerability that these questions bring about can help you get to know a person, which is important for creating and maintaining a relationship, but I would be curious to know how people felt in the experimental setting.

    Sofie – I too have thought my ability to empathize has made me better able to maintain relationships, and it is interesting to consider if as you age and have more experience, if you are able to place yourself in other people’s shoes more easily. The more you know about someone, for example by asking questions like the 36 questions to fall in love, it likely increases your ability to perspective take.

  • Georgia Steigerwald // Apr 10th 2022 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you all so much for a great post! Sofie–I really liked the sample conversation template you gave. My significant other and I have been together a couple years and a fight that has come up for us again and again is that he sometimes struggles to understand my point of view. For example, he was talking about an acquaintance of his and I mentioned that I got a bad feeling about that person. He wanted to know why we had had such different experiences with that person, and asked me to give him examples, but I couldn’t think of any right away. A few hours later, I came to him with some examples of that person being sexist and not acknowledging me when we were together. I explained that what upset me most was that he didn’t believe me initially without evidence when I said someone made me feel uncomfortable and trying to think about the differences in our experiences has helped us to open up to each other better and solve problems. I totally think having a strong sense of mind perception for your partner, especially when you disagree is helpful, and it’s okay to be reminded to step back and take another perspective.

  • Michael Pankowski // Apr 11th 2022 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks a lot for your blog post, Maya, Helena, and Sofie.

    Maya, the situation you describe is why I think that despite all of their flaws, dating apps can be helpful. This is mainly because users being able to match with each other works as a filter. Once people know they’ve matched, they know they’ve been given a “green light” to talk to the other person. Because the other person has chosen to match with them, they know they won’t seem creepy for talking to them (they could seem creepy later based on what they choose to say, but the act of messaging them, because of the green light given to them in the match, is likely not seen as creepy). This of course contrasts with the in-person interaction you described in which the man is unclear on if the woman would like to talk to him or not — dating apps solve this problem, to some extent. While they need to be improved for various reasons, this is one thing in which they can be beneficial.

    Helena, I definitely agree that the idea of being able to manufacture a connection in a lab seems to contrast completely with what love should be. This is also why I think those articles you describe, and those TikToks that are like “how to get someone to fall in love with you in 3 steps” are completely gimmicky. These articles and videos generate watches and clicks because everyone wishes love was this easy, but it’s not. And really, that’s the beauty of it — that it can’t be manufactured in these steps. But we as humans will always look for the magic bullet, even if we know it likely doesn’t exist.

    Sofie, I completely agree that perspective-taking and empathy are extremely important to maintaining a relationship. I’ve noticed that in my own relationship. This is something that I’ve always taken very seriously as someone who’s always been interested in people (I love psychology, lol) and so I had to teach my partner more about it, because it’s not something she was as interested in before meeting me. But in learning and growing together we’ve both gotten better at perspective-taking which I believe is a big reason why we argue so infrequently. Thanks for your post!

  • Sierra Agarwal // Apr 11th 2022 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks for the insightful read!

    Sofie, I really like your points about how you personally try to exhibit empathy towards your partner by putting yourself in their shoes. This is something that I believe is so important in order to have a successful relationship because trying to perceive how the other person feels, engages, and reacts to a scenario presented at them is so critical to your own reactions and emotions. This made me think about the times with friends when I did not know all of the details of the story or the circumstance we were in and thus I did not understand why they were acting the way that they did, but used what I did know and social cues around me to comprehend the situation the best that I can and appropriately react.

    Really enjoyed this!

  • Tom Aicard // Apr 11th 2022 at 10:51 pm

    Thank you Maya, Helena, and Sofie for your blogs!

    It was definitely interesting how Helena talks about how emphasis that is portrayed in the media, movies, and in conversations is all focused on the start of a relationship and not the lasting/maintaining of a relationship. I definitely agree that maintaining a relationship is the most important part as keeping it fresh and interesting can be difficult at times. The beginning of a romantic relationship is easy as there is so much excitement and new things to learn about each other. Once the excitement/”honeymoon” phase has faded, it is important to maintain the relationship with empathy for each other as Sophie mentions. Sophie’s description of perspective taking and empathy is very persuasive as it is very important in a relationship to think of how one’s actions will affect the other person. The use of these two is also very important for knowing what your significant other is going through and knowing how to support that person.

  • Patrick S. // Apr 16th 2022 at 11:12 pm

    Thank you all for your work in this blog post!

    Helena – your writing raised many important points, particularly the question of how to successfully maintain a relationship. I loved how you included information about your own personal long-term relationship, and your honesty in how growth in romantic relationships is very much not a linear process. It’s interesting how, in the short term, passion may allow couples to overcome misgivings and fights, but at which point do positive feelings fail to buoy a relationship? I think that the ways in which couple deal with conflicts is especially important in continuing relationships.

    To that point, Sofie, your description of how empathy plays a role in romantic relationships is a great continuation of Helena’s comments, and I loved how you related the frequency of arguments between couples to the lack of understanding and empathy-taking perspective between people.

  • Stephanie Hong // Apr 18th 2022 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you Maya, Helena and Sofie for a great blog post! I thought you all raised and talked about such interesting points about a relationship and maintaining a relationship.

    Helena- I really liked what you talked about how there is a difference between falling in love and staying in love. There is definitely a point in relationships where there are lulls and I think it is important to recognize that it happens in all relationships. As you said at the end of your blog, authentic love is about supporting each other and enriching the world together. I love how you said that we should be more interested in how we can love better.

    Sofie- I love how you talked about empathy and learning to put yourself in your partner’s shoes in order to have a lasting and healthy relationship. Your emphasis on empathy in relationships is definitely super important I appreciate how you delved deeper into the matter!

  • Arlo Sims // May 4th 2022 at 4:57 pm

    Great blog post! Maya, it was really interesting to read your anecdote about the party situation with that guy. I started to think about situations that I have been in that are similar. It is quite difficult to handle a social situation in which you are not romantically interested in another person and they seem to be. Finding a balance of politeness but also having communication about how you feel is often really hard in situations like this. I often think about this in brief small talk conversations as well. If there is someone you don’t necessarily want to talk to for very long, it can be difficult to leave the conversation without it coming across as rude. I’ve found that in this case I often try to come up with some sort of excuse for leaving the conversation such as getting another drink, which I sometimes don’t feel great about. I think about cases where I’m on the other side and people give me slight signs of not wanting to talk. Sometimes it makes me feel bad, but I wonder if knowing that is better than thinking they were just occupied by something else.

Leave a Comment