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Describe Two or More Theories into the Maintenance of Romantic Relationships

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Describe two or more theories into the maintenance of romantic relationships

There are two main theories in explaining the maintenance of romantic relationships. The first theory The Social exchange theory, the second is the Equity Theory.

According to the Social exchange theory (Tribaut and Kelly), all social behaviour is a series of exchanges that individuals attempt to maximize their rewards and minimize their costs in a relationship. In order for a relationship to be considered worth being in, the rewards must outweigh the costs in order to create a profit. The higher the profit, the more committed the individual receiving the rewards will be in his/ her relationship. An important concept in this theory is the "comparison" level, what is considered to be a cost is based on the context of previous relationships. The comparison level thus differs from each person. If the rewards exceed the comparison level then the relationship is deemed to be worthwhile, if not than the attraction fades. How about abusive relationships?

It is criticized that this theory fails to explain abusive relationships because surely leaving the abusive partner is far greater a reward that staying in such relationship. Though this may be, the theory can explain abusive relationships because the theory would suggest that the cost of leaving exceeds the rewards of a new relationship. Rusbult and Martz (1995) argued that when the investments are high, (Children, financial support and security) and alternative are low (Security, finance, home) the relationship is ironically still profitable.

This theory explains why people who are already in relationships deal with potential alternatives differently by reducing the threat. Simpsons Et al asked participants to rate members of the opposite sex in terms of attractiveness. Participants who were already in a relationship gave lower ratings. This study may have contained social desirability from those already in a relationship; they wouldn't want to insult or offend his/ her partner by giving a high rating of the opposite sex, thus this study has internal validity.

This theory does not explain why people leave relationships despite having not alternatives. This theory also ignores Social interactions between those in a relationship and focuses too heavily on the individual's perspective. This theory is also culturally biased as it assumes a generally selfish nature- which may be prevalent mostly in a individualist culture.

An extension to the Social exchange theory is the Equity theory. This theory contends that people want equality in their relationship and become distressed if inequality is being received or given. This theory suggests that if someone in a relationship is rewarded highly but does not return this gratitude, he/ she will feel less attracted to the partner, vise versa.

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