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"So How Did You Two Meet?"

Narratives of Relationship Initiation

danielle idan

on 15 January 2013

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Transcript of "So How Did You Two Meet?"

Narratives of Relationship Initiation "So How Did You Two Meet?" Narratives are the stories that people presents to others, usually orally and to a public audience (Gergen & Gergen,1983).
Narratives often reflect the needs of the storytellers
to achieve understanding, one might expect that stories of the same event will vary over time, between individuals, and across contexts. Three different components:

Consistency over time

Consistency over individuals

Consistency over context RACE AND ETHINICITY Most studies employing narrative techniques have concentrated primarily on white couples.

EYM (EARLY YEAR MARRIAGE) Is the only study in this research that focuses on racial differences in relationship initiation. OVERVIEW OF NARRATIVES AND NARRATIVE APPROACH CONSISTENCY Almost anyone in a serious relationship has been asked at some point, to tell the story of how that relationship began. First- brief general overview of the narrative approach.
Second- describing the three key aspects of relationship initiation narratives A. narrative style, or how the stories are told, in terms of joint storytelling, drama, and coherence; B. narrative content, or what the stories are told about, including strategies, goals, and initiators or facilitators, and C. narrative consistency, including consistency over time, across individuals, and between social contexts.
Third- we will look at how relationship initiation narratives might vary according to gender, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation. One important aspect about relationships that is revealed in couples’ narratives is their overall level of well-being or satisfaction.
Research has found that the stories told by happy couples differed in many ways from those told by unhappy couples.
By examining the overall narrative themes, feelings, or needs discussed in the context of the narrative, and the way the story was built up in a collaborative or conflictful fashion, they provided information about the current level of the couples’ relationship well-being. The narrative approach to the study of relationships can reveal important information to researchers. Key Aspects of Relationship Initiation Narratives Relationship initiation narratives among heterosexual couples. Clark and Colleagues (1999)
177 male &153 female undergraduates. In 1986 the Early Years of Marriage program (EYM) at the University of Michigan recruited 373 newly married couples (half white, half African American) to take part in a longitudinal study of the marital experiences.
The spouses completed individual structured interviews; and provided a narrative describing the progression of their relationship.
1. The first being how they met, 2. how they became interested in eachother, and 3.how they became a couple.
These oral narratives were first recorded several months after the couples married, they were collected again in the third and seventh years of their marriage.

Wamboldt (1999)
recruited 63 premarital couples who considered themselves to be “seriously attached”. They participated as a couple in a videotaped, semistructured interview about their relationship for about an hour. The main focus about their narrative was a description of how the couples met. These narratives were coded for coherence and interaction style. Style Examining the style of storytelling, how the couple tells their story, independent of content, informative, factual, dramatic, and engaging. Joint Storytelling 74% of newly married couples told joint stories rather than stories dominated by only one partner, if dominance was present it is most likely the wife.

Furthermore, research suggest that those couples who are able to smoothly coordinate their stories show better relationship well-being.

Newly married couples who were coded as displaying some conflict while telling their courtship story had lower marital happiness 2 years later, compared to conflict-free story telling. Coherence Contrary to expectations, no connection was found between measures of the coherence or integration of the couples’ relationship narratives and their relational well-being.
One possibility is that these couples’ stories are still works in progress. Drama and Emotion Overall drama of storytellers’ style (i.e. amount of vivacity, articulation, elaboration, and enthusiasm) was not associated with relational well-being.

Other variables though, suggested that a blander, more factual story might actually be better for well-being than a more emotional or dramatic one.

Newlywed women who told particularly emotional courtship stories were less satisfied with their marriage than those who told less emotional stories. Couple Orientation Emphasis on Us, as opposed to you and I.

Partners in close relationships tend to include the other in the self over time. To Conclude: Higher relationship well-being has been associated with relationship initiation stories that: Were agreed on readily by both partners
Were not particularly romantic, emotional or dramatic in tone, and
Reflected a we orientation. CONTENT Content of the stories that couples tell. Researchers examine how, why, and by whom relationships are typically initiated. STRATEGIES AND GOALS

Clark et al. (1999) found the most frequent mentioned strategies were:

Direct ones such as talking in person (or over the phone), touching, and asking the person directly.

Indirect methods like acting interested, joking, game playing, and dressing up were used much less often.

The study showed that the majority of both men and women emphasized emotional intimacy rather than sexual intimacy as the goal of relationship initiation. These results are consistent with other findings suggesting that indirect, manipulative strategies are used when individuals are pursuing sexual intimacy. How and why do individuals typically initiate romantic relationships? It is possible that direct strategies are more successful than indirect ones. The strategies used to initiate romantic relationship may depend on the goals of the initiator. INITIATORS AND FACILIATORS Courtship stories still follow a traditional script among heterosexual couples, with men most commonly cast as the initiator of the relationship.

It is less common for courtship stories to indicate that both partners mutually initiated the relationship.

A discrepancy was found that couples may underestimate the influence that family and friends have over the formation of their relationships. CONTENT AND WELL-BEING Four themes from courtship stories that were associated with lower marital well-being over time:
1 pregnancy
2 cohabitation
3 lack of commitment and
4 female initiation of the relationship. Although pregnancy was the only link to lower well-being in the first year of marriage, couples who continued to emphasize these themes in later years at marriage were at risk for lower marital well-being. SUMMARY 1. Direct strategies were reported more frequently than indirect strategies in relationship initiation esp when emotional intimacy was the goal
2. Most men and women reported that they were seeking emotional, rather than sexual intimacy when they initiated new relationships.
3. Narratives typically cast the men as the relationship initiator and
4. Continued emphases on counter-normative themes (e.g. female initiation) during the courtship story was linked to lower-being over the course of the relationship. "So if norms are in fact so important, how do couples that challenge social norms (interracial and same-sex couples) construct socially acceptable narratives?" CONSISTENCY OVER TIME Most couples demonstrated a high degree of collaboration and relatively low levels of conflict in the joint storytelling of their courtship narrative. Holmberg et al. (2004) found that these high levels of collaboration remained consistent over the course of the relationship, although the quality of courtship stories declined over time.

They found that narratives got shorter, less dramatic and less integrated as the relationship progressed.

Couples talked about earlier parts of their lives together as simply being generally positive or negative rather than providing specific details.

Dramatic tensions which had been emphasized earlier seemed to disappear over time.

Overall, the stories of relationship initiation became briefer, blander and more unclear.
Researchers argue that over time, couples that are together longer were less likely to feel a need to use narratives as a tool for meaning making because they already worked through many important issues in their relationships. CONSISTENCY BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS Narratives can vary over time but also between individuals.

Research indicates that the narratives of men and women do differ in their nature.

For example: Do wives and husbands tell distinctly different stories separately than they do together?

Evidence shows that women are more likely than men to take control of the joint narrative and futher, women were more likely than men to interrupt their spouse during the telling of the joint narrative as wives are frequently viewed by both spouses as the “relationship watchers”. It remains to be seen how consistency between individual and joint narratives relates to the relationship well-being though. CONSISTENCY ACROSS CONTEXTS

It is possible that certain types of couples, particularly those whose relationships are not positively sanctioned by the larger society, are more prone to adapting their courtship stories according to the audience. Narratives may also vary across situations. TO CONCLUDE:

The study results are currently indicating that:

1. The process of joint storytelling did not change much over time.
2. Other aspects of the narrative did change; narratives generally became shorter, less dramatic, less affective, less positive, more ambiguous, more general.
3. Current relationship well-being colored the narrative of the relationships beginnings. Much work remains in the area of relationship initiation narrative consistency. VARIATIONS ON A THEME Explores how various social statuses such as gender, and race and ethnicity shape courtship stories, as well as other non-traditional couples. RELATIONSHIP INITIATION Clark et al. found that men were more likely than women to report pursuing sexual intimacy, concluding that men do hold sexual intimacy as a more prominent goal than women. becoming emotionally involved (revealing personal info)
directly initiating a relationship (asking the person out or making physical contact
signaling indirectly (hinting or talking about romance generally)
manipulating the situation (creating a romantic setting)
demonstrating resources (gift giving and showing off)
using third parties to initiate the relationship
acting passively. Men more often than women were found to demonstrate resources through gift giving and to directly initiate a relationship through asking or touching. Women on the other hand reported to act more passively. 8 Strategies GENDER DIFFERENCES IN ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN NARRATIVES AND WELL-BEING Relationship initiation narratives are linked to well-being in different ways for men and women. Women who were unhappy in the first year of marriage told courtship stories that emphasized the theme of unplanned pregnancy.

By the third year of marriage, unhappily married women told courtship stories that brought up concerns about the husbands lack of commitment. In contrast, Holmberg et al. found that for men, themes of agency and freedom were linked to well-being.

Men who were happy in their seventh year of marriage were more likely to reconstruct courtship stories that put increasing emphasis on agency and less on communion, compared to less happy men. Additionally, men who were especially unhappy in Year 3 were more likely to be emphasize living together before marriage, and the mark of “someone who is tied down even before marriage.” SUMMARY Men were more likely than women to report sexual intimacy as a goal of relationship initiation.

Men were more likely than women to report using direct strategies to initiate a relationship

Women who emphasized unplanned pregnancy and subsequent commitment issues in their courtship narratives experience lower marital well-being.

Men who emphasized agency, freedom, and control in their courtship narratives experienced higher marital well-being. RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN NARRATIVE
Black couples told longer stories, used a more dramatic style, and demonstrated more conflict during the storytelling process than White couples.

Black couples were more likely to mention living together and unplanned pregnancy before marriage.

They also mentioned religious issues, themes of romance, and discussed overcoming obstacles in their courtship narratives to a greater degree than Whites.

Although themes of achievement, family, and couple relations were prominent for both Black and White couples, one study found that blacks were less likely than whites to mention achievement and more likely to focus on couple relations. A possible explanation for this difference is externally imposed structural and economic barriers, that African-American couples may rely more heavily on the couple relationship to maintain a sense of personal well-being. In the study sample, Black and White couples differed in their narrative styles. RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN NARRATIVES AND WELL-BEING As opposed to traditional belief, a conflictful style of communication may be more acceptable among black couples. Collaboration during the storytelling process has been linked to higher marital happiness among White Couples


Black couples may be happier with their married lives when they are able to maintain a strong individual perspective about how their relationship developed. Additionally: Plots suggesting that the couple had to overcome some obstacles were linked to lower marital well-being for Whites, the same was not true for Black couples.

This could be due to the fact that Black couples are more likely than White couples to face externally imposed structural and economic constraints, that may carry over and affect the well-being of the marriage. Summary: Findings from the EYM project indicate that: Blacks told longer more dramatic more conflictful narratives than whites
Blacks were more likely than whites to mention themes of premarital cohabitation and pregnancy, religion, romance, and overcoming obstacles
The content of relationship initiation narratives was linked to relationship well-being in different ways for black and whites ( cultural factors, structural factors). LESS TRADITIONAL COUPLES Couples whose relationship represents a violation of societal norms: (interracial, interethnic, same-sex, or highly age-discrepant couples)...

are likely to encounter resistance from external sources in the process of relationship initiation. INTERCULTURAL COUPLES Some individuals may initiate romantic relationships outside their ethnic or racial group because they perceive their own culture to be lacking something that they desire.
Many individuals emphasize their similarities, rather than their differences in their courtship stories.
Differences such as race or religion may simply be viewed as less important than other characteristics when couples assess their similarities.
Intercultural couples must frequently overcome huge obstacles in order to initiate a relationship. Broad term that includes relationships in which partners have different racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural backgrounds. Intercultural couples often view the obstacles that they must overcome during their courtship stage as strengthening their relationship or as evidence for the power of their love for one another. SAME-SEX COUPLES 242 females and 80 males;
172 heterosexual and 152 nonheterosexual
mean age 30.

They answered three open-ended questions describing
how they met their partner
how they became attracted to their partner, and finally
how they became a couple.

Other-sex couples were more likely than same-sex couples to have been introduced by a third party such as a family member or friend.

Even parents who are relatively supportive of their sexual minority children may not take an active role in the relationship initiation process by setting up potential same-sex matches.

The second significant difference between the narratives of same-sex and other-sex couples was that same-sex couples were much more likely to report having met through the use of the Internet. Study

The differences between same-sex and other-sex couples highlighted by this study are not likely due to any inherent differences in the individuals but are more likely characterized of the current societal context in which these relationships function. SUMMARY: We know much less about the relationship initiation narratives of nontraditional couples than we do know about mainstream couples.
Intercultural couples emphasized their similarities rather than differences in their relationship initiation narratives

These couples also mentioned the obstacles that they had to overcome in order to initiate their relationship

Same-sex couples were more likely to meet through the internet rather than a third party FUTURE THEMES FOR DISCUSSION: Do relationship initiation stories change whether they are asked or spontaneously talked about?

How are they influenced by age and religion?

How do they vary within couples that were friends before, divorced, or widowed?

How do same-sex relationships change their relationship initiation to better suit societal norms?
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