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Psychology of Social Connection

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The Life Cycle of Love

March 27th, 2023 · 11 Comments

Love is in the air! But how did it get there? And how do you stop it from going away? Romantic love is a foundational component of the human experience that leads to feelings of overwhelming joy, devastating heartbreak, and everything in between. It pretty much goes without saying, then, that it’s pretty complicated. Love can be confusing, all-consuming, and seemingly unexplainable. Before we can even begin to define those feelings, we have to ask……what is love? We are going to break it down into 3 key stages: falling in love, staying in love, and lastly, the ending of love. 

Falling in Love: Attraction, Familiarity, and Flirtation (Jessica)

So, you want to fall in love? The romance blogs and dating apps may make it seem easy, but love isn’t something you can pull out of thin air. Relationships take time, energy, and a whole lot of self-reflection and communication with your partner. But before we can even get there, how do you actually find the one? Studies show that part may not take as much effort as you think. 

Think back to your elementary or high school crush. Why did you like them? Maybe they brought it in the best snacks? Did they compliment your outfits? While physical and emotional attraction can come from meaningful interactions with others, sometimes it’s as simple as being in the right place, at the right time…all of the time. That’s right, exposure can spark attraction! How many times have you noticed that one classmate who always sits in your row or that coworker who’s on your shift every week when you pass them on the street? How many times have you noticed the classmate you only sat next to once? In a long-term study on affinity in a classroom setting, students rated the women they saw the most in class as more attractive than others (Moreland & Beach, 1990). These findings suggest exposure impacts attraction and similarity (Moreland & Beach, 1990). Who knows? Maybe following the same route across campus to that 9 AM will be worth it one day.

If you’re not someone who follows a regular schedule, don’t worry. Familiarity isn’t the only way to fall in love. Attraction has also been linked to misattributed physiological arousal. Now, I know, that sounds pretty daunting, but it’s actually simpler than you think. When our bodies are aroused – scared, working out, daydreaming – we tend to want to attribute it to something (White & Kight, 1984). That attempt to link a feeling to an experience is a force of habit, really. If we feel good, we want to know how to keep feeling good and if we feel bad, we want to know how to stop feeling bad. But sometimes, we make the wrong link. That’s misattributed physiological arousal. Oftentimes, this misattribution can lead us to feelings of love or attraction that aren’t actually there. Researchers supported this hypothesis with the Shaky Bridge Study, where participants were found to be more attracted to a female researcher on a shaky, anxiety-inducing bridge, than a sturdy one (Dutton & Aron, 1974). It seems that physiological arousal can trick us into thinking we’re attracted to someone, even when we’re not.

Falling in love isn’t a one-person show. On top of feeling attracted to somebody, we have an inherent desire to be desired – a need to belong. Planting the seed for a new relationship requires some confirmation that your potential partner is interested in you too (Aron & Tomlinson, 2018). Our perceptions of how other people feel about us are crucial to navigating love, attraction, and relationships. This motivation to be liked by others may be partially explained by the self-expansion model, which argues people are motivated to broaden the self through close relationships (Aron & Tomlinson, 2018). According to this model, our self-concept is influenced by the way we perceive others and the way they perceive us (Aron & Tomlinson, 2018). These two self-concepts combine to create a “relational self”, which you send off into the world of love and romance.

Now if you’ve gotten this far, or if you’ve fallen in love, you might be wondering…how do I stay in love? Let’s talk some more about maintaining romantic relationships.

Staying in Love: Foundations of Sustaining Romantic Relationships (Evan)

Hookups and hangouts evolve into the “talking stage” and then, maybe, becoming “official.” After all the flirtation, excitement, and buildup of a new prospective relationship, it is time to take things to the next level, but, what does this even mean?! Maybe you’ve experienced a craving for commitment from the person you’ve been seeing or perhaps an overwhelming fear of it. Either way, entering a committed relationship might mean things are about to get real, but the fun and flirtation don’t need to go away. What is the perfect balance between seriousness and commitment, and playfulness and individuality? Frankly, there is not a perfect formula for romantic relationship success and it varies heavily by couple, but research has uncovered a few common threads on which to focus. 

In 1997, psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed the Triangular Theory of Love which pinpoints intimacy, passion, and commitment as the building blocks of deep romantic connection (Sternberg, 1997). Firstly, intimacy is the feeling or emotion encompassing closeness, connectedness, and bonding between a couple (Sternberg, 1997). Secondly, Sternberg describes passion as the driving force behind intimacy, primarily in the context of sex (Sternberg, 1997). The last point of the triangle, commitment, means “in the short-term, to the decision that one loves a certain other, and in the long-term, to one’s commitment to maintain that love” (Sternberg, 1997). I’d argue a more symmetrical-shaped theory for love to thrive long-term. His primary three elements are convincing and important contributing factors in romantic relationships, but there are two crucial pieces that appear absent from the Triangular Theory of Love. Maybe the triangle should be restructured into a square keeping intimacy and commitment at the top, but adding trust and communication on the bottom, as necessary to achieve intimacy and commitment, with passion bouncing around in the middle. Sometimes passion fills up the whole square, sometimes it’s in a ball in the corner – over time, passion comes and goes, sometimes it changes, sometimes it’s barely hanging on, and sometimes it comes roaring back. Passion evolves as love evolves in a long-term romantic relationship, but the foundations of lasting love are trust, communication, intimacy, and commitment.

Research shows that intimacy goals and readiness are key predictors of relationship initiation and partner selection, so this is something to keep in mind when looking to take that next step in your relationship (Sanderson et al., 2007). Intimacy can look and feel different for everybody; it can mean emotional vulnerability, sexual intimacy, mutual affection, general closeness, or a combination of the above (Mosier, 2006). But, however you view intimacy, it is imperative that it is mutually felt to ensure closeness and connectedness between partners. Commitment, as defined by Sternberg, ultimately comes down to a continued effort by both parties to make the relationship work. A study shows that when one partner evidently makes investments (time, energy, etc.) in the relationship, it inspires the other partner to commit further to the relationship and can spur a sort of cycle (Joel et al., 2013). Next, intimacy and commitment are unachievable without trust – “trust may be the single most important ingredient for the development and maintenance of happy, well-functioning relationships” (Simpson, 2007). A lack of trust diminishes support, commitment, effort, communication, and intimacy between romantic partners (Arikewuyo et al., 2021). So, if you ever find yourself tempted to go snooping through your partner’s phone, this could be a major red flag that there is a lack of trust in your relationship, and should be addressed. Last, but certainly not least, is communication. Communication lies at the base of relationship success as it allows you to express feelings, insecurities, and needs and, ultimately, is the primary tool in conflict resolution. There are many nuances to these four key elements, but if you have all the points in the square, you are setting yourself up for a stable and strong relationship. But, if one point in the square is missing, things might get wobbly.

The End: Finding the Rainbow After the Rain (Ava)

Does her laugh no longer sound like a chorus of angels, but rather like a starving hyena? Have you recently caught yourself singing a bit too emphatically to Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey man-hating anthems? Is his “adorable” habit of coding during your alone time together no longer giving “silicon valley daddy”, but rather making you feel dismissed and invaluable? If you answered yes to any of these, it, unfortunately, might mean that your current romantic partner that you met in your 10:30 Gened section might actually not be your soulmate *gasp*. Though this realization may seem scary, fear not– breakups are a common, and important, part of emerging adulthood development and can ultimately lead to positive change in your life. 

Breakups can happen for a plethora of reasons, and even though some breakups are inevitable, there are steps that you can take to salvage a relationship. You may feel as in love as ever with your partner but feel that your relationship still feels rocky. This can be caused by either lack of expressed gratitude or conversely, an abundance of sacrifice that may be overwhelming your partner. It has been found that individuals often underestimate the positive effect of expressing gratitude to others and overestimated how uncomfortable the receiver of the gratitude would be (Kumar & Epley 2018). It may be possible that even though you feel like you are complementing and doting upon your partner enough, it would be beneficial to do so even more frequently. We often underestimate how powerful our words can be to others, so let this serve as a reminder to show your love frequently and authentically– it will be better received than you expect it to be. Conversely, you may be thinking “this doesn’t apply to me– I shower my partner with affection and make it known how much I sacrifice for them”. Unfortunately, this can be problematic as well.  Acts of service and sacrifice for a partner may seem beneficial on the surface, but if not done in a reciprocal way, can cause tension and miscommunication within the relationship. Sacrificing for your partner can improve their mood and make them feel appreciated, but if done in excess, can also create feelings of guilt and indebtedness on their ends, and feelings of resentment from the giver (Righetti, Visserman & Impett 2022). The feeling of being in love is not enough to foster a healthy relationship on its own– you need to be able to express it in the way that your partner needs. 

Sometimes, relationships just need to come to an end– they’ve served their purpose, taught valuable lessons, and it’s time to say goodbye. Though it can be sad to end a relationship, it doesn’t need to be all thunderstorms– if you look hard enough, you can find your rainbow. This step is critical, as merely being equipped with the knowledge that heartache can have silver linings is correlated with a reduced rate of depression in recently-single adults (Slotter & Ward 2015). And though it may feel isolating and difficult to do so, 1 in 3 individuals in early adulthood have experienced a serious breakup in the past 2 years, and it’s important that they do (Asselman & Specht 2022). It’s been found that experiencing a breakup can lead to higher feelings of self-confidence, independence, and more emotional stability in future relationships (Tashiro & Frazier 2003). So despite this relationship not having a fairy tale ending– the experience of having loved and lost might prepare you better for the next person you are crushing on. Further, going through a breakup is also linked to causing higher levels of internal control belief (Asselman & Specht 2022). This may end up being the greatest gift your ex-partner has ever given you, as people with higher levels of internal control are more confident in being able to control the outcomes in their life. This trait is correlated with greater success in the workplace, achieving personal goals, and conquering various other aspects of their life (Asselman & Specht 2022). In short, love openly and often without fear of heartbreak– sometimes the most valuable lessons from a relationship come after they end. 


Arikewuyo, Eluwole, K. K., & Özad, B. (2021). Influence of Lack of Trust on Romantic 

Relationship Problems: The Mediating Role of Partner Cell Phone Snooping. Psychological Reports, 124(1), 348–365.

Aron, A., & Tomlinson, J. (2018). Love as expansion of the self. In R. J. Sternberg & K. Sternberg, The New Psychology of Love (pp. 1–24). Cambridge University Press.

Asselmann, & Specht, J. (2022). Personality growth after relationship losses: Changes of perceived control in the years around separation, divorce, and the death of a partner. PloS One, 17(8), e0268598–e0268598.

Back, M. D., Penke, L., Schmukle, S. C., Sachse, K., Borkenau, P., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2011). Why Mate Choices are not as Reciprocal as we Assume: The Role of Personality, Flirting and Physical Attractiveness. European Journal of Personality, 25(2), 120–132.

Batool, S., & Malik, N. (2018). Role of Attitude Similarity and Proximity in Interpersonal Attraction among Friends. International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management, 1.

Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 510–517.

Joel, Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., MacDonald, G., & Keltner, D. (2013). The Things You Do 

for Me. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(10), 1333–1345.

Kumar, A., & Epley, N. (2018). Undervaluing gratitude: Expressers misunderstand the consequences of showing appreciation. Psychological Science, 29(9), 1423-1435.

Moreland, R. L., & Beach, S. R. (1992). Exposure effects in the classroom: The development of affinity among students. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 28(3), 255–276.

Mosier, W. (2006). Intimacy: the key to a healthy relationship. Annals of the American 

Psychotherapy Association, 9(1), 34+.

Righetti, F., Visserman, M. L., & Impett, E. A. (2022). Sacrifices: Costly prosocial behaviors in romantic relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology, 44, 74-79.

Sanderson, Keiter, E. J., Miles, M. G., & Yopyk, D. J. A. (2007). The association between 

intimacy goals and plans for initiating dating relationships. Personal Relationships, 14(2), 225–243.

Simpson, J. A. (2007). Psychological foundations of trust. Current Directions in Psychological 

Science, 16(5), 264–268.

Slotter, & Ward, D. E. (2015). Finding the silver lining. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32(6), 737–756.

Sternberg. (1997). Construct validation of a triangular love scale. European Journal of Social 

Psychology, 27(3), 313–335.<313::AID-EJSP824>3.0.CO;2-4

Tashiro, T., & Frazier, P. (2003). “I’ll never be in a relationship like that again”: Personal growth following romantic relationship breakups. Personal Relationships, 10(1), 113–128.

White, G. L., & Kight, T. D. (1984). Misattribution of arousal and attraction: Effects of salience of explanations for arousal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 20(1), 55–64.


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Does Prince Charming really exist? Will you find your Cinderella?

March 27th, 2023 · 8 Comments

Does Prince Charming really exist? Will you find your Cinderella?

One adolescent day you may find yourself wondering about what your future will look like and with whom…will you be married? Have kids? Will you be single? Or what about this…have you looked up your zodiac sign to see your and your partner’s compatibility? Are you currently in a romantic relationship and looking for ways to strengthen your bond? Perhaps looking for evidence on what makes romantic relationships last long-term?


There are so many questions and uncertainties that may leave someone stressed and lost…so that is why we’re going to help explain what research says about finding your perfect match!


What is your zodiac sign? I’m a Libra…oh you’re a Gemini.. that explains it…

Have you ever heard that before? If not, the term Gemini and Libra refer to an individual’s zodiac sign which comes from astrology (Helgertz & Scott., 2020) (if you want more information google it because i’m not telling you about the history of the zodiac signs). But briefly, the idea of astrology has been around since before the birth of Christ and suggests that the positioning of celestial objects at a certain time play a significant role in the individual’s life in terms of their personality, motivation, wants and needs (Helgertz & Scott.,2020). Specifically, western astrology focuses on the horoscopic nature suggesting that predictions can be made based on the positioning of the planets and this stars typically at birth (Helgertz & Scott.,2020). As you may know many people are very into astrology and zodiac signs and thus rely on them religiously to dictate their future… Back in elementary school my friends and I would go on a website to see how compatible we were with our crushes …wouldn’t this be awesome if we could just go around asking people what their horoscope is and then depending on their answer it would potentially be a perfect match!! …sadly that is not the case ??

There has been some research on the idea that one’s horoscope can make someone more or less compatible with another with the earliest study dating 1970. This study by Bernie Silverman looked to test the validity of astrological predictions by comparing marital compatibility of couples who were matched by zodiac signs to couples who were matched randomly (Silverman., 1970). He had 2,978 couples who were married in Michigan between 1967 and 1968 and the astrological signs were obtained from their marriage certificates (Silverman., 1970). Their compatibility was assessed using a questionnaire that measured several aspects of their relationship such as their communication skills, conflict resolution skills and sexual satisfaction (Silverman., 1970). The results showed no significant difference in marital compatibility between couples who were matched by astrological signs versus couples matched randomly (Silverman., 1970). 

One more recent study that seems to be a landmark study… (but I cannot find it anywhere but is mentioned everywhere). The study had 20 million husbands and wives in England and Wales and Dr.David Voas from the University of Manchester analyzed these relationships and found no evidence that shows attraction due to zodiac signs (University of Manchester., 2007). He got his information from the 2001 census and says the following “When you have a population of ten million couples, then even if only one pair in a thousand is influenced by the stars, you’d have ten thousand more couples than expected with certain combinations of signs, there’s no such evidence, though: the numbers are just what we’d predict on the basis of chance.”(University of Manchester., 2007). So it does seem pretty promising that zodiac signs are unreliable.

It is worth mentioning that these studies are strictly correlational and it would be very unethical to test this experimentally…but with all that being said, is there something that we can look for in our partner to make sure we are compatible?? 

Should you look for someone similar to you? Or different from you?… Do opposites attract? 

A few researchers’ looked at this experimentally and investigated the importance of four factors in determining romantic attraction; similarity, reciprocity, security, and physical attractiveness (Luo & Zhang., 2009). This was investigated using a speed-dating paradigm in which participants had several short conversations with individuals and then rated their attraction (Luo & Zhang., 2009). After three speed dating events participants were given surveys to assess their partners, and after that the researchers analyzed them (Luo & Zhang., 2009). Researchers found that  similarity and reciprocity were the most influential factors in predicting romantic attraction (Luo & Zhang., 2009). Moreover they found participants were more likely to be attracted to those who shared their same interests, values, and attitudes (Luo & Zhang., 2009). All in all, the study suggests that similarity and reciprocity are more important than attractiveness and security when predicting attraction… So does that mean we have to go look for our “personality twin” for the perfect partner?? Not quite… one systematic review looked at 313 studies that looked at actual partners in relationships and found that similarity in attitudes is what made people more attracted to each other (Montoya, Horton, & Kirchner., 2008). Moreover, they also mention that  someone may have preferences for someone because they see things in them that they lack (Montoya, Horton, & Kirchner., 2008)… So it seems as though we are attracted to those who are more similar to us and those who compliment us ???

So… once we find someone who is similar, what makes the relationship last? 



The beginning of a romantic relationship is always an exciting time. There is this novel sense of excitement, joy, and love that draws you into the person and makes it seem as though everything is right in the world. As time goes on, however, the flames die down and reality starts to make itself known again. Romantic relationships require continuous nurturing and attention, specifically regarding three vital components: “intimacy, passion, and commitment” (Kansky, 2018, p. 2). The strength of each of these components defines how a relationship may be classified by different kinds of love, which include “romantic, companionate, empty, infatuation, and consummate” (Kansky, 2018, p. 2). How these components grow and interact with each other is vital for relationship development and satisfaction. Attachment styles also play a crucial role in the success of romantic relationships, as the parental figure one forms their attachment style with will eventually get transferred to how they interact with their partner. In fact, attachment styles are so crucial to romantic relationships that it can be a predictor of how successful a relationship can and will be. Secure attachment styles in relationships consist of security and closeness, but when one perceives their partner as unavailable or untrustworthy, insecure attachment styles can form. Another important aspect of successful relationships is sexual satisfaction, which has been found to be a telling sign of how stable the relationship is. Couples that feel sexually satisfied in their relationship also points to how well they communicate with one another and understand one another’s needs (Kansky, 2018).

Ok so, we know the basics of what makes a relationship successful, but how do you maintain it? More importantly, what can prove to be an obstacle in maintaining it? Two words: hedonic adaptation. This term describes the phenomenon of various challenges that become present when attempting to return to baseline after a positive or negative event, such as newlyweds fresh from their wedding who must go on with their daily lives after. Or a partner losing their job and having to manage financial difficulties while looking for a new job. How well partners can manage these adaptations is a major indicator of stability and satisfaction in a relationship. Of importance is ensuring that adapting does not equate to boredom, as studies have shown that it can become toxic in romantic relationships. One way to avoid boredom is to include positive experiences that keep partners engaged in adapting. If the boosts in happiness start to dwindle in relationships, they will quickly adapt and become bored. Eventually, positive events and emotions will not be enough to ward off boredom, so novelty in these experiences is another strengthening factor for maintaining relationships. So instead of doing the same thing on Friday nights, try something different! It may just bring you that much closer. Appreciation of this process is also vital for relationship longevity, and reduces the risk of taking your partner for granted. Along with appreciation comes the delicate balance of expectations. Having high expectations of one’s partner has only been shown to be affiliated with higher quality relationships when the partnership has both reasonable desires and healthy communication skills (Jacobs & Lyubomirsky, 2013). Expectations that are associated with feelings of “entitlement or deservingness” have been shown to be especially harmful to the welfare of romantic relationships (Jacobs & Lyubomirsky, 2013, p. 200)

Clearly, romantic love takes a lot of work, but it can also be a beautiful and fulfilling aspect of life. The characteristics that make up a healthy relationship also allow for personal growth and discovery. So don’t rush trying to find “the one”. Good things come to those who wait. 




Helgertz, J., & Scott, K. (2020). The validity of astrological predictions on marriage and divorce: A longitudinal analysis of Swedish register data. Genus, 76(1).


Jacobs Bao, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). Making it last: Combating hedonic adaptation in romantic relationships. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(3), 196–206.


Kansky, J. (2018). What’s love got to do with it?: Romantic relationships and well-being. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers.


Luo, S., & Zhang, G. (2009). What leads to romantic attraction: Similarity, reciprocity, security, or beauty? evidence from a speed-dating study. Journal of Personality, 77(4), 933–964.


Montoya, R. M., Horton, R. S., & Kirchner, J. (2008). Is actual similarity necessary for attraction? A meta-analysis of actual and perceived similarity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25(6), 889–922.


Silverman, B. I. (1970). Studies of astrology. The Journal of Psychology, 77(2), 141–149.


University of Manchester. (2007, March 26). Love not in the stars. Retrieved March 2023, from 


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Friendship 101

March 20th, 2023 · 12 Comments

Ever wondered what’s the secret to a good friendship? While many people think romantic relationships are the hardest relationships to attain and maintain, there are many facets that go into having healthy friendships. Because of this, people may often overlook the possibility and reality of how effortful friendship-building can be. In this blog post, we will discuss the important components of building and maintaining friendships while providing evidence-based relationship-building practices. 

Gena: Communication: the key to building successful friendships. 

While proximity and frequent communication are valuable in shifting relationships from acquaintances to friendships, maintaining and developing friendship bonds require effortful communication. Communication is imperative to the success of all relationships, but within friendships, the type of communication shared may differ. According to research by Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor, as friendships develop, individuals shift from discussing fewer and more shallow topics to discussing deeper and more thought-provoking concepts (Altman & Taylor, 1973). Whereas acquaintances may focus on discussing the weather outside or their plans for the weekend, close friends may discuss more sensitive topics or seek advice on navigating stressful life experiences. Naturally, as one person shares more, the other does, and self-disclosure increases the chance that someone else will share about themselves (Sprecher et al., 2013). You may have experienced this effect when talking with a friend. As they shared a specific and potentially vulnerable story, you may have felt inclined to also share more about yourself. Hearing disclosure increases familiarity with an individual (Sprecher et al., 2013), and this cycle of effortful communication between two individuals provides the foundation for building trust and mutual support (Nicolaisen & Thorson, 2017), which are essential factors in sustaining a friendship. When thinking about best practices in building and maintaining relationships, it is crucial to create space for authentic conversation that also prioritizes active and enthusiastic listening (Reis et al., 2010). According to past research, enthusiastic listening is more beneficial than neutral listening since enthusiastic responses convey validation which plays a positive role in supporting friendship (Reis et al., 2010). Within friendship conversations, it is imperative to focus on listening to understand rather than to respond. Practices such as using affirming language, repeating for clarification instead of assuming, and asking how to help before offering unsolicited advice are great practices in shifting towards more enthusiastic listening (Reis et al., 2010). 

Callie: How can long-distance friendships be successful?

One threat to our existing friendships is a lack of in-person contact. Many people do not live close to their friends for the entirety of their friendships. Friends are made at different stages in life, and the physical distance between individuals may increase as we change jobs or schools, enter retirement, move, etc. An increase in distance between two friends makes it harder for friends to see each other in person. Because of this, it is important to understand the best ways to communicate with someone so that a close relationship can be maintained. Oswald & Clark (2003) found that the frequency of communication is important when maintaining friendships where in-person communication is rare. When looking at high school best friends who transitioned to separate colleges, the study found that the most successful friendships were the ones who communicated frequently, as this increased the satisfaction and commitment of the relationship. 

Technology has provided modern friendships with a unique ability to communicate regardless of distance, and certain forms of communication are more effective than others. Shklovski et al. (2008) found that phone calls are the preferable way to communicate with someone when compared to emails. This is because the study found that phone calls both maintain and foster growth within a friendship when face-to-face contact is limited due to distance. Furthermore, increases in emailing were not found to help maintain or grow friendships, but decreases in emailing were found to negatively affect friendships. This may be because communication through email shows investment in the relationship, but does not provide the same personal connection (like a phone call does) that fosters relationship growth between two people. 

While being in a long-distance friendship may limit the frequency of in-person interaction, these types of friendships are often just as satisfying as close-distance friendships (Johnson, 2001). Johnson (2001) found that certain maintenance behaviors in long-distance friendships allow individuals to remain close. For example, openness and assurance were both behaviors that were found to foster closeness in friendships, and, because of technology, this can be achieved regardless of the amount of in-person interactions. 

When looking at the factors that go into successful long-distance friendships, it is clear that the quality and frequency of interactions allow for satisfaction in the relationship. Even though we may not see our long-distance friends in person as often as we’d like, we can still maintain a close relationship with them by engaging in frequent and meaningful communication. 

Andrea: Friendship Evolution or Dissolution?

Have you ever thought about why some of your friendships have stayed strong for years, and others didn’t last? 

It turns out that there were likely either some unreciprocated or reciprocated actions that determined the outcome. In a study by Oswald et al. (2004), dyadic relationships, or friendships between two people, were assessed based on their closeness level (either best, close, or casual) and determinants of the maintenance between said closeness level. It was found that the reciprocal effort to maintain the friendship was a predictor of what level of closeness the friendship reached. However, if this effort was not reciprocated, there was instability in the friendship that was either resolved by one member of the dyad decreasing or increasing their maintenance effort to match the other member or the deterioration of the dyadic friendship. 

More often than not, though, if there is an unreciprocated effort by one side of the dyad, then we see that one side is benefitting from the friendship more than the other, and it will dissolve. Additionally, we see that this is a behavior that likely develops very early, as it is seen in young children. In a study by Hallinan (1978), it was found that children in an elementary school stopped interacting with a potential friend if there was no reciprocated interest in a proposed friendship offer or no reciprocated effort to preserve the friendship.

Having said this, these findings may not definitively be indicators of your friendships stability and quality, but these trends may be able to explain variations in your past and current friendships, and moving forward, you can even use them as methods to upkeep relationships with people that you want to stay close friends with. In order to do so, one may ask what are maintenance strategies one can employ? In the study by Oswald et al., 2004, the most effective strategies were found to be positivity, supportiveness, and openness. Funnily enough, we see that these strategies are also found to be important maintenance predictors in romantic relationships. Thus, a positive externality of implementing these maintenance strategies in your friendships is that it could help with your romantic relationships as well!



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Hallinan. (1978). The process of friendship formation. Social Networks, 1(2), 193–210.

Johnson, A. J. (2001). Examining the maintenance of friendships: Are there differences between geographically close and long distance friends?. Communication Quarterly, 49(4), 424-435.

Nicholaisen, M., & Thorsen, K. (2017). What are friends for? Friendships and loneliness over the lifespan–From 18 to 79 years. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 84, 126-158

Oswald, D. L., & Clark, E. M. (2003). Best friends forever?: High school best friendships and the transition to college. Personal relationships, 10(2), 187-196.

Oswald, D. L., Clark, E. M., & Kelly, C. M. (2004). Friendship maintenance: An analysis of individual and dyad behaviors. Journal of Social and clinical psychology, 23(3), 413-441.

Reis, H.T., Smith, S.M., Carmichael, C.L., Caprariello, P.A., Tsai, F., Rodrigues, A., & Maniaci, M.R. (2010). Are you happy for me? How sharing positive events with others provides personal and interpersonal benefits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 311-329.

Shklovski, I., Kraut, R., & Cummings, J. (2008, April). Keeping in touch by technology: Maintaining friendships after a residential move. In Proceedings of the sigchi conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 807-816).

Sprecher, S., Treger, S., & Wondra, J. D. (2013). Effects of self-disclosure role on liking, closeness, and other impressions in get-acquainted interactions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(4), 497–514.

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