A relationship involves two very different people bringing two sets of values, cultures and environmental influences together. They also have two sets of goals and desired outcomes from life. We've talked before about Interdependence theory and how it affects the strength of a relationship, but it also affects relationship satisfaction. From this theory, many other theories have formed to explain relationship happiness. Why people choose to leave Hal Kelley and John Thibaut mapped out a model describing what goes into the 'should I stay, or should I go' decision. This little bad boy throws into clear resolution why most people choose to leave or stay in a relationship when push comes to shove. The model explains that we all seek a certain level of reward from a relationship. From the superficial (like gifts and flowers) to the serious (children), relationships are a font of rewards. However, the rewards Kelley and Thibaut refer to aren't just things that please us. They have to be directly related to helping us achieve our 'higher order goals' (essentially our overarching desires in life). So if a gift gives us self-esteem (she knows me and loves me), and that's something that's important to us, that constitutes a reward. If the promise of children is available and we desire that in our lives, that constitutes a reward. The crux of the issue The type and amount of rewards we expect from our partners is called our 'Comparison Level' and use this as a measuring stick. We consistently ask ourselves whether what we're getting is as good as what we're expecting. Our 'Perceived Rewards' (the level of reward we think we're getting from our partner) need to be equal or higher than our 'Comparison Level', or we're not going to be very happy. But wait, there's more In addition, we're checking out others and guessing what sort of rewards we can get from them all the time too. These are called 'Comparison Level alternatives'. If we think others can give us more rewards than our 'Comparison Level', that's bad news. If we expect them to give us more than our 'Perceived Rewards', it's even worse (comparisons are a common theme of being human and cause all sorts of problems). Ideally, we should have our 'Perceived Rewards' higher than our 'Comparison Level' which is hopefully higher than our 'Comparison Level alternatives'. Since that's unnecessarily confusing, we'll put it this way. What we think we're getting from our partner should be better than what we think we deserve and no one else should be able to give us what we deserve, let alone top what our partner is giving us. So how can we use this?
- Make sure we know what our 'Comparison Level' is, and what our partners is. Always make sure it's being topped. Don't and we know our relationship is probably going to end, especially if there are other people around who can give them what they expect.
- It applies to friendships too. We have to realise what our friends seek out of life and help them get there. This is the essence of friendship (according to some).
- Help those around us understand that it's as important to consciously develop goals in life as it is to share them, so that others can facilitate their growth and thus improve their own friendships and romances too.
- Psychology often seems like common sense (we imagine most of you said 'well duh' at the end of this article).