Relationships are the hardest thing to be well managed. Romantic relationships are considered to be among the most endlessly fascinating and frustratingly complex parts of life as they inspire music, art and literature. It is a social phenomenon that has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to exist and is based on commitments, passion and love. A relationship is something that occurs in every body’s life and is a deep feeling of connection to another person. At some stage in our life, we get romantically involved with someone. The more a person values a relationship, the more another person is interested in and tries to care about the partner’s feelings. A romantic relationship is often treated as the attachment typically formed between two people. This kind of relationship occurs within a social context and is simultaneous with the members of a family and peer. Everybody has a reason why they get into a romantic relationship with someone but what puzzles me, is if physical appearance plays a major role in relationship satisfaction. In my essay I will discuss previous research on the topic of romantic relationships.
The main purpose of the literature review is to study the already conducted relevant research in the field of romantic relationship. The review will serve to identify and better understand widely used definitions, terms, and concepts, to review theories and methods which were adopted by researchers and to understand the aspects of a relationship itself. Romantic relationships are based on a number of factors which determine the nature and extent of the relationship. It is these factors which determine the progression of the relationship. Research has shown that physical attractiveness plays a major role in a romantic relationship. Several propositions have been forwarded to show the role of physical attractiveness in a romantic relationship. This review will look into literature in an attempt to ascertain whether physical attractiveness does indeed play a role in romantic relationships. The main contributors to the discussed topic were Jonason, Festiger, Byrne, Berscheid, Lee, Simpson, Gangestad and others.
The key component of any social process is finding a romantic partner, developing and maintaining a long-term relationship with the person. The success or failure of this intention may have significant results for the personal happiness and well being. The criteria by which individuals choose romantic partners have been studied for a long period of time by Berscheid et al. (1971), Byrne (1971), Festinger et al. (1950) and many others. However, since Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) work was presented, a lot of researchers began to explore partner preference on the basis of the adult style of attachment. Partner preference has been defined in terms of maintaining relationships and initial attraction among partners on the basis of complementary or similar attachment styles.
According to Jonason (2009), the physical attributes that comprise physical attractiveness include; the gender, self-perception as well as the height of the individual. Using 228 participants, a survey was carried out to find out how much physical attractiveness affected the relationship between romantic partners. The study population comprised college-age individuals. It was determined that there are two major reasons why physical attractiveness was at the center of a romantic relationship. However, it was impossible to determine why, when and where an individual begins to consider physical attractiveness as the criterion for getting into a romantic relationship with another person. From the article, “The Value of Physical Attractiveness in Romantic Partners: Modeling Biological and Social Variables,” it is clear that individuals who consider physical attractiveness as an inconsequential factor when choosing a mate, had a low self - perception. This, therefore, placed them at a disadvantage and had very minimal chance of dating an individual who is physically attractive. Additionally, the paper suggests that, the environment in which the individual is exposed to, also determines whether they will end up choosing a physically attractive or unattractive mate for a romantic relationship. People exposed to environments with physically attractive people tend to prefer physically attractive mates. Conversely, people exposed to environments with less physically attractive people end up in romantic relationships with less physically attractive people.
According to Lee et al (2008), people who end in romantic relationships with less attractive people are never under the delusion that their mates are more attractive than other people consider them to be. Furthermore, physical attractiveness leads to some form of hedonic adaptation among people. This is evident from the fact that the physical attractiveness of a person plays a major role in other aspects of an individual’s life apart from the romantic relationship that they have. From the article, “If I’m Not Hot, Are You Hot or Not? “Attractive people stand a better chance of getting a job, getting a pay rise or even a promotion. From the perspective of a relationship, attractive people tend to pool together and have higher chances of starting the romantic relationship in comparison to less physically attractive people.
Ajzen & Fishbein (1980) speak about the influence of social networks as the social pressures make an individual to perform a behavior from network members such as family and friends. The members of a social network convey influence through disapproving or supporting someone’s behavior, including relational choices. Hence, romantic partners may either get support for or pressure to cancel or terminate their relationships from network members who have an opportunity to affect the commitment of their romantic relationship. The research on the romantic relationship focuses on the emotional, behavioral and cognitive predictors of relationship sustainability and satisfaction. The influence of social network has been identified as an important predictor of romantic relationship satisfaction (Bryant & Conger, 1999; Cox et al., 1997; Sprecher & Felmlee, 1992).
From the article, “Perception of Physical Attractiveness: Mechanisms Involved in the Maintenance of Romantic Relationships,” (Simpson, Gangestad &Lerma, 1990), there are two perspectives of attractiveness between two people and the romantic relationship between them. The first perspective involves people constantly engaged in dating relationships. These individuals value the physical attractiveness of the opposite sex much more than individuals not engaged in dating relationships. Secondly, the paper suggests that there is no relationship between the dating status of an individual and their physical attractiveness of the person.
There also exists a strong relationship between the preference of a current physically attractive partner and the physical attractiveness of past and future romantic partners (Swami & Allum, 2012). According to the paper, the person’s previous relationship greatly determines their perspective and expectations of how attractive their future partner should be. Individuals prefer future partners who either meet or surpass the qualities of their previous partners. The studies on the romantic relationship indicate the fact that the approval or disapproval of social network members affects people’s commitment and relational satisfaction and (Etcheverry & Agnew, 2004; Etcheverry et al., 2008). As social network members, parents and friends are distinctly separate groups by societal recognition and definition, they are rarely treated as such in extant social network influence research.
Conclusively, research on the role of physical attractiveness in romantic relationships suggests a strong correlation between the two. It is evident that individuals rate each other’s physical qualities and determine whether or not they qualify to engage in a relationship with them. Less attractive people have a high chance of dating with other less attractive people due to their self-perception. Conversely, physically attractive people tend to end up together as well.
According to past research, physical attractiveness has been shown to be an important factor in determining the meaning and importance of a relationship. A study carried out on physical attractiveness and stereotyping showed that there existed highly pervasive tendencies directed towards individuals found to be attractive. The participants of the study were allowed to view college yearbook pictures of the people who were meant to evoke a certain stimulus. Each of the persons in the yearbook had been previously been graded as either unattractive, average looking or attractive at the extreme end of the scale (Dion, 1987). Apart from just determining the subject’s physical attractiveness, the participants were also required to estimate how suitable the subject would be for other roles such as being a romantic partner or a parent. From the results that were collected, it was determined that subjects who possessed attractive stimuli were seen to additional social qualities that were desirable among the participants.
However, according to a study conducted by Swami et al (2009), romantic relationships are a part of social relationships that are majorly influenced by cognitions as well as perceptions that significantly deviate from reality as it exists. People tend to have illusions of their romantic partners thereby enhancing the attraction towards them. In his, ‘love is blind bias’ study he suggests that there is a tendency to view a romantic partner as physically attractive, not by general description or acceptance, but by the fact that an individual is attracted to them. This, therefore, causes a variation in attraction and romantic relationships, where a person will find their romantic partner more attractive than another person’s romantic partner. This is based on the sole perception of one another between the two romantic partners (Swami, 2009).
This paper will describe an experimental study of how to analyze physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction in a romantic relationship. The importance of physical attractiveness in a relationship cannot be understated as it plays a key role in determining the depth of the relationship. The experiment will seek to find if the is a correlation between physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction. The qualitative research method has been defined by the nature of our research questions as the most appropriate method as it would provide a lot of information on the romantic relationship. Qualitative research answers questions that start with words like ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how often’, and ‘how many’. It is useful when the researcher wants to find out the ways of people’s thoughts and feelings. Qualitative data are typically descriptive data and is harder to be analyzed than the quantitative data. It is caused by the fact that qualitative data analysis is a difficult process and requires an accurate description of participant responses.
The population targeted for the analysis of ‘physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction in a romantic relationships’ will be students from the City College of New York. The study will involve a group of 100 males and 100 females. The prerequisite of participation in the experiment is to be in a romantic relationship. However, it is noted that some of the individuals targeted for the study may be in possession of information that they consider being too personal to share for purposes of the study. Therefore, they may be reluctant to participate in the study. So as, to solve this bottleneck, the participants will be duly notified that the information collected is private and confidential and that their identities will never be released to any other individual and the information collected will be used only for purposes of the study.
Design and Materials
In order to gather data for the given research, qualitative research methods have been used. Theoretical data were collected from articles which were published in international journals and Internet resources, e-books and textbooks. Qualitative data collection was used by creating a questionnaire. A questionnaire is a list of written questions which may be completed in two different ways: the questionnaire is completed when the researcher is not present; the questionnaire is completed by verbally responding to questions in the presence of the researcher. The questionnaire, that was chosen as the method of data collection, will have several objective questions targeted at the participants. The questionnaires will be structured to have both close ended and open ended questions. The questions will query the participants’ views on their current relationship as well as their past relationships. Furthermore, the participants will be required to rate the attractiveness of their current partner and those not in a relationship will also rate the attractiveness of the same person using the Estimating physical attractiveness scale (Swami, Stieger, Haubner, Voracek & Furnham, 2009) This rating is made up of five characteristic, which are general physical attractiveness, general facial attractiveness, general size and weight of the body as well as the general shape, figure and height of the body.
This method of data collection is preferred since it can comfortably and adequately accommodate the large number of respondents who are to participate in the study. This method is handy as it saves time. Furthermore, it is a good way of ensuring the confidentiality of the participants. This is advantageous as it puts the respondent at ease and, therefore, willing to give more information without any fear.
Thus, the advantages of a questionnaire are the standardized way of gathering responses and greater objectiveness; the information is collected quickly and may be collected from a large portion of a group.
Each participant will be given an informative brochure detailing the purpose of the experiment and their role in it. Furthermore, the brochure will detail the privacy and confidentiality of their responses.
Each of the respondents will then be issued with a complete questionnaire that they will be required to fill. Some of the participants not in a relationship will be asked to showed pictures of the couples, one by one and ask to rate the attractiveness of each person. The data collected will then be submitted for further analysis. This will facilitate the generation of comprehensive results that show the relationship between partners in a romantic relationship, their physical attractiveness and how satisfied they are in their relationship.
As a rule, the initiation and development of romantic relationships takes place in a peer relationship and close friendship context. It is explained by the fact that friendships serve a variety of essential and positive functions (Furman, 1993; Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1993). Changes that occur in close friendships may result from the romantic relationship development and may impact the opportunities and nature of people’s intimacy. They may also support people in their social networks and affect self development and social life. For many people, romantic relationships are key features of their lives. Researchers have established links between the experiences of romantic relationship and both psychological and physical health outcomes. Committed romantic relationships have been usually associated with better health status, greater overall happiness, longevity, and life satisfaction.