The balance of work in initiating relationship

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James E. Brooks
Lindsey Guynn
Susan Sprecher


The initiation of relationships is a relatively neglected topic of investigation within the interdisciplinary field of personal relationships. One aim of this research was to examine the degree to which heterosexual
romantic relationships were perceived to be initiated more by one partner versus by both partners mutually. A second aim was to examine dispositional (sex and attachment style) and relational factors (relative interest early in the relationship and current satisfaction) associated with doing the work of relationship initiation. Study 1, which combined several samples of young adults who had been asked about the initiation stage of their relationship, indicated that relationship initiation was generally imbalanced; one partner was perceived as doing more of the work than the other. Further analyses indicated that women were more likely to report that the partner rather than the self was the initiator, but no such difference was found for men. Those with a preoccupied attachment style reported greater degrees of self-initiation. Consistent with Waller’s principle of least interest (e.g., Waller and Hill 1951), greater interest (relative to the partner) was also associated with doing the work of relationship initiation. Participants with balanced relationship initiation reported greater
current satisfaction and commitment. In a follow-up study, based on data from both members of 75 couples, moderate agreement between partners was found about who initiated the relationship.

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