SIDE NOTE: This is loosely based on a factual story--I did change some things so it would fit the assignment's parameters. Just so you know.
After graduating from college, Karen accepted a job in Southern California. As she was getting situated in her new job and apartment she decided to visit a friend, in a neighboring city.(*1) They went to a church meeting together and that’s when her life changed. Jim was standing in the doorway of their religious chapel. He then did something that he would call very uncharacteristic: while it usually takes him a few months to think things over and to get to know her a bit better before he asks a girl out, Jim asked Karen out within two seconds of meeting her. He was already in a long-term relationship with a girl who was away at school in another state and therefore felt very secure and confidant that he didn’t need to work hard to meet anybody else. When he saw Karen walking through the hallway with a friend of his, he walked right up to them and said: “Hello Linda, who is your friend, and when are you going to set me up with her?”
“This is Karen—we met in the parking lot. She just moved to the area. How about we all play miniature golf on Friday night?” So, they went out on a double date on September 28th. She was away from her home and everything she was familiar with, so she was initially(*2) very flattered by his unsolicited attention. She became even more impressed with him as the evening grew cool when he went to get her jacket from the car for her(*3).
Jim looked at the relationship as “a filler relationship” while his girlfriend Charlene was away studying at a college in another state. Jim had been dating Charlene for almost 2 years and was slowly getting used to the fact that they would eventually get married, but there was never an engagement ring, nor a proposal. When Karen came along Jim considered it recreational dating: he didn’t see himself as breaking any insinuated vows-- it was more a matter of having fun and enjoying themselves.
Over the next 6 to 8 months, he progressively fell in love with her(*4), until it reached the point when he needed to make a decision. Over the next few days off from school, usually surrounding holidays, Charlene would write to Jim to inform him of her intended dates of returning home for short visits. Before he could come up with an excuse not to see Karen during that time, she’d inform him that she would also be out of down during that weekend. Up until that point he’d thought the “relationship gods” were smiling down on him. In reality, Karen had been finding out from Jim’s sister, who was also Charlene’s good friend, what Charlene’s plans were and would then plan to return home to visit her family during that time. Karen had known that Jim was dating someone else, but willingly pursued the relationship(*5).
Jim eventually realized that he couldn’t be that lucky for very long. Jim participated in a great deal of soul searching and personal evaluation, which led to a response one day while he was working at the rock quarry: he should marry Karen. This realization was confusing to him because he’d invested a lot of time and money on his relationship with Charlene(*6). It just didn’t make sense to him to practically start over with Karen when he’d already progressed so far with Charlene. Upon more thought he realized that one of the primary life goals he had made was to have a large family. This was something he could achieve no matter which girl he married, so why not Karen?
Jim’s decision was confirmed for him as he was saying good-bye to Charlene on a Sunday night following spring break when she would be departing for school, (with plans to welcome Karen home an hour later). Charlene informed Jim that she had a surprise for him, and would be staying in town for 3 extra days. In the blink of an eye Jim had a big decision to make about what to do and say. Jim knew he had to come clean with her so he could go see Karen.
As time passed, Jim just kept falling in love with Karen all the time. Jim and Karen shared a religious background(*7), which discouraged the socially prevalent practice of cohabitation(*8), and were married about 6 months later. Every time they did something together he found something else to love about her(*9)-- even when she had their first child. After 12 hours of delivery room labor, she held their newborn baby boy, and said “Next time(*10)….” He knew that if she would was willing to go through all that again there must be something special about her. He also loved the way she treated his mom. He felt she was better to his mom than he was: She was always including her, looking after her, checking in on her.
After they were married, Jim was reviewing Karen’s calendar from when they were dating and saw that one Friday night was Ken’s name, and on Saturday night was Jim’s name. And it was the same the next weekend! Jim no longer felt bad for his dual relationships during the courting days. He felt that Karen had done the same thing he’d done to her, even though she’d argue that it was just two dates with Ken. As time passed, Jim found ways to make sure Karen stayed happy, and she in turn kept him happy. They each had secure attachments to their parents, which helped in their relationship.(*11) Together they had 8 children, and while they occasionally disagreed, they made sure to work it out together before it became a bigger problem, and maintain a united stance in front of the kids.
*1 Karen was seeking to satisfy her need to belong, as Baumeister and Leary (1995) suggested; by finding a circle of intimate partners to establish friendships in her new city. The 1995 study showed that these interactions with others who love us are important to those who want to function normally in society.
*2 First impressions are very important, as proven by Sunnafrank & Ramirez (2004). It is often the decision of whether or not future interactions occur. Bar et al., (2005) found that it takes only 39 milliseconds to see anger in a stranger’s face. In 1/10th of a second is all that is needed to determine attractiveness, likeability, and trustworthiness (Willis & Todorov, 2006). Carney et al. (2007) researched to find that it takes only 5 seconds of watching a stranger have a conversation with a member of the opposite sex to determine extraversion, conscientiousness, and intelligence.
*3, 9 Assumptions that the partners are acting in accordance to the individual’s expectations is an example of confirmation bias, as explored by Snyder (1981). It was found that people want to be true, and look for examples that make them correct, more often than looking for proof that they are wrong. Levine & McCormack (1992) introduced a similar concept called the truth bias, in which people assume that their partners are telling the truth.
*4 Companionate Love as described in the Friendship-Based Love Scale created by Grote and Frieze, (1994) the scale tested couples long term love, which differed from passionate love. It is this friendship-based love which couples in long term marriage relationships described. Companionate love has more stability than romantic love (Sprecher & Regan, 1998).
*5 Davis et al. (2007) found that many people (54% of men, and 34% of women) world wide, participate in actions that are trying to attract someone who is already in a relationship, called mate poaching. Most men and about half of women have been “poached,” giving in to the advances and leaving trading their mates. Greiling and Buss (2000) suggest that allowing oneself to be poached is because the poachers offer more benefits than were found in the previous relationship.
*6 Rusbult et al. (1994) described how the amount of investment one has made in a relationship predicts the likeliness of ending the relationship. Higher levels of investment equate longer lasting relationships. Investments can be one’s tangible goods (furniture, dishes) left behind in a split, or intangible psychological goods (love and respect from friends) (Goodfriend & Agnew, 2004)
*7 Similarity exists in several different contests, as defined by Watson et al. (2004). In the above situation the similar religious background displays demographic similarity, which also includes age, sex, race, education and social class. There is also similarity in attitudes and values similarity. There was found to be a tie between the proportion of mutual attitudes and the level of attraction (Byrne and Nelson, 1965). The last similarity defined here is similarity of personalities. Those with similar styles and traits tend to have happier marriages (Gaunt, 2006).
*8 Research done by Bachman et al. (2001) showed that the majority of seniors in high school now believe that it is a good idea to for a couple to live together before they get married. This cohabitation is thought to be a way for the couple to get a better view of how they interact to determine their long term compatibility. Interestingly, Dush et al. (2003) also did a project which determined that cohabitation actually increases the couple’s risk of future divorce. Stanley et al. (2004) blamed this increase on a decreased commitment to each other. The lack of marriage vows shows that they want to keep themselves open to other options. They generally do; Treas & Giesen’s (2000) study showed that married couples tend to encounter less conflict and infidelity than cohabiters do.
*9 (see footnote 3 above) Confirmation bias
*10 Planning to continue the relationship in the future is a positive outcome of commitment (Weigel, 2008). Hampel and Vangelisti (2008) listed other qualities of commitment such as sharing, supportiveness, honesty, faithfulness and trust. Sometimes commitment is negatively instigated, and due to a feeling of entrapment or an obligation to stay put (Miller & Perlman, 2009)
*11 Miller and Perlman (2009) described attachment styles using 3 terms: secure, anxious-ambivalent, and avoidant. Those with Secure attachments easily adapt to new situations and relationships; anxious-ambivalent attachment styles develop into clingy, nervous and needy partners; and those with avoidant attachment styles often try to avoid close relationships and are suspicious of and angry at others (Bowlby, 1969).