Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 11: Romantic Love and Sexuality (pp. 419424)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. Passionate Feelings (pp. 419422)
  2. Sexual Attitudes and Behavior (pp. 422423)
  3. Sex in the Context of a Relationship (pp. 423425)
Passionate Feelings

Passionate love involves sexual feelings, intense longing for the partner, and euphoric feelings of fulfillment and ecstasy. Desired actions are actions involving closeness and contact with the person for whom one feels passionate love. Components of love such as commitment, intimacy, trust, and attachment are relatively less involved. According to Berscheid (1988) the source of the arousal that underlies and strengthens passion is mostly sexual desire.

The experience of passionate feelings differs between men and women; men tend to fall in love more quickly, while women tend to fall out of love more easily. In addition, cultural differences exist in the views on passion; some cultures see passion as desirable and natural, while others view it with suspicion or even negatively (see SP p. 420).

As intimacy and commitment develop over time in a relationship, passion tends to fade.

Arousal from other external sources can intensify passionate feelings. Accordingly, people with a preoccupied attachment style and anxious people tend to experience passion more often than other people.

Case study: The triangular theory of love

Sexual Attitudes and Behavior

People differ in their views on sexual activity; sexual activity is approved of by most people when couples are unmarried but committed, whereas opinions are divided in cases where people have sex when they have known each other for a short period of time. Homosexual activity is increasingly accepted.

Traditional roles of men as initiators and women as gatekeepers still hold; women control the level of sexual intimacy.

Open communication about meanings of sexual activity is very important because some people see it as an enjoyable activity, regardless of commitment, while others see it as an expression of intimacy and commitment.

Sex in the Context of a Relationship

Neither the timing of sex, nor the emphasis on intimacy, affects satisfaction in a relationship. Satisfaction with sex is related to relationship satisfaction, however, just as other mutual activities are related to relationship satisfaction.

Men tend to be sexually dissatisfied when sexual activity is not as frequent and as varied as they want it to be, whereas women are dissatisfied when there is a lack of warmth, love, and care in their sexual relationship. This gender difference diminishes among older people.

Sex is a unique and appropriate expression of love in close relationships because two fundamental processes involved in forming and maintaining a relationship are combined: mutual pleasure and enjoyment, and intimate self-disclosure.

So what does this mean?

People who feel passionate love experience sexual feelings, intense longing for the partner, and euphoric feelings of fulfillment and ecstasy, and want to be close to and have contact with the person for whom they feel passionate love. Most women control the level of sexual intimacy in a relationship. Some people see sex as an enjoyable activity, regardless of commitment, while others see it as an expression of intimacy and commitment. Sex is a unique expression of love in close relationship because people give and receive pleasure and enjoyment, and self-disclose intimately. Neither the timing of sex, nor the emphasis on intimacy, affects satisfaction in a relationship, but satisfaction with sex does, just as other mutual activities are related to relationship satisfaction.

Next topic

When Relationships Go Wrong

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 11 introduction
  2. Initial Attraction
  3. From Acquaintance to Friend: Relationship Development
  4. Close Relationships
  5. Romantic Love and Sexuality
  6. When Relationships Go Wrong
  7. Chapter overview (PDF)
  8. Fill-in-the-blanks
  9. Multiple-choice questions