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There are many different kinds of relationships that involve different types of affection that also vary in degree. Peterson (2006) suggests the following scale of increasing affection and intimacy in relationships:

  • affiliation
  • liking
  • friendship
  • love

The first on the scale is affiliation. Affiliation is a desire to simply be around other people, without necessarily any great degree of personal involvement. Human beings are social animals by nature, which means that we derive comfort just from the presence of other people. People also like to compare themselves to others, so groups of people can provide a basis for such social comparisons. Social comparison allows us to judge the accuracy of our opinions and our perceptions of our abilities (Suls, Martin, & Wheeler, 2002).

The next on the scale is liking. Liking is a positive evaluation of someone, normally because the person possesses values and beliefs that are similar to our own. This is the similar-to-me effect. The similar-to-me effect explains that individuals enjoy the company of others who think and look like they do (Pennsylvania State University, 2011, p. 2).

After that is friendship. Friendship occurs when two people mutual like on another. Friends not only have similar values and beliefs, but also consider each other to be equals, each contributing equally to the other's well-being, just as equity theory predicts. Some friendships are based, in part, on complementarity, in which personality differences fit each other well; for example, one person likes to lead and the other person, follow.

The highest on the scale is love. Love can be regarded as more intense, intimate, and exclusive form of friendship. There are essentially two kinds of love: passionate and companionate. Passionate love describes the intense, euphoric feelings, promoted by PEA and dopamine, that often lead to sexual activity (Hatfield & Rapson, 2009). A study by Cindy Hazan based on 5,000 interviews across 37 cultures indicated that passionate love tends to last no longer than 18-30 months--just long enough for a couple to meet, mate, and produce a child (Harlow, 1999). Unless the relationship can develop into companionate love, which is more like a committed, affectionate friendship, the couple is likely to separate (Hatfield & Rapson, 2009).


Harlow, J. (1999, July 25). True love is all over in 30 months. The Sunday Times. Retrieved from April 19, 2009).

Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. L. (2009). The neuropsychology of passionate love. In E. Cuyler & M. Ackhart (Eds.), Psychology of relationships. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2011). Applied Social Psychology (PSYCH 424) Lesson 14: Relationships/Everyday Life. Retrieved from online lecture notes

Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. NY: Oxford.

Suls, J., Martin, R., & Wheeler, L. (2002). Social Comparison: Why, with whom and with what effect? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5), 159-163.

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Melissa, I enjoyed reading your post on relationships. As I was reading your post, I was constantly comparing it to my boyfriend of three years. I believe, as a couple, we passed through each of these stages of increasing affection and intimacy.

The first stage of affiliation reminded me of my own blog post. While our posts were somewhat similar, they both connect with the idea of how relationships form. To add on to your affiliation stage, most people tend to affiliate themselves based on similarity. As you stated, social comparison allows us to judge the accuracy of our opinion and our perceptions of our abilities. The social comparison theory explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and desires by comparing themselves to others.

Your post beings up a very good point. I have seen many relationships start out passionatly and never develop into a deeper companionate love. Passion is neccesary in the initial attraction. Passionate love is intense and euphoric. It is exciting and intoxicating. However, companionate love grows over time and is necessary. Looks change and marriage is challenging. Without the strength of companionate love, any relationship is doomed to fail. Companionate love is not just between two people, it can also be between a caretaker and an animal (Psychology Glossary, 2011). Perhaps if more people dated for more than 30 months they would make sure that their love will last.

Psychology Glossary. (2011). Companionate Love . Retrieved December 9, 2011, from Psychology-Lexicon:

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