SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY APPLIED Excursus on Love Love is the polar case of intrinsc attraction. Love appears to make human beings unselfish because they enjoy giving pleasure to people they love. Generally, this devotion actually rests on the aim to maintain the other person’s love. Exchange processes occur in love relations. It differs from social associations of extrinsic significance in that rewards are exchanged because the are means to produce the ultimate reward of intrinsic attraction. In other social associations, exchange of specific rewards is its very objective. In love relations, ewarding the partner is due to the need to express and to confirm commitment to the association, not to the expectation of rewards. During the early stages of falling in love, each partner hides his/her true feelings due to fears of rejection and dependence. This concealment, together with increasing dependence on each other, causes frustration. Here, dependence on each other is tested. This threatens the survival of the relationship. Individuals are compelled to express sufficient commitment in order to save the relationship. When one of them is not yet ready to commit the conflict may terminate the elationship. Human beings derive pleasure from sacrificing for those they love. After having sacrificed for a loved one and repeatedly rewarded for it by increasing attachment from the other, giving pleasure eventually seems to be intrinsically gratifying. Favors and presents, being signs of love, may stimulate one’s affection for the other and vice-versa. One may encourage more gifts and favors not because of the material benefits themselves but because of the need to foster the other’s love for him/her. As the feeling of love increases, so does the need to please the other.
The individual with less involvement in the relationship gains more in the association since the other’s concern with the continuance of the relationship makes him/her dependent and thus, giving the less involved more power. This said power may lead to exploitation of the other. A common manifestation of the said principle is that the individual with stronger affection for the other must yield to the other’s wishes and exert effort in order to please the partner. Therefore, the individual with less affection gains advantages in the said relationship. Such an imbalance of power and extrinsic rewards is often the source and remains the asis of lasting reciprocal love attachments. There is a dilemma to consider here. The ease with which an individual obtains the reward of the other’s love tneds to depreciate its value for him. A woman/man promotes another’s love by granting him/her sexual and other favors, as demonstrations of his/her affection and as means for making associating with him/her outstandingly rewarding for the other, yet if he/she easily dispenses such favors readily, he/she depreciates their value and their power to arouse an enduring attachment. Therefore, there should be restraint. To safegurad the value f one’s affection for the other, he/she must avoid being too showy or too expressive. He/she mus make any evidence of his/her growing affection difficult to obtain. The point made is that an individual’s love depends on a) rewarding experiences; and b) the value ge/she places on these rewards. The degree of difficulty in obtaining expressions of affection affects their value. An individual who refrains from showing such expression increases the value of these expressions when they are manifested. Lovers, then, are under pressure to express affection for one another as well as under pressure to withhold expressions of affection.
Commitments must then be kept abreast for a love relation to develop into a lasting mutual attachment. If one is more involved than the other, this greater involvement obliterates love. It may be accepted that rewards in the relation may sustain the relationship for a while but the weak interest of the less committed or the frustration of the more committed partner would later cause the end of the relationship. There must be equal affection for love to persist. From: Blau, Peter. “Excursus on Love”. In Exhange and Power in Social Life. London: John Wiley and Sons, 1964.