Gender Differences

The socialization of girls in our society places more emphasis on relationships with other people, whereas in the socialization of boys relationships are subordinated to achievement or accomplishment (Gilligan, 1982). One consequence of this difference in treatment is that women are more interested in social relations and usually have more friends than men. In addition, perhaps because they sense a greater interest and sympathy on the part of women, people are more willing to confide in women than in men (Derlega, Winstead, Wong, & Hunter, 1985).

Women also fall in love in different ways than men. Men tend to fall in love faster, to fall out of love more slowly, and, because they have no one in whom to confide, suffer more from a breakup (Hill, Rubin, & Peplau, 1976; Rubin, Hill, Peplau, & Dunkel-Schetter, 1980). Men also tend to be more romantic than women, believing in love at first sight, that there is one true love for them, and that love is magical and incomprehensible. In contrast, women tend to be more cautious and pragmatic about love relationships, emphasizing financial security as much as passion, that there are many people with whom they could be equally happy, and that love cannot conquer all differences or problems (Peplau & Gordon, 1985). Women are more likely than men to experience both the agony and the ecstasy of love and to disclose both their positive and negative feelings about a relationship (Jourard, 1971). When men share their views, they are more likely to discuss their strengths and politics, whereas women are more likely to discuss their fears and feelings about other people (Rubin et al., 1980).

The extent to which dissatisfaction with a relationship is predictive of its demise also varies with gender. Because the desire to make a relationship work is a more important feature of love for women than for men, women are more apt to "stick it out" when they become dissatisfied with a relationship (Cowan & Cowan, 1992).

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