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4 Adult and intimate relationships

4.1 Introduction

As young people in the UK grow into adulthood the potential for establishing more intimate relationships opens up considerably when they leave home for university, enter vocational training, or move directly into the workforce. Each of these changes provides new opportunities for contact with a range of different people. These new settings often include opportunities to form close intimate relationships.

The bulk of research on relationships has concentrated on those in western societies, with its underlying idea of romantic love and free choice of partners. It should be remembered that this is far from the universal approach to long-term relationships. Would you be surprised to hear that the majority of marriages that take place in the world are more or less arranged or based on considerations beyond notions of romantic love? David Buss (1994) studied the citizens of different countries and found they tended to highlight different reasons for getting married. To give some examples, he found that in Iran factors such as education, ambition and chastity were seen as more important for choosing a spouse while in Nigeria, citizens ranked good health, refinement/neatness and desire for home/children highest. Also, most of the research carried out in this area has focused on heterosexual relationships. However it has been found that there are far more similarities between homosexual and heterosexual relationships than there are differences.

This section focuses on people's experiences of intimate relationships both in terms of what attracts us initially and what keeps us together in the longer term.