Romantic Relationships

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Relational Standards: Rules and Expectations in Romantic Relationships

Submitted by Alexandra Elizabeth West BBSc, BLitt, Postgrad Dip in Psychology

June 2006 A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Australian Catholic University National.

School of Psychology Australian Catholic University National Melbourne, Australia

Australian Catholic University Research Services Locked Bag 4115 Fitzroy, Victoria 3065 Australia

A number of people have assisted me throughout the journey of completing this research, and deserve my thanks. To my supervisor, mentor and friend Professor Barry Fallon, to whom I owe a great debt. His support has been unwavering, and his encouragement and generosity have been constant. Because of him I have learned an immeasurable amount about the research process, and about my own strengths. For all of this Barry, a heartfelt thank you. A big thank you to my family, who have walked this road with me. Their love and support are unconditional, and they have gone above and beyond the call of duty many a time in efforts to help. Thank you for cheering me on and encouraging me from the sidelines at every step, it has meant the world to me. A special thank you to my grandmother for her love and support – one of your last wishes was to see me complete this process. You may no longer be here in person, but I did it, and I know you are smiling. To all my wonderful friends, thank you for your friendship, and for always being there. While they have all played an integral part in my life, and have supported me on this journey, there are some special mentions. A special thanks to Carli Growcott, for her constant friendship, support and encouragement. Carli, you have been there at every turn, and have supported me when I have most needed it - thank you. A special thanks to Lisa Eisen, Helene Agius, Catherine McInerney and Ingrid Deehan for their friendship and support – thanks for being my cheerleaders and for always listening; and thanks to Carly Rachmanczuk –thanks for the chats and the coffee, you’ll never know how much I appreciated both! Last but not least, a heartfelt thank you to all my participants, who gave their time and energy to participate in this research. Their contributions are gratefully appreciated and respected.


Statement of Authorship

I, Alexandra Elizabeth West, hereby declare that the work presented in this thesis is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, original, and no other person’s work has been used without due acknowledgement in the text. This thesis contains no material published elsewhere or extracted in whole or in part from a thesis by which I have qualified for or been awarded another degree of diploma, at this or at any other tertiary educational institution. All research procedures reported received the approval of the Australian Catholic University Human Research Ethics Committee.

Signed: Date:

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Romantic relationships are assumed to be guided by norms and rules, however research in the field of personal relationships has not directly addressed the area of relationship rules in romantic relationships, but has investigated their violations, with a specific focus on examples such as infidelity and deception. The present research program provides the first comprehensive study of rules and expectations in romantic relationships. The overall aim of the research is to explore the types of rules and expectations, or relational standards that exist in romantic relationships, how they come to exist, and their function within relationships. Given the lack of research on relational standards, a program of four studies, utilising both qualitative and quantitative methods was proposed to address the research aims. A combination of methods was deemed appropriate as qualitative methods would allow exploration of the types of relational standards that...
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