Social Exchange Theory

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Social Exchange theory is based on the give (cost) and take (reward-profit) in a relationship. It was originated from theorists Thibault and Kelly around the early 1950’s. Its premise is it gauges a person’s perception of the balance that exists in a relationship. We consider what we put into the relationship, such as effort, energy, affection, dedication and etc in comparison with what we get out of the relationship. If one puts in more than what gets reciprocated we may be unsatisfied.

Usually people wish to give less and maximize their rewards, when this happens they feel more comfortable and are able to open up emotionally and reveal more about themselves and grow closer to the other in the relationship. This is a gradual progression in a healthy relationship, moving from the early superficiality and developing a more in depth level of intimacy and communication. An immediate outcome is the basic level of interaction experiences in a new relationship much more superficial in content.

Forecasts are an approximation of the potential for a more in depth level of intimacy. As a relationship develops and the exchanges are favorable and positive then it has a cumulative effect and results in cumulative rewards. The more invested (input) in a relationship the better the rewards profit (outcome). This social exchange theory is the basis for dependence, perceived power and cohesion. Example: In our relationship, communication was never all that great. In the beginning we were infatuated and blind to the fact that we didn’t see eye to eye on many subjects.

If we disagreed we glossed over the issue and changed the subject. As time went on I know she was putting more into our relationship than I was. I was just enjoying the good times and was too busy to invest much time and energy into it. She was becoming more and more anxious about it and kept asking me if I loved her and pushing me. It started to see like more of a hassle to maintain the relationship than what it was worth as she kept bugging me all the time. She always asked we what was wrong.

Then when we didn’t agree on something I no longer pretended it was o. k. and we started to argue more. I am thinking that this relationship is too much work to keep it up. She needs more attention, talking and time than I can give. I mean I like her and all and we do have fun at times, but lately it is just too hard to keep her happy. I guess I am not as committed to the relationship and should maybe end it. It won’t be fun being alone again but I just can’t take getting the third degree and all that psychobabble and analyzing she does anymore.

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