Date of Conferral
Friendship is one of the pillars that supports satisfying, long-term, romantic relationships and marriage. Yet little is known about how romantic friendship is contextually experienced. This lack of knowledge limits the options of researchers and therapists. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to further substantiate a romantic friendship construct. The research question asked how friendship is experienced in heterosexual romantic relationships. Participants in two West Coast metropolitan areas, ages 18 to 29, were selected by convenience sampling. As per Giorgi's phenomenological method, themes were abstracted from the transcripts of focus group and individual interviews. The themes were then shortened and entered into an Atlas.ti software environment. Finally, they were coded into psychological language and analyzed. A romantic friendship affiliation was shown to be the ideal style of relationship for future long-term partnering. Yet the participants' actual lived experiences in serious romantic-friendship relationships were quite limited. Instead, their focus was on establishing economic independence and a full sense of adult identity, as well as improving their communication skills. Therefore, individual cases could not be contrasted, and substantive conclusions were not reached regarding the actual behavioral expression of heterosexual romantic friendship affiliations. A contrast study in Birmingham, Alabama, with participants with high IQs, had similar results. Both studies were supported by psychoneuroendocrine, attachment, social constructionist, and system theories. An important implication for social change was that researchers must account for the participants' ambivalence concerning long-term partnering, their alternative life-course choices, and their desires for economic independence, when studying young, urban, mobile, single-adult romantic relationships.