End Of Romance

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End of Romance

Carol Stoker (Indiana University, 1987)

Calvin threw a party for himself in honor of his 21st birthday. He and his girlfriend Laurie spent part of the evening talking with each other. Laurie encouraged Calvin to go out to the bars with his friends, promising him she would wait for his return. Just before Calvin left, he and Laurie kissed each other.

After Calvin left, Laurie was unsure of whether she should wait or not. She had been unsure of her relationship with Calvin, unsure about the seriousness and intensity of Calvin and their relationship. "I told him I would wait for him to get home. I don't know if I should wait or not," she said. "Calvin is just so intense. I just don't know."

She left.

Calvin returned later. When he found out Laurie had left, he was angry. He crumpled and threw a note she had written to him. He started shouting, "She promised
she would stay. She should have waited. She's not even giving me a chance." Laurie upset Calvin when she left.

Within a week, Calvin and Laurie had broken up. Calvin emphasized that he broke up with Laurie, not vice versa.


To celebrate his 21st birthday, Calvin, a junior at IU, had a party at his house. He invited about 100 people including his girlfriend Laurie, a sophomore at IU. I, too, was invited to the party because Calvin and I are friends. I knew who Laurie was, but I had never met her or spoken with her before the party.

At 9 p.m. I went to the party. Calvin was having a good time. Laurie wasn't there. I left to go to another party. When I came back at about 11:30 p.m. Laurie was there. I noticed that Calvin and Laurie were sitting together, away from the crowd, talking. I wandered around the party, talking to people here and there. About an hour later, the emotional incident which is the topic of this paper, got its start.

.Transcription Description   
C and L are sitting, talking. They stand. Kiss. C leaves with his friends to go to the bars.   
CL: I'll see you later. L waves, watches as C leaves. L sits next to M (me) and starts talking.   
LM: M, you and C are such good friends. How did you meet?
M responds. Response is unimportant. L continues to talk to M.   
LM: C is just so intense. Do you know that he told me he loved me a week and a half after we started to go out? I'm sure there's 100 girls who would want to be in my place, but I told him I wanted to slow down. (M later found out from C that they had agreed to go out, but also date other people. It was L's idea and C agreed to it.)   
LM: I told him I would wait for him to get home. I don't know if I should wait or not. (M later found out from C that L had promised C three times that she would wait for him to get home. C even suggested that he not go, but L told him to, promising she would wait.) L went downstairs to use the phone. Called her roommate. Asked her roommate if she should wait for C or not. Finally she says to her roommate:

L: You're right. I shouldn't wait. While waiting for her roommate to pick her up, L continues.   

LM: Do you know how many other guys I've dated. There's so many other guys out there. C is just so intense. I just don't know. L leaves when roommate arrives. M remains. (My impression of L was that she was very confused and scared

Scene: House, end of party. Time: 2 a.m.

Participants: Calvin (C),  Jack (J), (C's roommate Bystander: me (M).

C comes in. Sees that L not there.   
CJ: Where is she?
JC: She left. C is mad. Reads a note that she left him. Crumples the note and throws is. C speaks, almost shouting.   
C: She promised she would stay. She told me three times that she would stay. J tries to calm him. Does no good.   
C: When I make a promise I keep it. I once waited all might for two old girlfriends to come home just because I promised them I would. She should have waited. J continues to try to calm C. M remains silent, listening. She then speaks.   
MC: She was scared. She didn't know what to do.   
CM: That's no excuse. She could've waited. She's not even giving me a chance.    
MC: Call her. C tries to call L but the line is busy, off the hook. C mad. Says he's tired. Goes to bed.   

That ends the climax of the emotional incident. One interesting note about this emotional incident is that the two participants played their emotion-packed parts at different times. It was not a face-to-face encounter. C and L have highly emotional responses to the other person's actions. I see this separation as a foreshadowing of their breakup, or permanent separation, which occurs soon after this incident.

In the aftermath of this incident I talked with C. I asked him what was going on with him, what he was feeling when he came home after the party and found L not there. He first of all said that he couldn't believe that he got so upset. He said he didn't know why he was so upset. He said he felt that L lied to him and he didn't like lies. He then said that it was over. C told me that he had gone to talk with L the day after the party. C and L broke up because C didn't like lies and also because he didn't like the fact that, scared or not, L would not give him a chance.

There are a lot of interesting points to consider in this emotional incident. First of all we have Laurie, the girlfriend, who wants to slow down the relationship. She is unsure of herself and of the relationship. She is scared and confused. Her actions, breaking her promise and leaving, remind me of a scared mouse who runs away from the cat.

Then we have Calvin, the boyfriend. He expects his girlfriend to keep her promise. When she doesn't, he is mad and hurt. He later wonders why he got so upset and tries to act indifferent.

This incident did not immediately change Calvin's and Laurie's identities as boyfriend and girlfriend. It was, however, a key part in their breakup and in the loss of those identities. Perhaps when C got home and found L not there, he felt a breakup approaching and thus he also felt the possibility of the loss of his identity as L's boyfriend which was an identity that he enjoyed. He became extremely upset which seems to be a normal reaction for a person who feels a loss of an enjoyable identity approaching, even though he tried to act indifferent about it later on.


In order to analyze this entire incident using Interact, the situation has been defined as precisely as possible, and the important events have been simplified into actor-behavior-object form.

The setting is a party. Laurie is defined as a "confused sweetheart". She can take female casual roles. The modifier "confused" was used because it seemed that both Laurie and Calvin would agree Laurie was confused about the relationship.

Calvin is defined as a "good boyfriend" and can take male casual roles. The modifier "good" was used because it seemed Calvin would agree he was at least trying to be a good boyfriend. And also it seemed that although Laurie was confused, she realized that Calvin was trying to be a good boyfriend. "Good" generally means that Calvin was doing what was expected of a boyfriend. Both Laurie and Calvin see their relationship with each other as verbal, physical, and primary.

The following is a summary of the modified and defined situation.


males: 2.1 0.7 2.3

females: 2.7 0.9 2.4
The EPA numbers, particularly the 2.1 and 2.7 in the evaluation category show that a party is usually a good experience for both Calvin and Laurie.


Calvin sees himself as:

good: 2.5 1.5 0.6

boyfriend: 1.3 1.1 1.4

combination: 1.6 1.3 1.3

Laurie sees Calvin as:

good: 2.7 1.4 0.5

boyfriend: 2.3 1.6 1.7

combination: 2.2 1.7 1.4
    According to the EPA numbers, both Laurie and Calvin see Calvin as a quite good, quite powerful, and quite active. Laurie gives Calvin an overall high positive rating and Calvin gives himself a similar positive rating. The high status rating Laurie gives Calvin is expected in a boyfriend-girlfriend love relationship. "Romantic love is a relationship between two actors where each gives the other high status and both have high power." (Kemper, p. 184).


Laurie sees herself as:

confused: 0.5 0.9 0.4

sweetheart: 2.8 1.5 1.3

combination: 0.9 0.5 1.1

Calvin sees Laurie as:

confused: 1.1 1.2 0.4

sweetheart: 2.2 0.9 1.1

combination: 0.3 0.2 1.0

So, both Laurie and Calvin see Laurie as slightly active. Calvin sees her without power, and evaluates her as somewhere in the neutral zone between good and bad. Laurie sees herself a little better than Calvin does. According to Kemper's definition of romantic love, one expects Calvin to give Laurie high status and power ratings. However, in this case, the modifier "confused" adds the negative aspect to Laurie's status rating. "Confused" brings her positive status and power ratings as a sweetheart down to the neutral and negative numbers.

Now that the situation and characters are well-defined, here are the important events in a simplified form and their interpretations.


My impression of this action is both Calvin and Laurie felt good about kissing each other. The Interact interpretation of the kiss is similar to my interpretation, though more complete.

The likelihood of Calvin kissing Laurie is high, with a low deflection number of 2.8. This comes as no surprise, for Calvin sees himself as a good boyfriend and kissing his girlfriend is a normal expected action of a good boyfriend.

The likelihood of Laurie kissing Calvin is also high, though slightly lower, with a deflection number of 4.3. This makes sense, for although Laurie is Calvin's girlfriend and thus is expected to kiss him, she is also confused. Her confusion might make her a little more hesitant about kissing Calvin. Interact says that Calvin feels quite good (1.8) about the kiss, slightly powerful (.9), and slightly active (1.1). Further describing his feelings Interact says that after the kiss Calvin felt: in love, affectionate, cheerful, pleased, relieved, contented, warm, and charmed.

"Relieved" is interesting, for at first glance it does not seem to fit in with the other descriptions. However, it does fit. Laurie is confused about the relationship. The kiss thus becomes Laurie's confirmation to Calvin that the relationship is okay at this point. His own anxiety about Laurie's confusion is relieved by the kiss. This agrees with the theory that people act certain ways to confirm or deny identities.

For Laurie, the Interact analysis of the kiss is a little more complicated. If Laurie kissed Calvin, then she felt quite good, somewhat powerful, and active. (1.8 .4 .8). She probably felt affectionate, compassionate, kind, warm, and cheerful.

However, if Calvin kissed Laurie, she does not feel as good or powerful.(.6 - .2 .9) She may feel touched, moved, satisfied, contented, glad. The second set of numbers and emotions express positive emotions about the kiss, but they are not as strong as the first set.

I think the difference here goes back to the idea of power. When Calvin kissed Laurie, he had taken all the power. This would make Laurie feel powerless ( - .2), and probably add to her confusion. Her increased confusion thus caused her to view the kiss, usually a very good experience (1.8), almost neutrally (.6).

For both Calvin (6.6) and Laurie (11.9) this action is not highly likely, though even more unlikely from Laurie's viewpoint. She doesn't expect a good boyfriend to leave her. His departure would not confirm his role as a good boyfriend.

Calvin was aware of the fact that it was out-of-face for him to leave his girlfriend. When he left, he was unsure about his action. He told Laurie that he wouldn't go out with his friends if she didn't want him to, but she told him to go. Thus when Calvin left, according to Interact, he felt ( - .1 .5 1.2) nervous, impatient, tense. And he did express his nervousness about leaving.

It's difficult to say what Laurie felt when Calvin left. She told him to go, but that doesn't necessarily mean she wanted him to go. At the least, she probably did not expect that Calvin would actually leave.

Interact says that Laurie probably felt (.9 - .6 .5) humble, overwhelmed, melancholy, sentimental, anxious. and in fact, Laurie did exhibit some expression of those emotions. Sentimental - she reminisced back to the first few weeks she and Calvin started dating, and she recalled other guys she had dated. She also displayed nervousness. The fact that she could not decide what to do next could have been a result of her feeling overwhelmed.

This act is even more unlikely for a sweetheart to do (14.5). When she left, she gave the impression that she was scared and confused. She wasn't really sure that she should leave, but also wasn't really sure that she should wait.

Interact says that when she left, Laurie felt ( - .2 - .3 .7) shook up, embarrassed, afraid, uneasy, frustrated, scared, and it did indeed seem as if she was feeling several of those emotions. Scared. Frustrated as she couldn't decide what to do. Uneasy as she finally did decide, but still wasn't sure about it. Embarrassed - it doesn't seem to fit the situation; however perhaps Laurie felt embarrassed to be so indecisive in front of another person.

Perhaps she felt out-of-face. She was Calvin's girlfriend, but somewhere she was uncomfortable with or confused about that role. And although she was uncomfortable with the "girlfriend" identity, she probably did not know what identity to take in its place. "Should a person sense she is in the wrong face or out-of-face, she is likely to feel ashamed and inferior." (Goffman, p,. 8). Calvin's actual response to Laurie's departure was anger. Interact says Calvin felt ( - .2 - .1 .9) terrified, petrified, insecure, horrified, frightened, embarrassed and afraid. The strongest emotion he was feeling according to Interact was fear, perhaps intense fear. However, I did not sense fear, nor did he say at that time or later that he was afraid.

Yet I do believe that he probably was feeling afraid. His girlfriend left even though he thought he was a good boyfriend. Where did that leave him? The idea that he might be losing his "boyfriend" status and identity could have scared the hell out of him.

So why didn't he display any fear when he got home? Why only anger? It may be that in our society men are allowed to display only certain "acceptable" emotions, based on feeling rules - "the social guidelines that direct how we want to try to feel." (Hochschild, p. 563). Anger, which Calvin displayed is "acceptable". Fear, which he probably was feeling but did not display is "unacceptable". So, to some extent, his angry response was actually a cover-up for the fear he was feeling, though I do believe he was also feeling anger.


Laurie left Calvin. A direct consequence of her departure was that Calvin felt upset. According to the deflection numbers (11.8 from Calvin's viewpoint and 18.1 from Laurie's viewpoint) it is highly unlikely that a sweetheart, even a confused sweetheart, would upset a good boyfriend.

At this point, Calvin felt ( - .3 - .5 .6) cowardly, insecure, petrified, terrified, afraid, crushed all very similar to how he felt after learning Laurie left.

So, now Laurie and Calvin, the confused sweetheart and the good boyfriend, have kissed each other, left each other and upset or been upset by one another. At this point a reidentification occurred.

The high status ratings that they each originally felt for each other are gone. Calvin used to see Laurie as: 0.3 0.2 1.0. He now sees her as 1.4 .6 .7 or as an undescribable (3.9 .3 - .4) sweetheart. Laurie used to see Calvin as 2.2 1.7 1.4. She now sees him as 1.0 .5 3.2 or as an undescribable (2.6 1.5 2.7) boyfriend.

Notice the drastic decreases in the evaluation numbers for Laurie and Calvin. With such negative numbers it's obvious that they no longer consider themselves boyfriend and sweetheart. It would be impossible for them to be in a romantic love relationship any more when neither gives the other high status. "In the case of mutual status loss, the relationship can no longer be called love." (Kemper, p 193).

Then what can it be called? What's left is power, and the relationship dwindles down to a series of power exchanges. "We are dealing with another form of relationship in which power not status is the pivotal variable." (Kemper, p. 196).

Calvin took power when he left Laurie. Laurie took back her power when she left Calvin. Calvin regained his power when he later broke up with Laurie. These power exchanges only continue to lessen the status of each participant. "If the relationship continues as a series of power exchanges, status-conferral is less and less possible or likely. Men and women do not like power to be used against them. " (Kemper, p. 196)

Calvin and Laurie continue their relationship as a series of power exchanges until finally their original relationship of boyfriend and sweetheart is gone.

Goffman, Erving. "Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior".
Hochschild, Arlie Russell. "Emotion Work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure".
Kemper, Theodore D. "Power, Status, Love".




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