Sex Roles

, Volume 76, Issue 1–2, pp 99–109 | Cite as

The Dark Side of Heterosexual Romance: Endorsement of Romantic Beliefs Relates to Intimate Partner Violence

  • Leanna J. Papp
  • Miriam LissEmail author
  • Mindy J. Erchull
  • Hester Godfrey
  • Lauren Waaland-Kreutzer
Original Article


Romance and control are often conflated by the media, and individuals may believe that certain controlling or jealous behaviors by men toward women are romantic and can be a sign of love and commitment in heterosexual relationships. The current study explored three types of romantic beliefs among women: endorsement of the ideology of romanticism, highly valuing romantic relationships, and the belief that jealousy is good. The goal was to determine whether these beliefs would be related to finding controlling behaviors romantic as well as to reported experiences of both physical and psychological intimate partner violence (IPV). We surveyed 275 heterosexual-identified women, aged 18 to 50, and measured their endorsement of romantic beliefs, the extent to which they romanticized controlling behavior, and experiences of physical and psychological abuse within their current or most recent romantic relationship. Romantic beliefs were related to romanticizing controlling behaviors, which, in turn, was related to experiences of IPV. There was also a significant indirect relationship between romantic beliefs and experiences of IPV. The data indicate that seemingly positive romantic ideologies can have insidious negative effects. Findings may be useful for clinicians and those who advocate for prevention of IPV as they illustrate a need to refocus traditional ideas of healthy relationships at the societal level.


Intimate partner violence Jealousy Romantic beliefs Mate-retention behaviors Physical abuse Psychological abuse 


  1. Abelson, R. P. (1981). Psychological status of the script concept. American Psychology, 36, 715–729. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.36.7.715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, M. A., Gillig, P. M., Sitaker, M., McCloskey, K., Malloy, K., & Grigsby, N. (2003). “Why doesn’t she just leave?”: A descriptive study of victim reported impediments to her safety. Journal of Family Violence, 18, 151–155. doi: 10.1023/A:1023564404773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnocky, S., Sunderani, S., Gomes, W., & Vaillancourt, T. (2015). Anticipated partner infidelity and men’s intimate partner violence: The mediating role of anxiety. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 9, 186–196. doi: 10.1037/ebs0000021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Babcock, J. C., Costa, D. M., Green, C. E., & Eckhardt, C. I. (2004). What situations induce intimate partner violence? A reliability and validity study of the Proximal Antecedents to Violent Episodes (PAVE) Scale. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 433–442. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.18.3.433.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Backus, F. R., & Mahalik, J. R. (2011). The masculinity of Mr. Right: Feminist identity and heterosexual women’s ideal romantic partners. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 318–326. doi: 10.1177/0361684310392357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baker, C. K. (2016). What role do peers play in adolescent dating? Insights from adolescents with a history of dating violence. Violence Against Women . doi: 10.1177/1077801216638769. Advance online publication
  7. Barelds, D. P. H., & Barelds-Dijkstra, P. (2007). Love at first sight or friends first? Ties among partner personality trait similarity, relationship onset, relationship quality, and love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 479–496. doi: 10.1177/0265407507079235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2010). Jealousy and romantic love. In S. L. Hart & M. Legerstee (Eds.), Handbook of jealousy: Theory, research, and multidisciplinary approaches (pp. 40–54). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781444323542.ch3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., et al. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 summary report. Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Google Scholar
  10. Bonomi, A. E., Altenburger, L. E., & Walton, N. L. (2013). “Double crap!” Abuse and harmed identity in Fifty Shades of Grey. Journal of Women's Health, 22, 733–744. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2013.4344.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon's Mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 3–5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Buss, D. M. (1988). From vigilance to violence: Tactics of mate retention in American undergraduates. Ethology and Sociobiology, 9, 291–317. doi: 10.1016/0162-3095(88)90010-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Buss, D. M. (2000). The dangerous passion: Why jealousy is as necessary as love and sex. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  14. Buss, D. M., Shackelford, T. K., & McKibbin, W. F. (2008). The Mate Retention Inventory-Short Form (MRI-SF). Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 322–334. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.08.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Buunk, B. P. (1991). Jealousy in close relationships: An exchange theoretical perspective. In P. Salovey (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on jealousy and envy (pp. 148–177). New York: Guilford Publications.Google Scholar
  16. Caldwell, J. E., Swan, S. C., Allen, C. T., Sullivan, T. P., & Snow, D. L. (2009). Why I hit him: Women’s reasons for intimate partner violence. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 18, 672–697. doi: 10.1080/10926770903231783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Casler, K., Bickel, L., & Hackett, E. (2013). Separate but equal? A comparison of participants and data gathered via Amazon’s MTurk, social media, and face-to-face behavioral testing. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 2156–2160. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.05.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chung, D. (2005). Violence, control, romance and gender equality: Young women and heterosexual relationships. Women’s Studies International Forum, 28, 445–455. doi: 10.1016/j.wsif.2005.09.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Collins, V. E., & Carmody, D. C. (2011). Deadly love: Images of dating violence in the “Twilight Saga.” Journal of Women and Social Work, 26, 382–394. doi: 10.1177/0886109911428425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Daly, M., Wilson, M., & Weghorst, S. J. (1982). Male sexual jealousy. Ethology and Sociobiology, 3, 11–27. doi: 10.1016/0162-3095(82)90027-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Deller, R. A., & Smith, C. (2013). Reading the BDSM romance: Reader responses to Fifty Shades. Sexualities, 16, 932–950. doi: 10.1177/1363460713508882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Donovan, C., & Hester, M. (2010). ‘I hate the word “victim’”: An exploration of recognition of domestic violence in same sex relationships. Social Policy and Society, 9, 279–289. doi: 10.1017/S1474746409990406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Erchull, M. J., Liss, M., Axelson, S. J., Staebell, S. E., & Askari, S. F. (2010). Well... she wants it more: Perceptions of social norms about desires for marriage and children and anticipated chore participation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 253–260. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2010.01566.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Felmlee, D. H. (2001). From appealing to appalling: Disenchantment with a romantic partner. Sociological Perspectives, 44, 263–280. doi: 10.1525/sop.2001.44.3.263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foran, H. M., & O’Leary, K. D. (2008). Problem drinking, jealousy and anger control: Variables predicting physical aggression against a partner. Journal of Family Violence, 23, 141–148. doi: 10.1007/s10896-007-9136-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fraser, H. (2005). Women, love, and intimacy “gone wrong”: Fire, wind, and ice. Affilia, 20, 10–20. doi: 10.1177/0886109904272094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frieze, I. H., & McHugh, M. C. (1992). Power and influence strategies in violent and nonviolent marriages. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16, 449–465. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1992.tb00268.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gagnon, J. (1977). Human sexualities. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.Google Scholar
  29. García-Moreno, C., Jansen, H. A. F. M., Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., & Watts, C. (2005). WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women: Initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses. Retrieved from
  30. Goodman, J. K., Cryder, C. E., & Cheema, A. (2012). Data collection in a flat world: The strengths and weaknesses of Mechanical Turk samples. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 26, 213–224. doi: 10.1002/bdm.1753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Graham-Kevan, N., & Archer, J. (2009). Control tactics and partner violence in heterosexual relationships. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30, 445–452. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.06.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hartwell, L. P., Humphries, T. M., Erchull, M. J., & Liss, M. (2015). The development and validation of the Jealousy is Good Scale. Gender Issues, 32, 245–265. doi: 10.1007/s12147-015-9141-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hayes, S. (2014). Sex, love and abuse: Discourses on domestic violence and sexual assault. Bassingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hayes, S., & Jeffries, S. (2013). Why do they keep going back? Exploring women’s discursive experiences of intimate partner violence. International Journal of Criminology and Sociology, 2, 57–71.Google Scholar
  35. Hellmuth, J. C., Gordon, K. C., Stuart, G. L., & Moore, T. M. (2012). Risk factors for intimate partner violence during pregnancy and postpartum. Archive of Women’s Mental Health, 16, 19–27. doi: 10.1007/s00737-012-0309-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Henderson, A. J., Bartholomew, K., Trinke, S. J., & Kwong, M. J. (2005). When loving means hurting: An exploration of attachment and intimate abuse in a community sample. Journal of Family Violence, 20, 219–230. doi: 10.1007/s10896-005-5985-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55. doi: 10.1080/10705519909540118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jackson, S. (2001). Happily never after: Young women’s stories of abuse in heterosexual love relationships. Feminism & Psychology, 11, 305–321. doi: 10.1177/0959353501011003004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jewkes, R. K., Dunkle, K., Nduna, M., & Shai, N. (2010). Intimate partner violence, relationship power inequity, and incidence of HIV infection in young women in South Africa: A cohort study. The Lancet, 376(9734), 41–48. doi: 10.1016/S0140- 6736(10)60548-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kaighobadi, F., Starratt, V. G., Shackelford, T. K., & Popp, D. (2008). Male mate retention mediates the relationship between female sexual infidelity and female-directed violence. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1422–1431. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.12.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kaighobadi, F., Shackelford, T. K., & Goetz, A. T. (2009). From mate retention to murder: Evolutionary psychological perspectives on men’s partner-directed violence. Review of General Psychology, 13, 327–334. doi: 10.1037/a0017254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mahalik, J. R., Locke, B. D., Ludlow, L. H., Diemer, M. A., Scott, R. P. J., Gottfried, M., & Freitas, G. (2003). Development of the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 4, 3–25. doi: 10.1037/1524-9220.4.1.3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mahalik, J. R., Morray, E. B., Coonerty-Femiano, A., Ludlow, H. L., Slattery, S. M., & Smiler, A. (2005). Development of the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory. Sex Roles, 52, 417–435. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-3709-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McCarry, M. (2010). Becoming a ‘proper man’: Young people’s attitudes about interpersonal violence and perceptions of gender. Gender and Education, 22, 17–30. doi: 10.1080/09540250902749083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mouton, C. P. (2003). Intimate partner violence and health status among older women. Violence Against Women, 9, 1465–1477. doi: 10.1177/1077801203259238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2010). Mplus user’s guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  47. Neufeld, J., McNamara, J. R., & Ertl, M. (1999). Incidence and prevalence of dating partner abuse and its relationship to dating practices. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 125–137. doi: 10.1177/088626099014002002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. O’Leary, K. D., Slep, A. M., & O’Leary, S. G. (2007). Multivariate models of men’s and women’s partner aggression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 752–764. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.5.752.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Power, C., Koch, T., Kralik, D., & Jackson, D. (2006). Lovestruck: Women, romantic love and intimate partner violence. Contemporary Nurse: A Journal for the Nursing Profession, 21, 174–185. doi: 10.5172/conu.2006.21.2.174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Puente, S., & Cohen, D. (2003). Jealousy and the meaning (or nonmeaning) of violence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 449–460. doi: 10.1177/0146167202250912.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Rose, S. (2000). Heterosexism and the study of women’s romantic relationships. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 315–328. doi: 10.1111/0022-4537.00168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rose, S., & Frieze, I. H. (1989). Young singles’ scripts for a first date. Gender & Society, 3, 258–268. doi: 10.1177/089124389003002006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rudman, L. A., & Heppen, J. B. (2003). Implicit romantic fantasies and women’s interest in personal power: A glass slipper effect? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1357–1370. doi: 10.1177/0146167203256906.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Schank, R. C., & Abelson, R. P. (1977). Scripts, plans, goals, and understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  55. Schreiber, J. B., Stage, F. K., King, J., Nora, A., & Barlow, E. A. (2006). Reporting structural equation modeling and confirmatory factor analysis results: A review. The Journal of Educational Research, 99, 323–327. doi: 10.3200/JOER.99.6.323-338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shackelford, T. K., Goetz, A. T., Buss, D. M., Euler, H. A., & Hoier, S. (2005). When we hurt the ones we love: Predicting violence against women from men’s mate retention. Personal Relationships, 12, 447–463. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.2005.00125.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shepard, M. F., & Campbell, J. A. (1992). The Abusive Behavior Inventory: A measure of psychological and physical abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 291–305. doi: 10.1177/088626092007003001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Slep, A. M. S., Cascardi, M., Avery-Leaf, S., & O’Leary, K. D. (2001). Two new measured of attitudes about the acceptability of teen dating aggression. Psychological Assessment, 13, 306–318. doi: 10.1037//1040-3590.I3.3.306.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Smith, R. M., Parrott, D. J., Swartout, K. M., & Tharp, A. T. (2015). Deconstructing hegemonic masculinity: The roles of antifemininity, subordination to women, and sexual dominance in men’s perpetration of sexual aggression. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16, 160–169. doi: 10.1037/a0035956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sprecher, S., & Metts, S. (1989). Development of the ‘Romantic Beliefs Scale’ and examination of the effects of gender and gender-role orientation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6, 387–411. doi: 10.1177/0265407589064001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sprecher, S., Schmeeckle, M., & Felmlee, D. (2006). The principle of least interest: Inequality in emotional involvement in romantic relationships. Journal of Family Issues, 27, 1255–1280. doi: 10.1177/0192513X06289215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Strachan, C. E., & Dutton, D. G. (1992). The role of power and gender in anger responses to sexual jealousy. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22, 1721–1740. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1992.tb00973.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tomkins, S. S. (1978). Script theory: Differential magnification of affects. In H. E. Howe Jr. & R. A. Dienstbier (Eds.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 26, pp. 201–236). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  64. U.S. Department of Justice (2000). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office Retrieved from Scholar
  65. Vandello, J. A., & Cohen, D. (2008). Culture, gender, and men’s intimate partner violence. Social and Personality Compass, 2, 652–667. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2008.00080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Waller, W. (1938). The family: A dynamic interpretation. Oxford, UK: Cordon.Google Scholar
  67. Wood, J. T. (2001). The normalization of violence in heterosexual romantic relationship: Women’s narratives of love and violence. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 18, 239–261. doi: 10.1177/0265407501182005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zink, T., Fisher, B. S., Regan, S., & Pabst, S. (2005). The prevalence and incidence of intimate partner violence in older women in primary care practices. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 20, 884–888. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.0191.x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leanna J. Papp
    • 1
  • Miriam Liss
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mindy J. Erchull
    • 1
  • Hester Godfrey
    • 1
  • Lauren Waaland-Kreutzer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological ScienceUniversity of Mary WashingtonFredericksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations