Recently, a bombshell was dropped on 90s sitcom fans about one of their favorite TV couples: Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski. Peter Engel, executive producer of Saved by the Bell, said of the classic couple, “Well, they’d be married — but not to each other.” Fans’ hearts collectively broke after this news hit. I mean, the couple survived Kelly’s romantic tryst with Jeff, her hunky college boyfriend who temporarily managed the Max, the distance put between them during the beginning of college before Kelly transferred to Cal U, and her relationship with their college professor, Jeremiah Lasky. Despite these challenges, Zack was persistent and eventually won Kelly’s heart and hand in marriage. So why would Peter Engel suggest that these two wouldn’t make it? After weathering all of those other storms, why wouldn’t they be able to make their marriage work? The answer may lie in how they got together in the first place.
In a previous article, I discussed a series of studies conducted in the 1970s in which researchers1 examined whether playing hard to get makes a woman more or less attractive. Results of the study demonstrated that there are at least two components that determine how much a man will like a woman. The first component is how hard or easy she is for him to get; the second is how hard or easy she is for other men to obtain. The perfect combination is a woman who is perceived as hard to get for everyone else, but not so hard for the one doing the pursuing to get. Specifically, they found that “If a woman has a reputation for being hard to get, but for some reason she is easy for the subject to get, she should be maximally appealing.”2 This scenario is the exact opposite of the situation we saw between Kelly and Zack. Specifically, she dated several men while in the presence of Zack and often rebuffed his advances. Perhaps Zack was so used to chasing Kelly that once he had an opportunity with her, he took it. He may have entered into a relationship with her, before realizing how painful watching her romantic liaisons with others throughout their lives was to him. It’s no wonder Peter Engel commented on the demise of their relationship, as it was off to a rocky start from the very beginning.
2Walster, E., Walster, G. W., Piliavin, J., & Schmidt, L. (1973). 'Playing hard to get': Understanding an elusive phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26(1), 113-121. doi:10.1037/h0034234
Dr. Marisa Cohen
Marisa, along with a colleague at St. Francis College, founded the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab (SABL) in Fall 2014. Research has focused on the development of relationships throughout the life span, including factors influencing mate choice and peoples’ perceptions of what makes relationships survive and thrive. Her specific focus is on how various relationship configurations impact the satisfaction derived from them.