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Interpersonal relationships are social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. They vary in differing levels of intimacy and sharing, implying the discovery or establishment of common ground, and may be centered around something(s) shared in common. The study of relationships is of concern to sociology, psychology and anthropology.


Types of interpersonal relationshipsEdit

Main article: Types of interpersonal relationships
  • Kinship relationships, including family relationships, being related to someone else by blood (consanguinity), e.g. fatherhood, motherhood; or through marriage (affinity), e.g. father-in-law, mother-in-law, uncle by marriage, aunt by marriage.
  • Formalized intimate relationships or long term relationships through law and public ceremony, e.g. marriage and civil union.
  • Non-formalized intimate relationships or long term relationships such as loving relationships or romantic relationships with or without living together; the other person is often called lover, boyfriend or girlfriend (not to be confused with just a male or female friend), or significant other. If the partners live together, the relationship may be similar to marriage, and the other person may be called husband or wife. In Scottish law they are so regarded by common law after a time. Long term relationships in other countries are often erroneously called common law marriages, although they have no special status in law. Mistress is a somewhat old fashioned term for a female lover of a man who is married to another woman, or of an unmarried man. She may even be an official mistress (in French maîtresse en titre); an example is Madame de Pompadour.
  • Soulmates, individuals who are intimately drawn to one another through a favorable meeting of the minds and who find mutual acceptance and understanding with one another. Soulmates may feel themselves bonded together for a lifetime; and, hence, they may be sexual partners but not necessarily.
  • Casual relationships, relationships extending beyond one night stands that exclusively consist of sexual behavior, the participants of which may be known as friends with benefits when limited to considering sexual intercourse or sexual partners in a wider sense.
  • Platonic love is an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise.
  • Friendship, which consists of mutual love, trust, respect, and unconditional acceptance, and usually implies the discovery or establishment of common ground between the individuals involved; see also internet friendship and pen pal.
  • Brotherhood and sisterhood, individuals united in a common cause or having a common interest, which may involve formal membership in a club, organization, association, society, lodge, fraternity or sorority. This type of interpersonal relationship also includes the comradeship of fellow soldiers in peace or war.
  • Partners or coworkers in a profession, business, or a common workplace.
  • Participation in a community, for example, a community of interest or practice.
  • Association, simply being introduced to someone or knowing who they are by interaction.

Stages of formation Edit

1) Contact:

a) Uncertainty reduction - through eye contact, identification, opening disclosure, etc.
b) Perceptual - notice how a person looks at the other and their body language.
c) Interactional cues - nodding, maintaining eye contact, etc.
d) Invitational - encouraging the relationship (e.g. asking if they want to meet up later for coffee)
e) Avoidance strategies - if one person discloses and the other does not, minimal response, lack of eye contact, etc.

2) Involvement

a) Feelers - hints or questions (ex. asking about family)
b) Intensifying strategies - further the relationship (ex. meeting old friend, bringing the other to meet family, becoming more affectionate, etc.)
c) Public - seen in public together often (ex. if in a romantic relationship, may be holding hands)

3) Intimacy -very close, may have exchanged some sort of personal belonging or something that represents further commitment. (ex. may be a promise ring in a romantic relationship or a friendship necklace symbolizing two people are best friends)

4) Deterioration - things start to fall apart. In a romantic relationship, typically after approximately six months, people are out of what is sometimes referred to as the "honeymoon stage", NRE, or limerance and start to notice flaws. The way this is dealt with determines the fate of the relationship.

Development Edit

Interpersonal relationships are dynamic systems that change continuously during their existence. Like living organisms, relationships have a beginning, a lifespan, and an end. They tend to grow and improve gradually, as people get to know each other and become closer emotionally, or they gradually deteriorate as people drift apart, move on with their lives and form new relationships with others. One of the most influential models of relationship development was proposed by psychologist George Levinger.[1] This model was formulated to describe heterosexual, adult romantic relationships, but it has been applied to other kinds of interpersonal relations as well. According to the model, the natural development of a relationship follows five stages:

  1. Acquaintance - Becoming acquainted depends on previous relationships, physical proximity, first impressions, and a variety of other factors. If two people begin to like each other, continued interactions may lead to the next stage, but acquaintance can continue indefinitely.
  2. Buildup - During this stage, people begin to trust and care about each other. The need for compatibility and such filtering agents as common background and goals will influence whether or not interaction continues.
  3. Continuation - This stage follows a mutual commitment to a long term friendship, romantic relationship, or marriage. It is generally a long, relative stable period. Nevertheless, continued growth and development will occur during this time. Mutual trust is important for sustaining the relationship.
  4. Deterioration - Not all relationships deteriorate, but those that do, tend to show signs of trouble. Boredom, resentment, and dissatisfaction may occur, and individuals may communicate less and avoid self-disclosure. Loss of trust and betrayals may take place as the downward spiral continues.
  5. Termination - The final stage marks the end of the relationship, either by death in the case of a healthy relationship, or by separation.

Friendships may involve some degree of transitivity. In other words, a person may become a friend of an existing friend's friend. However, if two people have a sexual relationship with the same person, they may become competitors rather than friends. Accordingly, sexual behavior with the sexual partner of a friend may damage the friendship (see love triangle). Sexual relations between two friends tend to alter that relationship, either by "taking it to the next level" or by severing it. Sexual partners may also be classified as friends and the sexual relationship may either enhance or depreciate the friendship.

Legal sanction reinforces and regularizes marriages and civil unions as perceived "respectable" building-blocks of society. In the United States of America, for example, the de-criminalization of homosexual sexual relations in the Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas (2003) facilitated the mainstreaming of gay long-term relationships, and broached the possibility of the legalization of same-sex marriages in that country.

Factors Edit

The discovery or establishment of common ground between individuals is a fundamental component for enduring interpersonal relationships. Loss of common ground, which may happen over time, may tend to end interpersonal relationships.

For each relationship type, essential skills are needed, and without these skills more advanced relationships are not possible. Systemic coaching advocates a hierarchy of relationships, from friendship to global order. Expertise in each relationship type (in this hierarchy) requires the skills of all previous relationship types. (For example partnership requires friendship and teamwork skills).

Interpersonal relationships through consanguinity and affinity can persist despite the absence of love, affection, or common ground. When these relationships are in prohibited degrees, sexual intimacy in them would be the taboo of incest.

Marriage and civil union are relationships reinforced and regularized by their legal sanction to be "respectable" building blocks of society. In the United States the de-criminalization of homosexual sexual relations in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas (2003) facilitated the "mainstreaming" of gay long term relationships, and broached the possibility of the legalization of same-sex marriages in that country.

In intimate relationships there is often, but not always, an implicit or explicit agreement that the partners will not have sex with someone else - monogamy. The extent to which physical intimacy with other people is accepted may vary. For example, a husband may be more receptive to his wife being physically affectionate with her female friend if she has one, other than with her male friend (see also jealousy).

In friendship there is some transitivity: one may become a friend of an existing friend's friend. However, if two people have a sexual relationship with the same person, they may be competitors rather than friends. Accordingly, sexual behavior with the sexual partner of a friend may damage the friendship. See love triangle.

Sexual relations between two friends may alter that relationship by either "taking it to the next level" or severing it. Sexual partners may also be friends: the sexual relationship may either enhance or depreciate the friendship.

The rise of popular psychology has led to an explosion of concern about one's interpersonal relationships (often simply called: "relationships"). Intimate relationships receive particular attention in this context, but Sociology recognises many other interpersonal links of greater or less duration and/or significance.

Relationships are not necessarily healthy. Unhealthy examples include abusive relationships and codependence.

Sociologists recognize a hierarchy of forms of activity and interpersonal relations, which divides them into: behavior, action, social behavior, social action, social contact, social interaction and finally social relation.

TheoriesEdit

  • Social psychology has several approaches to the subject of interpersonal relationships, among them closure and also trust, as trust between parties can be mutual. This may lead to enduring relationships.
  • Social exchange theory interprets relationships in terms of exchanged benefits. The way people feel about relationships will be influenced by the rewards of the relationship, as well as rewards they may potentially receive in alternate relationships.
  • Systemic coaching analyzes relationships as expressions of our human need to love and be loved. Relationships can be confused by transferences, entanglements and substitution. Systemic coaching offers solutions for many relationship difficulties.
  • Equity theory is based on criticism of social exchange theory. Proponents argue that people care more than just maximizing rewards, they also want fairness and equity in their relationships.
  • Relational dialectics is based on the idea that a relationship is not a static entity. Instead, a relationship is a continuing process, always changing. There is constant tension as three main issues are negotiated: autonomy vs. connection, novelty vs. predictability, and openness vs. closedness.
  • Attachment styles are a completely different way of analyzing relationships. Proponents of this view argue that attachment styles developed in childhood continue to be influential throughout adulthood, influencing the roles people take on in relationships.

JournalsEdit

See alsoEdit

Main list: List of basic relationship topics

ReferencesEdit

  1. Levinger, G. (1983). Development and change. In H. H. Kelley, et al. (Eds.), Close relationships. (pp. 315-359). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.

External linksEdit

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