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Interpersonal Relationships

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Establishing a close relationship with another person appears to be one of the major contributors to happiness.
This chapter first distinguishes between interpersonal relationships and impersonal ones. Basically, what makes a relationship interpersonal is interdependency, since in impersonal relationships the communicators are independent. Furthermore, in impersonal relationships, the social role of the person governs, whereas in personal interactions the psychological uniqueness of each person leads the communication. This psychological data characterizes interpersonal relationships. Second comes the explanatory knowledge, where a person becomes able to predict and explain the other’s behavior rather than just describing it. The third factor is the personally established rules stating that interpersonal relationships should go beyond rules of interactions set by social norms, to rules set by the communicators themselves.
Adding to those differences, the author sheds light on relationships’ benefits and inconveniences in general. Some improvements are that interpersonal affiliations help alleviate loneliness, gain self-knowledge, enhance self-esteem, maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Some of the drawbacks is that those connections put pressure on the partners to reveal themselves, impose significant financial, emotional and temporal obligations. It may also lead to isolation from former friends and present difficulties in dissolving.
Next, the chapter discusses a stage model for relationships, providing a general description of their development. It mainly applies in face-to-face relationships.
1-Contact: it is somewhat a perceptual contact, where one forms a physical and a mental picture of the other, and then initiates an interactional contact through exchanging basic and superficial information and impressions.
2-Involvement: one mutually connects with the other by trying to learn more about him/her. It starts with a testing phase to prove your previous judgments right or wrong. Then goes to reveal oneself in order to intensify the relationship.
3-Intimacy: commitment takes place; the other person becomes the closest companion. Interpersonal commitment is a private one, however the social bonding is when the commitment is made public. The lifetime partnership decided upon in this stage involves three anxieties: security (worries about unfaithfulness), fulfillment (worries about not having an equal relationship) and excitement anxiety (worries about routine and lack of freedom).
4-Deterioration: it is the weakening if the bonds due to intrapersonal dissatisfaction leading to interpersonal deterioration when the two mates grow farther away. The breadth (number of topics relevant to discuss) and depth (degree of personalness) reverse themselves, and conflicts become more common and difficult to resolve.
5-Repair: some partners may try to repair their relationships after deterioration. At first, an intrapersonal repair is needed to analyze what went wrong, and then discuss it with the companion in interpersonal repair. The couple ought to negotiate new agreements and behaviors.
6-Dissolution: here, the bonds are definitely broken. Each begins to manage a separate life, either alone or with someone else, it is an interpersonal separation. Then the separation becomes publicly known once it officially fails every repair.
It is important to note the following:
- The model is certainly not the only way to look at relationships.
- All relationships can be defined by opposite desires that influence the movement from one stage to another. (autonomy vs connection, novelty vs predictability, closeness vs openness)
- Each stage offers the opportunity to exit the relationship.
- Movement through each stage is a gradual process.
- Movement from one stage to another largely depends on the communication skills a person has.
Moreover, culture and technology affect or even govern relationships.
In some cultures, the lifetime partner is chosen by the parents, to satisfy certain family interests. This shows how culture influences the relationship’s purposes and values. It also sets rules for the rights to end a relationship. (Catholicism for example forbids divorce once there are children) and it shapes principles towards accepting or not same-sex unions.
As for technology, it has now assumed a major role in developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Nonetheless, online relationships have advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, they are safe, they are based on the person’s personality instead of the looks, self disclosure is mainly the road to intimacy, they prone trust and honesty and are an efficient tool for shy people and people with disfigurements to establish relationships. On the other hand, the Net obviously gives opportunity to lie and share unauthentic information, a whole fake identity can easily be made up.

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