An interpersonal relationship is a strong, deep, or close association or acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring. This association may be based on inference, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships are formed in the context of social, cultural and other influences. The context can vary from family or kinship relations,friendship, marriage, relations with associates, work,clubs, neighborhoods, and places of worship. They may be regulated by law, custom, or mutual agreement, and are the basis of social groups and society as a whole.
Need to belong
- Acquaintance and Acquaintanceship – 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. Another example is association.
- Buildup – During this stage, people begin to trust and care about each other. The need for intimacy, compatibility and such filtering agents as common background and goals will influence whether or not interaction continues.
- Continuation – This stage follows a mutual commitment to quite a strong and close long-term friendships, romantic relationship, or even 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.
- 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, eventually ending the relationship. (Alternately, the participants may find some way to resolve the problems and reestablish trust and belief in others.)
- Termination – The final stage marks the end of the relationship, either by breakups, death, or by spatial separation for quite some time and severing all existing ties of either friendship or romantic love.
- Verbal Communication - What we say and how we say it.
- Nonverbal Communication - What we communicate without words, body language is an example.
- Listening Skills - How we interpret both the verbal and non-verbal messages sent by others.
- Negotiation - Working with others to find a mutually agreeable outcome.
- Problem Solving - Working with others to identify, define and solve problems.
- Decision Making – Exploring and analysing options to make sound decisions.
- Assertiveness – Communicating our values, ideas, beliefs, opinions, needs and wants freely.
Flourishing, budding, blooming, blossoming relationships
Adult attachment and attachment theory
- Attraction Premeditated or automatic, attraction can occur between acquaintances, coworkers, lovers, etc., be based on sexual arousal, intellectual stimulation, or respect. Studies have shown that attraction can be susceptible to influence based on context and externally induced arousal, with the caveat that participants be unaware of the source of their arousal. A study by Cantor, J. R., Bryant, J., & Zillmann, D. (1975), induced arousal through physical exercise and found that participants rated erotic pictures highly 4 min post-exercise (when no longer realized aroused by exercise) than either immediately after (when arousal and awareness were greater) or 10 minutes later (when exercise-induced arousal had dissipated). As supported by a series of studies, Zillman and colleagues showed that a preexisting state of arousal can heighten reactions to affective stimuli. A classic study by Dutton & Aron (1974) showed that fear arousal from suspension bridges leads to higher attraction ratings by males of a female confederate.
- Initiation There are several catalysts in the initiation of a new relationship. One commonly studied factor is physical proximity (also known as propinquity). The MIT Westgate studies famously showed that greater physical proximity between incoming students in a university residential hall led to greater relationship initiation. More specifically, only 10% of those living on opposite ends of Westgate West considered each other friends while more than 40% of those living in adjacent apartments considered each other friends. The theory behind this effect is that proximity facilitates chance encounters, which lead to initiation of new relationships. This is closely related to the mere exposure effect, which states that the more an individual is exposed to a person or object, the more s/he likes it. Another important factor in the initiation of new relationships is similarity. Put simply, individuals tend to be attracted to and start new relationships with those who are similar to them. These similarities can include beliefs, rules, interests, culture, education, etc. Individuals seek relationships with like others because like others are most likely to validate shared beliefs and perspectives, thus facilitating interactions that are positive, rewarding and without conflict.
- Development Development of interpersonal relationships can be further split into committed versus non-committed romantic relationships, which have different behavioral characteristics. In a study by Miguel & Buss (2011), men and women were found to differ in a variety of mate-retention strategies depending on whether their romantic relationships were committed or not. More committed relationships by both genders were characterized by greater resource display, appearance enhancement, love and care, and verbal signs of possession. In contrast, less committed relationships by both genders were characterized by greater jealousy induction. In terms of gender differences, men used greater resource display than women, who used more appearance enhancement as a mate-retention strategy than men.
- Sustaining vs. Terminating After a relationship has had time to develop, it enters into a phase where it will be sustained if it is not otherwise terminated. Some important qualities of strong, enduring relationships include emotional understanding and effective communication between partners. Research has also shown that idealization of one’s partner is linked to stronger interpersonal bonds. Idealization is the pattern of overestimating a romantic partner’s positive virtues or underestimating a partner’s negative faults in comparison to the partner’s own self-evaluation. In general, individuals who idealize their romantic partners tend to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Other research has examined the impact of joint activity on relationship quality. In particular, studies have shown that romantic partners that engage in a novel and exciting physical activity together are more likely to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction than partners that complete a mundane activity.
”We are drawn to what we anticipate will be a source of pleasure and will look to avoid what we anticipate will be a source of pain. The emotion of love comes from the anticipation of pleasure."
Theories and empirical research
- Knowing and being known: seeking to understand the partner
- Making relationship-enhancing attributions for behaviors: giving the benefit of the doubt
- Accepting and respecting: empathy and social skills
- Maintaining reciprocity: active participation in relationship enhancement
- Continuity in minding: persisting in mindfulness
Neurobiology of interpersonal connections
- The Mother-Infant Attachment Key biological factors have emerged that can explain the motivation behind maternal caregiving behavior in humans and mammals. However, it does differ from species to species, due to that some species only exhibit maternal care postpartum, others exhibit it only slightly and some are very maternal. Two main neuroendocrine systems that revolved around Oxytocin and Dopamine and another Neuropeptide, Prolactin are directly involved as mediators of maternal care. The mother-infant bond is so complex and strong due to these biological systems, that a response to maternal separation exists. The response to separation is due to the withdrawal of several different components from behavioral and biological systems. Separation anxiety, the psychological term that describes when the response that occurs infant is separated from the mother, causes loss of those components, as seen in studies done with rats.