Field of studyThe study of interpersonal relationships involves several branches of the social sciences, including such disciplines as sociology, psychology, anthropology, and social work. Interpersonal skills are extremely vital when trying to develop a relationship with another person. The scientific study of relationships evolved during the 1990s and came to be referred to as 'relationship science',* which distinguishes itself from anecdotal evidence or pseudo-experts by basing conclusions on data and objective analysis. Interpersonal ties are also a subject in mathematical sociology.*
DevelopmentInterpersonal relationships are relational dialectics|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.* 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: # Acquaintance – Becoming acquainted depends on previous relationships, physical Propinquity|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. # Buildup – During this stage, people begin to trust (social sciences)|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 personal commitment|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. # 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.) # Termination – The final stage marks the end of the relationship, either by death, or by separation.
Friendships may involve some degree of transitive relation|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). Human sexual activity|Sexual activities between two friends tend to alter that relationship, either by "taking it to the next level" or by severing it.
A list of Interpersonal Skills includes: • Verbal Communication - What we say and how we say it. • Non-Verbal 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 relationshipsPositive psychologists use the term "flourishing relationships" to describe interpersonal relationships that are not merely happy, but instead characterized by intimacy, growth, and resilience.* Flourishing relationships also allow a dynamic balance between focus on the intimate relationships and focus on other social relationships.
BackgroundWhile traditional psychologists specializing in close relationships have focused on relationship dysfunction, positive psychology argues that relationship health is not merely the absence of relationship dysfunction.* Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of secure attachment and are maintained with love and purposeful positive relationship behaviors. Additionally, healthy relationships can be made to "flourish." Positive psychologists are exploring what makes existing relationships flourish and what skills can be taught to partners to enhance their existing and future personal relationships. A social skills approach posits that individuals differ in their degree of communication skill, which has implications for their relationships. Relationships in which partners possess and enact relevant communication skills are more satisfying and stable than relationships in which partners lack appropriate communication skills.*
Adult attachment and attachment theoryHealthy relationships are built on a foundation of secure attachments. Adult attachment models represent an internal set of expectations and preferences regarding Intimate relationships|relationship intimacy that guide behavior.* Secure adult attachment, characterized by low attachment-related avoidance and anxiety, has numerous benefits. Within the context of safe, secure attachments, people can pursue optimal human functioning and flourishing.* This is because social acts that reinforce feelings of attachment also stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and endorphin, which alleviate stress and create feelings of contentment.* Attachment theory can also be used as a means of explaining adult relationships.*
LoveThe capacity for love gives depth to human relationships, brings people closer to each other physically and emotionally, and makes people think expansively about themselves and the world.*
In his triangular theory of love, psychologist Robert Sternberg theorizes that love is a mix of three components: some (1) passion, or physical attraction; (2) intimacy, or feelings of closeness; and (3) commitment, involving the decision to initiate and sustain a relationship. The presence of all three components characterizes consummate love, the most durable type of love. In addition, the presence of intimacy and passion in marital relationships predicts marital satisfaction. Also, commitment is the best predictor of relationship satisfaction, especially in long-term relationships. Positive consequences of being in love include increased self-esteem and self-efficacy.*
Referring to the emotion of love, Psychiatrist Daniel Harold Casriel|Daniel Casriel defined the “logic of love” as “the logic of pleasure and pain” in the concept of a "Relationship Road Map" that became the foundation of PAIRS Foundation|PAIRS' relationship education classes.*
”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.”*Based on Casriel's theory, sustaining feelings of love in an interpersonal relationship requires “effective communication, emotional understanding and healthy conflict resolution skills.”*