It happens to us all -- that moment when our knees get weak from the sight of someone else; that split second that it seems like nothing else in the entire world matters; that instant when all seems right in the world, and we hope and pray that it never changes. Most everyone remember those beginning stages in a relationship where everything in the universe is absolutely, irrevocably, fearlessly perfect, right? So how do all of those feelings, thoughts, moments of pure bliss take a gut wrenching nose dive for the worse? Why do people fall out of love? How do people go from being love drunk to those month long purging sessions to rid themselves of the toxins that once were our former soul mates? It happens, even to the best of us, even to those of us who attempt to make every wrong right -- it just happens, but there is always a reason for it. Perhaps it was a small error in judgment, or a slight blunder of communication, whatever it is, it was there, and there was no stopping it. Maybe relationships could be a little more easily understood if there was a guideline or sorts to guide romance hopefuls to the successes of a relationship. Perhaps if people understood what the characteristics of a relationship are, then relationships could become more successful.
"Interpersonal relationships are the core of our societal system and have been since before the dawn of civilization. Our ancestors formed associations and alliances to insure survival in a hostile environment, and passed on this for human companionship as an integral part of our physical and emotional composition" (Kalbfleisch, 1993). Often times, many of us identify a relationship as one that is romantically involved, and consider all other connections as a simple association of people. However, it should be entirely understood that the very definition of a relationship is "the connection between two or more people or groups and their involvement with one another, especially as regards the way they behave toward and feel about one another" (Bing). If someone is to understand a particular relationship, then he or she must first understand how relationships are developed and evolving, and how to maintain the livelihood of a relationship.
Relationships are constantly changing, especially in today's society more than ever before. Prior to the dawn of online dating and relationships, people were maintaining their affairs, or relationships, in an 'old fashioned' manner. When people were entering into relationships in the past, they were usually entering in to the relationship with a common goal -- marriage. To many of us living in a world with technology and the ability to connect across the world by the click of a mouse, this seems virtually prehistoric and unorthodox. Many women today are seeking independence, the ability to make a name for themselves, without having to have a husband as an accessory for furthering their professional (and, at times, personal) goals, but it was not always this way! Many women in earlier eras dreamed of nothing more than finding a man to marry, usually with hopes of marrying into wealth, just as a mean to survive; and as for men, it was simply to draw out their legacies. However, now many relationships are not being built on a means for marriage as an end result, but more for a version of companionship that may end up in marriage, eventually; but members of the potential union are now facing several cultural differences, which can cause a huge amount of stress on a relationship.
Relationships that are heavily influenced by cultural differences are becoming more common in today's society. We have entered into an age of travelling (and living) in cultures that are not out own, and because of this age of exploration, it has been noticed that there are several notable cultural differences being formed. Many cultures have different traditions in regards to marriages, and with people from other countries entering into these unions; they do not always share the same customs. Similar to marriage customs, there is a difference in religion when attempting to blend cultures, and due to these differences, there are several stressors that can come along with it, simply because the two cultures (and their families) cannot, at times, reach a common agreement. So how can relationships, even those of different cultures, maintain successfulness -- through relationship maintenance and continuous commitment.
Relationship maintenance is one of the most important keys to the success of a relationship, and it is comprised of trust, mutual respect, individuality, and commitment. If members in a relationship do not fulfill the needs of relationship maintenance, then they are already setting themselves up for a failed relationship. Both parties need to be able to rely on trust and especially mutual respect, without these things, how is that spark ever supposed to ignite into anything at all? Moreover, commitment is a fundamental key to the success of a relationship. "Commitment is a belief in relationship permanence and the understanding that at times your union will need a life-jacket to stay afloat. When you and your partner are committed to the relationship, the union remains more important than your (and your partner's) individual needs; without mutual commitment, deep trust will never take root and intimacy will wither" (Wellsphere, 2008). If two people are not committed to each other, then they are also not committed to the success and livelihood of their relationship or union, and therefore the likelihood of their partnership prospering is jeopardized. Wellsphere continues to say that "commitment has a dual role in your relationship. You can view commitment as the vehicle to help deepen your love, and you can also view it as a safety net of sorts, a way to protect your marriage or relationship during the difficult periods that each and every relationship experiences" (Wellsphere, 2008). Commitment is quite obviously the foundation to the success of all relationships, and without it, there is not much hope for a relationship's survival. Though, how do members in a relationship progress through the different stages of a relationship? A theoretical model, called the Relational Development Model, brings these stages to the surface with a clear explanation of a relationship from start to finish, developed by Mark L. Knapp.
Mark L. Knapp is internationally known for his work in nonverbal communication (Knapp), and he developed a theoretical model known as The Relational Development Model, to map the progression of an interpersonal relationship between two parties. The Relational Development Model identifies 10 different stages divided into three overlapping phases: coming together, relational maintenance, and coming apart (Roslan, 2010). The first of the three phases is what Knapp refers to as the "Coming Together" phase, which is comprised of the Initiation, Experimentation, and Intensifying stages. During these stages, according to Knapp, couples can expect the initial physical attractions to surface; this is followed by finding common grounds and interests with one another, as well as testing, which Knapp describes as "how relationships grow and self-disclosure becomes more apparent and deep. People find many different ways to foster their relationships in order to stimulate relational development. Methods include giving gifts, asking for a romantic relationship commitment or expressing affection both verbally and nonverbally" (Roslan, 2010). Once the relationship has been fostered, Knapp suggests that the next step in the model is "Relationship Maintenance," which is comprised of the integration and bonding phases. In these phases, the status as a couple is entirely defined and their commitment to one another is announced to those around them.
Sadly, however, the next steps in Relational Development are involved in the "Coming Apart" stage, where a couple descends into the stages were differences in commonalities are noted, and the momentum of wanting to work together is depleting. Shortly after this, couple find themselves setting boundaries for communication. "The communication becomes much shallower and the range of topics significantly decline. Partners may fear discussing deep topics because of the threat of a conflict, leading to less communication altogether" (Roslan, 2010). The following stages to this phase communication lessens, and eventually, ends entirely, just as seen in the film, The Break-up, where the characters of Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston completely fall to pieces, based upon not being communicative with each other, and find themselves at the final stage of the Relational Development model, the termination stage. Knapp mentions that in this stage, "the relationship stops completely. Although it is possible to save a relationship from this stage of development, it is very difficult to "relight the fire" that once held the relationship together. However, the coming apart stages of the Relationship Development Model are not necessarily negative. Sometimes, it is healthy for two people to terminate their relationship in the interest of personal aspirations and well-being" (Roslan, 2010). The characters in The Break-Up align with this concept as seen at the end of the film, when they run in to one another on…