Relationships.

4 10 2009

The last week of September has indeed been a blissful one.

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Off our shores, Korean celebrity couple, top A-List Korean actor Kwon Sang Woo and Miss Korea 2000 finalist, Son Tae Hee, tied the knot on 28 September in the presence of many of Korea’s hottest celebrities.

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And of course, on our sunny isle of Singapore, many witnessed the lavish wedding of popular Mediacorp artistes Christopher Lee and Fann Wong, via live telecast on 29 September.

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Relationships are an integral part of our lives and all of us are naturally driven toward finding “The One” and eventually achieving the dream of a blissful ending (hopefully). All of these are built on the foundation of interpersonal communication between two parties, in particular dyadic communication. This includes series of communication, strategic alliances between two persons, and viewing each other as a pair or a singular unit.

Thus, communication plays an essential and extremely crucial role in the the initial formation of relationships and the process of building, refining or even eliminating it in the later years. This concept is further enhanced by a framework illustrated by DeFleur et al (2005) of: Engagement (first contact to richer interpersonal relationship), Management (use of communication to maintain the relationship) and lastly, the possibility of Disengagement (dissolution of the relationship).

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The Knapp Model of Relational Development, one of the most influential models of relationship, clearly describes the progression and development of relationships in a series of 10 stages in 2 phases:

– Stage 1-5: Coming together

(Initiating, Experimenting, Intensifying, Integrating & Bonding)

– Stage 6-10: Coming apart

(Differentiating, Circumscribing, Stagnating, Avoiding & Terminating)

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These stages are strictly non linear and relationships may regress to a previous stage or simply skip stages. Using this model, it is hence easier for us to identify a particular stage a relationship is at, by exploring the typical behaviour scenarios emphasised.

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The following clips, from hit romance movie, The Notebook (originally a bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks), further applies these concepts.

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From these clips, we can see how Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie’s (Rachel Mcadams) love deepens over summer vacation after the initial attraction Noah feels towards Allie when he sees her for the first time at a carnival in Seabrook Island, South Carolina.

The initial stage of Initiation (not shown in the clips above) depicts the two meeting at the carnival and Allie being unimpressed when Noah does a silly stunt like hanging on a bar on the Ferris Wheel just so he could get a date with her. She continuously refuses his persistent advances until their well-meaning friends lure them together and they then get to know each other on a midnight walk through empty Seabrook. This shows how Noah tries to impress Allie and his initial physical attraction towards her.

Later on, as shown in the clips above, the two go through the stage of Experimenting whereby after taking a midnight walk & making small talk, they dance in the streets. This employs the concept of proxemics, whereby personal space & distance between the two persons become smaller, in this case, from a casual proximity to an intimate one. Both people are probably “feeling each other out” and gauging the suitability of the other party. They both then become a real couple whereby Intensification & Integration takes place. There is increased committment, awareness and participation of both parties, as well as a whole lot more physical contact.  Both of them even go on double dates with another couple (encompassing their social networks & identities).

Unfortunately, due to the fact that Allie was a heiress and Noah was simply a country boy, Allie’s disapproving mother forbids her from seeing Noah again, calling him “white trash” and saying he is not right for her because he is poor. Outside, Allie fights with Noah. He believes her parents are right and that he is not good enough for her, and the two break up, leading straight to the Termination stage of the model.

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This made me ponder on the importance of similarities between a couple in a relationship. Would it be better if two got together based on the similarities they share, or is it true that opposites attract? Similarities tend to bond people closer, be it likeness in ideals or interests, and lowers the risk factor in a relationship. Besides this, society tends to favour similarity in terms of status, wealth and education level and frown upon exceptions.  However, this does not imply that relationships involving people with differences aren’t guaranteed to work out. For those whom have watched the entire movie of The Notebook, the ending is such that Allie gives up her fiance, wealthy Lon Hammond Jr, a a well-connected young lawyer who is handsome, sophisticated, charming, and comes from an old Southern family, for Noah.

What about yourself? Which stage in the Knapp Model of Relational Development do you see yourself in? How do you personally feel about the issue on Similarities vs. Differences in a relationship? In The Notebook, Allie & Noah’s relational challenge in their relationship was due to differences &  forceful disapproval that tore them apart initially. What are some of the relational dissolutions & challenges you may face, and why? :) Feel free to share!

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4 responses

5 10 2009
Xue Li

In my opinion, similarities between a couple is more able to maintain or develop their relationship than differences. One may look for a partner who is different, be it in terms of character or social background, as it may add to the excitement factor in that relationship. It is also a widespread notion that people who are different complement each other in a relationship, thus making it a more fruitful one. However, I think that the long term viability of the relationship is more like to occur between people who are similar, which implies they have similar lifestyles or they work in similar ways. It will be easier to sort out any issues they may have with each other.

8 10 2009
Ho Q

Personally, I see myself in the stages of Intensifying and Integrating under the Knapp Model of Relational Development. It is the period of time my partner and I build closer ties with one another as we become more intimate and the deepest levels of self-disclosure are approached.

As for whether similarities or differences in a couple would be more ideal, I personally have no answer myself. At first glance, a couple might be drawn to one another with identical or seemingly close personalities, hobbies, ideals, personal traits or interests. It is also highly possible that with more common traits in a relationship, it would allow the couple to see eye to eye with one another or even achieve better understanding and enjoyment. However, we must appreciate the fact that no two individuals share the exact traits, however close they might be. Even so, it is not whether a couple share similar traits and interests or not. More often than not, a successful relationship necessitates each party to be understanding, appreciative, tolerant and accommodating to one another.

At present, my partner and I do not have any major challenges. Challenges may come but we handle them with much maturity and understanding. Oh well, maybe the fact that we are having a long distance relationship now, but that can be a blessing in disguise ( we became more appreciative and loving to one another). :)

11 10 2009
drawurswords

If you ask me, I feel that no matter which partner you choose, there will be more similarities than differences. People tend to play safe when things involve their lives on the line. When less risks are involved, we feel more at ease and less stressed about the whole thing. People seek relationships not to create more stress for themselves, but to seek comfort in the tough times and share the joy during the happy times.

Of course there must be differences; no two people are the same anyway. Even if I were to find someone 100% identical in personality as myself, what is there to communicate about? I might as well date myself, use my left hand to hold my right hand and so on. We humans are peculiar in a sense that we do not want trouble, yet we seek the thrill of it. In a relationship there is bound to be problems. This is because we are not perfect.

Nice explanations though!

8 11 2009
Aloysius

Opposites attract, it serves to bring out a new and improved side of each person. They change to complement each other – becoming similar. The thing about being different is that it allows you to compensate for whatever quality or trait you lack and wish you had.

But ever so often, people mistaken the challenge of conquering the heart of someone SO opposite as love when it is actually just lust; caught in the passion which was previously missing in their lives.

Thus, I believe it’s the similar that attract.

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