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An interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people that may range from fleeting to enduring. This association may be based on limerence, love and liking, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships take place in a great variety of contexts, such as family, friends, marriage, associates, work, clubs, neighborhoods, and churches. They may be regulated by law, custom, or mutual agreement, and are the basis of social groups and society as a whole. Although humans are fundamentally social creatures, interpersonal relationships are not always healthy. Examples of unhealthy relationships include abusive relationships and codependence.

A relationship is normally viewed as a connection between two individuals, such as a romantic or intimate relationship, or a parent-child relationship. Individuals can also have relationships with groups of people, such as the relation between a pastor and his congregation, an uncle and a family, or a mayor and a town. Finally, groups or even nations may have relations with each other, though this is a much broader domain than that covered under the topic of interpersonal relationships. See such articles as international relations for more information on associations between groups. Most scholarly work on relationships focuses on romantic partners in pairs or dyad. These intimate relationships are, however, only a small subset of interpersonal relationships.

These relationships usually involve some level of interdependence. People in a relationship tend to influence each other, share their thoughts and feelings, and engage in activities together. Because of this interdependence, most things that change or impact one member of the relationship will have some level of impact on the other member. The study of interpersonal relationships involves several branches of social science, including such disciplines as sociology, psychology, anthropology, and social work.


Close relationships are important for emotional wellbeing throughout the lifespan.

Interpersonal relationships include kinship and family relations in which people become associated by genetics or consanguinity. These include such roles as father, mother, son, or daughter. Relationships can also be established by marriage, such as husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, uncle by marriage, or aunt by marriage. They may be formal long-term relationships recognized by law and formalized through public ceremony, such as marriage or civil union. They may also be informal long-term relationships such as loving relationships or romantic relationships with or without living together. In these cases the "other person" is often called lover, boyfriend, or girlfriend, as distinct from just a male or female friend, or "significant other". If the partners live together, the relationship may resemble marriage, with the parties possibly even called husband and wife. Scottishmarker common law can regard such couples as actual marriages after a period of time. Long-term relationships in other countries can become known as common-law marriages, although they may have no special status in law. The term mistress may refer in a somewhat old-fashioned way to a female lover of an already married or unmarried man. A mistress may have the status of an "official mistress" (in French maîtresse en titre); as exemplified by the career of Madame de Pompadour.

The status of a relationship goes along with the way we communicate with them. Interpersonal relationships and communication is a two-way street, which needs to be clear by both ends. The way we communicate with our significant other is not the same as we communicate of our bosses or little brother. The transmission model of communication has five main parts according to Karen Reynolds essay:
        Information Source – where the message is produced
        Transmitter – where the message is encoded
        Channel – where the signal is carried
        Receiver – where the message is decoded
        Destination – where the message ends up
However, noise can interfere with the channel and change the original message. This can relate to interpersonal relationships because the sender and receiver of messages need to be on the same of page of the context of the message so the message will not be taken the wrong way according to the Karen Reynolds. If the message is taken the wrong way, it could be detrimental to the relationship. Communication is a very important component to a successful relationship. As time goes on people’s attitudes change because they have become more comfortable with a person. This could hurt the way the sender may send the message or the receiver interprets the message. In Daniel Chandlers essay, he states that no allowance is made for unequal power relations. In other words, he is saying that individuals will not always feel that the other person’s ideas are valuable or creditable. In an interpersonal relationship point of view, a man could never believe what the girlfriend is saying according to his own standards, which would cause havoc in their communication. The way to interpret a person who communicates is different depending on the person; therefore, the transmission model is a hard way to partake in an interpersonal relationship, because the interpretation of a message can change at any time.

Friendships consist of mutual liking, trust, respect, and often even love and unconditional acceptance. They usually imply the discovery or establishment of similarities or common ground between the individuals. Internet friendships and pen-pals may take place at a considerable physical distance. Brotherhood and sisterhood can refer to individuals united in a common cause or having a common interest, which may involve formal membership in a club, organization, association, society, lodge, fraternity, or sorority. This type of interpersonal relationship relates to the comradeship of fellow soldiers in peace or war. Partners or co-workers in a profession, business, or common workplace also have a long term interpersonal relationship.

Soulmates are individuals intimately drawn to one another through a favorable meeting of minds and who find mutual acceptance and understanding with one another. Soulmates may feel themselves bonded together for a lifetime and hence may become sexual partners, but not necessarily. Casual relationships are sexual relationships extending beyond one-night stands that exclusively consist of sexual behavior. One can label the participants as "friends with benefits" or as friends "hooking up" when limited to sexual intercourse, or regard them as sexual partners in a wider sense. Platonic love is an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise.


Interpersonal relationships are dynamic system 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 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:
  1. Acquaintance - 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.
  2. Buildup - During this stage, people begin to trust and care about each other. The need for compatibility and such filtering agents as common background and goals will influence whether or not interaction continues.
  3. Continuation - This stage follows a mutual 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Termination - The final stage marks the end of the relationship, either by death in the case of a healthy relationship, or by separation.

Friendships may involve some degree of 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 competitor rather than friends. Accordingly, sexual behavior with the sexual partner of a friend may damage the friendship (see love triangle). Sexual relations between two friends tend to alter that relationship, either by "taking it to the next level" or by severing it. Sexual partners may also be classified as friend and the sexual relationship may either enhance or depreciate the friendship.

Legal sanction reinforces and regularizes marriages and civil unions as perceived "respectable" building-blocks of society. In the United States of Americamarker, for example, the de-criminalization of homosexual sexual relations in the Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas (2003) facilitated the mainstreaming of gay long-term relationships, and broached the possibility of the legalization of same-sex marriages in that country.

See also


  1. Berscheid, E., & Peplau, L. A. (1983). The emerging science of relationships. In H. H. Kelley, et al. (Eds.), Close relationships. (pp. 1-19). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.
  2. Karen Reynolds
  3. Daniel Chandler
  4. Byrne, D. (1961). Interpersonal attraction and attitude similarity. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 62, 713-715.
  5. Levinger, G. (1983). Development and change. In H. H. Kelley, et al. (Eds.), Close relationships. (pp. 315-359). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.
Reynolds, Karen. "What is the Transmission Model of Interpersonal Communication and What is Wrong with it?" April 1997

Chandler, Daniel “The Transmission Model of Communication” September 4, 2009

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