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Dynamics of Interpersonal Relationships


The stage in a relationship when the couple begins to distance themselves from each other.

Ex: "I've been sick lately and can't see you."


The stage in a relationship where the partners make symbolic public gestures to show the world that their relationship exists.

Ex: Getting a marriage license; Business partners form a contract


The stage in a relationship where the communication between partners decreases in quantity and quality; Subtle hints of dissatisfaction grow more evident

Comparison level (CL)

A standard used to determine what the standard for one behavior is versus the standard for another

Comparison level of alternatives

A standard used to compare both the cost and rewards one situation versus the cost and rewards of an alternative situation

Connection-autonomy dialectic

Our want to be close to others, but our desire to still have independence

Conventionality-uniqueness dialectic

The challenges in relationships when people try to meet others expectations as well as their own.

Dialectical tensions

Conflicts that arise when two opposing or incompatible forces exist simultaneously.


The stage in a relationship where the couple begins to experience the first inevitable feelings of stress.

Ex: Pronoun usage switches from "we" to "I"


The stage in a relationship where you look for common ground and explore new topics in order to test the waters

Expression-privacy dialectic

The need to maintain space between ourselves and others.

-Internal=openness-closedness dialectic
-External= revelation-concealment dialectic

Inclusion-seclusion dialectic

The (external) struggle to reconcile a desire for involvement with the "outside world" with the desire to live their own lives, free of what can feel like interference from others.


The stage in a relationship where you show that you are interested in making contact and you demonstrate that you are a person worth talking to


The stage in a relationship where, as the relationship strengthens, the couple begins to take on an identity as a social unit

Ex: Invitations are addressed to a couple

Integration-separation dialectic

The conflicting desires for connection and independence. This conflict creates communication challenges that can show up both within a relationship & when relational partners face the world.


The stage in a relationship where you begin participating in shared activities, hang out with mutual friends or take trips together. The quality of the relationship deepens.

Ex: Saying 'I love you.'


This can come in multiple forms, but generally is defined as sharing a certain level of closeness with another person


Communication about communication.

Openness-closedness dialectic

The tension between desire to be honest and open but also desire for privacy.

Predictability-novelty dialectic

The balance between the need for a predictable relational partner and one who is more spontaneous and less predictable.

Relational commitment

A promise, implied or explicit, to remain in a relationship and to make that relationship successful

Relational maintenance

Communication aimed at keeping relationships operating smoothly and satisfactorily

Relational transgressions

When one person lets the other person down.

Revelation-concealment dialectic

The decision about how much to share & how much to keep to yourself

Stability-change dialectic

The balance between stability and change, which operates both between partners and when they face others outside the relationship.

Both partners face others outside the relationship.
Internally=predictability-novelty dialectic
External= conventionality uniqueness dialectic


The stage in a relationship where partners behave in a routine manner, but without much feeling. No growth occurs. They are essentially just going through the motions.


The stage in a relationship where the relationship has deteriorated so badly that is ends.

Emotional intimacy

A form of emotional closeness when you share important information and feelings with another person who is close to you

Ex: Talking about your feelings; Saying 'I love you'

Physical intimacy

A form of emotional closeness made up of the positive, physical closeness between two people

Ex: Fetus inside its mother; Kissing your boyfriend

Intellectual intimacy

A form of emotional closeness made up of the sharing of important ideas, thoughts between two people who are close

Ex: Sharing your future dreams with your partner

Shared activities

A form of emotional closeness made up of the sharing of important experiences

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