Women's Health

The Psychological Definition of Relationship

For some people, relationships are the most important aspect of life, and for others not so much. Most relationships are linked with feelings of happiness, so it can cause pain and heartache when something goes wrong in the relationship. In one study done in 2009, it was found that in the UK nearly 15 million people were single and half of them were looking for a long-term relationship. At some point in 2008, 45 million people in the UK had visited dating websites.

Argyle and Henderson defines relationships as a social encounter that is regular and over a period of time it occurs. Some important aspects of relationships are covered in this definition. It covers the fact that in a relationship, interactions take place between two people and they are regularly in contact with each other. Relationships that are sexual and romantic in nature are personal relationships. To study relationships psychologists have applied many methods of studies. Experimental social psychology, a dominant type of psychology was even applied in this study.

Studying personal relationships

The branch of social psychology actually covers the study of personal relationships. Social psychology is all about how the actual, imagined or implied presence of others influences the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. A number of different perspectives are included in modern social psychology. With the help of these approaches, one can study social behavior and in particular study personal relationships. 

As many smaller theories are included in them, hence they are best known as meta-theories. In each perspective the way the relationships are viewed are specific and different assumptions made on the aspects of relationships and people to be studied. Also, it makes assumptions on how this can be best done. Experimental social psychology is the most influential perspective. Social psychologists solely do not study about relationships. Many other disciplines and branches of psychology are considered in this.  

Important insights on aspects of relationships have been provided until now by three branches of psychology. These are:

  • Evolutionary psychology - gave an insight on how certain relationships today have actually originated from the past.
  • Developmental social psychology - has observed the link and the connection between the experiences in childhood and in adulthood.
  • Health psychology – they study the way the emotional and physical well-being of the person is affected by relationships.

Awareness of Love

In a study conducted, it was found that emotional interdependence and well-being exists in an interpersonal relationship. One of the most profound emotions that human beings are aware of is love. Love is of many kinds but mostly people try to seek love with a compatible partner and express it in a romantic relationship. For many people, the only meaningful element of life is romantic relationships. They obtain a deep sense of fulfillment from it. It is not innate to possess the ability to have a healthy loving relationship with someone.

According to evidence right from infancy, begins the ability to form a stable relationship. The early experiences for a child begins when the child needs protection, care, food, stimulation, and social contact are met by someone who is reliable. Relationships fail for many reasons and this can cause anguish and pain. Many people can see their relationship flourish by mastering certain skills.

What a relationship actually means?

The basic necessity of every individual is to love and to be loved. The following are the factors that every person searches in every relationship:

  • Faith, freedom and friendship - having faith is important. The relationship will be ruined if there is a skeptical attitude and nagging. You should be able to speak your mind, follow your heart, and derive happiness. Balancing the faith and friendship is important in a relationship. 
  • Time - both men and women want a relationship where they feel the other person makes time for them. Another important aspect of a relationship is giving time and in return getting time.
  • Being patient - you need patience to accept your partner and their imperfections. 
  • Ability to share - in a relationship you share emotions, feelings, finances, words, thoughts, and actions. This will make the world feel complete. 
  • Being the strength of the other - there is a time in every person's life when he or she feels low, at this time the other person should be strong.  

Types of relationship

A relationship is a word that we use in everyday conversation. Many people use this word in a specific way, but it has many meanings. The following are examples of relationships:

  • Interpersonal relationships - between two or more people a close association, acquaintance or a strong, deep connection is known as an interpersonal relationship.
  • Semantic relationship - includes an ontology component.
  • Romantic relationship - when love and/or sexual attraction drives the relationship between two people then it is known as a romantic relationship. 
  • Correlation and dependence - between two variables or a set of data in mathematics and statistics a relationship is indicated by correlation and dependence.

Common relationship mistakes

In the area of close relationships and well-being, research is being done at faster growing rate. In a recent publication with Bert Uchino and Christine Dunkel Schetter a colleague of University of Massachusetts Paula Pietromonaco has shown that even for health, relationships matter a lot.

After many studies, we are now aware of the challenges people come across in a relationships. These are some of the challenges: 

  • To an unhealthy degree taking your partner for granted - as the relationship is progressing and maturing, we assume that it is fine to let certain things slip. Some of this is okay and may not affect the relationship, but it is important to reflect on how your partner would feel. People who you care about should not be taken for granted. 
  • Let boundaries slip around the relationships - there are bound to be secrets in any relationship. The feelings of trust may become eroded if secrets are not kept. 
  • Complaining about your partner - over time your partner will become tired of the constant complaining and comparing to others. 
  • Constant questioning - doubting your relationship and constantly questioning them can affect trust. 
  • Giving up - even if you are stressed you need to be there for your partner. Their pain will be eased by your comfort and support.

Causes of relationship problems

Relationship problems are often caused by many factors, including:

  • Past experiences - relationship breakdowns are experienced more by those whose parents are divorced than by those whose parents stay together. Also, a difficulty in sustaining relationships is commonly seen in people who have experienced abuse as a child or adolescent. All these factors have been linked to relationship problems.
  • Transition of life and stress - a relationship can become strained due to societal pressures like living together, getting married, having a child, retiring, etc. Relationships can get strained due to personal stress too. Many people find it difficult to be positive when they are stressed. This can lead to them feeling dissatisfied in their relationship. Other factors include, work problems, difficult in laws, financial stress, aging parents needs, caring for a child’s needs, etc. 
  • The way people think - when problems surround a couple, they start to blame each other and they feel their partner is the cause of all their problems. They feel that their partner is intentional and selfish. All of this can lead to withdrawal or conflict.
  • Behavioral factors - behavioral patterns may indicate that the relationship is at risk. If you are experiencing criticism, defensiveness, disrespect, or stonewalling, the relationship is unhealthy. 

Social exchange theory in relationships

It is a fact that people have relationships for their entire lives. In a relationship, everyone wants to gain something, whether it is love, friendship, companionship, or support. A relationship is in jeopardy when there is perceived inequality. This means we are only taking from the relationship and not giving. There is a combination of three factors that determine how positive or negative we feel about our relationships.

These three factors are:

  • Cost benefit analysis.
  • Comparison level.
  • Comparison level of alternatives.

According to social exchange theory, our rewards are maximized and our costs are minimized when we choose to create and maintain certain relationships. People may become more self-centered through this type of thinking.