What is a Relationship

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Boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, mother and daughter, father-in-law and the bride, employer and employee, acquaintances – these are just some examples of relationships. Seeing the words and pairings at a glance, some sort of meaning could already be picked up from them. Yet how do we really define a relationship? What is a relationship?

An encyclopedia defines a relationship, specifically an interpersonal relationship, to be a social-association, affiliation or connection between two or more people, and, different relationship types vary by levels of intimacy and sharing. This definition implies the discovery and establishment of common ground between parties involved – intimacy.

The different levels of intimacy are of major importance when answering the question “what is a relationship?” Kinship, whether by blood or by affinity, has a different level of intimacy when compared with long-term relationships like marriage because how a husband acts around his wife would obviously differ from how he acts around his mother-in-law. Casual relationships, those involving sexual behaviour, have different levels of intimacy when compared with platonic love relationships, those involving affection without being sexual. Friendship, consisting of mutual love, trust, respect and unconditional acceptance is different from being an association which could be gleamed simply as a formal introduction to an economically beneficial network.

Differentiating between the different relationship types may be easy but there are actually deeper thoughts to truly answer the question of “what is a relationship?” Sociology, psychology and anthropology are areas of study that is concerned with relationships. What is a relationship as it is viewed by these three areas?

What is a relationship, as studied under sociology? Sociology deals with studying currently changing behaviours, actions, and interactions of people in any type of relationship while recognizing many other links of greater or less importance. Psychology’s concerns on what is a relationship, deals with trust issues, control and acceptance in relationships, primarily dealing with its relation to an individual’s personal wellness. Anthropology’s concern though on what is a relationship, deals with how (traditional prevalent) culture in general affects relationships. Practically, these three sciences set relationships into a perspective that most people who have not had successful relationships, puts relationships into light and make others realize what went wrong in their relationships in the first place.

Learning of how broad the spectrum is on defining a relationship, one would be able to figure out that relationships are variable according to diverse factors. One minute, it’s there, another minute, it’s gone. Knowing how a relationship is defined, finding common grounds, interacting with others and understanding the deeper schools of thought involved with relationships will ultimately determine how successful a relationship can be maintained.


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