The Science of Interdependence: A Lifeline for All Relationships

In today’s culture, relationships are very important in all walks of life. The most successful marriages and relationships are those that are built on mutual understanding and respect for each individual’s unique characteristics. It takes two people to build a relationship, so it is imperative that both parties work together in order to create successful, long-lasting relationships. Unfortunately, most relationships do not live up to this ideal. This is why relationship counseling can help couples build strong, enduring relationships.


Although, there are many theories that discuss the causes of relationship failures, the most common theory is the social exchange theory. The social exchange theory suggests that relationships are formed based on social interaction and the reciprocity inherent in that interaction. The theory states that people develop interpersonal relationships based on the reciprocity they feel when they give value to others or receive value from others. As such, it is believed that relationships are based on the reciprocity between the externalities such as the needs and wants of the partners.


Reciprocal relationships, however, present problems for the theory to work. When one individual gives value and importance to another individual, the other individual feels obligated to reciprocate and give importance to the first individual. However, the theory cannot explain how this happens if the other individual does not show any indication of wanting to receive value and importance. Many times, this lack of indication from the other individual can be difficult for the first individual to perceive or even comprehend. This is where mutual influence can come into play.


The mutual influence theory can explain the development of intimate relationships. By utilizing the term “intimate relationship” we are referring to relationships that involve two individuals who share deep feelings and intimacy. Intimate relationships often center on feelings of love, trust, honesty, and respect. However, there can also be a level of intimacy where two individuals develop interpersonal dynamics that are based on the need for power and control over others. For instance, it might be in a business setting where the leader expects the employee to follow his or her orders and perform with utmost perfection, or an authoritarian relationship in which the leader abuses power and controls the worker to serve only his or her will.


The interpersonal dynamics within such a relationship can create problems for the relationships themselves. By observing how relationships develop when one individual has gotten control and use their power and position to manipulate the other individual, the relationship science student can gain insight into the dynamics of healthy and unhealthy relationships. The student will then be able to identify and treat the symptoms of abusive relationship situations. The other important part of learning about relationship science is to understand the social support system that surrounds each relationship and helps to maintain the balance that exists within the relationship.


By reviewing the interdependence and interpersonal dynamics of healthy and unhealthy interpersonal relationships, students can learn about and recognize the symptoms of abusive behavior. These same principles can also be used to help predict abusive behavior in interpersonal relationships. As students continue their relationship education, they will be able to apply this knowledge to their own personal relationships. The greater the amount of knowledge in this area the more effective they will be in helping individuals deal with difficult interpersonal situations that arise from their relationships.

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