Are you aware of the types of interpersonal relationships or do you know what the term ‘interpersonal relationship’ mean? If not, we’re here to help you understand what it stands for, what are its stages and how interpersonal relationships can be beneficial in life.
Aren’t all relationships between humans interpersonal? Well, yes, they are, but there are varying degrees of just how interpersonal they are. The degree of closeness defines the uniqueness of such relationships.
Let us examine what is interpersonal relationship and how we can define it in simple terms.
How to define interpersonal relationships
Sciences Daily describes interpersonal relationships this way – “Interpersonal relationships are social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. They vary in differing levels of intimacy and sharing, implying the discovery or establishment of common ground, and may be centered around something(s) shared in common.”
interpersonal relationships psychology form one of the richest, most beneficial parts of life.
We can put it like only hermits living secluded in remote areas could prefer solitude to the pleasure of interpersonal relationships.
Humans are a social species and seek to connect with others and feel a sense of interdependence.
Family, friends, colleagues, and people that we encounter as we go about our day—the attendant at Starbucks or the janitor at our workplace—we all feel good when we connect with and acknowledge each other on a daily basis.
What is the importance of interpersonal relationships?
Our interpersonal relationships are formed for more reasons than just the nature of our species. We already know what role relationships play in our lives and how they keep us from feeling lonely and unloved. Types of Interpersonal relationships help in an individual’s overall well-being and growth.
It can be said that the purpose of interpersonal relationships is to ensure our wholesome survival. We can list out the benefits or importance of interpersonal relationships as below:
They help us fill up our emotional and physical needs.
They make us feel mentally balanced and healthy.
They give us touchpoints, helping us navigate tough times as we know these people have our backs.
They serve as a support network.
Each person’s actions affects the other person; hence, it aids improvement.
They can be mirrors to our lives, helping us see more clearly when we may be following a pathway that isn’t the best for us.
They provide us with our best cheerleaders.
They link us to values that are greater than ourselves.
Attachment theory also explains our natural need to seek out and grow our interpersonal relationships. This theory defines the same attachment as a deep and lasting bond connecting people across distance and through time. Creating such relationships helps ensure healthy survival, especially when we are babies and completely dependent on caregivers.
It is this bond between mother and child that encourages them to fulfill the babies’ needs, which of course, provides the continuation of the species. We don’t outgrow this bonding behavior. In fact, as we grow, we replicate it and continue to benefit throughout our lives from types of interpersonal relationships.
5 major types of interpersonal relationships
The depth, strength and type of interpersonal relationships vary depending on the individuals with whom we connect and form a bond with over time. What defines the relationship are the different expectations the individuals have and the context of the connection.
The most basic five types of interpersonal relationships can be:
The most important among interpersonal relationship examples is family. We are born into a family and grow with them through the years to come, so this is the first type of interpersonal relationship we form in our lives.
Note that within our family relationships, we will have varying degrees of connection with our mother and father, our siblings and members of extended family (cousins, aunts and uncles).
The depth of our interpersonal relationships in our family is also somewhat culturally and religiously dependant. We may come from a background where family is the most important thing in life, or, to the contrary, the family has little significance.
Our friendships can sometimes provide us with a greater sense of connection and support than the one we share with our family. The difference in the friendship bond is one we purposefully seek out, versus family which is naturally imposed on us.
Friends often form the most reliable among the interpersonal relationship types. An interpersonal relationship and friendship can be regarded as the two sides of the same coin.
An interpersonal relationship through friendships can be within the same sex or different sex, but the essential ingredient is trust, transparency, laughter, unconditional support, common values and interests, and equal give and take.
Interpersonal relationships involving romantic partners are generally the most intimate ones, both emotionally and physically.
A healthy interpersonal relationship with a romantic partner is based on deep bonding, passion, trust, respect, and admiration. As a romantic partner often turns out to be the significant other we share the rest of our lives with, this among the types of interpersonal relationships, is crucial to our survival.
4. Work colleagues
Strong types of interpersonal relationships in the workplace benefit both the individuals and the company as a whole.
When employees feel a sense of connectivity with each other, a culture of fine work habits are formed and output is naturally enhanced. Happy workers generally deliver their best effort, and this makes for a productive business unit as a result.
Since we spend a considerable time of about eight hours every day during the workweek with our colleagues, it is important for our mental health to feel like we are part of the same group, a group of people with whom we can spend some good time and exchange positive feedback with.
Pointers of developing healthy interpersonal relationships in the workplace include –
Do not treat the workplace as your home. Stay polite but professional.
Do not pass along office gossip.
Do not share all your secrets with your colleagues.
Give space to your co-workers.
Stay away from office politics
Check your ego.
Do not criticize any colleague in front of others. If you have an issue with them, address it in a private setting
5. Platonic relationships
There can be some types of interpersonal relationships can we can recognize as platonic in nature. A platonic relationship can be defined as a close bond between two unrelated individuals without any sexual desire involved. There can just be an intense feeling of affection or fondness between the two persons.
A platonic relationship can be shared between people of the opposite sex who feel a deep sense of affection, which is mostly conveyed as care and respect. Though there is a possibility of a platonic relationship transforming into a romantic relationship over time with both partners developing romantic feelings for each other.
To understand the difference between romantic and platonic relationships, watch this video:
5 stages of interpersonal relationships
As per a study done by psychologist George Levinger in 1980, any interpersonal relationship can go through 5 main stages. This was one of the most influential models of relationship development at that time which stays relevant till date.
This is the stage of initiation, where the two people meet each other or are introduced to each other for the first time. Here the people start off on the journey of knocking each other which eventually leads to the formation of a relationship.
This is the phase where the relationship starts to build up and develops into a stronger bond. This stage forms the basis of the relationship and people get an opportunity to spend time together and form an attachment in the process.
This is the stage that comes once an attachment is already in place and an interpersonal relationship has been created between the two people. This phase remains somewhat stagnant as the participants get to enjoy being in the relationship.
It’s important to note that not all relationships pass through this stage. Many relationships are fortunate enough to stay happy and healthy through the test of time. However, for others, there might come a stage where the relationship starts to decline and deteriorate.
Sometimes, the participants can find it difficult to continue with the relationship and are forced to withdraw. Degradation is one of the biggest challenges of interpersonal relationships. It is often a good idea to go for relationship counseling if you’re going through issues.
The final stage of the types of interpersonal relationships marks the end or termination of the relationship. Once a relationship enters the degradation stage and no remedial action is taken to save it, it’s obvious to enter the termination stage.
A relationship can end due to a number of reasons like compatibility, separation or even the death of either partner.
You may feel a connection to, say, the checkout lady at your favorite grocery store. In fact, you specifically try and get in her line when you shop there because you enjoy your conversations so much.
But this is a light social connection, not representing a close friendship or romance. While it is an interpersonal relationship, it does not carry the degree of intimacy that a friendship or love relationship has.
You can read the interpersonal relationships examples for a better understanding of this terminology. A deeper, more-intimate interpersonal relationship will contain some of the following traits or habits:
You and the other person in the relationship listen to each other.
You strive to communicate openly and without judgment.
You both trust and respect each other.
You consistently make time for each other and enjoy each other’s company.
You remember details about each other’s lives.
You engage in healthy activities together.
You genuinely care about each other’s welfare, and
You accept each other as you are right now, faults included.
A healthy interpersonal relationship must be cherished throughout life
Human bonds are beautiful and can be cherished for life. Our engagement with our relationships is what differentiates us from other creatures on this planet. Each relationship contains a slice of our lives and hence is utterly special.
These ongoing interactions within all the types of interpersonal relationships we form in our lifetimes are what keep us sane, healthy and motivated to continuously strive for a better life. We must try to maintain these relationships for the best interest of us and our loved ones.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships Read more and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.