With the biggest holiday season behind us, we turn our attention to the season of love and relationships, Valentine's Day. For this article, I decided to tie this season into some college academics for thought purposes. Mark Knapp's Relational Development and Maintenance model is one that I've use in my interpersonal communication courses. Hopefully, you'll find something in his 5-step model that'll help you avoid 'the relationship blues' in the future. The blues best reflects our frustrations over lost loves, failed relationships, and especially being alone on Valentine's Day.
Let's get started. Initiating is the first step in this model; you know how we send brief glances, a smile, subtle flirtation, or engage in small talk? If she's interested, you'll move to the next step, Experimenting. This is where you'll decide whether you're interested in taking the relationship further. If she hasn't turned you off, at this point, you'll try to gain more information that will further qualify ( or disqualify ) her as a sistah you'd like to know better. Know that most new dating interactions fail right here because of personal differences. But if it's on, proceed slowly through this step because people will always withhold personal information until they get to know you better. Don't be fooled gurls, because you only know what she wants you to know, and visa versa ( you withhold information too ) .
Intensifying is the third step where lovers spend more time together, and get really mushy in public with open expressions of love—you can see it in their eyes. They'll meet each other's family and friends, and begin to be known as 'we.' Most lesbians will eventually disappear from public because sex becomes hot and heavy, no need for anything else. I love that step!
Integrating is the fourth step. As the relationship strengthens, the parties begin to take on an identity as a social unit. Invitations begin to arrive addressed to the couple, and they begin to develop new groups of friends ( often couples ) . In this stage both parties give up some characteristics of their old selves and become different people ( they operate as one ) .
Bonding is the final stage. Here, the couple wants the world to know that their relationship exists. For lesbians, it's moving in together, having a baby, or announcing engagements or wedding plans. This is a critical turning point in their relationship because both parties will soon need to reestablish their old identities for emotional health. The 'hold me tight' orientation that has existed changes, and subtle 'put me down' requests begin to occur. Everyone needs some privacy and a bit of independence, but not all partners understand this need. If one attempts to resist this request, the relationship will begin to spiral downward and someone will wind up singing the relationship blues alone.
This model presents a different view on an old issue, but one that many of you can probably grasp and apply to your relationships ( past, present, an future ) . Ironically, before I began using this model in my classes, it helped me better understand my past relational failures. My philosophy suggests that, 'if you know how it's broken, then you are better equipped to repair it—and avoid breaking it again in the future.'
Happy Valentine's Day my sistahs.