A H M
Another useful way to consider relationships is to consider the amount of dependency in the relationship. Davidson (1991) suggests three models. The A-frame relationship is one in which the partners lean on one another and are highly dependent on the other for survival. If one partner changes, the other is at risk of ‘falling over’. This type of relationship cannot easily accommodate change and the partners are vulnerable should change occur. A breakup could be devastating.
The H-frame relationship is one in which the partners live parallel lives. They rarely spend time with one another and tend to have separate lives. What time they do share is usually spent meeting obligations rather than sharing intimacies. This independent type of relationship can end without suffering emotionally.
The M-frame relationship is interdependent. Partners have a strong sense of connection but also are able to stand alone without suffering devastation. If this relationship ends, partners will be hurt and saddened, but will still be able to stand alone. This ability comes from a strong sense of self-love. Partners can love each other without losing a sense of self. And each individual has self-respect and confidence that enriches the relationship as well as strengthens the self.
We have been looking at love in the context of many kinds of relationships. In our next lesson, we will focus more specifically on ine the dynamics of falling in and out of love.
Reiss (1960) provides a theory of love as process. Based on the wheel theory of love, love relationships begin with the establishment of rapport.
Rapport involves sharing likes, preferences, establishing some common interests. The next step is to begin to disclose more personal information through self-revelation. When one person begins to open up, the social expectation is that the other will follow and also share more personal information so that each has made some risk and trust is built. Sexual intimacy may also become part of the relationship. Gradually, partners begin to disclose even more about themselves and are met with support and acceptance as they build mutual dependency. With time, partners come to rely on each other for need fulfillment. The wheel must continue in order for love to last. It becomes important for partners to continue to establish rapport by discussing the day’s events, communicating about their goals and desires, and showing signs of trust. Partners must continue to rely on one another to have certain needs fulfilled. If the wheel turns backward, partners talk less and less, rely less on one another and are less likely to disclose.
Process of Disaffection: Breaking Up
When relationships are new, partners tend to give one another the benefit of the doubt and focus on what they like about one another. Flaws and imperfections do not go unnoticed; rather, they are described as endearing qualities. So, for example, the partner who has a very large nose is described as ‘distinguished’ or as having a ‘striking feature.’ This is very exhilarating because features that someone may have previously felt self-conscious about are now accepted or even appreciated. However, once partners begin the process of breaking up, these views are abandoned and questionable qualities are once again flaws and imperfections.
Kersten (1990) provides a look at the dynamics of breaking up. Although this work is priics of dissolving any long-term relationship are similar. The beginning phase of breaking up involves seeing imperfections in the relationship but remaining hopeful that things will improve. This improvement will require the partner’s cooperation because they are primarily at fault. So, as long as the offending partner makes the necessary changes, and of course the offended partner will provide the advice, support, and guidance required, the relationship will continue. (If you are thinking that this is not going to work-you are right. Attempts to change one’s partner are usually doomed to failure. Would you want your partner to try to change you?)
Once it becomes clear that efforts to change are futile, the middle phase is entered. This phase is marked by disappointment. Partners talk less and less, make little eye contact, and grow further apart. One may still try to make contact, but the other is clearly disengaged and is considering the benefits and costs of leaving the relationship.
In the end phase, the decision to leave has been made. The specific details are being worked out. Turning a relationship around is very difficult at this point. Trust has diminished, and thoughts have turned elsewhere. This stage is one of hopelessness.