Fighting with your friend or partner? Here's why...
Dorian Minors • April 25, 2014
In this article, I'm going to talk about how emotion is created and managed in close relationships. We've already talked about how emotions happen and why we feel the emotions we feel. We've also talked about what makes a relationship close. Go read them and come back (I'll wait).
In 1983, Ellen Berscheid realised that these concepts were closely connected. She realised that everyone has connected chains of organized action sequences (routines we follow that are key to achieving our goals in life) as well linked chains of higher order plans (the goals we have for our lives). She called these intra-chains. Let's use an example.
Tim wakes up every Monday, eats breakfast, brushes his teeth, dresses and heads off to work. He does this because breakfast (routine) keeps him energised for the day's work (goal), brushing his teeth and dressing (routines) has him in a position to look pretty and feel confident to meet new people to add to his social circle, perhaps a girlfriend and to work towards that promotion at work (goals). See why they were called 'chains' by Berscheid? The routines all link up in a series to all different goals. You're just following those chains, everyday. Now obviously our routines aren't always this superficial and there are going to be many other reasons Tim does these things. His goals may also be broader and there are certainly going to be more of them. But just think of all the things you do regularly and ask why it is that you do them. Every routine we carry out has a purpose. Those purposes are goals in themselves and probably lead to even greater goals. The main thing to take away is that his routines and his goals are all linked together, in many intra-chains, which we'll just call chains.So Tim, with his chains meets Sarah. Sarah is going to have her own chains. Some might be the same, some are definitely going to be different. Maybe she's only working part time and her goal is to finish her TAFE course (she wants to be a landscape-gardener). Whatever the case may be, before they met each other, they were on parallel tracks. Sarah was only following the routines that led to her goals and Tim was only following his routines towards his goals. But when Sarah and Tim meet, they begin meshing those chains and getting 'em all tangled. This is where one of the main aspects of interdependence theory comes in. Those inter-connections are these chains. Sarah might have to wake up a bit earlier to fit in with Tim's schedule, Tim might need to start eating more vegetables to suit Sarah's health goals. Their separate intra-chains are starting to tangle and become combined inter-chains, what we'll just call tangled chains.
And as we talked about, the more of these tangled chains (which again, are basically the same as inter-connections) are created, the closer these two will be to each other. The longer they are together and the strength and diversity of these tangled chains are going to determine how important they become to each other. Why? Well, the more Sarah is changing her routines to include Tim, the more Sarah feels responsible for Tim and his Higher Order Plans. In addition, the more dependent she is on him to help her fulfill her Higher Order Plans. Same goes for Tim, as his routines change to include Sarah, the more he becomes simultaneously dependent and responsible for her life goals.
- Our closeness to others is directly related to how much we let them influence our important routines and subsequent life goals.
- The more routine chains we mesh together, the more invested we become in each other and the closer we will feel.
- Interruptions to our routines lead to emotion, so meshing our routines with someone else means we have double the routines AND double the amount of potential interruptions.
- Our expectations (schemas) about relationships guide the types of interruptions we will experience. When your partner/friend/family member violates your expectations and it threatens your routines, you are probably going to feel an emotion
- This theory isn't one of those 'it'll do until we find a better one' either. It's like gravity to physicians. As much fact as science can be. In 1987, Simpson studied almost 300 couples long term and found that distress on breakup was a direct result of their inter-chain connections.
Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.
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