Ever go people watching? Maybe you do that thing where you try to figure out how close two people are? Are they friends, or lovers? On a first date, or out for work. Well closeness is actually quite a complicated thing to figure out, even for psychologists. Some think about it through the lens of the different kinds of love we can feel for each other (there are roughly six, if you want to read about them here). Some look at the basis of the relationship (e.g. a friend is voluntary and fulfils your needs, your boss is involuntary and the relationship is based on rank – more on the difficulties that come with that here). Some look at length. Some look at other things all together. No model is perfect. But sometimes a model is just so beautiful, it has to be shared. In this miniseries, we talk in detail about the five stages of Mark Knapp‘s model of coming together and how we can use it to figure out how close we are to someone (or when we’re people watching, how close two people we’re looking at are).
The fourth and fifth stage: Integration and Bonding
Two become one. In the last stage we saw that the relationship had started to develop some uniqueness. Relationship rules specific to that relationship were developed. Idiosyncratic patterns of verbal and nonverbal communication were developed. In this stage, these kind of things are developed with the (subconscious) intention to keep others out. We’re starting to really promote our individual bond. We might get a matching tattoo. We might refer to ourself by some kind of (lame) portmanteau. We might get one of those necklace sets that’s a key and a matching lock, or two halves of a heart. We’re setting ourselves apart. This relationship is characterised by:
- the creation of a new circle of friends (or the merging of old friends)
- engaging in similar activities and hobbies
- favours – the reciprocal doing of things one expects to have returned, like lending each other clothes or not worrying about who buys dinner.
- our sense of style (maybe because we’re borrowing clothes), and our values will start to coelesce. Opinions will start to merge on controversial topics
- a concerted effort is made to get ‘in line’ with our buddies or partners
- ‘ownership’ behaviours develop, like adjusting clothes or labelling our friends or partners in front of others to display that ‘we’re a unit’
This is the kind of stage where people will talk about moving in together. This is also the phase where, due to the quantity and quality of time spent together we see an increase in coordinated movement. People finish each other’s sentences, or walk in step. A deep knowledge of each other is evident here.
Now, Integration sometimes develops into the Bonding phase. The bonding phase describes when a couple decide to explicitly announce publicly in some way that they are one, to the exclusion of others. This describes marriages, civil unions and defactos (it’s less common to see this in platonic relationships). It’s important because it’s an attempt to garner social support for the relationship. This public ceremonial process is an announcement that ‘we are one, we are forever, come celebrate with us’. Hence why marriages with larger wedding parties tend to be correlated with more satisfaction and longevity.
Be sure to check out our other mini-series on Knapp talking about how relationships look as they’re falling apart, here. Otherwise, perhaps you want to learn how to develop relationships better? You might be interested in the pursuit of the perfect relationship? Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and ‘the good life’ at The Dirt Psychology.