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 third stage: Intensifying
This is the first stage in Knapp’s model in which we see some serious relational closeness develop (the last stage is here). People tend to really start to enjoy a relationship here because although we aren’t throwing caution to the wind, we are starting to share some quite intimate things. This is because we can start to feel comfortable stepping away from the social scripts that often interfere in our interactive. We can move away from those topics of conversation that are dictated to us by society, and start to develop scripts that are unique, ways of interacting and communicating that are exclusive or bespoke to the relationship. We’re looking to find some emotional depth to the relationship and fulfil our attachment needs (more on that here). We’ll still tend to interact with caution here, but that caution is born of the particular relationship rules that we have created between us (learn about how we do that here). We don’t want to tread on each other’s toes, but don’t mind bending the rules of wider society. These relationships are characterised by:
- Idiosyncratic rules and patterns of interacting
- Conversations about deeply personal things
- The search for mutual emotional depth (I like you as much as you like me)
- Methods of communication that exclude others, like a nickname or that ‘look’ your mom gives you that speaks volumes to you but perhaps not everyone else (this is called paralanguage and it’s super important)
- We start to do favours for each other, paying for each other’s coffee. This is important because it shows that we feel as though these things will be reciprocated into the future. It also indicates that the two people feel comfortable with each other’s relationship rules enough to ask and oblige.
- We start to reveal values and other things that we might not share with strangers.
So, in this stage, we’re getting far more personal. We’re exploring each other’s relationship rules. We’re developing our own relationship rules. Our communication and patterns of interaction become far more personal and unique to us. But most of all, there are indications that we’re looking to the future of our relationship, something that increases heavily in the next stage; Integration.
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.