In today’s age most people think that romantic relationships are more about who you are spending time with in and out of the bedroom and not who you are committed to. Although, some researchers have found this information is not true. The media is portraying college age students “hooking up” more often than not but in reality they are still seeking out romantic relationships and having sexual relations within those relationships. Which leads to the questions how are these college age students maintaining their romantic relationships? By using these interpersonal relationship tips and by using social media continuing a long term romantic relationship will be achievable.
In Julia Wood’s book Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters, she goes through many different ways to maintain a committed romantic relationship. First, you must know what a committed romantic relationship is. When two people believe that they are only seeing the other person as well as, those individuals having a place in each other’s future is when one is a part of a committed romantic relationship. Once two people having committed to each other, there are three dimensions of a romantic relationship that comes into play. Next, you have four ways to satisfy this personal relationship you are embarking on. Listening is the connection to all of the above. It is a huge part of any relationship, this is critical for couple in romantic relationships. Lastly, how social media and video chatting can help your relationship through all of the above channels of interpersonal communication.
Dimensions of a Romantic Relationship
There are three dimensions of a romantic relationship they are passion, commitment, and intimacy (Wood, 2010). Each of them plays a role in having a functional romantic relationship. Although, only one of these areas within this segment has an affect when it comes to the use of social media within a romantic relationship.
Passion is about the individuals’ feelings, the affirming feelings and yearning for the other person involved in the relationship. This is not exclusively about sexual actives. For instance, that sensation you get when you are around that other person such as when your heart races when see that special someone. However, since passion can fade it is not as important as the other two dimensions (Wood, 2010).
The next element is intimacy; this is how close you feel to the other person, the bond two people have, and kindheartedness you show to one another. This is the reason why people become so close to each other and still have feelings for their partner even after the passion is gone (Wood, 2010). An example of this is that old couple you see walking down the street holding hands, they have stayed together and still show affection to each other by holding hands because even though the passion may be gone they are still close and care for each other.
A study was done on 560 people in committed romantic relationships who took a questionnaire on 30 of the 50-items that measured five sets of “rituals pertaining to daily routines and tasks, idiosyncratic behavior, everyday talk, intimacy, and couple-time” (Pearson, Child, & Carmon, 2010, p. 464). The researchers were building off what Bruess and Pearson (1997, 2002) had already studied. The present research resulted in founding that “rituals also lead to perceptions of relational quality and intimacy” (Pearson, Child, & Carmon, 2010, p. 479). Meaning, the use of rituals in a committed relationship will improve the intimacy within the relationship. Intimacy and passion are both feeling based, but what holds all of these elements together is commitment (Wood, 2010).
Last is commitment, this is the choice to stay in the relationship despite all obstacles. Such as when you people decide to get married, even though they may have fights sometimes they stay in their committed relationship because they want and chose to do so. There has been research done that found two broad reasons why people commit in their relationships (Lund, 1985; Previti & Amato, 2003). One reason is due to the comfort we find from the relationship, such as the physical and emotional support and care we get from the other person. The other reason is to not have to deal with the consequences of leaving the person, such as religious beliefs against leaving the relationship and/or money entanglements. Commitment is the base of a relationship, it is what gets couples through the hard times and work though the issues that present themselves (Wood, 2010). Commitment is also related to satisfying personal relationships.
Satisfying a Personal Romantic Relationship
There are four important aspects to satisfying a personal relationship. They are investment, commitment, trust, and comfort with relational dialectics (Wood, 2010). NBCNews.com found research about how having a special language between a couple can lead to having a more satisfactory relationship. The article references a journal article that helps to make their case. The research shows that couples who have more encouraging communication than pessimistic communication they tend to be maintain a joyful relationship. Meaning, by having these types of interactions within a relationship the satisfaction of the relationship may be enhanced.
Investments in relationships are the things we put into said relationship, that if the relationship were to be over we would not receive. These sorts of things include energy, time, emotional and physical attentions. An example of this would be the time you spend with your partner. There are also objects such as buying gifts and spending money on our significant other that are included in investment. An example of this would be if you were to buy your significant other a gift for a certain occasion. The hard part of investment is that once it is given it cannot be taken back (Wood, 2010). Such as if you were to have a break up, thus ending the relationship, you would lose all of the time, energy, and money you may have put into the relationship.
As previously stated above commitment is the choice to stay in the relationship no matter what may come their way. This area of satisfaction is more about the future and less about the here and now. Commitment is what takes a relationship from being casual to being devoted. When a couple is in a committed relationship they are becoming accountable for the time they invest in each other and their future (Wood, 2010). An example of this would be verbalizing to your partner that you intend to be with them for as long as possible. Cornell University did a study on people in committed relationship. This study found that when individual live together, are in a committed relationship, and/or in a relationship at all, tend to be happier than individuals who are not. The researchers also found that it is the commitment that makes these individuals in high spirits. Meaning, that when people make a commitment to each other whether it is a public statement, saying “forever”, or actually getting married this is when people involved in the relationship are really satisfied.
Trust is when you believe that what your significant other says is the truth and trustworthy, as well as the emotional of the relationship and each other. This is not something that is given out to all who enter into an individual’s life, it has to be earned. Trust is earned, by those who are trying to gain trust by showing that they are worthy of being trusted. It also allows people to feel safe and secure within the relationship to share. When a couple has trust in each other they it opens up the option to show other sides of themselves to the other person, as well as opening in the door to take risks within the relationship (Wood, 2010). For instance, when a couple has trust they can share things from their past that may be hard for each other to hear but in the end it will bring them closer together and allow them to build more trust.
Self-disclosure is a part of the trusting process. It is when someone shares information about themselves that only they know to the other person in the relationship. This also is a process just as trust is a process. In the beginning the two people in the relationship will only share small bits of information that will not hurt them if the trust is not kept. This could be anything from silly fears to insignificant facts such as “I am insecure about my height.” One thing that may hinder self-disclosure is if one person is sharing and the other is not (Wood, 2010).
Comfort with Relational Dialectics
Relational dialectics are one of the common strains that come with maintaining any relationship. This is something that takes place within all relationships and is considered to be completely “normal” (Wood, 2010, p. 200). An example of a situation involving this aspect of a relationship would be a couple whose parents both enjoy hosting Christmas and other holidays in their respective homes. Every year, when the holidays come around, it will be taxing on the relationship because both partners might want to be with their families, as well as be together. There are three different types of relational dialectics; autonomy/connection, novelty/ predictability, and openness/ closedness.
Autonomy is the want to lead a self-sufficient lifestyle and have time to one’s self. Connection is the desire to spend time with your partner and put effort into maintaining a healthy relationship (Wood, 2010). For example, when a couple does not live in the same area and visits to each other are completely focused on spending the entire time together. During the visit, those people will remain together continually. However, sometimes it can be just as beneficial to a relationship to spend time with others or even alone. Making these allowances can ensure that the balance of connection and independence is within a healthy ratio.
Predictability is when there is structure and a regular schedule within a relationship. Novelty is when there is something new being incorporated into the relationship (Wood, 2010). Such as, for the couple that is still in college, they have class, dining, and studying schedules throughout each day. These schedules also happen within their relationship. Their phone calls or sleepovers are on a schedule. Despite this fact, when it is time to return home for a break, their fixed, predictable schedule is no longer in effect. There may be some new aspects, or novelties in the relationship that result from this change of pace. This could simply be a new phone call pattern, which can also come with new information to share as well as new feelings of missing each other.
Openness is what you share with your partner within your relationship. Closedness is the want to keep some information to yourself (Wood, 2010). For instance, some couples can say that they share everything with each other, but in reality, there are some things that each of them keep to themselves. Maybe a woman would keep information about her body to herself, while a man would keep emotional information to himself. This is not to hide things from one another; it is to keep some things personal.
The Process of Listening
To fully comprehend the process of listening, one first must understand that “ listening” and “ hearing” are two different concepts. “Hearing is physiological activity that occurs when sound waves hit the ear drum” (Wood, 2010, p. 147). Listening is a process that is interactive and multifaceted; it involves more than just your ear drum and sound waves. There are six parts to listening mindfully; hearing/receiving the message, selecting and organizing what you hear, interpreting that information, responding to the person whom you are listening to, and remembering what they said (Wood, 2010). Social media has a role in listening too. It is a smaller role and technology is used but it can be done.
Mindfulness is, while in a conversation, being completely there for the time being. Meaning, your thoughts are concentrated on the person speaking and nothing else. You are giving this person your undivided attention. Julia Wood (2010) stated that to be mindful you have to make a decision to enter into a conversation. An article on the Huffington Post also shows that when you listen and take time to reflect on or enjoy whatever the conversation entails, it will be evident to your partner, and will give them a feeling of being important and having valid, interesting ideas. This will strengthen the bond with each other. An example of this area of listening in a committed romantic relationship would be if your partner was telling you about their day. You would give them all of your attention and be solely focused on them, and not on other things.
Receiving the Message
Receiving a message is the physical act of hearing what the other person is saying (Wood, 2010). An example of this would be when you physically hear someone say “hello” to you.
Selecting and Organizing
Julia Wood also touches on the fact that we do not always hear everything that is said to us. This is when we select what we hear, by paying attention to certain aspects of the conversation (Wood, 2010). An example would be when a couple is involved in a conversation and one of them only hears a portion of what is being said. Organizing is the second part of this area of listening. After we have selected what to hear we then organize the information.
Organizing the information goes through a series of steps. First, while listening we choose what area that person fits into the most; friend, family, significant other, or acquaintance. We use this area to gather more details about the person and the information they give. Next, we take into account their emotional state. After all of this information has been gathered, we then try and foresee what the person will want to do. Based off of these observations we then use certain exchanges learned throughout life to handle the situation at hand (Wood, 2010). For example, while growing up you may have learned what to do in a situation when someone is sad. If your significant other is seeking comfort you may hold them and try to assure them that everything is going to be alright. Now, in contrast, if they are not looking for comfort when they are upset about something, you could simply listen to them and hear what is making them feel this way and see if there is anything that you can do to help.
This next phase of listening is how you interpret or understand what the person you are listening to is saying. The main point of this is to hear from their point of view, although this does not mean that you have to agree with what their point of view is. By hearing their side it will help you understand where they are coming from (Wood, 2010). This can be seen when one of the partners in the relationship is upset about a certain friendship but the partner listening may not approve of the relationship. The partner can still listen and try to help even though they do not agree with the person or situation that is making them upset.
Responding is when you show that you have been paying attention by giving a response to the conversation. There are cultural signs that are used to show that one is listening. In the United States, we show that we are paying attention by looking the other person in the eye, head movements, and or asking questions about what they are saying throughout the conversation (Wood, 2010). In a relationship this happens throughout all conversations that are had between partners. During all conversations between the two people involved in the relationship one is usually listening while the other is speaking. While one person actively listens, they are giving responses and signs that show they are paying attention.
The final process of listening is the information you choose to keep saved in your memory. Julia Wood states that people tend to only remember one third of the information that they hear. One key to remembering is to make sure that the information you choose to hold on to is the most essential information given to you (Wood, 2010). In relationships, this is shown when having a conversation with a significant other the individual brings up things that were mentioned during prior conversations. This shows that they were listening and remembered the most significant pieces of information.
Social Media’s Role in Relationships
Using social media can help within the commitment area dimensions of having a romantic relationship, satisfying a romantic relationship, as well as in listening. According to Alexandra Samuel, partners who use social media have another constructive way to communicate and interact while apart from each other. The article goes on to say that if one partner wants to use social media to communicate and the other does not that this will be cause for further communication about how to go about communicating while apart. This can lead to new ways of working out conflict if the conversation going well.
When it comes to the other two areas within dimensions of romantic relationships since they deal with feelings social media is not really a factor but, it is in the commitment area. This can be seen by having your “relationship status” say that you are currently in a relationship with whomever you are dating. By doing this you are no longer just verbalizing that you want to be with this person but you and showing it to the public as well.
It is also shown in satisfying a relationship with the areas of investment, trust and, relational dialectics, as well as commitment which is stated above. In the investment area, you can be using social media to communicate with your partner. This can be done either by text messaging, or instant messaging through Facebook. Trust comes into play by the information you can post on Facebook. If there are certain aspects of your relationship that should not be publicly displayed but turn up on a social media site than this can cause issues within your relationship. Certain pictures may not need to be posted on Facebook or Tweeted on Twitter but, this has happened and has resulted in the ending of a relationship. This can also be seen in relational dialectics. When a couple is first getting together they may not be “Facebook Official” but, when this happens it is a huge step in the social media world. This is an example of novelty. It is a novelty act because it is not something that is going to happen every day it is more than likely a surprise that will make your partner extremely happy.
Listening can be done through electronics such as Skype, FaceTime, or IChat on a computer, as well as on a cell phone or land line (if you have one). Listening over the phone may be harder to do since you cannot give those responding social cues but it is still possible, you just have to pay a little more attention. When using Skype and those sorts of technology you can see the person which helps with giving those responsive cues but it also adds the distraction of doing other things on the computer.
All of these facts can help to ensure that you are in a committed, healthy, romantic relationship while still being connecting to social media. This type of relationship should not be difficult to obtain and believe in. Although the media is out there, supporting the spread of sex and noncommittal relationships between college students, this information on having and keeping committed romantic relationships thriving is a way to combat it. By listening to your partner whether in person or through different outlets of social media, you will open up the doors to the dimensions of a romantic relationship that can lead to self satisfaction and a continuing, healthy, personal relationship.
Bruess, C. J. S., & Pearson, J. C. (1997). Interpersonal rituals in marriage and adult friendship. Communication Monographs, 64, 25–46.
Bruess, C. J. S., & Pearson, J. C. (2002). The function of mundane ritualizing in adult friendship and marriage. Communication Research Reports, 19, 314–326.
Lund, M. (1985). The development of investment and commitment scales for predicting continuity of personal relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2, 3-23
Pearson, J. C., Child, J. T., & Carmon, A. F. (2010). Rituals in committed romantic relationships: The Creation and Validation of an Instrument. Communication Studies, 61(4), 464-483. doi:10.1080/10510974.2010.492339
Previti, D., & Amato, P. R. (2003). Why stay married? Rewards, barriers, and marital stability. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 561-573
Wood, J.T., (2010). Interpersonal communication: Everyday encounters, sixth edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth