Knapp’s Relational Development Model The Knapp’s Relational Development Model is a theoretical model to map the progression of an interpersonal

relationship between two parties. The Relational Development Model identifies 10 different stages divided into three overlapping phases: coming together, relational maintenance, and coming apart. To better understand what makes relationships work or fall apart, it is important to examine each stage of development not only by itself but also in its role in the movement from one stage to another as the relationship progresses or falls apart. It is important to note that movement is not necessarily progressive. It is possible to jump between the different phases.

1) The first stage of the Coming Together phase of the Relationship Development Model is theinitiation stage where first impressions of the two people involved in the relationship are made one the initial contact has been made. Often physical factors play a role in this stage, such as clothing, perfumes or colognes, hair styles, and overall appearance. People often want to portray themselves as easy to talk to, friendly, and open to discussion. This stage does not include deep revealing conversations, but rather light conversation meant to survey the possibility of a closer personal relationship with someone. 2) Moving from the initiation stage of the Model, the next stage is experimentation. In this stage of the relationship, the two people attempt to find some common ground between each other’s lives such as common interests and hobbies. This stage is also referred to as the probing stage, because each person probes the other for information that would allow them to further the social connection between them. Many relationships end here, never developing to anything more than a mere acquaintance.

The first stage of dissolving the relationship is the differentiating stage. the bonding stage. Of course. signifying the intimacy of the relationship. asking for a romantic relationship commitment or expressing affection both verbally and nonverbally. where forbidden by law to marry. During this stage of the Relationship Development Model. 5) After the integration stage. there are no set guidelines for every relationship in the intensifying stage. but marriage is not necessary in the bonding stage. the commitment of the relationship is communicated to the rest of the world. the final stage of the coming together half of the Relationship DM is reached. relationships move from the coming together stages of the RDM to the coming apart stages. Here also is where people test the potential of the relationship with varying degrees of self disclosure to see if that will be reciprocated and to test the impressions one is making. or otherwise. They can include presenting the other person as a girlfriend or boyfriend (presentation) or seeing if the relationship lasts when a temporary physical separation between the two people occurs. announce or declare their relationships. if gay and lesbian couples. differences are exploited instead of the commonalities of the experimenting and intensifying stage. 4) The fourth stage of relationship growth is the integration stage. emphasizing positive and constructive communication patterns. those relationships that do move to the next stage experience the intensifyingstage. Partners in some relationships may “test the waters” to see if particular advances are welcomed or frowned upon. The bonding stage is where many intimate and romantic relationships remain indefinitely. there are five stages of the coming apart. From a legal perspective. relationships grow and self-disclosure becomes more apparent and deep. In this stage. where the lives of the two people begin to merge and their status as a couple is confirmed. this can move the couple into this stage of the relationship. These “secret” tests are intended to test the intensity of a relationship. In the intensifying stage of the Relationship Development Model. Stages of Coming Apart More often than not. until divorce. Methods include giving gifts. In this stage friends that one would have individually meet and social groups combine. People find many different ways to foster their relationships in order to stimulate relational development. and making frequent connections with one another. death.3) However. Every relationship possesses unique characteristics that make it difficult for the Relationship Development Model to accurately predict if efforts to further the relationship will succeed or fail. Others will openly engage interpersonally in a declaration to the other of their intent to be exclusive in some fashion. For instance. The momentum of the “work together” attitude quickly shifts directions and becomes more individualistic. . Also occurring at this stage are the beginnings of a sexual relationship and the deepest levels of self-disclosure are approached. Just as with the “coming together” stages. Key points to maintaining a relationship at this stage include sharing power equally. it could be called marriage.

Partners may fear discussing deep topics because of the threat of a conflict. . The final stage of the RDM is the termination stage. Temporary separation is a common solution to this stage of the relationship. This stage builds off many of the problems of the circumscribing stage. communication becomes more limited and less frequent. This stage takes the limited communication to a physical level. the coming apart stages of the Relationship Development Model are not necessarily negative. Stagnating relationships do not grow or progress but rather invoke a feeling of “nothing changes”. The second to last stage of the dissolution of the relationship is the avoidance stage. it is likely to enter the third stage. Partners may avoid each other altogether. it is very difficult to “relight the fire” that once held the relationship together. desiring separation from one another. stagnation. In the circumscribing stage. leading to less communication altogether. it is healthy for two people to terminate their relationship in the interest of personal aspirations and well being. The Model cannot accurately describe all relationships. The communication becomes much shallower and the range of topics significantly decline. the primary focus of the relationship shifts from differences to setting limits and boundaries on communication between the two people. Following the differentiating stage is the circumscribing stage. Sometimes.Some may describe feelings of being held down and resentful of their commitment to their partner. Although it is possible to save a relationship from this stage of development. If the decline of the relationship continues. The relationship stops completely. However. each relationship moves at different speeds and is affected by the personalities and communication abilities of the people involved.

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