What Is the Meaning of Interpersonal Relationship?

Young couple lying together on sofa
A man holding a young woman while laying on a couch. (Image: altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Interpersonal relationships exist between any two or more persons who interact and fulfill one or more physical or emotional needs. According to a 2010 article in Time magazine, challenges in life may feel less daunting to people with close interpersonal relationships. The magazine notes that close emotional connections and relationships may provide a sense of safety and security that reduces stress and promotes good health.

Definition

An interpersonal relationship is the nature of interaction that occurs between two or more people. People in an interpersonal relationship may interact overtly, covertly, face-to-face or even anonymously. Interpersonal relationships occur between people who fill each other’s explicit or implicit physical or emotional needs in some way. Your interpersonal relationships may occur with friends, family, co-workers, strangers, chat room participants, doctors or clients.

Strong Interpersonal Relationships

Strong interpersonal relationships exist between people who fill many of each other's emotional and physical needs. For example, a mother may have strong interpersonal relationships with her children, because she provides her child’s shelter, food, love and acceptance. The extent of needs that a mother fills is greater than the extent of needs that are filled between, for example, you and the cashier at the grocery store.

Weak Interpersonal Relationships

Mild interpersonal relationships exist when people fill modest needs. For example, if the extent of your relationship with the clerk at the grocery store is that he scans your items and you give him money, that is a weak interpersonal relationship. You need to go through him to get your items at the store, and he needs to collect money from you.

Enhancing Interpersonal Relationships

Interpersonal relationships occur between people who fill each other’s needs in some way. According to Marriage Builders, needs that occur between married couples include affection, sexual fulfillment, physical attractiveness and conversation. You can control the strength of your interpersonal relationships by acting or neglecting to act on the needs of the people that you interact with. For example, find out what your significant other expects from you on birthdays or other special occasions. You can enhance or weaken the relationship by either filling those needs or neglecting to fill them.

Problems

Interpersonal relationships become problematic when one or more of the participants has needs that are not met within the relationship. Someone who wishes to end a relationship may intentionally neglect the needs of the other person, but sometimes needs change and people fail to keep up with those changes. For example, a spoiled child may have a strong relationship with his parents only when his needs are met, but problems arise when the child does not get the toy he wants. A mother may try to fill safety needs for her son by advising against his desire for travel or adventure, although his need for safety may not be as strong has his need for freedom and exploration.

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