Mark Knapp's Relational Stages Model is divided into 10 stages across two major phases: coming together and coming apart. In reality, some stages may be omitted, revisited or jumbled from couple to couple--and can also be used to characterise relationships beyond romantic ones, such as friendships, business relationships and others involving close ties.
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Coming Together: Initiating
This first stage is characterised by people's first encounters, involving initial contact, greetings and conversation starters. The emphasis at this time is to establish as positive an impression of oneself as possible. During this stage--the duration of which can be as short as 10 seconds--individuals observe and assess the most visible and apparent aspects of one another's physical characteristics and personalities.
Coming Together: Experimenting
The second stage involves becoming further acquainted, using pleasant small talk to gather a sense of what parties may have in common with one another, as well as what interest they may have in one another--and thus what potential value and likelihood there is of continuing any relationship.
Coming Together: Intensifying
Knapp's third stage involves the lowering of defences, confiding in one another, getting to know one another more deeply, and expressing feelings about one another. In romantic relationships, this would be the stage when couples transition from expressing "like" to expressing "love."
Coming Together: Integrating
The fourth stage consists of the individuals' lives and selves becoming more intertwined, to the point where they do so much together that others begin to perceive them as a unit. At this point, they think more in terms of "we" than in terms of "I," sharing property, friendships, special occasions, daily routines, responsibilities, commitments, intimacy and the bulk of their free time.
Coming Together: Bonding
The fifth is when the declaration of togetherness becomes official and public by way of some formal declaration of a couple's commitment and exclusivity to one another --typically, a wedding, in romantic relationships.
Coming Apart: Differentiating
At the first stage of coming apart, the individuals in the relationship regress to emphasis on "I" rather than "we," decisively spending more time than previously on developing and pursuing separate space and activities. Typically, the emergence of this stage signals that there are problems in the relationship that need to be addressed before it proceeds to unravel further.
Coming Apart: Circumscribing
During the second stage of coming apart, communication begins to falter as a couple attempts to preserve its bond on the surface--yet avoids sensitive subjects in order to do so.
Coming Apart: Stagnating
The third stage of coming apart is characterised by simply going through the motions--behaving as though nothing has changed, doing what has become usual and expected, yet with diminished interest, enthusiasm, joy or meaning.
Coming Apart: Avoiding
The fourth stage of coming apart involves making efforts to establish physical distance from one another as much as possible to avoid numb or unpleasant interactions unless they are absolutely necessary.
Coming Apart: Terminating
In the final stage of coming apart, a couple speaks the desire to go their separate ways and make the decision official. Speculations regarding what went wrong might also be exchanged, and the relationship may conclude on good or bad terms.
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- Marriage and Family Encyclopedia: Relationship Initiation - Stages Of Relationship Development
- Austin Community College; Knapp's Stage Model of Relationship Development; Professor Colangelo
- University of Kentucky; Honors: Communication Capstone Spring 2001 Theory Workbook: Interpersonal Context - Relationship Development; February 2001
- Allyn & Bacon: Interpersonal Communication: Relationship Development - Knapp's Relationship Escalation Model