The fairy tales say that once upon a time a girl met a boy; they fell in love, and lived happily ever after. Reality is not that simple. Long-term relationships force couples to get to know each other, involve themselves in each others’ worlds, fight through the hard times, and eventually develop deeper connections through distinctive stages of Knapp’s relationship model. Although I have dated the same person for over two years, the stages of our communication make it seem as though I am now dating a different person following dissolution and subsequent repair. However, even the most exhilarating of roller coaster rides develop through a combination of ups and downs, much like the stages of a relationship.
Initial contact came the moment he caught my eye during cross-country. I perceived immediate attraction and my friends began referring to him as Paige’s crush. Similarity of interests connected us and provided opportunities for interactional contact through high school soccer. The relationship developed from afar as we watched and learned about each other through the proximity of our neighborhoods, living only a mile apart. Exhilarating, heart-pumping rushes of emotion overwhelmed me each time John called. Showing Interest, John pursued me and wanted to spend time together. Our personalities meshed. Uncontrollable Duchenne smiles took over when I saw or thought about him. Team dinners required no need to speak because our nonverbal communication and eye contact said it all, demonstrated by winks and silly faces. By the end of the summer we were bound and officially dating.
Getting to know each other continued as our involvement expanded and disclosure developed quickly. I soon learned topical boundaries when bringing up other guys or discussing religion made John angry and uncomfortable. Conversations ended abruptly and we never revisited the sensitive topics again until much later. After our relationship moved beyond involvement, his protective instincts overpowered everything. I actually welcomed this protection as a sign of his caring for me since I always wanted a guy to protect me from conflict, just like in the movies. However, this overprotection stifled me and made me feel guilty whenever my communications with another guy made John jealous and angry. He tested my feelings for him by making me feel guilty about even looking in the direction of other guys. At the time, I ignored his jealousy because my strong feelings for him overshadowed my own needs as an individual. Looking back, I realize our involvement actually intensified, for the better and the worse.
John evolved into my best friend and, wrapping myself in his world, I lost my core group of friends. We had reached interpersonal commitment. All of my time belonged to John. We went to events and hung out according to his time frame, with little consideration for my time. All John needed to say was “no, I don’t want to do that,” and I respected his decision. Looking...