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What are Interpersonal Relationships? Definition, Types, Benefits, Challenges, and more

What are Interpersonal Relationships? Definition, Types, Benefits, Challenges, and more

Updated on Jul 04, 2022

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Interpersonal Relationships - Definition, Types, Benefits, and Challenges

So, you want to know about interpersonal relationships

For the short answer: all kinds of relationships in this world can be interpersonal relationships.

You have an interpersonal relationship with a stranger-turned-acquaintance… with whom you communicate on your way to work… or with your romantic partner.

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the value of interpersonal relationships and in turn, neglect them or brush them off.

Thankfully, you showed interest… and you’ll light up some lives around you once you read this think-piece.

Your loved ones will brighten others’ lives… and I hope this chain never stops.

So, without any delay, let’s hop in…

Interpersonal Relationships Infographics

Interpersonal Relationships - Definition, Types, & Stages
Interpersonal Relationships – Definition, Types, & Stages
Interpersonal Relationships - Benefits, and Challenges
Interpersonal Relationships – Benefits, and Challenges

Interpersonal relationship definition

Interpersonal relationships define and include any relationship in your life with another person – even if it’s short-lived or a long-term one – where you bonded with them to some extent.

Human beings need other human beings to lead happy and healthy lives. In your life, you build close relationships with multiple people in your social world.

Interpersonal relationships revolve around social associations, connections, or affiliations between multiple people in personal, professional, or social environments.

When you interact with another person and create social networks, it’s an interpersonal relationship in making.

Interpersonal relationships might include any intimate relationships with stronger bonds than those with an acquaintance or stranger.

Also, interpersonal relationships depend on faith, mutual respect, and reliability so you receive social support, love, and care from these bonds.

To understand the topic even better, let’s sneak into some…

Interpersonal relationship examples

Interpersonal relationships don’t stop at family and friends, or lovers. It includes some common types of relationships like:

  • Family relationships between siblings, cousins, or any family members
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Adult romantic relationships between romantic partners
  • Friendships
  • Professional bonds among coworkers

However, everyone doesn’t value relationships in their life. They dismiss these relationships because they have “better things to do”. This is because they are not aware of their importance in your life.

So, let’s find out…

Why are Interpersonal Relationships so important?

Interpersonal relationships help you understand yourself better. Each relationship pinpoints an important aspect of your life. It also minimizes physical and emotional sickness. 

Interpersonal relationships work like a mirror of your character, values, faith, or even personality. Since childhood, your surroundings influence and build your character.

Say, you experienced many healthy relationships among the key interpersonal relationships around you since childhood.

When you form new relationships, be it personal relationships, or professional ones, you’ll always form healthy ones.

You also receive a sense of direction and build goals in your life from what you observe and learn from interpersonal relationships. They help get rid of loneliness and still teach you to live life independently.

Moreover, interpersonal relationships have a direct connection with your physical, emotional, or mental health. So the healthier relationships you have in your life, the lesser health problems you get.

For the same reason, you need people who make you happy, share a positive attitude, and support you.

Your personal relationships with family and friends are the building block of your moral and social support.

A good relationship with an acquaintance or co-worker allows you to share common hobbies with them. Moreover, a relationship without support, trust, and loyalty is one-sided and results in unhealthy bonding.

Do you know that your interpersonal relationships don’t stop with friends and family? Let’s dig into some…

Types of Interpersonal relationship

All fortunate adults in the world have the basic types of interpersonal relationships mentioned here. 

It includes bonds with those who spoonfed you, played in the mud with you, pulled your heartstrings differently, or taught you to handle stress.

So let’s check out the types right away…

1. Family

Your family includes your parents, siblings, and grandparents. Then it extends to different family branches like your uncles, aunts, and cousins. Also, your caregiver or a guardian is your family even if they aren’t blood relatives.

You build relationships within your family since childhood and such relationships mostly come with a lifetime warranty.

However, it doesn’t imply that you’ll always hold the same values as your family… because everyone is unique. As long as your family and you respect each other’s thoughts, your relationships are great.

But when either of you can’t stay respectful towards the other’s values, family relationships crumble.

2. Friendship

Many quote “Friends are the family you choose” because you build strong relationships with people with similar values… for that, your friends can sometimes understand you better than your family.

However, all of your friendships are different. Some will focus on sharpening your strengths, others focus on soothing your weaknesses. 

Some might be short-lived, others might be long term. However, if your friendships hurt you more than help you, it’s time to look away.

You learn the importance of relationships from friendships, and also deeper aspects about yourself. Like what you desire in a relationship and absolutely won’t tolerate in one.

3. Romantic

Mostly, from friendships you cultivate deeper bonds, build trust, and at some point, you like somebody more than a friend… which results in romantic love.

Your love for your romantic partner will be much different from your love for family and friends. Some feelings remain exclusive between you and your romantic partner.

For instance, your body language shows your interest in them is different from other interpersonal relationships.

Not always, but romantic relationships require sexual and physical intimacy.

However, are your romantic relationships physical only? Then you misunderstood romance, as it also requires emotional bonding.

4. Professional

Many people limit the workplace for “only work” where you must not involve emotions… but eventually you make great bonds with coworkers.

You coordinate with them eight or more hours a day for most of the week, work through various ordeals together, have each other’s back during difficulties… All of these lead to great bonds.

To maintain a good workplace relationship, you must respect each other even if you don’t agree with each other’s ideas.

But if you’ve noticed, you tend to bond better in some relationships, while in some others, you just don’t connect no matter how hard you try. That’s because there are some…

Stages of Interpersonal Relationships

Levinger’s study shows 5 stages of interpersonal relationships: acquaintance, build-up, continuation, deterioration, and end. Lifetime bonds reach the third phase, but romance, school friendships, and coworkers go through all stages.

You don’t build relationships overnight, it takes time. Also, all kinds of interpersonal relationships you’ve built till today or will build in the future are unique.

They last for different time spans, hit different spots in your heart, and also trigger different feelings.

However, they all go through these fixed stages which psychologist George Levinger pointed out in his 1980 research.

1. Acquaintance

In this phase, you register the other person’s existence, your social connection with them, yet there’s no emotional bonding. You don’t know too deeply about them, or their personal life.

2. Build-up

You learn new things about the other person, find common grounds to relate with them emotionally or mentally. You can say that you know more about them than an identified face in a crowd.

3. Continuation

You continue bonding because you feel good around them. You may or may not make actual plans to meet them, but when you do, you enjoy your time… which is the reason behind continuing your interpersonal relationship.

4. Deterioration

This phase usually arises because of a disagreement or disrespectful incident leading to strained relationships.

However, it can also arise because you don’t find anything interesting anymore. And that’s totally fine because human beings can’t bond with everyone equally.

5. Ending

Once you reach the fourth stage, usually you have no other way out than the ending. You find that the relationship has turned toxic, understand things don’t work out well, and move on leaving the relationship behind.

Usually, it’s better for both sides to mutually end it for their mental health.

Most interpersonal relationships you build in your life end before reaching the continuation stage.

Those are secondary interpersonal relationships including your go-to shopping associate, neighbors, or people you interact with casually.

You wave or greet in secondary interpersonal relationships and don’t go beyond that.

However, the successful ones do reach the continuation phase and they stay for a lifetime.

However, in romantic, friendly, or professional interpersonal relationships, you might walk through all of Levinger’s five stages.

You bond well, and eventually break off when your romantic relationship doesn’t work out, when you graduate or change schools, or when you change or retire from your job.

But you sure don’t want all your interpersonal relationships to reach the end stage, so let’s learn…

How to maintain interpersonal relationships

You need interpersonal relationships for the obvious reasons… the benefits (which surely weighs over the drawbacks).

So, if you want to maintain them… like all relationships, you need to follow some rules to make your interpersonal relationships last longer.

Let’s find out what they are.

1. Listen carefully

When you connect with someone, you talk about the common ground and interests and play with the safer topics. Nothing’s wrong with that, however, active listening is important too.

If you’re a good listener to the other person, they feel valued.

Many times you cut off others’ speech unintentionally. The other person feels that the relationship is more about you… a biased one… and it deteriorates.

So, next time you bond with someone, share your side of the story but allow equal opportunities to the other person.

2. Show the real you

You can’t share your darkest secrets with people in lieu of maintaining a relationship, and that’s fine. However, keeping things from others isn’t the same as expressing something that’s unlike you.

Remember that if you need to alter your personality to mingle with others, that’s not the relationship you want for the long run.

Show the real you, the ones meant to be will stick by your side.

3. Take it easy with disagreements

Nobody out there in the world is your carbon copy… so don’t expect anybody to support all of your opinions.

Though you bond with others only when you find common interests, that doesn’t mean it’ll always be the case.

Whenever you have arguments or disagreements… even if it’s about your favorite player… it’s okay, mate. Acknowledge the differences and your individualities and move on.

Don’t hold grudges over differences, else your relationship will not sustain the ordeal.

4. Own up to your mistakes

When you have arguments or fights, either or both sides might be at fault. If you think it’s your fault, apologize. Don’t be someone who waits for the other to apologize.

Rather, be a responsible person, rectify and reflect on your mistakes when you commit one.

When you apologize, it shows that you prioritize your relationship over minor/major issues between you two.

If the other person equally values the relationship, you’ll solve your issues soon.

5. Engage in authentic conversations

If your interpersonal relationship is a close one, talk.

Think it’s contradicting the first rule? No, it isn’t. Listening doesn’t mean you can’t talk. Talk and let them talk too.

For instance, share something great you did or something that hurt you deeply. Make the conversations meaningful.

With this, the other person will understand you better, have a new topic to continue a conversation with, and you’ll know the world from a different angle. How cool is that?

6. Show appreciation

You appreciate your interpersonal relationships – love your parents, can’t do without your friends, bothering your siblings makes your day… but that’s in your mind, do they know it? Not unless you say so.

So, engage in verbal communication about your feelings. If you’re shy, expressing verbally can be quite a task for you… so why not write a note of appreciation?

Communicate in your own way but make sure your feelings reach them loud and clear.

This way, eventually they will show you the same love, and your interpersonal relationships will blossom.

7. Don’t roll down your boundaries

For the sake of your interpersonal relationship development, never ditch your boundaries. Only because you value a relationship, you can’t allow another to walk all over you.

Relationships work both ways with a give and take policy about respect, space, love, and care. It’s wise to communicate clearly about what bothers you and what is completely unacceptable for you.

Never compromise with your self-esteem in a relationship. If one forces you to do so, that’s an unhealthy relationship and sooner or later you’ll reach the end stage.

8. Spend time with them

Human beings work to earn a living and buy some luxuries. But soon everything begins to revolve around materialistic desires.

Nowadays, people send presents to make up for the lost time. Sad, right?

Spend more time with your loved ones to show that they aren’t a “responsibility” in your life. They’re someone much more important than a Christmas gift recipient.

Make them believe that you’ll stand beside them when they need you and spare some time out of your busy schedule.

9. Promote respect

In any kind of relationship, you’ll have differences in your views, thoughts, or emotions about many things. It doesn’t mean you can’t bond with someone with different views.

As long as you respect their opinions, they’ll stay respectful towards your opinions.

Mutual respect will help you maintain any relationship for a longer period, even to the point of “till death do us apart”.

10. Empathize with them

You can’t always relate to everyone in your life. However, even if you can’t put yourself in their shoes, you must empathize with their pain.

Be it the pain of loss, frustration, anger… it can be anything, and you must’ve felt similar discomfort in different situations yourself.

Usually, people dismiss others’ feelings with “Be stronger”, or “Men can’t cry”. Be someone who understands the pain and encourages them to show grief.

Create a safe space for them to show you really value them in your life.

11. Don’t judge

When you show someone that you’ll be there with them no matter what happens, they’ll open up. They’ll talk about their messed-up life, dark secrets, their guilty past, or regrets.

However, some people treat these situations with “WHY?” which makes them run down a spiral of questions contemplating over their past decisions.

People don’t understand what the other went through and insensitively ask hurtful questions. Even if unintentional, don’t give off judgmental vibes, and be careful about your words in these moments.

12. Embrace constructive criticism

When you find something genuinely wrong with a loved one, or the opposite… there will be some “unwanted” advice. However, think of the other person’s motives behind the advice.

Did they say so because they discriminate against you? Or, was it because you’re genuinely hurting yourself?

If it’s the second, then perhaps you CAN do better. They noticed your potential and shared an honest opinion. Don’t take it to heart.

In fact, if you sense they can improve themselves too, share some ideas.

By now, you might be curious how exactly interpersonal relationships can help your life? What’s all the hype about?

Benefits of Interpersonal Relationships

The hype? Well, human beings need other human beings, they can’t live alone.

However, many people who experienced bad relationships might swear interpersonal relationships don’t help.

In reality, they’re quite unfortunate because nobody showed them the beauty of relationships.

So hold my hand and learn them with me…

1. You won’t feel lonely

If you estrange yourself from everyone in your life you WILL feel lonely.

Some people brush off the possibility or even consider themselves as One-Man Army. Sure, you can be, but loneliness will creep in and you might feel more anxious than ever once you face it.

For instance, when you feel heartbroken, you need somebody to walk you through that path. They might not take over charge of your life, but they’ll always show you the brighter side of the ruins.

2. You gain self-esteem

You learn a lot about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, what’s cool with you, or what’s uncool with you. Or, you don’t just see yourself through your mirror, you see what others see in you.

At times you feel disheartened or like a loser for not accomplishing something. The healthy relationships around you remind you that you can do it… and this isn’t the end, remember it?

You regain your confidence once again because of the interpersonal relationships, else you’ll become an emotional wreck without faith in yourself.

3. You become healthier

People who have been through toxic or abusive relationships understand the value of a healthy relationship.

It can help you deal with every situation in your life optimistically which in turn improves your emotional and physical health.

When you make your beloved happy, you feel proud, happiness impacts your emotional health. Your emotional and physical health is also linked, so you indirectly boost your physical health.

In unhealthy relationships, you constantly feel down and stressed. Your health gradually deteriorates as people often dismiss you.

4. You cope-up with pain

If you have genuinely caring and loving people around you, they’ll know something’s wrong even when you don’t utter anything… and that makes everything more charming about interpersonal relationships.

For instance, when you can’t grab a promotion opportunity, your teammates and family members will eventually notice the issue.

Next what? Most people will console you, which is great but doesn’t help your case. Some of your coworkers might fill you in on where you went wrong and how you can develop yourself over time.

5. You grow everyday

When you interact with more people on personal, professional, or social platforms, you develop great soft skills in life.

For instance, you improve communication skills, problem-solving skills, talk more confidently in face-to-face interactions and become an overall confident person.

You learn new things from others or teach others new things. During the process, you grow as a human being and brush up on your skills.

Moreover, you become an empathetic person who can handle more emotions, rather than someone who fears or removes oneself from social situations.

But are all relationships flowery? Absolutely not. So, here are some…

Challenges of Interpersonal Relationships

Showing you the bright side and leaving you all alone isn’t “Honest”.

For instance, we both bond through this think-piece, so I must show you what’s Yay and what’s Nay about interpersonal relationships.

Step forward wisely in all relationships once you know these…

1. You might dislike sharing vulnerabilities

If you are not willing to show your weaknesses, maintaining interpersonal relationships can be a hard nut to crack.

More evidently, people who suffer from unhealthy relationships find difficulties in trusting others. However, if you must maintain them properly, you must bare your wounds.

The other person can soothe you, but there’s a chance that they’ll know exactly where to hurt you… when they need to.

So, always take your time to know if you must show your deepest scars.

2. Your obligations increases

You’ll come across various interpersonal relationships in your lives. To maintain them, you must at least be available for them.

However, in your busy schedule, when you tend to so many people and your interpersonal relationships, you might not get enough time for yourself.

As wonderful as it sounds to spend time with your loved ones, it might take a toll on your health and personal well-being.

So, always prioritize your personal space before you support others.

3. You have restrictions in new relationships

Sometimes when you value all relationships equally, you might jeopardize other relationships unknowingly.

For instance, you love and respect your parent’s wishes, but also love this other amazing person romantically. However, your parents don’t approve of it and you must break up. Confused?

Well, some of you have been at that spot and know how it hurts. That’s when you set boundaries for your relationships.

How much are your parents allowed to step into your other relationships should be your decision… not the internet, not a relationship expert.

4. Relationship dissolution becomes hard

When you bond with some person deeply, yet your relationship doesn’t work out… eventually, your feelings will fade away. However, you’ll still have difficulties stranding them.

For instance, you loved your romantic partner deeply. However, once you realized it’s an incurable unhealthy relationship, you decided to call things off.

On the flip side, the other person uses your past feelings to keep you back in the relationship. You believe they’ll change but they prove you wrong.

5. Others’ dishonesty hurt you

When you show genuine emotions to others, bond with them deeply, and allow them into your world… they have a considerable impact on you.

However, everyone doesn’t enter your life with equal honesty and sometimes even the other person’s unintentional mistakes hurt you.

You regret sharing and investing so much in your relationship. Such incidents in your life even discourage you from building new relationships.

With multiple let-downs in your life, you may even develop depression, anxiety disorders, or trust issues

Despite the challenges, you must thrive in your relationship, so read these…

Interpersonal relationship books

Starting from social anxiety to ignorance about maintaining interpersonal relationships, many people lose a major part of their life grieving behind closed walls about their incapability to bond. 

But you no longer have time to cry over spilled milk. Read these amazing gems and improve your lifestyle…

1. The Definitive Book of Body Language

Have trouble maintaining eye contact? This will not only show you what your body language implies but also teach you how to use them in your daily life confidently.

2. The Fine Art of Small Talk (Debra Fine)

Run into awkward silences a lot? Learn to make meaningful small talk in your daily life with this amazing book. Express that you value them, no matter what.

3. Conversationally Speaking (Alan Garner)

If you suffer from social anxiety and your relationships are all over the place for it, this will introduce you to an entirely new world and show you how to jump through the hurdles.

4. Dale Carnegie’s Lifetime Plan for Success

A two-volume motivational series – the first deals with regular communication and bonding with people; the second teaches you to reduce emotional turmoil in your life.

5. How to Instantly Connect with Anyone (Leil Lowndes)

The book explains how to be successful in personal and professional relationships in your life using the model of “emotional prediction”. You’ll learn to make deep impressions and receive and give respect in your relationships.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

Your life is full of interpersonal relationships in all spheres of life – private, romantic, professional, or even social.

If you don’t bond well, you might feel depressed, unconfident, or lonely… That’s when interpersonal relationships come to the rescue.

However, since work from home has stepped in, you have less time to bond with loved ones face to face.

Rather than checking on your loved ones in person, you can catch up on video calls. But does that really make up for the one-to-one interaction like in the old times?

Don’t think so… drop by your loved ones’ place or arrange intimate gatherings once in a while to ensure everyone feels involved and loved.

And mostly, don’t forget to be kind to yourself… because all kinds of healthy relationships begin with you.