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Understanding Relationship Tensions

Updated on May 2, 2014

Relationship Dialectics

Each personal relationship has its own set of distinctive rules, structure and interactions or relationship dialectics. (Wood 203) Relationship dialectics are those opposing tensions within any close relationship that continuous in nature. One contributor to the type of tension previously mentioned is the autonomy/connection dialectic. The conflict arises because although we may want to maintain our individuality, we still seek the closeness and connectivity acquired by spending time with our partner. However after spending prolong periods of time together, the need for independence is heightened. (Wood 206) This reminds me of when I was on vacation last year, I went back home for one of my brother’s birthday. I have three brothers and three sisters and we are scattered around the world so these occasions are very welcomed. Our mother gets to spend time with all her children under one roof and we get the opportunity to socialize with each other and meet nieces and nephews that we have never seen. However although we may wish that we were all in the same country and had the chance to see each other every day, at the end of the trip we all are craving our independence and a chance to be alone. What is important to note is that these two conflicting needs are both necessary for our growth; they are both natural human desires. (Wood 206)

The second dialectic that will be discussed is the novelty/predictability dialectic; this contributes to conflict in personal relationship because although we may believe that we function better with certain specific routines we also crave innovation and newer ways in doing things. Routine provides us with security; it allows us to feel safe as we are able to predict certain actions of our partner. However, this does not stop us from wanting some freshness or uniqueness in certain areas since spontaneity creates excitement. This brings me back to my siblings, within the past five years three of my siblings have turned 50 and they all go back home to celebrate. This is good because we have an opportunity to celebrate together, however I am a bit tired of this routine and when my time comes around the celebration will be held somewhere else.

Openness/closedness is the third dialectic being examined and this dialectic creates conflict because although we may support the need for openness with our relationship there are some matters which we feel should be kept private. For instance if there is tension we may believe that in order to resolve the conflict both parties must be open and share their views honestly, however the issue might be something that one individual considers to be private. In this case it is necessary to understand that absolute openness can be agonizing, (Wood 207) therefore we must learn to respect each other’s privacy. My siblings and I are very close and would share family matters openly however there are facets of my life that is private to them that I share openly with my wife. When it comes to health issues I am quite open with my wife because she could be directly affected due to my health, however I don’t feel the same with my siblings.

There are four ways in which individuals who share personal relationships could handle dialectic tension. According to Wood (207) dialectic tension could be dealt with using the following four measures

  1. Neutralization
  2. Separation
  3. Segmentation
  4. Reframing

The first way to deal with tension that arises from relationship dialectic is to come to a compromise where individuals may share as much as they can with each other and as such the problem is neutralized. Individuals who face problems with tension could also utilize separation to ease the tension. This is done by addressing one need in dialectic and ignoring the other. (Wood 207) The other two ways to address the tension that may arise from relationship dialectics as mentioned earlier is through segmentation or reframing. Segmentation creates the opportunity for individuals to be open when discussing certain topics and yet respecting each other’s privacy in other topics. Reframing transforms contradictory needs in a way that they are not. (Wood 207)

Work Cited

Wood, Julia T. Understanding Human Communication Columbia College Edition. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2010.


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