Book Reviews -- Meaningful Relationships: Talking, Sense, and Relating by Steve Duck

By Milardo, Robert M. | Family Relations, April 1995 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- Meaningful Relationships: Talking, Sense, and Relating by Steve Duck


Milardo, Robert M., Family Relations


Duck, Steve. (1994). Meaningful Relationships: Talking, Sense, and Relating. [Sage series on Close Relationships.] Newbury Park, CA: Sage. 208 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-8039-5702-5, price $32.95; paper ISBN 0-8039-5703-3, price $15.95.

This is a book about how we conceptualize relationships and the processes that go into building them. The book draws heavily on the symbolic interactionism of George Herbert Mead, the personal construct theory of George Kelly, and the diverse writings of rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke. In this unusual mix of perspectives, Duck argues for a largely symbolic and dynamic construction of relationships based upon how "we represent the world to ourselves and to other people, using dialogues, conversations, and talk" (p. xiv).

Relationships are created and maintained through partners' continuing dialogues where "personal meanings" (e.g., values, attitudes) are shared and constructed. In this view, communication is not simply an exchange of information, of simple self-disclosure, nor are communication processes to be described or fully understood in terms of codifying behavioral sequences; rather, each partner's understanding of the other is based upon the sharing of personal meanings. Important in this symbolic and dramaturgical perspective are analyses of the use of language and metaphor as they reveal how individuals define, experience, and communicate love, commitment, similarity, trust, and other qualities of relationships.

The first two chapters detail the basic focus on language and its use in the enterprise of relationship development and maintenance. Successive chapters deal with how partners come to know and understand each other's personal meanings and how these processes are rooted in temporal and linguistic contexts.

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