Conflict and Negotiation
in Adolescent Romantic Relationships
Love and romantic relationships are usually described in terms of connectedness, relatedness, bondedness, or the yearning for intimacy (Sternberg, 1998). Adolescent romantic relationships have also been described to consist of affiliation, intimacy, care, and support that increase with age (Connolly, Craig, Goldberg, & Pepler, 1999; Feiring, 1996; Shulman & Scharf, 2000a). Moreover, adolescent romance is romanticized and has been described in terms like absolutes, and idealism(Fischer & Alapack, 1987), and a sense of endless love (Gray & Steinberg, 1999). However, common experience shows that conflicts and disagreements are also integral to family and romantic relationships. Anger, envy, and contempt color all relationships. “To speak of relational connection is not to imply seamless harmony or warm fuzziness”; conflict is an integral part of or even a form of relationship (Josselson, 1992, p. 267).
The aim of this chapter is to understand the role of conflict in adolescent romantic relationships. The basic premise is that partners express and use their resentment and anger both to dissolve a relationship and as a way to change the nature and course of a relationship in order to meet one's own needs within the relationship. Thus, the need for commitment and exclusivity with a romantic partner should not be disconnected from the impetus for individuality and separate views. Conceptually, the central premise of this chapter is that emotional closeness and individuality are two central axes of a close relationship in general and a romantic relationship in particular, and that the balance between the two will determine the nature and quality of the romantic relationship and how disagreements or conflicts will be perceived and resolved. Moreover, disagreements and conflicts are inevitable and integral to the balance of a relationship and its evolvement over time.
In order to demonstrate this, Wrst, developmental and systemic issues related to the understanding of disagreements, conflicts, and negotiation in