Theories of Personal Relationships and the Contextual Model
The previous chapter suggested that a paradigm shift within the social sciences is taking place that will increase our understanding of human relationships in a more processual or time-sensitive manner. Chapter 7 prepared the groundwork for the theoretical analysis I attempt in this chapter. The current chapter applies the contextual model to a careful reading of 18 different theories that consider the role of time in personal relationships (PRs). It then synthesizes ideas from these theories into a model that articulates the relationships between interactional, situational, and phasic time. This chapter has two main objectives. First, it uses the tripartite model to show how existing theories can contribute to a more holistic, ongoing view of time in PRs. This holistic view—one that addresses the transpersonal aspects of personal relationships—is generally lacking in current theory. Second, it outlines a unified grammar or language of temporality in PRs; that is, it articulates some of the ways that the three contexts are woven together. As described in the first part of this book, it is this weaving of pattern across time that constitutes the intimate experience. Here we look at how scientific theory looks at different parts of this pattern.
The previous chapter reviewed issues of temporality that confront the social sciences in general and the field of personal relationships in particular. I tried to show that research and theory on personal relationships are not as sensitive to time as is possible. Researchers can respond to this problem by developing an interdisciplinary model that simultaneously views human relationships within three temporal contexts of increasingly greater width: interactions, situations, and phases. The interaction context focuses on the person-to-person interactions, and actions and perceptions that proceed over relatively short periods of time.