Communication in Relationships

2 Oct

This week’s lesson was focused on defining personal communication and communication in relationships. For today’s post, I will be writing on communication in relationships, focusing on relational formation and the “coming apart” stage of Mark Knapp’s Relational Development model. The model describes the progression and development of relationships as a series of 10 stages in two phases.

To better illustrate my blog post, I have decided to use the real-life example of Asian celebrity couple, Nicholas Tse & Cecilia Cheung. Their relationship, marriage and subsequent divorce has been nothing short of dramatic.

Reports first stated that the both of them started dating in early 2002 but later split up when Tse reconciled with his ex-girlfriend, singer Faye Wong. In early 2006, they were reported to be “getting back together” and in July 2006, Tse officially admitted to dating Cheung in a media interview.

Personally, I believe that physical appearance played a part in the early stages of their relationship, disregarding the fact that they broke up in 2002. It is obvious that both stars are good-looking and it’s said that “physical appearance have its biggest impact in the early stages of a relationship; its impact diminish over the course of a relationship”. Similarity (tendency to form relationship with those we perceive as similar to us) also played a part in their relationship, with the both of them being in the film industry. Going along this vein, it is assumed that proximity played a part in the formation of their relationship. Proximity, which is when we form relationships with people around us, explains the shared social contacts, which I’m sure the both of them have, having starred in 2 films together, Twelve Nights (2000) and The Promise (2005).

The “coming apart” stage of Mark Knapp’s Relational Development model is characterised by differentiating, circumscribing, stagnating, avoiding and terminating. In differentiating, communication and interaction is marked by overt conflict. This can be clearly seen in the media reports about the couple when their marital woes first surfaced. It apparently first started when Cheung took a picture with Edison Chen, a surprise meeting between the two onboard a plane. You might recall that Cheung was involved/implicated in the Edison Chen sex scandal in 2008. Reports that claimed that Cheung’s then-husband, Tse, apparently flew into a rage.

As months went on, tabloids reported intense conflict between the two. An example would be Cheung’s interview with Oriental Daily, where she accused him of “leaking false information to the public to depict a negative image of her as a gold-digger and troublemaker”. She also critized him for being a “neglectful husband and father” and told him to “stop pretending to be a good man, a good dad”. Tse, on the hand, refused to engage with her, with the paparazzi bearing the brunt of his frustration. To make matters worse, their conflict also involved several additional parties, with all of them giving their take on the Tse-Cheung marriage.

In circumscribing, communication is restricted to safe areas and there is shrinking of relational interest and commitment. When the troubled couple finally met in their home to discuss the custody of their children’s right, it was reported that Cheung only spoke three sentences to Tse, all of which were revolved around “safe” topics. She apparently only said, “You’re back!”, “Why don’t you play with the kids for a while?” and “Whenever you want to visit the kids, just drop me a call anytime”. The lack of any discussion about the divorce proceedings or custody rights are also a sign of the shrinking of relational interest and commitment.

In avoiding, parties avoid one another and they withdraw physically and emotionally. This is seen from the actions of Tse, who avoided and hid form Cecilia like a plague. There were also allegations that he did not show any concern for Cheung when she suffered a miscarriage.

Finally, in terminating, the relationship ceases to exist and parties move on from the relationship. This is evident from the couple filing for a divorce in August this year after 5 years of marriage.

Communication has always played a huge role in relationships. Besides the example used, below are two videos where the same theories can also be applied. Can you think of any other examples?


9 Responses to “Communication in Relationships”

  1. beatricehua November 5, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    This is really an interesting post 🙂 i like how you’ve clearly shown and explained how the relational development model can be applied to this! I too, have come across many articles on the relationship troubles of Cecelia Cheung and Nicholas Tse. It really isn’t beneficial for the couple to have to be able to answer to the public and have so many people poking their noses into their affair. It’s quite sad that they eventually had to terminate their relationship in the end.

    • Melissa November 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

      Hi Beatrice, thanks for the comment! Interesting point you brought up there, about having so many people poking their noses into their business. Perhaps it might even be possible that, if the media hadn’t been so intrusive, they might still be together. 🙂

      That and if they hadn’t broke the Edison scandal. 🙂

  2. ngruifen November 6, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    I like your illustration of Knapp’s model of relation development in the actor’s lives. I think Kapp’s model is a guide and the process differs in every relationship. Based on the theory alone it is almost absolute that the Nicholas and Cecilia is on it’s way to a split. Breaking up is hard but it does no good to linger on. After all, it’s not the end of the world why feel bad when there’s is an opportunity to move on to better things in life 😀

    • Melissa November 6, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

      Yes, Yes, I agree! 😀 But personally, I don’t think they made a very good couple. Nicholas Tse looked too much of a bad-boy and he doesn’t come across as a nice person. Who knows? Maybe now, they might find partners who are more suitable for them. 🙂

  3. jolyncom101 November 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Yes indeed, communication plays a huge role in relationships. Without good communication, it can be difficult to sustain a relationship. While every relationship differs, I believe they share similar stages that are identified in Knapp’s Model. And I agree with ruifen that the end of a relationship doesn’t signify the end of the world. However, it is inevitable to avoid feeling bad.

    • Melissa November 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

      Hi Jolyn! Thanks for the insight! 😀

  4. jiasemi November 6, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    hey i really do agree the knapp model of relational development in your post. i feel that the knapp model can be applicable in all relationship however not all relationship will go according to the stages. Many people no longer see the importance in the fact on love. Love is just about responsibility and obligation. Nobody would do things for the love of it instead is for the sake of it, which no longer support the phrase ” love makes the world go round.”

    • Melissa November 6, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

      Or worst, love is now all about sex. Just look at all premarital sex teenagers are having these days or sexting.. *shakes head*

  5. retsarepus November 7, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I like your 500 days of summer example! Brings back good old memories that one (: hehe.. Anyway, while Knapps’ relational model is fairly good at placing individuals at points in their relationship, it only works, becauce his catagories are broad imo. Even then not every relationship follows through all the way; such as people not breaking up, or not avoiding each other despite breaking up.

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