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Dating From the Inside Out
by Susan S. Davis

Relationship Uncertainty and Intimacy

Most everyone, as they begin to develop any sort of relationship with anyone, whether it’s a casual friendship, work, hobby, or even family-oriented situation, will at some point, begin to categorize the relationship, if only subconsciously. Generally, this begins as a process based upon level of interest, response, and general chemistry. For example, with a familial relationship, there may be a necessary commitment simply due to the nature of the situation, i.e., parental, sibling, or career. Those types of relationships usually require more of a viable connection, than a casual friendship.

When developing friendships, the level of involvement is usually predicated on like-minded interests, and, as time goes on, could develop into a meaningful, fulfilling friendship, based upon loyalty and a kinship, yet maintain almost the same, if not even more, gravity than the more “required” types of familial involvements.


In friendships, it is usually not required to define what level exists. This could be, because of the fact that in most friendships, there is easiness about them, which could be due to the fact that they evolve over time without the social pressures of romantic relationships. Romantic involvements usually progress with “goals” in mind, at least for one of the parties involved.

Relationships, like anything else in life, rarely stay the same. They either get better, worsen, or evaporate over time. Just like a plant or other living organism, relationships of all types need to be “’fed” in order to stay alive. And while most people understand this, it is surprising just how many people find it difficult to maintain relationships or cannot seem to fully grasp this dynamic present in them. Anything worth keeping needs to be maintained, whether it’s a car, a house, apartment, job, and, of course, this also applies to all types of relationships. And still, many people take better care of their inanimate objects, than they do their interpersonal relationships, which could be for the sheer fact that it’s easier to address the needs of an emotionless subject, than a living, breathing person, who has ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

It’s easy enough to maintain a career-oriented relationship, for example, because often, it is well known what is required, and as long as you set about doing what is required, the relationship goes smoothly. It is only when someone interjects or assumes that something is understood or agreed upon, when in fact, it was not, that it goes awry. And while those things do happen at work, they seem much easier to resolve than interpersonal relationships.

Interpersonal relationships are trickier, because they involve more emotion, and often a lot of unsaid subtext that usually never gets expressed. It is easy to assume, for example, that if someone is dating you, they are interested in knowing you on some level. On what level, however, usually remains to be seen. Similarly, it is easy to assume that someone’s level of interest is much higher than what it actually is. It’s a chance we all take, getting to know each other, in the dating arena. As time goes on, the regular presence of someone generally indicates a higher level of interest, but commitment issues are still a very delicate area to address.

Even so, if commitment is a goal of one or more parties, sooner or later, it needs to be addressed. Otherwise, there is a much higher risk of hurt feelings and discord that may result. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, the subject must be dealt with, and the sooner all concerned understand what the goals or concerns are of everyone involved, the better.

Still, topic avoidance with regard to commitment, and many other issues, does exist, in full force. Often, women don’t bring up commitment issues for fear of “losing,” someone, which, when you think about it, is ridiculous; because that supposes that there is a commitment present that could be “lost,” when, in fact, that is not the case at all. You can’t lose something that you don’t have. And if the other party has not willingly committed, then there is no meeting of the minds, and no commitment exists.

Topic Avoidance
Research recognizing that topic avoidance affects interpersonal communication, has indicated that a better understanding of how avoidance corresponds with relationship progression is necessary, in order to more fully understand its impact. Relationship development specifically coincides with topic avoidance, intimacy and relational uncertainty. Interestingly, a cross-sectional study in which 216 individuals identified and evaluated topics avoided within a romantic relationship, generally supported hypotheses predicting that:

(a) intimacy and topic avoidance share a convex curvilinear association,
(b) relational uncertainty and topic avoidance share a positive association, and
(c) relational uncertainty mediates the association between intimacy and topic avoidance.

What all this means, is that the transition from casual to serious involvement appears to constitute a unique period of relating within courtships. Moderate levels of intimacy correspond with heightened uncertainty about relationships, characterizing this phase. Individuals in dating relationships reported measures of intimacy, and the correlating relationship uncertainty. While this is probably of no surprise to anyone, it can dramatically affect the future of any relationship, and this is where it becomes most relevant. If both parties wish to develop a deeper involvement, it is more than necessary to address topic avoidance of all kinds, because it is only through communication, that an interpersonal relationship can continue, let alone, grow and thrive. Without communication, whatever else the relationship is built upon, usually cannot sustain it. Sooner or later, lack of communication manages to cause enough of a negative impact that will serve to threaten the survival of any relationship.

Addressing topic avoidance at the earliest possible time, would serve to dispel uncertainty, and therefore, a better chance at increased intimacy, along with the best possible interpersonal relationship, will be more attainable.

Susan S. Davis is a published book author and writer, currently doing research for a romantic screenplay she is writing. Her Dating From The Inside Out column is published every Tuesday.

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