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This paper would seek to relate the Social Penetration Theory and its arguments with the case scenario of the newlyweds. The paper would examine a number of research papers and literature in reference to this theory and what implications it can have on the sort of communication exchanges which exist between a newlywed couples.
This paper will analyze an important social concept and its effects on those who have newly experienced matrimony. The social concept is defined as the Social Penetration Theory and it came into being after it was felt by certain Professors; Altman and Taylor, that closeness in relationships and between people is experienced through a gradual process through which both the participants come out of their shells and create a greater connection.
This paper would seek to evaluate the above concept in terms of its implications on the newly wedded couples.
According to Altman, I., & Taylor, D. (1973), all communication exchanges pass the stages of superficiality to the more intimate connection stage and hence, their relationship develops as well. The theory defined by them has been used in order to explain many facets of interpersonal exchanges and communication. This theory proposes the notion that in order to be close to someone, the other person has to open herself on different levels in order to strengthen the bond between them.
Hence, this theory makes the individuals involved more vulnerable to each other by making them more exposed to what the other is feeling and what they themselves are feeling. This theory revolves around the notion of a reward/cost basis in which each relationship is based on rewards and costs.
The favorable relationships are those which bear rewards while those relationships which are perceived as burdensome are viewed in terms of the costs associated with them.
As outlined by Altman, I., & Taylor, D. (1987); the more the relationship develops the greater is the connection created between the individuals and the level of informality rises between them consequently as well. This process can be defined in terms of a number of stages such as the initial stage where the individuals try to find out about each other through small talk.
Once the two start revealing more and more about each other, that stage is defined as the exploratory affective stage where the personal beliefs and ideas come into place. In this case, the individuals are still trying to create comfortable ground and are still trying to establish some level of understanding. The next stage is the actual groundbreaking stage which is defined as the affective stage where the more personal ground is covered and at this point the friendship is replaced by an intimate connection.
The stable stage is where the relationship has matured and the individuals depend on each other and are able to gauge the emotional reactions of each other. After this, if the relationship worsens it leads to an end of the relationship itself.
Hence this theory has been compared to that of an “onion” which needs to be peeled in order to discover the actual. The same is the case with people who have exterior shells which are superficial in appearance and manner and the more the other person peels away the layer, the more is revealed about the person.
According to Altman and Taylor(1987), relationships which bear rewards are maintained and then discontinued when the costs are too high.
Newlyweds, as the term itself explains, are those who have just bound themselves in the holy act of Matrimony. Hence, for them the process of life has just begun anew and each day with their partner is a new day of discovery.
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This paper would outline the way this theory captures the effects of discovery in a newly-married couple’s relationship and the subsequent developments in this relationship. This theory is bound by the notion of Reward/Cost and hence, the main idea of this paper is based on the notion that the newlyweds’ marriage is also based on the idea of the relationship giving rewards and bearing costs and as long as the rewards are greater than the costs, the relationship would be successful. (Griffin,1997).
The newly-weds experience all stages defined above in the paper as they are two individuals who have to discover everything about each other and hence, their relationship experiences all nuances where the two individuals move from stages of formality to a relationship which is stable and where communication does not suffer as a result of the lack of insight about the other’s personality and character. (Wood,1997).
The relationship of the newlyweds is based on a process of discovery as the individuals have just entered into a new life together and hence, the stages of communication have to progress from the relatively more formal to the more intimate.
However, the way each couple does it differs as while are more comfortable in discovering new things and being more forthcoming, others require much more time and attention.
Hence, in that case the process of communication is much more stilted and these sorts of couples require serious effort in order to progress from the more formal stages. Hence, the stage of exploration can last longer for these sorts of couples while the others can require minimal effort to move from the initial stages to those stages where communication is easier. (Griffin,1997).
This process of self-disclosure is bound by the notion of rewards and costs and till the individuals feel that this new relationship of theirs is bearing them rewards, they will continue to do so but when the individuals feel that the costs are too high than the process will discontinue.
In the case of the newlyweds, the peripheral items are exchanged much more easily than the information itself as the individuals are still trying to establish a level of comfort which will not leave them that vulnerable and exposed to the other.
In the initial days of marriage as is in the case of Newlyweds, the process of self-disclosure is on a reciprocal basis and at first, only general ideas are exchanged as the individuals are still caught anew with this status of their relationship.
At first, they might feel the need to exchange and communicate more in order to initiate and strengthen this relationship. However, discovering the superficial layers is much easier than discovering the intimate details of the significant other. (Anderson, & Ross,1998).
For that, both individuals need to have established certain level of understanding as the greater the level of penetration, the more difficult it becomes the exchange of communication becomes as well.
Hence, in these sorts of situations the couples personal issues and differences become much more obvious and hence, the issues become cause for arguments and problems.
The newlywed couples communication exchanges are deeply based on the sort of understanding which can only be created once the two have passed the initial stages of penetration.
If the couple has gotten married after a long courtship period, than the relationship might be already in a stage of stability while those couples which get married in a rush would have to experience every stage of communication.
The theory of rewards and costs holds great significance for the newlyweds as during the initial days of discovery when the couple is trying to establish more and more common ground for it, the rewards are much more as there is less room for complexities and problems to arise. However, once the level of understanding has been created and personal ideas have been exchanged the level of costs rise. (Cragan, & Shields, 1998).
The couple would need to rectify this situation by getting accustomed to being open to the possibility of communication as otherwise these issues could result in the depenetration stage; when the communication exchanges would face severe hindrance. (VanLear, 1991).
Therefore, in order to allow greater communication flows and exchange, the newlyweds would need to penetrate deeper into creating a communication flow which is more flexible and forthcoming at the same time. (Wood,1997).
Hence, what has come across has been the idea that the Social Penetration Theory can explain the sort of issues and communication problems which can be faced by the newlyweds as a result of their lack of experience, newness of relationship but it cannot be used to explain the way the communication would develop as that varies from individual relationship to individual relationship. And in certain cases, the stages might even be surpassed and the depenetration stage might arrive even earlier than the stability stage.
However, this theory did allow the reader to understand the importance of communication and its developments in the case of newlyweds