Research Paper On Creation And Breaking Down Of Relationships

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Relationships, Formation, Family, Concept, Exchange, Film, Children, Breakdown

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/02/24

The issue of the creation and breakdown of relationships has been under study for a long period. Due to the changes in the society, people have had different perceptions about these two issues, but the agreement is that the two concepts have a sense of dynamics that cannot be generalized. People often come to the decision of either entering into a relationship or breaking down one after a process of rational consideration. This consideration essentially involves weighing the rewards obtained from being in that relationship and the costs that are incurred after entering the relationship. When the costs outweigh the rewards, the relationship is broken down but if the rewards outweigh the costs, a relationship is created. Through the two films discussed in this paper; Kramer vs. Kramer and When Harry Met Sally, some of the factors that explain the formation of relationships especially intimate ones and the dissolution of the same relationships are explained.
The story of Harry and Sally is perfect when it comes to the description of the dynamics associated with the formation of relationships among people, especially romantic ones. This film follows the lives of two strangers who meet while searching for fresh starts in life. From the onset, the two are quick to conclude that they can never be friends let alone being romantically involved. Through the film, occurrences bring them together and they end up being more than friends. Kramer vs. Kramer, on the other hand, looks at a family that is torn apart due to diverging needs of the parents. Joanna, who is married to Ted, decides to end their relationship in order to focus on her creativity and experience of life. Ted on the other hand due to his job requirements doesn’t have time to deal with his wife’s problems and is soon left with the responsibility of taking care of his son Billy when he divorces Joanna. The film is a good example through which the concept of the breaking up of relationships can be looked into. This is especially clear when the adults fight for the custody of Billy.
A theory that can be used to explain the issue of formation and breakdown of relationships is the social exchange theory. The theory basically examines the forces that drive the different parties involved in a relationship to either initiate it or terminate it (Jamieson 485). It looks into what informs the decisions of either party to be involved with a person or get out of a relationship with the same person. The argument in this perspective, therefore, is that human beings either enter or exit relationships after considerable consideration of the costs and benefits of the said relationship. Before any party makes a decision, they first weigh what they stand to gain or lose from the arrangement while at the same time taking into consideration other options available to them. Some of the major issues that come up in this concept are the subjective nature of the analysis and the rationalization that comes into play before making a decision (Cherlin, 848). This perspective on the formation and the dissolution of relationships borrows heavily from the normal business arrangements that make use of economical concepts.
The kind of exchange, therefore, that comes up during the formation, or the breakdown of relationships mirrors the kind of exchange that occurs in any kind of business. In the marketplace, individuals will always be out searching for the commodities that add value to them and which are likely to be cheap in comparison to others. On the other hand, the seller will be out to benefit from the products being sold and will, therefore, sell to the person who offers the greatest promise of good benefits. This analogy can be understood as the basis of the formation of the normal human relationships. Both parties will be out to maximize the gains that they get from the relationship (Jamieson 490). They are likely to make comparisons by looking into other options and will finally settle down with the person who offers the greatest benefit. The only difference with the marketplace is the lack of a quantifiable measure of exchange. In the breakdown of relationships, on the other hand, a person examines the arrangement and finds out that the benefits previously obtained are no longer present. The absence of any tangible benefits is, therefore, likely to make one reconsider being in a relationship thus leading to the breakdown of that relationship.
In further explaining how relationships come into being, the concept of costs and rewards can be introduced. Here a model that weighs between the two and used to determine whether the relationship is worth is adopted by many people (Cherlin 850).The side of the costs represents the responsibility that each party has the other party in a relationship. The costs, therefore, can encompass issues such as the time devoted to the partner, the finances involved, and the negative aspects of the partner that one has to live with. The other part of this model is that of rewards. This refers to the gains that each of the parties is bound to get after being in a relationship with the other party. The rewards, in this case, can encompass positive issues such as getting companionship, being accepted and being supported in individual ventures.
The model, therefore, comes into play in determining whether a relationship is initiated or whether a relationship is terminated. Simple mathematics is done, whereby if the difference between the costs and the rewards is positive, the relationship is deemed to be worth. But if the difference of the two is negative, the relationship is not deemed worth and is not initiated, and if it was ongoing, it is terminated. The outcome of any relationship in human beings is, therefore, dependent on the level of satisfaction experienced by either of the parties (Jamieson 490).

Formation of relationships: When Harry Met Sally

The overall argument of this film is portraying the road through which a relationship can be formed. Here, the two parties Harry and Sally begin as strangers, move to being partly friends, then evolve to friends and even lovers, revolting back to being enemies and then ultimately becoming life partners. Throughout this complex journey that the two make, the concept of social exchange explained above can be clearly seen. The two continually adopt the cost-reward model in defining the various phases and status of their relationship.
The first aspect that can be seen from the film is the subjective nature of the analysis of the partner. Sally and Harry in their normal relationship do not change in order to impress each other. In fact, they continue with their normal behavior without considering what the other person thinks. According to them, the other party should view them as they are and either accepts them or not. In their exchange, therefore, they do not take into consideration the views of the other person but want to continue with their own way of doing things. Sally, for instance, is always herself and takes a long time in deciding what food to order even in the presence of Harry. This proves that the subjective nature of the social exchange where neither party wants to change their way of life for the other but expect them to take them as they are. Harry actually goes on to like this trait in Sally.
A key concept in social exchange is the aspect of looking for alternatives and making comparisons. Before they became romantically involved, Sally and Harry often met to discuss their other relationships. They actually went further to try to help each other reconcile with their respective partners. These efforts were however not fruitful but bring into light the concept of alternatives and comparisons in social exchange and the formation of relationships. Each of the characters was always looking outside in search of the person that was fit to them. In Sally’s eyes, this person could not be Harry and in Harry’s perspective the person could not be her. They therefore sought for alternatives before the truth about their compatibility hit them, and they became a couple.
Harry and Sally also employ rational thought in the formation of their relationship; a concept present in social exchange. After years of knowing each other, they finally come to think of the benefits that they can get by being with each other. The application of the costs-rewards model comes into play here since it is what finally brings them together. At first, the two characters were of the idea that they could never be friends let alone being romantically involved. When they started to interact, however, the kind of rewards that each obtain from the set up brings them together. This is what led to the formation of the first friendship since they benefitted by having fun and also enjoying the company of each other. Over time with the continuous discovery of the rewards that rose from being together they found out that the only way to maximize the rewards was by initiating a relationship.
Given that they had for years continued to enjoy the reward of being friends, the costs that came with the same seemed to diminish. In the formation of relationships therefore just like in Harry and Sally’s case, the diminishing of the costs of the relationship results in its initiation. Before they finally agreed to be intimate, Sally was not supportive of the idea. This is seen in the scene where Harry confesses that he loves her, but she responds by deciding to walk out. This scenario can be explained that at that time, Sally saw the costs being in a relationship as outweighing the rewards. That is the reason that she opted to first reject the advances but with time, the rewards became more evident thus the initiation of the relationship.

Breakdown of relationships: Kramer vs. Kramer

Through the film Kramer vs. Kramer, the factors that explain the breakdown of relationships are highlighted. Here Joanna decides to leave her husband and child due to her search for fulfillment. As explained above, before one makes the decision to enter into a relationship, he or she does an analysis of the costs and the rewards that they are getting from the relationship. In that model, if the relationship brings about lesser rewards it is deemed not worth. This is the exact thing that occurred when the film starts. Joanna sees the relationship as inhibitive to her search for self-fulfillment. According to her, the relationship that arose from his husband and the child was not worth pursuing due to the costs to her life. After the exit of the mother, the responsibility of taking care of the child is left to the father, Ted. Previously he was not very involved in the affairs of the house concerning his wife and also the child. He, however, has to now initiate a relationship with his child which ultimately leads to the loss of his job.
Another concept about the breakdown of relationships is the consideration of others. Unlike in the formation of relationships whereby all that matters is the self, the breakdown of relationships calls for the actor to consider the affairs of the other party. To this end, we focus on the relationship that Joanna had with her child. Before she leaves, she makes the statement that she does not view herself as a good mother. She points out that the decision to depart from the house is based on her inability to assure proper care of the child thus bringing the concept of consideration of the other party. This act is in sharp contrast with the formation of relationships since here; one has to consider what the other person stand to gain or lose. It is not all about the subjective costs and rewards.
Through the custody battle that Joanna and Ted enter into, the aspect of rationality is seen. Both parties are seen to put across reasons as to why they are the better parents. The society normally expects the mother to be the one responsible for raising the child. In Ted’s case, he was present for most of the period and thus qualified to take care of here. The debate here is essentially who is well positioned to initiate a relationship with the child. This therefore brings into play the concept of costs and rewards. The person with the least amount of benefits is not perceived to be worth pursuing a relationship with. This is, therefore, the basis that is used to decide the custody battle. Generally, therefore, Kramer vs. Kramer shows how human relationships come to an end. Parties involved such as in Joanna’s case weigh the costs and the rewards to find that the costs are higher. When this happens, they opt to exit from the relationship. Being with Ted brought feelings of non-fulfillment, which led to the ultimate destruction of the relationship.


The creation and breaking down of relationships is generally a product of rational consideration of the two parties. Before the individuals decide to either enter into a relationship or exit from one, they weigh the costs and rewards thus informing their decision. This analysis is clearly portrayed in the two films discussed in this paper.

Works Cited

Jamieson, Lynn. "Intimacy Transformed? A Critical Look at the Pure Relationship'." Sociology 33.3 (1999): 477-494.
Cherlin, Andrew J. "The deinstitutionalization of American marriage." Journal of Marriage and Family 66.4 (2004): 848-861.

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