Navigating the Shadows: Understanding the Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication in Relationships

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1708 Words
Date:  2024-01-29

The dark side was suggested as a heuristic metaphor that extends and integrates approaches to personal research relationships and interpersonal communication (Spitzberg, 2016). The dark side is not mainly meant to refer to destructive or evil things. Instead, it is a rich metaphor. In defining ‘the dark side,’ many scholars shy away from giving a formal definition. There are, however, many suggested definitions (Spitzberg, 2016). First, the dark side can be a distorted, dysfunctional, destructive, and distressing human character element. The second suggested definition is the act of betraying, defying, transgressing, and violating. It includes disruptive and rude aspects of human character (Spitzberg, 2016).

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To understand what involves the dark side, scholars have proposed assumptions based on a dialectical mindset concerning human beings and their relationships. The assumptions given explain more about what the dark side metaphor is (Owlett, 2020). The first working assumption is, that the approach people give their interactions is filled with different motives. Even though people demonstrate the tendencies to be moral, rational, benevolent, fair, and actualizing, they are inherently bad and good (Owlett, 2020). The second assumption is that interpersonal communication has different results, and generally, these results can be destructive and constructive, dysfunctional and functional, painful, and pleasurable (Owlett, 2020).

Thirdly, evaluating specific consequences to be dark or light is a role of differences in people, culture, and context. That which a person might consider valuable, another might find it unfavorable. What one culture supports, another may disregard. The fourth assumption is that temporality contributes to interpersonal relationships' functional uncertainty (Owlett, 2020). In particular, actions that seem to be a good idea may later be seen as counterproductive.

Furthermore, many results are not fixed items. They exhibit a cumulative and, at times, chaotic or punctuated quality (Owlett, 2020). Finally, interpersonal communication happens in a social system hierarchy. As such, a specific result judged as bad or good on one level cannot necessarily have similar effects on another level (Owlett, 2020).

The suggestions provided herein seem to be illustrative. They recommend a mindset that should provide an alternative view of what might constitute ‘the dark side’ (Owlett, 2020). The result of this is that the definition of ‘dark side’ will be accorded a broad scope.

The causes of divorce in any relationship are many. It can be infidelity, poor communication skills, keeping secrets, addictions, or even money problems. In the context of the dark side of interpersonal communication, the keeping of secrets is a major issue because it keeps one party in the ‘dark.’ Secrets are deceptive and indicate that there is a problem in the relationship (Owlett, 2020). They can also affect one’s health. For instance, a father who conspires to hide his addiction to alcohol may affect his health. Because there are many negative effects of keeping secrets, most scholars have emphasized open communication and its benefits. They believe that openness is a virtue of good communication (Spitzberg, 2016).

Moreover, many scholars have suggested that the emphasis on openness in communication is incomplete without acknowledging that there are advantages to keeping secrets and avoiding topics (Spitzberg, 2016). Dialectical theorists suggest that people have different exposure and closeness experiences in relations (Schrodt, 2006). Therefore, it is clear that there are two different positions regarding the topic of avoidance and secrets. In discussing divorce in the context of the dark side of interpersonal communication, the paper shall delve into these divergent positions.

Interpersonal Communication started when men began sharing and exchanging thoughts and ideas with one another. Interpersonal communication can be defined to be a type of communication where people communicate their ideas, emotions, information, and feelings to one another face to face (Schrodt, 2006). It can be non-verbal or verbal. Interpersonal communication entails what is said and how it is said, the facial expression, and the body language (Schrodt, 2006).

Simply put, communication between two individuals is known as interpersonal communication (Schrodt, 2006). It is a fundamental mode of communication. There is a need for knowledge and practice feedback to maintain good interpersonal communication (Schrodt, 2006). The essential element, however, suggested by various scholars is openness. As aforementioned, there can be advantages and disadvantages to vulnerability (Schrodt, 2006).

The discussion of the two divergent opinions will take a tripartite approach. First, the idea of openness will be discussed. Secondly, the importance of openness in interpersonal communication will be analyzed. Avoiding it might be harmful, and then finally, the benefits of avoidance and keeping secrets will be discussed even though there is clear evidence that it is harmful.

The idea of secrecy paints a picture of deviant behavior. As Frijns puts it, keeping a secret means hiding something shameful, making it embarrassing to share (Frijns, 2005). Secrecy has been assumed to damage the body and mind, leading to causing harm to an individual’s psychological and physical well-being. It is assumed that if people stay open with each other, it will result in a long-lasting and satisfying relationship (Frijns, 2005). A vast of scholarly literature often suggests that openness is generally good for a healthy relationship. On the contrary, other communication experts have opposed the advantages of complete openness (Frijns, 2005). However, with all this criticism, researchers still equate secrets and avoidance with the dark side and openness as the right side of a healthy relationship (Frijns, 2005).

As aforementioned, in the dark side of interpersonal communication, the discussion of divorce is based on the causes of divorce. The major reason is that of withholding information. Therefore, it will be significant to look into the consequences of withholding information or keeping secrets, leading to a divorce.

Before discussing the negative consequences of holding information, the benefits of disclosing information will be discussed. Most of the research that has been done on the advantages of revealing information is based on clinical psychology. Disclosure has been proven to be essential for one’s mental and physical health (Frijns, 2005). In particular, the disclosure done during psychotherapy reduces stress, and it yields a positive psychological and behavioral result in people (Frijns, 2005). Studies have also proven that social support helps in handling the impact of stress. Since one role of disclosure is to seek social consent, sharing about adverse events can help individuals get social comfort (Frijns, 2005).

Although some might not offer the social support needed, disclosure is still helpful. Many other studies have proven that the sharing of secrets either in writing or orally is helpful in a person's mental and physical health (Frijns, 2005). Further, the persons who disclose their secrets have been found to have life satisfaction and high self-esteem compared to those who conceal their information.

The dark side of withholding information is that it puts people in distress, and as such, they might share it with other persons other than their primary partners (Spitzberg, 2016). As a result, there is mistrust, which can lead to a divorce. A group of studies essential to this topic is the investigations, which examine whether there is a relationship between marital satisfaction and self-disclosure in marriage (Spitzberg, 2016).

Some experts have proposed that too much sharing of information might be dangerous. However, the findings of these studies appear to support a positive relationship between satisfaction and disclosure (Spitzberg, 2016). strong evidence also exists on the inverse association of relational satisfaction and secret-keeping. Furthermore, it appears that there is a social comparison aspect, which influences the process. For instance, Vangelisti realized that the people who thought they had families with more secrets than other families were likely to feel more dissatisfied than those who knew they were free of secrets (Vangelisti, 1994).

Family members get dissatisfied when they believe that there are members of the family who are keeping secrets. For example, stepchildren may avoid topics or keep secrets from their stepparents to communicate that the new stepparent is not yet part of the family (Spitzberg, 2016). Like this notion, other studies have found that university students in stepfamilies share their secrets with their biological siblings and parents compared to stepsiblings and stepparents.

The next consequence of keeping information is that it prevents people from sustaining and building a fulfilling and equitable connection between them. Research suggests that individuals might shy away from sharing on some topics or share complaints about the fear of how their partner might respond (Spitzberg, 2016). The power one individual has might limit a person’s opinion, and as time goes by, there is a power imbalance, and as a result, there might be a divorce (Spitzberg, 2016).

The existence of power imbalances and conformity expectations may also result in the concealing of secrets. Additionally, due to adverse reactions from family members, a person may decide to keep information. Unfortunately, keeping these secrets has been associated with stress and depression in families (Amrollahi & Rowlands, 2019). Other times, avoidance may result in a conflict, like the demand withdrawal pattern, whereby a person demands to discuss an issue. The other person refuses or avoids commenting on the subject. Avoidance that occurs in this manner has proven to be dangerous in most situations (Amrollahi & Rowlands, 2019). Demand-withdrawal is an aspect related to dissatisfaction in marriages, and it is a prediction of divorce. The demand-withdrawal patterns in divorced parents can also predict negative results for their children, like the feeling of being in the middle of the parent’s issues (Amrollahi & Rowlands, 2019).

Besides, demand-withdrawal between adolescents and parents can be associated with high usage of drugs and low self-esteem. As demonstrated, the avoidance of communication in various relations forms part of the dark side of interpersonal communication (Amrollahi & Rowlands, 2019). Since there are two different opinions on the impact of avoiding or keeping secrets, a balanced viewpoint could be that there exist costs and benefits that come about when one withholds information or keeps secrets (Spitzberg, 2016). Communication experts have also discovered that secrets have significant developmental roles for adolescents since they help them build emotional independence from their parents (Amrollahi & Rowlands, 2019).

In my opinion, much attention should be paid to balancing the pros and cons of the avoidance of communication. Keeping secrets involves trading between other benefits and individual costs, like in cases where a family member has stress with keeping a secret for the benefit of other family members (Spitzberg, 2016). Adding to the evidence that keeping secrets has advantages, there is also evidence that people in the healthiest relations withhold information.

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Navigating the Shadows: Understanding the Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication in Relationships. (2024, Jan 29). Retrieved from

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