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Dialectic Relational Theory



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    An Application of Relational Dialectics Leslie Baxter and Barbara Montgomery are interested in the communication that occurs in close relationships. I am going to focus on the three relational dialects which consist of connectedness-separateness, certainty-uncertainty, and openness-closedness. These three dialects are central to Baxter’s and Montgomery’s theory but they want to go more in depth than previous theorists have on these specific dialects. I will discuss this theory in the context of “When Harry Met Sally. ” Connectedness-Separateness:

    Billy Crystal plays “Harry,” a man who believes that women and men cannot be friends. Harry is a man with a high sex drive and sex occupies and therefore believes that all men are the way that he is and for this reason Men always have sex on their minds so it interferes with the chance to be plutonic friends with women. He shows a separateness from women because he doesn’t want to get to close to Meg Ryan who plays “Sally,” a woman who believes the exact opposite. Their relationship starts out with contraditions and continues throughout the movie.

    As years pass, they meet up with one another again and continue their argument over the relationship between men and women. This time, “Harry” is engaged which comes as a shock to “Sally. ” Yet they still have different opinions about relationships. It isn’t until several years later and one divorce and a broken engagement later that they start to show a slow progression toward connectedness. “Harry” begins to talk to “Sally” more about women and starts a bond with her while still saying that women and men can not be friends.

    As the movie progresses, there is a specific scene that illustrates Baxter and Montgomery’s theory. They are both in their apartments yet he needs to call her before going to bed. The audience can obviously see that he is becoming attracted to her, but he is still unwilling to admit it. She also is glad to hear his voice. Another clip in the movie that shows his attempt at connectedness occurs at the zoo. He asks her to go to dinner with him, just as friends, but she declines because she has another date.

    This is yet another point in the movie that shows he wants a relationship with her but at the same time doesn’t want to get to close. Certainty-Uncertainty This movie is filled with certainty and uncertainty. At the beginnning “Harry” states that he only wants sexual relationships with women. There is an amount of certainty in his relationships because he knows what the relationships will hold and not worry about commitment or risk being hurt. “Sally” on the other hand is uncertain about relationships and just wants to find someone to love and trust.

    She, like “Harry,” wants a low level of uncertainty but also need a little unpredictability in her relationships. Throughout the movie, “Harry” thinks he knows what he wants but in the end realizes that he doesn’t want to go from woman to woman without the least bit of commitment and unpredictability. “Sally” gives him this combination of certainty and uncertainty that he so desperately seeks. At the end of the movie, he finally admits to her that all the small insignificant and crazy things about her is what he can’t live without.

    She is like no other because she reduces his level of uncertainty of having a commited relationship with a woman but shows him that they indeed can be friends without sex and have an intimate relationship based on love. Openness-Closedness There are several moments in the film where these two close off from each other and also open up to one another. The first time that “Sally” opens up to “Harry” is in the diner. She admits that she has had sex and shares an intimate part of her life. He is also very open about his exual relationships but remains closed about his emotions by making light of the whole situation. “Harry” seems very open but he doesn’t disclose any information about how he really feel to anyone except his one close male friend. “Sally” is a very open person throughout the movie. She tells “Harry” about her feelings from the very beginning. She does close herself off from “Harry” when it comes to admitting her feelings for him. This may be because she is mot consciously aware of her feelings or she is denying these feelings.

    Dialectic Relational Theory. (2016, Dec 11). Retrieved from

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