Most relationships include a social aspect, but a true social relationship is rooted in coming together to share an experience. Social relationships are based on a common interest or shared experience. A social relationship can be casual, two strangers meeting at an event, or they can be intentional, two friends who specifically gather to meet each other.
In a social relationship the goal is to have fun, but a social relationship can be very unstable, depending on a variety of variables.
First, fun can be very subjective. One person may want quiet, while another wants to listen to something loud. If the two are sharing a space, they can’t both be happy.
Second, fun requires free time. Most people have work they need to complete before they can have fun. Depending on how much work, and the strain it puts on a person, they may enter the social scene full of tension, frustration, and/or fatigue, making them less emotionally stable.
Third, social situations have far fewer rules and penalties. In a professional setting a person is expected to behave in a professional way. In a social situation a person is free to dress and act as they see fit. Granted, even social situations carry some expectations, but in general people will go out of their way to avoid conflict, and tolerate a great deal before they speak up.
When developing a social relationship, consider how and why they first met, both what brought them together and what motives each character brought into the relationship. When people don’t know each other that well, they work with what they do know. Jon could see a fellow engineer, while Mary might see another male who thinks she doesn’t belong in the field.
Family represent one of the oldest and strongest connections a character can have. The many years spent together lead to a profound understanding, and often foster a deep trust in each other. Over time friends and coworkers can also grow to become family; but time alone is not enough to make someone family.
It also requires a wide range of experiences; from the calm of everyday activities to the frantic of trying to meet a deadline, from the wild and silly to the quiet moments, when nothing is said. Of course these are only the good moments. The real crux comes when a character is at their worst; consumed by rage or drowning in tears. How someone responds to a character at their worst can say a lot about who they are, and how much they care.
Some want a person to be weak, so that they can feel strong. Some don’t want to be bothered; they only want to have fun. But the ones who really care will endure the bad, doing what they can to help, and savor the good when it’s there.
By sharing such a wide array of experiences, by seeing someone in all their moods, a person gains unique insight into who they are. They learn all the signs of joy and sadness, and how to translate them into meaning.
In some ways a familial relationship includes aspects of the professional and the social. Familial relationships can carry the heaviest burdens, the greatest sense of obligation, but they also carry a great deal of leeway, making them some of the most powerful, and potentially volatile of relationships.
With so much history, so much insight into the other person, a family member is uniquely prepared to provoke the most potent of responses, in kindness or hostility. Few can hide things from their family, even a subtle remark or gesture can carry intense emotional meaning. However, the strength of familial relationships also makes them difficult to break. Most families will endure routine “storms”, but when emotions cool they come together, weary, but ready to rebuild.
A partner is someone the character trusts implicitly. They may be a professional, social, or familial connection, though overtime most partnerships gradually grow to become as deep as family, even if they are professional. Partnerships are always rooted in sharing the load, in working together towards common goals. Trust is essential, and it takes time to build. Depending on the age of the partnership, characters may test each other, pushing their partner beyond reasonable expectations to find their limits.
Many cultures emphasize the idea of one primary partner, one person that the character consistently prioritizes above all others. Then the question becomes “which partner does a character prioritize” and “what does that say about them?” For some, their job is everything, while others may hold their immediate family above all others.
Consider how this emphasis on a single primary partner can also lead to unrealistic expectations. For example, many looking for a lifelong romantic partner develop an elaborate concept of what that person should be like. The gap between expectation and reality is one of the most common causes of tension in any relationship, especially a partnership.
Rivals & Opponents
Competition is part of the workplace (companies compete for business, and employees compete for promotions), and for many competition is also a part of their social life. Many social relationships are founded on competing in friendly games, but a true rival is someone focused on achieving their goal, which puts them into conflict with the character. The goal may be to see the character fail, or the two may be competing for a single opportunity, but a true rivalry is always founded on the principle that only one of them can succeed.
As a relationship, rivalries can be friendly or hostile, but they are usually fairly stable. Competition defines the relationship, making tension and conflict the status quo. Some rivals even enjoy an innate mutual understanding, born out of their common experience. For example, the only people who can truly understand what it takes to become an Olympic athlete are their competitors.