While many relationships have a social aspect, a true social relationship is one where two people actively go somewhere for the sake of company. 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 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 enjoy 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. This means a person may start their free time full of tension, frustration, and/or fatigue, making them easier to anger.
Third, social situations have far fewer rules and penalties. In a workplace or professional setting a person is expected to behave in a professional way. In a social situation a person can be very mean before they suffer any serious consequences.
Together these three variables can cause a conflict, particularly if the people involved do not know each other well.
Family represent one of the strongest connections a character can have. A family member is someone who shares a deep understanding and mutual trust with the character, created through a variety of experiences shared over a number of years. This is why family is often applied to blood relatives; parents and siblings, who begin their relationship at the start of a character’s life. Over time friends and coworkers can become family. In some ways a familial relationship includes aspects of both professional and social relationships, which make the relationship uniquely powerful, and uniquely volatile.
A familial relationship is a two-sided relationship with so much history, so much insight into the other person, that it becomes quite easy to help or hurt them, creating a lot of potential volatility. What’s more, the intimacy makes it much easier for family members to read a character, so even a subtle remark or gesture can be translated into an intense emotional outburst. However, the strength of familial relationships also makes them the hardest to break. Most families will endure occasional “storms”, but most will reconcile, eventually.
A partner is someone the character trusts like family, and may even be invited to become family. The partner shares the character’s life and burdens. A partner can be social/familial, romantic, or professional, though many professionals have a team of partners.
Many cultures emphasize the idea of one partner, one person given first priority. This kind of emphasis can easily lead to unrealistic expectations, applied to “myself” or the partner, both of which help to build up tension, making partnerships one of the more volatile relationships, but, like family, they can also become the strongest of bonds.
Rivals & Opponents
Competition is part of work, and for many it’s part of fun. Many social relationships include an element of competition, but a true rival is someone focused on achieving their goal. The goal may be to see the character fail, or they may be competing for a single opportunity, but a true rivalry necessitates that only one can succeed.
As a relationship rivalries can be amicable or hostile, but they are 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. The only people who can truly understand what it takes to become an Olympic athlete are their rivals.