Relationship Types

I thought that Subtext might benefit by some type of populatable gist generator of relationships or something in that arena.

What are the different ways to define/describe a relationship? What are the different categories that a relationship might fall into? This is something that I’ve been thinking about since watching a few of the Subtext videos/Writer Room meetings.

I think that Melanie Anne Phillips mentioned (in one of her videos) the relationship between different parts of the quad:

positive dynamic (create something new)
negative dynamic (destroy each other)
positive companion (unintentional positive relationship/result)
negative companion (unintended negative relationship/result)
positive dependent (alone good/together greater than sum of your parts)
negative dependent (alone bad/together complete)

When I think of relationships, I also think of them in the following terms:

roles (mentor/mentee; master/slave; etc.)
descriptions (toxic, dependent, positive, negative, destructive, constructive, symbiotic, etc.)

There are different types of relationships within the world that really mirror what Melanie says:

Mutualism - both organism benefit from each other (sea anemone and clown fish).
Commensalism - one organism benefits and the other is neither helped nor harmed (whale and barnacle).
Parasitism - one organism benefits and the other is harmed (dog and tick).
Neutralism - neither organism is affected.
Predation - predator/prey; herbivores/plants - one benefits/the other is harmed (though survival of the fittest is a benefit).
Competitive - both seek a limited resource; bad for both.
Curvilinear - positive for both to a point, but at a certain point one experiences a benefit and the other is harmed.

Perhaps a different manner of saying the same thing:

no relationship
positive relationship
negative relationship
curvilinear relationship
dual relationships

Types of love:

romantic love
puppy love
sexual love
pragmatic love
platonic love
agape love
parental love
filial love
companionship love
altruistic love
manic love
self love

There’s also something called Rawlins’ six stages of friendships:

  1. Role Limited Attraction - initial contact on some level some pretext.
  2. Friendly Relations - Exploring whether we have enough in common to continue.
  3. Moving Towards Friendship - making small personal disclosures demonstrating the desire to expand the relationship
  4. Nascent Friendship - begin consider each other friends. share activities. Regular interaction.
  5. Stabilized Friendship: securing the relationship trust
  6. Waning Friendship - friends begin to drift apart . takes things for granted, lack of personal effort

This is just a list of my notes that hasn’t really been cemented into a process to define a relationship or a relationship arc. It’s more a brainstorm explosion. I just thought someone might be able to put it into a linear process to define what a relationship is… then create an arc throughout the RS through line.

I’m also sure that there are a number of additional examples or categories that I haven’t thought about. I’d be interested in what anyone might add.




I had no idea this is what you were talking about…!!

THANK YOU so much for sharing this…brainstorm explosion indeed.


@jhull Yes. It didn’t come out very clearly. I blame it on the fact that it was very early in the morning in China.

Also, you mentioned that a relationship generally develops into a friendship (but it could also grow apart I imagine). That there is a duality to the RST.

That would seem to correspond to the stages of friendship (curvilinear or static?):

Limited Attraction (Curiosity)
Friendly Relations (Exploration)
Moving Towards Friendship (Sharing/Desire for more)
Nascent Friendship (Shared Experiences; Regular Interaction)
Stabilized Friendship (Trust)
Waning Friendship (Loss of Trust/Shared Experiences/ Desire/Curiosity)

what the product of the relationship is:

positive dynamic (creative result)
negative dynamic (destructive result)
positive companion (unintentional positive result)
negative companion (unintended negative result)
positive dependent (additive result)
negative dependent (addictive result?)

what the symbiotic nature of the relationship is:

mutualism (win, win)
commensalism (win, unaffected)
parasitism (win, lose)
neutralism (unaffected, unaffected)
predation (win, die)
competitive (win, lose or lose, win)

Maybe there are more categories? Should there be four?


Again, this is totally incredible, and I’ll have to consider it further – but just wanted to clear up - I didn’t mean to say that the relationship “generally develops into a friendship” – just in the case of the examples I was using.

Hope that was clear!

But again, thanks for all of this–thinking up all kinds of uses…

1 Like

Although Dramatica is intriguing, it can be a bit overwhelming for me; however, Subtext really shifts away from the philosophical and intellectual side to the craft side.

Nothing I wrote above is particularly polished, or finalized… I’m just trying to come up with processes that work for me. Thanks for taking the time to look at it.

Well, I suppose every relationship develops or devolves would be more accurate.


I really appreciate that - Subtext is a labor of love for me, so knowing that its helpful means everything.



Whether or not it falls into Subtext, I think having a master list (which you’ve started here) of ways to describe relationships would be really useful, as most of our words in English aren’t really precise enough.

How do you describe the relationship between Humbert Humbert and Lolita? Predator/victim doesn’t quite get at it.

Is the relationship between Jane and Sheela in Wild, Wild Country “employer/employee”? Technically yes, but that description also missing something. (BTW if anyone hasn’t seen that series, I highly recommend it).


I think that dual relationships might help with more complicated relationships.

Maybe I just need to come up with a RST worksheet, or better yet, a worksheet for each throughline that answers essential questions.


Is the relationship voluntary or involuntary (i.g., girlfriend vs brother)?

Is the relationship personal or professional (i.g., brother vs boss)?

Is the relationship singular or dual in nature i.g., boss vs girlfriend who is also your boss)?

What is the path of the relationship explored in the throughline? Does the scope allow for a full arc?

(interest, attention, positive experience, trust)
(disinterest, neglect, negative experience, distrust)
(interest, attention, negative experience, distrust)
(disinterest, neglect, positive experience, trust)

Apart – Together
Together – Apart
Together – Apart – Together
Apart – Together – Apart
Apart - Apart
Together - Together

What is the result of the relationship?

positive dynamic (create something new)
negative dynamic (destroy each other)
positive companion (unintentional positive relationship/result)
negative companion (unintended negative relationship/result)
positive dependent (alone good/together greater than sum of your parts)
negative dependent (alone bad/together complete)

Does this seem like a decent way to handle the RST? It makes me feel a lot better about it. Let me know what you think.


This is great.

I would like to find a way to capture somehow the dynamic of balance in the relationship – e.g., is there a power/experience imbalance that causes problems and/or characterizes the relationship somehow?


You’re right. None of the other questions eliminates the need for that question either.

Are we alike or different? Do we focus on our commonalities or our differences? Is that a source of conflict?

Perhaps something in that vein.


Socionics (which is like a Russian fork of Myers-Briggs personality typing) has some info that might be useful here on relationships between the types of personalities.

Relations of Duality
These relations are the most favourable and comfortable of all intertype relations providing complete psychological compatibility. Dual partners are like two halves of a whole unit. They usually understand…

Identical Relations
These are relations of complete understanding between partners but with an inability to help each other. Identical partners see the world with identical eyes, identically work out received information…

Relations of Activity
These relations are the easiest and quickest to start. Activity partners do not experience any visual difficulties when starting relations which can be surprising to them at the beginning. Partners stimulate…

Mirror Relations
These are relations of mutual correction. Mirror partners have similar interests and ideas, but a slightly different understanding of the same problems. Each partner can see only half of one problem…

Relations of Semi-Duality
These are relations of deficient Duality. Semi-Duality partners usually have no problems in understanding each other or each other’s objectives, at least when these objectives are only on paper…

Comparative Relations
These are relations of deceptive similarity. Comparative partners talk about similar things, have similar interests, obey the norms of politeness and hospitality towards each other but they never really…

Conflicting Relations
These are relations of constantly developing conflict. Conflicting relations have the worst compatibility between partners among all other relations. However, it does not seem to be so obvious, especially…

Super-Ego Relations
These are relations of mutual respect between partners. Super-Ego partners may think of each other as a distant and slightly mysterious ideal. They often show interest in each other’s manners, behaviour…

Quasi-Identical Relations
These are relations of major misunderstanding. Quasi-Identical partners can interact with each other in a more or less peaceful manner if both partners are Thinking types. If they are both Feeling types…

Contrary Relations
These are relations of an unstable psychological distance. Both partners experience difficulties in establishing and keeping a stable psychological distance between them. The only chance Contrary partners…

Illusionary Relations
These are relations of growing laziness. There are no other intertype relations that can deactivate partners so much as Illusionary relations. Illusionary partners find it comfortable being relaxed together…

Look-a-like Relations
These are relations between equal partners which can be called acquaintances rather than friends. There are no visual obstacles in the development of these relations, partners can talk easily almost about…

Relations of Benefit
These relations are asymmetrical. One partner, called the Benefactor, is always in a more favourable position in respect to the other partner who is known as Beneficiary. The Beneficiary thinks of the Benefactor…

Relations of Supervision
These relations are also asymmetrical as are relations of Benefit. One partner, called the Supervisor, is always in a more favourable position in respect to the other partner who is known as Supervisee. Relations of…


Melanie Anne Phillips writes about relationships as structural (example: protagonist vs. antagonist), situational (example: marriage), and emotional (example: like, dislike, mixed emotions) too in StoryWeaver.


I think I need to revisit StoryWeaver as I haven’t fiddled with it since I first bought it. I’d almost forgotten about her articles as well.


I found an interesting article on writing character relationships:

“1. The characters have a common bond that both brings and keeps them together. This is most commonly seen in “cop movies” such as Lethal Weapon. While the characters may not like each other to begin with their occupation bond keeps them together until they grow to be friends. This is an example of character attraction, there has to be some reason the characters are together and stay together, especially if they don’t like each other to begin with.
2. There is conflict between the characters. Perfect character relationships don’t exist, at least not as featured in movies. While sweet it means there is no room in the story for progression in the relationship. Just as there is a bond that keeps characters together there should be some sort of conflict which threatens to pull the characters apart. This could be anything from a minor difference of opinion to an extra-marital affair. The conflict in relationships provides the drama, and possibly the comedy, of a screenplay.
3. The characters have contrasting qualities. They can be total opposites which creates conflict yet strengthens the individual characters through challenges since they have a partner with different qualities to fall back on. Going back to “cop movies” how many times have we seen the uptight policeman who does things by the book with a renegade partner who goes by gut instincts? A lot. That’s because the two characters compliment each other well, they become a complete crime fighting machine while being seeped in conflict.
4. The relationship could transform both characters – for better or worse. Towards the end of a movie you’ll find both characters in the relationship tend to morph, and become more like each other. Soon the renegade cop becomes a little more focus and less wild while the uptight cop loosens up and is willing to break a few rules.” (I think it’s correct, if one of the characters Grows, and the other Changes e.g. Woody and Buzz in Toy Story )

It seems quite dramatica compatible to me. What are your opinions on this? :slight_smile:


I think

  • For #1 and #2: These are trying to get at the RS, and decently, considering that part is often subconcsious.

  • For #3 and #4: These are more about the IC and how it influences the MC.

The above are my suspicions. I await a response from a Dramatica Expert to tell me if they might be correct.


I agree with Hunter’s assessment. Only thing I would add is that maybe the descriptions are still a bit limited. For instance, conflict that pulls the two apart is sort of an easy, obvious choice, but I think you can stick with conflict that pushes the two closer and be just fine.