Threats to Interpersonal Relationships

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

There are many circumstances that can threaten the relationships we have with others. This lesson will consider how jealousy and other factors can affect interpersonal relationships, and how they can impact the future of those relationships.

Evaluating Our Relationships

Jill has been in a romantic relationship with Eric for almost nine months. Prior to meeting Jill, Eric had a large circle of acquaintances, including several female friends. From the very beginning of their relationship, Jill started questioning the relationships Eric has with these female friends. Every time Eric spends time with his friends, Jill asks him repeatedly if he has romantic feelings towards anyone else. At first Eric was flattered by Jill's insecurities, but after nine months he's becoming increasingly annoyed with her relentless questions and suspicions. Although Eric is not interested in anyone else, he is starting to ask himself whether a long-term relationship with Jill would even be possible.

Types of Interpersonal Relationships

During the course of a lifetime, you are likely to enter into a number of interpersonal relationships, or bonds that we form with other people. These relationships may be formed for different purposes, but generally relationships can be categorized as:

  • Intimate relationships like the relationship between Jill and Eric, characterized by mutual attraction and a romantic connection.
  • Friendly relationships that are formed based on the connections we make with others, but that don't have a romantic element.
  • Relationships based on our careers that are necessary for teamwork and productivity.
  • Household relationships that are formed as a result of marriage or between blood relatives, such as parents and children or siblings.

Sometimes interpersonal relationships are easy, but at other times they are challenging and require effort in order to maintain them and keep them healthy.

Jealousy as a Threat to Interpersonal Relationships

There are several behaviors that can threaten interpersonal relationships. Of these behaviors, jealousy is one of the most destructive. Jealousy is an emotional response that is usually associated with a sense of fear that someone or something is threatening the relationship. Although commonly associated with romantic relationships, such as between Eric and Jill, jealousy can threaten any number of relationships.

Although initially someone's expression of jealousy might appear flattering, jealousy can have detrimental effects when left uncontrolled. Jealousy that is left unchecked can lead to:

  • anger and rage
  • depression and feelings of hopelessness
  • stress, anxiety, and feeling out of control
  • loss of trust
  • physical illness
  • insecurity
  • loss of a relationship

Although some level of jealousy is normal and can even be healthy in relationships, it has to be managed appropriately in order to avoid the outcomes described above.

Other Threats to Interpersonal Relationships

In addition to jealousy, there are several other issues that can be threatening to interpersonal relationships, including:


Sometimes people in relationships have different ideas about how money and income should be managed. This can lead to conflict. Consider the following example. Amy and Josh recently decided to move in together and open a joint checking account to pay bills. Josh notices that Amy is spending excessively. She is constantly shopping and buying items that appear non-essential. Josh, on the other hand, is concerned with saving money so they can eventually buy a home. As a result, Amy and Josh argue frequently about finances.


Being untruthful can have serious impacts on all types of relationships. Imagine that you are working when your supervisor asks you to please leave an office door unlocked because they forgot their key. You leave the door unlocked when you leave your office and someone breaks in and steals several electronics. Upon questioning, your supervisor denies asking you to leave the door unsecured and as a result, you are disciplined. Their deception negatively impacted many of your work relationships.

Communication Problems

When two people fail to communicate honestly and share their feelings, it can lead to hidden resentment. In turn, this resentment can lead to destructive behavior. Effective communication is an essential element in healthy relationships.

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