The Assignment:

We develop relationships with others to serve basic human functions and to meet our needs. We create perceptions of the other person and attempt to get them to perceive us in certain ways through various levels of self-disclosure, using different kinds of talk (e.g. CONNECT, D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E.). To sustain a relationship, a supportive climate (the Humanistic model) must be enacted by both parties in order to encourage on-going disclosure and the movement towards deeper emotional ties, while keeping the use of defenses and game playing (from TA) to a minimum.

Climate is particularly important when we need to deal with the various levels of disagreement or conflict that inevitably emerge in our relationships. In building and maintaining relationships, how people fight is just as important as how they love. Their “fighting style” depends on their quality of their emotional self-management and conflict management skills (e.g. light or heavy CO.N.T.RO.L. vs. D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E.).

Finally, all continuing romantic relationships go through a variety of developmental phases that involve different types or levels of intimacy and love. How we respond to this cycle is shaped, in part, by the beliefs about love and romance (see additional readings on web site) we have adopted from our families and the mass media.

Using the textbook, additional readings and lecture notes that support this assignment, analyze “The Saga of Sam and Alex” in terms of the concept areas highlighted above. Wherever you can, use short quotes from the story to support your argument.Your answer should include, at least, an analysis of: (1) the stages this relationship has gone through and where it seems to be now, (2) how our culture’s beliefs about love and romance may have contributed to the problems faced by this couple, (3) how the “hamburger fight” is an indication of this couple’s inability to deal with conflict, and, (4) how this fight might have been done differently and perhaps have led this “saga” to a different ending.


You may analyze not only the communication you see in the case but also the communication that you might reasonably infer has (or has not) happened in the story when it is noted that some time has elapsed. You’ll note that the names of each person are gender-neutral “nicknames”.If you wish, you may assign a gender to each of the participants and use this concept in your analysis. Just remember to stay focused on the data on gender and communication style we have referred to in lectures and readings.

The Saga of Sam and Alex
ALEX:Hi. Didn’t I see you in English last semester?

SAM:Yeah. I’m surprised you noticed me. I cut that class more than I attended. I really hatedit.

ALEX:So did I.Higgins never did seem to care much about whether you learned anything or not.

SAM:That’s why I think I skipped so often. Your name’s Alex, isn’t it?

ALEX:Yes. And you’re Sam right?

SAM:Right. What are you doing in Interpersonal Communication?

ALEX:I’m majoring in communication. I want to go into television production ‑ or something like that. I’m not really sure. What about you?

SAM:It’s required for engineering. I guess they figure engineers should learn to communicate.

ALEX:You gonna have lunch after this class?

SAM:Yeah. You?

ALEX:Yeah. How about going over to the student centre for a bite?

[At the Student Centre Food Court]

SAM:I’m not only surprised you noticed me in English. I’m really flattered. Everyone in the class I met seemed to be interested in you.

ALEX:Well. I doubt that, but it’s nice to hear.

SAM:No, I mean it. Come on. You know you’re popular.

ALEX:Well, maybe … but it always seems to be with the wrong people. Except for you, of course.

SAM:(Smiling) Cool. Keep talking.

ALEX:Well…are you up for doing something tonight? Maybe a movie?I know it’s last minute but just in case….

SAM:I’d love to. Hang on.(Looks down at a cellphone and starts texting.) That takes care of that…I’m good.

ALEX:OK, because now I’m feeling good.

SAM:Me too.

[Six months later]

ALEX:I got a surprise for you. Something I hope you’re gonna like.

SAM:What is it?

ALEX:Take a look.

SAM:[Opens the package and finds a ring] I love it. I can’t believe it!You know, a few weeks ago when we had to write up a recent fantasy for class, I wrote one I didn’t turn in. And this was it.My very own fantasy, coming true – I love you.

ALEX.I love you … very much.

[Alex and Sam have now been living together for about two years.]

ALEX:(Pleasantly happy) It’s me. I’m home.

SAM:(Pleasant) So am I.

ALEX:(Vigilant annoyance) That’s not hamburgers I smell, is it?

SAM:(Defensive annoyance) Yes, it is. I like hamburgers. We can afford hamburgers. And I know how to cook hamburgers.Make something else if you don’t want’ em.

ALEX.(Heavy sarcasm) Thanks so much. Nice to know you care to make something I really like.I hate these damn things. And I really hate’em four times a week.

SAM:(Sharp, cold anger) Then eat out.

ALEX:(Frustration) You know I have work to do tonight. I haven’t got time to go out.

SAM:(Contempt) So shut up and eat the burgers. I love them.

ALEX:(Sarcasm) Great. It’s all about you. Whatever happened to us and we?

SAM:(Angry sadness) They died when I found out about your little side trips up north.

ALEX:(Frustration and remorse) But I told you I was sorry about that. That was six months ago, anyway. I got involved.It was stupid, I’m sorry. Are you gonna punish me forever?I’m sorry.Damn it I’m sorry!

SAM:(Anger and sarcasm) Yeah, well so am I!I’m the one who really got screwed while you were out screwing around.

ALEX:(Sadly frustrated) Is that why you don’t want to make love? You always have some kind of excuse.

SAM:(Intense anger) It’s not an excuse, buddy, it’s a reason! I’ve been lied to and cheated on.I’m not making love to someone who treats me like dirt?

ALEX:(Remorseful) But I don’t treat you like dirt, I love you.

SAM:(Angry contempt) Well, I don’t love you.Hell, maybe I never did!

ALEX:(Controlled rage) I’m outta here!

[Two weeks later]

ALEX:(Submissive, fearful) Did you mean what you said when you said you didn’t love me?

SAM:(Sad, acceptance) I think I did. When I learned about your little “trips”, I just couldn’t deal with it. I guess I tried to protect myself and, in the process, I just lost my feelings for you.

ALEX:(Apprehensive) Then why do you stay with me? Why don’t you leave?

SAM:(Fearful, acceptance) I don’t know. Maybe I’m afraid to be alone. I’m not sure I can do it alone.

ALEX:(Frustrated, annoyed) So you’re going to stay with me because you’re afraid to be alone? That’s crazy.Crazy.I’d rather have us break up than live like this ‑ a loveless pair, living separate lives under the same roof. What kind of life is that?

SAM:(Sad acceptance) Not much.

ALEX:(Angry acceptance) Fine. Then let’s separate. I can’t live with someone who stays with me out of fear of being alone, who doesn’t want to be touched, and who doesn’t want to love me. (Pause, softer)…maybe we need some distance, maybe you’ll realize that we should try again.

SAM:(Sad acceptance) I won’t. Maybe separation is the best thing.

ALEX:(Calmer acceptance) OK. You stay home and I’ll go to my brother’s place tonight. I’ll pick up my things tomorrow when you’re at work. I just couldn’t do that when you’re here.

SAM:(Deep sadness) Good‑bye.

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