What Is a Functional Relationship in Psychology?

In psychology, a functional relationship is a relationship in which the value of one party is dependent on the value of a second party. A relationship is considered functional when there is respect, accountability and resilience. A functional relationship offers an emotionally safe environment for the people involved and respects privacy of space.

A relationship is classified as either functional or dysfunctional, though even functional relationships experience aspects of dysfunction at some point. To make the relationship functional, parties in a relationship stay committed to the relationship and adapt to challenges and disappointments over the course of the relationship.

Factors that compromise a functional relationship include apportioning of blame, threats to walk out of the relationship and dominance. Lack of forgiveness and holding of grudges contribute significantly to a dysfunctional relationship. Winner-or-loser arguments are characteristic of a dysfunctional relationship. Emotional ownership of the other person also leads to a dysfunctional environment.

In a functional relationship, parties are supportive of one another, caring and accepting the dreams of the other party. Functional relationships are built on loyalty, meaning that members confide in each other, without disclosure of intimate matters to outsiders without the consent of the other. In a functional relationship, parties listen to one another and accept opposing views. Functional relationships allow parties to grow and change.