General Expectations, Cultural Sharing, and the Scope of Multiplex Relationships
Whether or not A's behavior meets B's general expectations is a matter involving A's interpretation of events quite as much as the events themselves. In the grocery clerk-customer relationship, the clerk does not usually need to make abstruse interpretations to decide whether or not the customer has handed over the payment asked for. In the Swahili husband-wife relationship, however, it is far more difficult to establish whether, for example, the husband has "shown love" to the wife even though doing so is frequently mentioned as an expectation in this relationship. Because of their dependence on general expectations, multiplex relationships have two notable qualities.
First, the relationships can function despite participants not sharing many specific understandings, including some of those concerned with the relationship itself. Some sort of balance of satisfied as opposed to violated expectations is probably essential to the maintenance of social relations. This balance, however, is more likely a psychological than a quantitative one. Many failures to keep the bathroom floor dry can be outweighed by a single manifestation of what is understood as concern and love. To the extent this is true, family relationships, and multiplex relationships generally, function in some part, at least, through their participants' general, empirically broad, expectations of one another which lead them to interpret quite a wide range of behavior as in accord with their most heavily weighted expectations.
Second, the relationships have an indefinitely broad scope, since just what each participant can, should, and might do for the other is not, by their nature, specified in the general expectations. In the specific expectations most characteristic of simplex relationships, the limits of commitment and responsibility are usually rather clearly understood as part of sharing the understandings that constitute those expectations.
In multiplex relationships, there are no such sources of limitation. A person whose nia toward you is "good" is one who can be called on for a very broad range of things, and if your nia is similar, you can be similarly called
on. Each of you may understand issues and circumstances that cannot or should not be dealt with within the relationship, and some of these limiting understandings may be shared, but the boundaries are very wide.