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Relationship Maintenance

Maintaining Stability, Maintaining Quality, Maintaining The Status Quo, Repairing Troubled Relationships, Managing Dialectical Tensions

Scholars define relational maintenance in various ways (Dindia and Canary 1993; Montgomery 1993). At the most basic level, relational maintenance refers to a variety of behaviors used by partners in an effort to stay together. Accordingly, researchers would examine relational longevity or stability. At a second level, relational maintenance means engaging in behaviors that help to sustain the quality of the relationship. In other words, being together and stable is not enough—one must also consider the quality of the relationship. Thus, maintenance researchers would be interested in examining relational properties such as satisfaction, love, and trust. A third definition of relational maintenance refers to keeping the relationship status quo. This definition would point to keeping a particular stage or state (e.g., keeping the current level of intimacy, keeping a friendship platonic). Fourth, maintenance refers to repair. This definition leads one to examine how people overcome problems and (perhaps) transgressions. Finally, maintenance refers to managing the dialectical tensions that naturally occur in every close involvement. For example, researchers investigate how people manage their desires for feeling connected to someone while also having an independent identity.

These alternative definitions point to behaviors that function differently to keep close relationships stable, satisfying, in a particular state, and in repair despite natural tensions that inhere in close involvements. This entry briefly highlights research that has examined relational maintenance using each of the alternative definitions (see Canary and Zelley 2000 for a review of alternative research programs on relational maintenance).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationships