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This chapter introduces the book and is organized around the six most basic yet critical questions that cut across all research: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. In the first section (“who”), we discuss the types of people who perform relationship maintenance as well as differences among people. The “what” section identifies the central definitional issues that continue to plague the field. The third section (“when”) highlights the conditions under which people perform maintenance as well as the relationship challenges that prompt it. The “where” section identifies the small body of literature on geographic differences in relationship maintenance. The “why” section covers the principal theories that explain engagement in relationship maintenance activities. The final section comments on “how” maintenance activities sustain or enhance relationships. That is, it outlines the correlates, mediators, and moderators that explain the mechanisms by which maintenance operates. We conclude our chapter with a brief overview of the organization of the book.
Relationship maintenance encompasses a wide range of activities that partners use to preserve their relationships. Despite the importance of these efforts, considerably more empirical focus has been devoted to starting (i.e. initiation) and ending (i.e. dissolution) relationships than on maintaining them. In this volume, internationally renowned scholars from a variety of disciplines describe diverse sets of relationship maintenance efforts in order to show why some relationships endure, whereas others falter. By focusing on 'what to do' rather than 'what not to do' in relationships, this book paints a more comprehensive picture of the forms, functions, and contexts of relationship maintenance. It is essential reading for scholars and students in psychology, communication, human development and family science, sociology, and couple/marriage and family therapy.
Why do some relationships continue whereas others terminate? Relationship maintenance scholars have attempted to answer this question by focusing on defining and explaining key maintenance strategies that serve to initiate and preserve romantic relationships. In this chapter, we begin by providing a brief history of the definition of relationship maintenance. Then, we identify the processes by which romantic partners maintain their relationships and consider these processes in the individual, relational, social, and cultural contexts. We reflect on key theoretical contributions (e.g., social exchange, attachment, evolutionary theory) to the current understanding of relationship maintenance in addition to its known correlates. To conclude the chapter we highlight the implications of the existing body of research, identify possible avenues for future inquiry, and propose ways to integrate work across disciplines.
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