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How do people maintain their closest relationships? In this chapter, we present an interdependence account of how people maintain their relationships with others. Interdependence theory, first articulated by Thibaut and Kelley, was formulated to explain how people choose among potential courses of action in interdependent situations featuring problems of actor coordination and decision-making. Because romantic partners are often faced with daily choices within their relationship (e.g., Should we go to the movie my partner wants to see rather than what I want to see? Should I stay in this relationship or pursue an alternate?), interdependence theory is well suited for understanding relationship maintenance processes. We begin by discussing why relationship maintenance is necessary. We then review the set of processes – behavioral and cognitive – that help keep interdependent relationships intact, despite the fact that situational actors must adapt to constantly changing situations. Central to these processes is one’s commitment to a relationship, which, once established, causes maintaining a relationship to become an automatic, default option under ordinary circumstances.
Why do people stay in a personal relationship? For decades, scholars have attempted to answer this deceptively simple question. In doing so, they have often invoked the concept of commitment. Relationship commitment is a core construct within relationship science, and theorizing and research on it, including its antecedents and consequences, has been active for years. This chapter reviews what is known currently about commitment processes, including why it remains a particularly important construct in understanding relationships today. We begin by providing basic conceptualizations offered for the construct, highlighting why the construct seems of importance given shifts in how people relate with one another at the current time. We then review particularly generative extant theoretical models of commitment (including the Cohesiveness Model, the Tripartite Model, and the Investment Model of Commitment Processes), before turning to a detailed review of known antecedents of commitment. We also review known consequences of commitment (including cognitive, affective and behavioral consequences). We end the chapter by considering topics for potential future exploration.
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