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Relational Maintenance

Marianne Dainton

Subject Interpersonal Communication » Communication and Relationships
Sociology » Social Psychology

Key-Topics emotion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Relational maintenance refers to activities that occur in interpersonal relationships after the relationship is developed and before the relationship is terminated ( Stafford 1994 ). Although the term implies a temporal stage of relationship life, communication scholars have more frequently focused on the processes that sustain a relationship. For example, Dindia & Canary (1993) identified four common definitions of relational maintenance : (1) the process of keeping a relationship in existence; (2) the process of keeping a relationship in a specified state or condition; (3) the process of keeping a relationship in satisfactory condition; and (4) the process of keeping a relationship in repair (→  Relationship Development ). There are several controversies within relational maintenance scholarship, including theoretical commitment and views of intentionality. For example, three major theories have emerged. The first is equity theory (→  Social Exchange ). Associated with the work of Canary, Stafford, and colleagues, equity theory posits that maintenance behaviors are both rewards and costs. These authors identified seven maintenance strategies: “positivity” (being cheerful and optimistic), “openness” (self-disclosure and direct discussion of the relationship), “assurances” (messages stressing commitment), “network” (relying on common friends and affiliations), “sharing ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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