Unlike their other friends and family, Lingo decided to go out of the country to attend college. They thought that coming to America would be fun. Instead, they have spent most of their days alone without any friends. Lingo found Americans to be rude and unfriendly because they tend to make fun of their accent and food preferences. Lingo misses their family and their friends back home. Lingo tries to keep in contact with them via social media platforms and Internet communication tools like Skype and Zoom, but it is often hard because of the different time zones. Lingo is trying to keep in contact with their friends and family, but due to the distance and time difference, it has made things very challenging.
Maintaining Our Relationships Takes Effort
involves a range of actions taken by partners to uphold their relationship. There are four functions of relationship maintenance. The first one is to ensure that the relationship continues to exist without any disruptions. This can be seen in adult friendships where the partners contact each other occasionally, but enough to maintain the friendship. The second definition refers to keeping the relationship in a specific state or condition. Communication scholars, Drs. Kathryn Dindia and Daniel Canary, describe relationship maintenance as sustaining particular dimensions or qualities that are important in relationship development (Dindia and Canary, 1993). A stable relationship involves a minimal agreement between partners, different levels of intimacy, and ongoing changes in the relationship. The third definition emphasizes maintaining satisfaction within the relationship. This means that a stable relationship cannot be dissatisfying. The fourth and final definition is keeping the relationship in repair refers to maintaining it in a good, sound, or functional state, and restoring it to a previous state after it has declined. Relationship maintenance can lead to desired outcomes such as safety, friendship, and sexual fulfillment.
Relationships are an essential aspect of human life. They can bring us joy, comfort, and support, but they can also be a source of stress, conflict, and dissatisfaction. Maintaining healthy relationships requires effort and commitment, and neglecting them can have serious consequences. As in our example, Lingo needs to maintain their relationships with family and friends, because their current situation is lonely. In this chapter, we will explore the importance of relationship maintenance and discuss strategies for keeping our relationships healthy and fulfilling.
10.1 The Benefits of Relationship Maintenance
Maintaining healthy relationships has numerous benefits for individuals and their overall well-being. Studies have shown that people who have strong social connections tend to be happier, healthier, and more resilient (Baxter & Dindia, 1990). Additionally, maintaining healthy relationships can have a positive impact on our mental health, reducing stress and anxiety and promoting feelings of belonging and self-worth. Maintaining healthy relationships is critical for our overall well-being. Strong social connections have been shown to enhance happiness, health, and resilience. When we make an effort to maintain healthy relationships, we reap numerous benefits (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996).
One of the primary benefits of relationship maintenance is improved mental health. Positive relationships can reduce stress and anxiety levels, increase feelings of self-worth, and promote a sense of belonging. These benefits have been demonstrated in research studies, which have found that people with strong social connections tend to have better mental health outcomes than those who are socially isolated. Relationship maintenance can also improve physical health outcomes. Studies have found that people who maintain healthy relationships tend to have lower blood pressure, lower rates of chronic disease, and improved immune function. Additionally, individuals with strong social support systems tend to have faster recovery times from illness or injury.
In addition to physical and mental health benefits, relationship maintenance can also lead to greater career success. Strong social connections can provide us with access to job opportunities, networking connections, and career mentors. Having a supportive network of relationships can also provide us with the confidence and motivation we need to pursue our career goals. Relationship maintenance can also improve our overall life satisfaction. When we feel supported and connected to others, we tend to feel more positive about our lives and experience greater levels of fulfillment. Healthy relationships can also provide us with a sense of purpose and meaning, as we work to maintain connections with the people who matter most to us.
In conclusion, relationship maintenance is critical for our overall well-being (Berger, 2005). By investing in healthy relationships, we can experience improved mental and physical health, greater career success, and increased life satisfaction. Whether it’s through effective communication, spending quality time with loved ones, or building trust, the effort we put into maintaining our relationships can have a profound impact on our lives (Baxter & Dindia, 1990).
What is one benefit you experience from maintaining a close relationship? Does your relational partner receive the same benefit?
10.2 The Consequences of Neglecting Relationships
Are you a high-maintenance or low-maintenance relationship partner? Take the quiz here. Based on your results, do you think you require a lot of interaction with relational partners or very little? Can you think of someone you love who is the opposite? What do you think are perceptions of someone who is high maintenance compared to low maintenance?
Neglecting relationships can have serious consequences for individuals and their relationships. Over time, neglect can lead to feelings of distance, resentment, and disconnection, making it difficult to repair damaged relationships. Neglect can also lead to conflict and communication breakdowns, making it difficult to resolve differences and maintain positive relationships. Neglecting relationships can have serious consequences for our well-being and quality of life. When we fail to invest in our relationships, we risk losing important social connections and support systems, which can lead to negative outcomes in a variety of areas (Dainton, 2003).
One of the most immediate consequences of neglecting relationships is social isolation. When we fail to maintain connections with others, we may find ourselves feeling lonely and disconnected from the world around us. This can have a negative impact on our mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-worth (Dainton & Aylor, 2001).
Neglecting relationships can also have negative consequences for our physical health. Studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and may even increase the risk of premature death (Arthur, 2006). Failing to maintain relationships can also lead to poor lifestyle choices, such as unhealthy eating habits or a lack of exercise, which can further impact our physical health. In addition to negative health outcomes, neglecting relationships can also have consequences for our career success. Failing to maintain connections with colleagues and mentors can limit our access to job opportunities and career advancement.
Additionally, negative relationships with coworkers or supervisors can create a toxic work environment, leading to increased stress and decreased job satisfaction.
Neglecting relationships can also impact our overall sense of fulfillment and life satisfaction. Without strong social connections, we may feel as though our lives lack purpose or meaning. We may also miss out on important life experiences, such as forming close bonds with loved ones or making new friends. It is important to invest time and effort into maintaining healthy relationships with the people who matter most to us, through effective communication, spending quality time together, and building trust. By doing so, we can create strong social connections and support systems that can enrich our lives and help us achieve our goals.
10.3 Strategies for Maintaining Healthy Relationships
Maintaining healthy relationships requires effort and commitment, but it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling experience (Stafford & Canary, 1991). Here are some strategies for keeping your relationships healthy and strong:
Communication: Effective communication is essential for maintaining healthy relationships. This means actively listening, expressing one’s needs and opinions clearly and respectfully, and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. It also involves being open to feedback and being willing to adjust one’s position as needed.
Quality Time: Spending quality time with the people we care about is essential for maintaining healthy relationships. This means setting aside time for meaningful conversations, shared activities, and enjoying each other’s company. It also involves being present and engaged, avoiding distractions and focusing on the present moment.
Trust: Trust is a foundational element of healthy relationships. This means being reliable, honest, and consistent in our behavior, and being willing to trust others in return. It also involves respecting boundaries and being willing to communicate openly and honestly about our needs and expectations.
Support: Providing emotional support and being there for the people we care about is essential for maintaining healthy relationships (Canary et al., 1993). This means being empathetic, offering words of encouragement, and providing practical assistance when needed. It also involves being willing to ask for help when we need it and being receptive to the support of others.
Flexibility: Maintaining healthy relationships requires flexibility and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. This means being willing to compromise, being open to new experiences and perspectives, and being willing to adjust our expectations as needed.
- How do others maintain their relationship with you?
- Do you believe there are better ways? Why or why not?
10.4 Challenges to Relationship Maintenance
Maintaining healthy relationships is not always easy (Dainton, 2003). There are numerous challenges that can make it difficult. Some of the most common challenges to relationship maintenance include:
Time Constraints: Busy schedules, work demands, and other commitments can make it difficult to find time for quality interactions and maintain strong relationships. In Lingo’s case, they were in a totally different time zone, so it made it harder to communicate with loved ones.
Distance: Physical distance can make it difficult to maintain regular contact and maintain close relationships. Because Lingo was in a different country, it was not easy to just pop in for a meal or to physically hang out with family in friends. The distance can make it harder for people to communicate because they are not in the same geographical location.
Communication Breakdowns: Poor communication, misunderstandings, and conflicts can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships. When people fail or do not communicate with others, it can be perceived as hostile or unfriendly (Dainton, 2011). Hence, it is important to communicate your ideas effectively so that people will not jump to false conclusions. For instance, in Lingo’s home country, new people are always treated as guests and everyone makes an effort to be your friend. He was shocked to learn that in America, people can be so unfriendly and even hostile to strangers.
Life Changes: Major life changes, such as moving, getting married, or starting a new job, can disrupt established relationships and make it difficult to maintain healthy connections. Because Lingo moved to start their higher education in a different country, it was a huge life change in terms of culture, language, and food. Everything that Lingo was familiar with previously in their home country was different in America, so it made it very hard. Lingo did not expect making friends in America to be so difficult.
Conflicting Expectations: Conflicting expectations, values, and goals can create tension and strain relationships. Lingo had a perception that they would make tons of American friends and they were highly disappointed to find that their American cohorts were rather rude and unpleasant to be around. These changes made it hard for Lingo to maintain relationships with their American classmates.
- Can you think of other challenges to relationship maintenance?
- What is your biggest challenge to relationship maintenance? Why?
Relationship maintenance often changes over the years. Can you think of ways that different relationships might change over time?
10.5 Social Maintenance Behaviors
refers to any positive action that fosters trust and intimacy between individuals in a relationship. The more prosocial behavior is present, the stronger the bonds between partners become, leading to a more successful and lasting relationship. Conversely, low levels of prosocial maintenance behavior can weaken the foundation of a relationship, often leading to its deterioration or stagnation. In their research, Canary and Stafford (1992) identified five communication strategies that contribute to prosocial maintenance behavior: positivity, openness, assurances, social networks, and sharing tasks. These strategies involve spending time together and engaging with each other both physically and emotionally. Positivity involves maintaining a positive attitude and avoiding negativity and criticism. Openness encourages discussion and goal-setting in the relationship. Social networks include friends and family who can provide balance and support. Research has shown that these maintenance strategies strongly predict important relationship characteristics such as commitment, satisfaction, stability, liking, and love. Prosocial maintenance behavior can take various forms and may be valued differently by each partner (Knobloch, et al, 2023). For instance, one partner may value verbal expressions of affection while another might appreciate help with household chores. This type of task-sharing falls under routine maintenance and can greatly contribute to relationship satisfaction.
In contrast, anti-social maintenance behavior involves deliberately declining opportunities to deepen the relationship, which can hinder its growth and progress. Anti-social relationship maintenance behaviors are actions that people may take in a relationship to undermine or damage it intentionally. These behaviors can range from subtle tactics such as making sarcastic remarks or giving silent treatment to more extreme actions like cheating or physical violence.
One common form of anti-social relationship maintenance behavior is called , which is when someone shuts down emotionally and stops communicating with their partner. This can be a way to avoid conflict, but it ultimately damages the relationship by preventing both partners from working through their issues. Another form of anti-social behavior is , which is a manipulative tactic that involves making the other person doubt their own thoughts, feelings, and memories. This can be done by twisting the truth, denying that certain events occurred, or by making the other person feel like they’re going crazy. Other anti-social behaviors in relationships include lying, withholding affection or support, threatening or intimidating, and being controlling or possessive. These behaviors can be damaging to the relationship and can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical harm.
Communication can take various forms, from spoken to written, verbal to nonverbal, and face-to-face to computer-mediated. The same message can be interpreted differently depending on the mode of communication used, and therefore, different types of relationships can be maintained through different types of communication (Dainton & Aylor, 2001).
Face-to-face communication provides the most precise communication as immediate feedback can determine whether the message has been accurately understood. Although technology has made significant advancements in providing face-to-face communication for people separated by long distances, personal interactions are still important. Romantic and close personal relationships often use more openness and assurance maintenance behaviors, which are easier to communicate in person. However, even these relationships have started to rely more on computer-mediated communication. Texting, social media, and video conferencing have made it easier for people to communicate and maintain relationships, even if they are far apart.
Casual connections do not require the same amount of attention as close friendships and romantic relationships. Social media platforms like Facebook provide a way to maintain contact and keep up on each other’s lives. Some relationships start and remain online, requiring the least amount of maintenance. However, idealization is a common problem with computer-mediated communication. People can control every aspect of the message, which can lead to presenting an image of themselves that is not real.
Despite its drawbacks, computer-mediated communication has changed the way people maintain relationships. The increased use and familiarity with technology have resulted in users’ adaptation to computer-mediated communication and reduced some of the advantages of face-to-face communication. Nonetheless, satisfaction in any relationship improves with the amount of time spent together, and face-to-face communication is still recommended whenever possible.
Do you have any important relationships that you have maintained via modalities that aren’t face-to-face?
How is your relationship shaped by the maintenance modality you use most frequently?
10.7 Strategic & Routine Maintenance Behaviors
Relationships can exhibit strategic or routine behaviors, each with its own underlying motives. are actions that are carried out deliberately to help maintain the relationship. For example, sending a thoughtful message to your partner to show affection or planning a surprise date are both strategic behaviors that help reinforce the bond between two people. On the other hand, are less strategic and are more related to everyday tasks. These behaviors involve performing small acts of kindness that help maintain the relationship, such as doing household chores or running errands together.
Research has shown that both strategic and routine maintenance behaviors are important for maintaining healthy relationships (Ayers, 1983). While strategic behaviors are necessary to provide positive reinforcement and show affection, routine behaviors are equally important in keeping the bond between two people strong. In fact, routine maintenance behaviors have been shown to be even more important than strategic behaviors in maintaining long-term relationships (Afifi et al., 2020).
In conclusion, maintaining a healthy relationship requires effort, commitment, and communication. By focusing on communication, trust, respect, appreciation, quality time, flexibility, and humor, individuals can cultivate and sustain healthy relationships. Relationships can be challenging, but by working together and prioritizing each other’s needs, individuals can build strong, supportive, and fulfilling connections that last a lifetime (Dainton et al., 1994).
The Chapter 10 Mixtape
Shaka Khan – “Ain’t Nobody”
Madonna – “Crazy for You”
INXS – “Need You Tonight”
Milli Vanilli – “Blame it on the Rain”
Kool and the Gang – “Cherish”
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range of actions taken by partners to uphold their relationship
any positive action that fosters trust and intimacy between individuals in a relationship
when someone shuts down emotionally and stops communicating with their partner
a manipulative tactic that involves making the other person doubt their own thoughts, feelings, and memories
ctions that are carried out deliberately to help maintain the relationship
less strategic everyday tasks that help to maintain a relationship