The context of and motivations for discussing relationship boundaries in long-distance relationships

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Relationship boundary discussions
Approach and avoidance motives
Couples' communication
Long-distance relationships

Having explicit discussions regarding the emotional and sexual boundaries in a relationship often benefits couples’ relational and sexual health; however, not all couples benefit. This is perhaps because partners’ motives for discussing boundaries and their perceptions of discussion quality vary widely. Thus, the degree to which partners engage in boundary discussions to gain a desired outcome (i.e., approach motive) versus to avoid an aversive outcome (i.e., avoidance motive) may play a role in the quality of their discussions, and subsequently affect long-term relational outcomes. I predicted that individuals’ discussion quality would mediate the associations between individuals’ approach and avoidance motives and individuals’ and partners’ relationship satisfaction, commitment, and jealousy on average over six months in a sample of mixed-sex long-distance couples (N = 71). Unexpectedly, both approach and avoidance motives were negatively associated with relational outcomes via discussion quality, which may indicate that even theoretically beneficial variables (i.e., approach motives) may depend on the relationship context in which they are enacted. Men’s discussion quality was also more consistently associated with relational outcomes, which suggests that the degree to which men feel comfortable discussing relationship boundaries and feel confident about their relationship following the discussion are especially salient for understanding changes in couples’ relationship quality over time.

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Rebecca Cobb
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.