It’s Not All Conflict: Relationship Maintenance Psychology

Jennifer L. Leo, Saul L. Miller and Jon K. Maner

in The Oxford Handbook of Sexual Conflict in Humans

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396706
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 It’s Not All Conflict: Relationship Maintenance Psychology

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  • Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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From an evolutionary psychological perspective, the maintenance of long-term romantic relationships plays a key role in human reproductive success. At a more proximate psychological level, relationship maintenance helps foster personal happiness and social well-being. Yet, in many romantic relationships, these benefits also come with significant conflict. In the face of conflict, romantically involved individuals are equipped with an array of adaptive psychological strategies designed to help maintain their relationships. This chapter outlines several types of relationship maintenance strategies designed to protect against relationship threats. These strategies include positive biases and pro-relationship behaviors directed toward one’s partner and relationship, as well as negative biases directed toward attractive relationship alternatives and intrasexual rivals. Many relationship factors, but particularly relationship commitment, play an integral role in these relationship maintenance strategies. We review evidence of relationship maintenance strategies that may have evolved to ensure the longevity of romantic relationships.

Keywords: relationship maintenance; commitment; forgiveness; accommodation; attractive alternatives; rivals; individual differences

Article.  15626 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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