Relational Maintenance

"Dr. Judy Pearson concluded that the people most satisfied with their relationships are the ones who must have worked hardest at maintaining them.”

When partners reach a stage in which they commit to each other they start making effort to keep the relationship together. Professor William Wilmot suggested that relationships stabilize when the partners reach a basic level of agreement about what they want from the relationship.

In 1997, Bruess and Pearson shared their findings that the following seven rituals are important characteristics of long-term relationships:

  1. Couple-time rituals – this might be reading together or having supper together every Wednesday night.

  2. Idiosyncratic/symbolic rituals – this includes calling each other by a special name or celebrating the anniversary of their first date.

  3. Daily routines and tasks – if the partners live together, one may always make the meals while the other one cleans up after.

  4. Intimacy rituals – they may give each other a massage or when they are apart, they may talk on the phone before going to bed.

  5. Communication rituals – they may go to lunch with a friend every Friday evening or go eat seafood with a significant other.

  6. Patterns, habits, and mannerisms – one partner may meet the other’s need to be complimented when going out for a fancy evening, and the other might be reassuring around difficult issues that involve visiting family.

  7. Spiritual rituals – this could be attending services together or doing yoga together in the evening.

Maintaining positive, satisfying relationships isn’t easy. Professor Judy Pearson in her 1996 research observed couples who had been happily married for more than 40 years. She found that many of these marriages were characterized by the stubbornness that the marriage will succeed no matter what, a distortion that one’s partner is the most beautiful in the world, unconditional acceptance regardless of faults, and the constant change in autonomy and independence versus unity and interdependence. The Doctor concluded that the people most satisfied with their relationships are the ones who must have worked hardest at maintaining them.

This is the second of a 3 part publication on “The Stages in Interpersonal Relationships: Relational Development, Relational Maintenance, and Relational Deterioration.”