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Abstract

Intimacy in romantic relationships is argued to influence both the outcomes of decisions about whether to withhold relational irritations from partners and the role of various conflict avoidance motives in these decisions. A study of college students involved in dating relationships revealed a curvilinear association between perceptions of intimacy and the frequency of decisions to withhold irritations. Specifically, intimacy was negatively correlated with the proportion of Unexpressed irritations across low and average levels of intimacy; however, intimacy was unrelated to decisions to withhold irritations across higher levels of intimacy. Length of involvement in a relationship was negatively correlated with the proportion of unexpressed irritations within relatively non intimate relationships only. Finally, the effect of three conflict avoidance motives on decisions to withhold irritations varied with the perceived intimacy of relationships. In particular, reporting a lack of intimacy in the relationship as a reason for withholding irritations was positively correlated with the proportion of unexpressed irritations when intimacy was low, but negatively correlated with the proportion of unexpressed irritations when level of emotional commitment was high. In contrast, reporting either fear of consequences or the lack of importance of the problem as motives for withholding irritations was unrelated to the proportion of unexpressed irritations when intimacy was low, but was positively Correlated with withholding when intimacy was high. These results suggest that the phenomenological experience of conflict management decisions changes in substance throughout the life of the romantic relationship.