What Constitutes a Healthy Communal Marriage and Why Relationship Stage Matters


Department of Psychology, Tobin Hall, University of Massachusetts, 135 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA, 01003-9271 (lbeck@psych.umass.edu).


The authors take a position that high-quality marriages are best defined in terms of theoretically grounded sets of intra- and interpersonal processes that promote both individuals' mental and physical health and the health of their relationship. On the basis of a long-standing research program on communal and exchange relationships, they set forth one set of marital processes, those surrounding the provision of mutual responsiveness, that contribute to marital quality. Then they add an important caveat: Relationship stage matters. They present a model of three additional relationship processes (strategic self-presentation, self-protection, partner evaluation), each of which is proposed to be healthy and normative during relationship initiation but harmful to individuals and relationship functioning if it does not diminish or disappear following marital commitment.