Fight or Flight: Relational Distancing as a Dynamic in Interpersonal and Romantic Relationships.

by Benjamin Stone
Communication Studies
Faculty advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Lamoureux

Relational distancing seems to be a phenomenon that many interpersonal relationships face at some point. Hess (198) states that “The degree of closeness or distance is one of the most fundamental dimensions of every relationship.” In the context of relational development and maintenance, distance is defined as “the presence of factors that create a noticeable rift in an ongoing relationship” (Hess, 2003, p.198). He further concludes that there has been little effort put forth in understanding relationship distancing as a phenomenon. As we experience different phases of our relationships, we “must find coping strategies to maintain…relationships” (Johnson and Roloff, 1998, p. 332). One of these strategies is relational distancing. With divorce rates at nearly 50% (CDC, 2011), learning to communicate more effectively in relationships is crucial to survival of those relationships. Through research and evaluation, I will analyze relational distancing and its effects on interpersonal and romantic relationships. Using four communication theories I will analyze relational distancing: Altman & Taylor’s Social Penetration Theory, Burgoon’s Expectancy Violations, Heider’s Attribution Theory, and Baxter & Montgomery’s Relational Dialectics.