Studying the Maintenance and
Enhancement of Close Romantic
University of Wisconsin Medical School
University of Iowa
One of the most daunting issues confronting researchers and practitioners in the area of close relationships concerns the dynamics of how people both maintain and enhance their close romantic relationships (including, but not limited to, marriage) over time. We have considerable literature and a relatively lengthy history of work on the initiation and dissolution processes in close relationships. It is only in the last decade, however, that the topics of maintenance and enhancement have become prominent foci for study and writing, as well as for therapy and prevention programs. Across different fields, close relationships scholars and practitioners have begun to theorize and conduct research on presumed ingredients of maintenance and enhancement to offer conclusions on what does and does not work in different couples and situations.
Unquestionably, this interest in the maintenance and enhancement parallels the considerable concern in society about the high divorce rate that has persisted in the United States since the 1970s. In terms of policy and legislation as well as contemporary folkways in this country, the concern about the durability of marriage is symbolized by the Covenant Marriage legislation, making divorce much more difficult to obtain, that has been passed in Louisiana and Arizona. Further, movements such as Promise Keepers and Back to Courtship (that emphasize no physical intimacy until marriage) are aimed partially at strengthening perceived deficiencies in relationships and the larger family units of which they are a part over an extended period of time.