Equity in the Preservation
of Personal Relationships
Daniel J. Canary
Arizona State University
Ohio State University
In a perfect world, people would treat each other fairly. In a perfect world, relationships would involve partners who are 100% content with each other, balance each other in terms of strengths and weaknesses, and intuitively know when they should do something for the other. Interaction between partners would entail such topics as which favorite meal to cook, whether one should go to work that day, and how to spend the unexpected extra money that the IRS decided everyone should have. In a perfect world, problems between people would disappear and relationships would naturally sustain themselves. In other words, there would be no need for this chapter in a perfect world.
This chapter concerns how people maintain relationships in an imperfect world. We believe that relational maintenance behaviors are needed to sustain relationships—that relationships are not self-sustaining. When an individual believes that his or her partner does not deserve the effort, then energies used to maintain the relationship are withheld. In other words, people use maintenance strategies in equitable relationships. Although this idea might appear obvious, the manner in which it emerges in behavior presents a complex picture of how people maintain their personal relationships.
To support our contention that maintenance strategies are used primarily in equitable relationships, we first define what we mean by relational maintenance behaviors and review relevant studies. Although recent years have seen the expansion of a few programs of research on relational