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Relationship maintenance among military couples

APA Citation:

Knobloch, L. K., Monk, J. K., & MacDermid Wadsworth, S. M. (2023). Relationship maintenance among military couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 40(3), 734-772. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075221105025

Abstract Created by REACH:

Relationship maintenance activities are behaviors that couples do to protect or improve their relationship. These activities can be done individually (e.g., journaling) or with their partner (e.g., communicating). This study systematically reviewed literature examining military couples through the integrative model of relationship maintenance. 81 journal articles, including 61 unique samples, were examined. 5 themes that captured the relational experiences of military couples were identified: communicating through the deployment cycle, sharing/withholding information, support from a partner, managing stress together, and accommodating a partner’s symptoms.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches
Air Force
Marine Corps

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran
Guard/Reserve member
Military families


Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Review of Literature


Knobloch, Leanne K., Monk, J. Kale, MacDermid Wadsworth, Shelley M.


A burgeoning body of research on the relationship maintenance of military couples over the past two decades suggests the time is right to organize, assimilate, and critique the literature. We conducted a systematic review informed by the integrative model of relationship maintenance that considered issues of intersectionality. Our literature search identified 81 relevant journal articles representing 62 unique samples. With respect to theory, 59.3% of the journal articles employed one or more formal theoretical frameworks. In terms of research design, 88.7% of the studies focused on the U.S. military, 83.9% of the studies recruited convenience samples, 54.8% of the studies utilized quantitative methods, and 30.6% of the studies collected longitudinal data. Among the studies reporting sample demographics, 96.8% of participants were married, 77.2% of participants identified as non-Hispanic White, and only one same-sex relationship was represented. Our narrative synthesis integrated findings about relationship maintenance from studies examining (a) relationship maintenance overtly, (b) communicating to stay connected across the deployment cycle, (c) disclosure and protective buffering, (d) support from a partner, (e) dyadic coping, and (f) caregiving and accommodating a partner’s symptoms. We interpret our results with an eye toward advancing theory, research, and practice.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:


Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Communication, University of Illinois, LKK
Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Missouri, JKM
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Purdue University, SMMW


relationship maintenance, military couples

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


This research was supported in part by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs through the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (Award W81XWH2120005). The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick, MD 21702-5014, was the awarding and administering acquisition office.

REACH Newsletter:

  December 2022

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