What happens when the standard for openness goes unmet in romantic relationships? : cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of stress, coping, and individual and relationship consequences
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Individuals expect openness in their romantic relationships, and this standard, known as the standard for openness, is the focus of this project. Currently, little empirical evidence describes what individuals do to deal with any dissatisfaction, anger, and disappointment they feel toward their partners and relationships when standards, such as that for openness, go unfulfilled (Boldero et al., 2009). Based on Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) theory of stress and coping, this project's purpose was to address limitations in existing research by exploring the stress elicited when the standard for openness goes unmet, identifying the coping strategies individuals engage in when faced with this stress, and assessing the consequences of coping efforts for individuals and their relationships over time. Individuals in newly dating relationships (N = 203) responded to weekly questionnaires over the course of six weeks. Findings from cross-sectional analyses of Week 1 data revealed that exiting and using humor partially mediated the relationship between the stress associated with unfulfilled openness standards and relational satisfaction, and escaping fully mediated the relationship between stress and relationship satisfaction. Further, exiting, modeling, escaping, and reframing partially mediated the relationship between the stress associated with unfulfilled openness standards and mental well-being. Longitudinal analyses using data from all six weeks failed to support predictions that relational satisfaction and mental well-being were related to discrepancies in the fulfillment of openness standards and stress the following week.