Defining the DTR : what it is, what it isn’t, and how it functions in romantic relationship development




Varga, Sarah

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The DTR, or define the relationship, conversation is a commonly understood scenario that has yet to be fully explicated by communication scholars. While it is widely acknowledged in the field of communication that all communication has the potential to signal the nature of the relationship between communicators (Watzlawick et al., 1967), researchers have yet to agree on a universal understanding of conversations in which the state of the relationship is both the topic and the outcome. With romantic partners now communicating via multiple channels (Caughlin & Sharabi, 2013), the complexities of relationship talk have never been greater. In order to form a foundation for future studies in this line of research, the current study takes an inductive, qualitative approach to defining the DTR and understand the DTR process. Forty semi-structured interviews were conducted to answer nine research questions about what is occurring before, during, and after the DTR. Findings are discussed in terms of emergent themes and thematic co-occurrences, corresponding exemplars, a definition of the DTR, and an emergent model of the DTR process for future research.


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