Communication and communal coping in long-distance romantic relationships
Two studies were conducted to examine how people cope with stress, both with their partners and on their own, in their premarital long-distance romantic relationships (LDRRs). In the first investigation, nineteen individuals involved in LDRRs were interviewed to determine the sources of stress in their relationships, the coping strategies they use to manage stress, and the role of communication in the coping process. Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed ten sources of stress, seventeen coping strategies, and six themes related to the ways in which participants talk about stress with their relational partners. The coping strategies and stressors uncovered in Study 1, combined with those identified in previous research, were used in Study 2 to ascertain how cognitive appraisals of a relational stressor impact perceptions of coping response, and the association between ratings of the coping strategies and assessments of relationship ix satisfaction and distress. Moreover, several individual difference variables were used to test how gender, gender orientation, attachment style, and perceived mastery influence the coping process. A total of 427 people participated in Study 2, with 241 people reporting on proximal relationships (PRs) and 186 reporting on LDRRs. Data analysis showed that there were differences in the choice of stressors and coping strategies between the participants in LDRRs and those in PRs. In addition, appraisals of the stressor (i.e., whether or not the respondents believed the stressor was a threat to the relationship, and whether or not they thought they could change their stressful situations) had a strong effect on participant ratings of coping strategies and perceptions of satisfaction and distress. Furthermore, all four individual difference variables seemed to have some bearing on evaluations of the coping strategies. The results of both investigations are discussed in terms of their contributions to the research on communal coping in the context of close relationships and the study of premarital LDRRs.