Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Category

Social Sciences/Humanities

Abstract/Artist Statement

Dating During COVID-19: Initiating and Negotiating Romantic Relationships This study contributes to the understanding of how individuals initiate and negotiate romantic relationships through pandemic circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed daily human interactions. The social distancing guidelines put in place by the Center for Disease Control and the lockdown mandates initiated by local governments have impacted interpersonal communication on various levels, including face-to-face interactions and dating initiation. In this study, relational turbulence theory was used as a framework to understand the ways in which COVID-19 has negatively impacted dating relationships. This theory explains how partners negotiate and manage turbulent events has repercussions on developing intimacy, uncertainty in relationships, and how interdependence is established (Theiss, 2005). The theory predicts that as a relationship increases in intimacy, the amount of turbulence experienced in the relationship will increase as well. We hypothesized that the increase of relational uncertainty would result in relational turbulence, and that the increase in perceived relational turbulence would relate to the disclosure of information about physical distancing practices, potential exposure to COVID-19, symptoms of illness, and general worries about COVID-19 between partners and to social networks members. One hundred and forty seven participants completed an online Qualtrics survey which measured the levels of relational uncertainty, disclosure, and turbulence within dating relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic. Items specifically focused on how the pandemic has impacted the experience of, and communication in, romantic relationships. The measurements used surrounding relational uncertainty and relational turbulence were from previous research studies within the field of communication. The measurements regarding self and partner disclosure and COVID-19 as an interference were created by the researchers. These measurements were created to understand how our participants felt and communicaticated about COVID-19 issues. As our hypothesis and relationship turbulence theory predicted, levels of self-uncertainty in the beginning of the relationship did predict relational turbulence even in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we found that as a person’s confidence in their partner’s disclosure of COVID-19-related information increased, their self-uncertainty and, in turn, relational turbulence decreased. Although the COVID-19 pandemic did not appear to be a source of interference in dating relationships through quantitative analysis, our qualitative data did give us insight into how COVID-19 was impacting people’s romantic relationships. The qualitative analysis of our open-ended question regarding how COVID-19 is impacting dating lives indicated that successful dating couples navigated the added turbulence of COVID-19 through interpersonal disclosure and communication surrounding the given turbulence. In a broader scope, this study can add to the understanding of how people date during unprecedented circumstances. Our first analysis of the data shows that in the face of unexpected crises, such as COVID-19, dramatic changes in the way that intimate partners communicate is crucial to the success of relationships. Keywords: COVID-19, relational turbulence theory, dating, uncertainty, disclosure

Mentor Name

Stephen Yoshimura

Personal Statement

Our research project was inspired by human beings’ innate desire to be and stay connected to others. The social distancing practices that were implemented in March of 2020 have negatively impacted humans’ ability to meet new people and form meaningful relationships. And yet, we noticed that people were still dating, whether using proper COVID-19 protocols or ignoring them. The phenomenon for how newly established romantic relationships were being formed during a global pandemic intrigued us because this is a novel situation. We wanted to understand how communication, whether face-to-face or computer generated, was impacted by the Coronavirus. This research project explores COVID-19's impact on the formation of romantic relationships during the digital dating age. We are attempting to add value to human communication during unprecedented circumstances. Interpersonal relationships during world health crises are understudied, and we tried to shed light on how communication, specifically about the disclosure surrounding the particular turbulence or stressor, can help mitigate conflict and uncertainty. As communication graduate students, we aim to contribute to the power of direct and open communication. We are strong believers in the Fred Roger's quote "if it is mentionable, it is manageable" and our research, especially our qualitative data, helps to illustrate the benefits of direct communication. COVID-19 is still currently a major part of our world and learning how to navigate the uncertainty that it brings to dating will be vital for successful relationships in the future. This research extends past COVID-19 as well, because turbulence and uncertainty are a part of all interpersonal relationships (e.g. long distance relationships, ambivalent relationships, relationships where a partner has an illness/must quarantine, relationships that undergo or shift such as a career change or the addition of a child, etc). Our data indicates that open, direct, and honest communication can be the key to overcoming stressful circumstances, such as a global pandemic.

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Dating During COVID-19: Initiating and Negotiating Romantic Relationships

Dating During COVID-19: Initiating and Negotiating Romantic Relationships This study contributes to the understanding of how individuals initiate and negotiate romantic relationships through pandemic circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed daily human interactions. The social distancing guidelines put in place by the Center for Disease Control and the lockdown mandates initiated by local governments have impacted interpersonal communication on various levels, including face-to-face interactions and dating initiation. In this study, relational turbulence theory was used as a framework to understand the ways in which COVID-19 has negatively impacted dating relationships. This theory explains how partners negotiate and manage turbulent events has repercussions on developing intimacy, uncertainty in relationships, and how interdependence is established (Theiss, 2005). The theory predicts that as a relationship increases in intimacy, the amount of turbulence experienced in the relationship will increase as well. We hypothesized that the increase of relational uncertainty would result in relational turbulence, and that the increase in perceived relational turbulence would relate to the disclosure of information about physical distancing practices, potential exposure to COVID-19, symptoms of illness, and general worries about COVID-19 between partners and to social networks members. One hundred and forty seven participants completed an online Qualtrics survey which measured the levels of relational uncertainty, disclosure, and turbulence within dating relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic. Items specifically focused on how the pandemic has impacted the experience of, and communication in, romantic relationships. The measurements used surrounding relational uncertainty and relational turbulence were from previous research studies within the field of communication. The measurements regarding self and partner disclosure and COVID-19 as an interference were created by the researchers. These measurements were created to understand how our participants felt and communicaticated about COVID-19 issues. As our hypothesis and relationship turbulence theory predicted, levels of self-uncertainty in the beginning of the relationship did predict relational turbulence even in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we found that as a person’s confidence in their partner’s disclosure of COVID-19-related information increased, their self-uncertainty and, in turn, relational turbulence decreased. Although the COVID-19 pandemic did not appear to be a source of interference in dating relationships through quantitative analysis, our qualitative data did give us insight into how COVID-19 was impacting people’s romantic relationships. The qualitative analysis of our open-ended question regarding how COVID-19 is impacting dating lives indicated that successful dating couples navigated the added turbulence of COVID-19 through interpersonal disclosure and communication surrounding the given turbulence. In a broader scope, this study can add to the understanding of how people date during unprecedented circumstances. Our first analysis of the data shows that in the face of unexpected crises, such as COVID-19, dramatic changes in the way that intimate partners communicate is crucial to the success of relationships. Keywords: COVID-19, relational turbulence theory, dating, uncertainty, disclosure