Relationship maintenance (or relational maintenance) refers to a variety of behaviors exhibited by relational partners in an effort to maintain that relationship. Relational maintenance is defined by scholars in four different ways:
- to keep a relationship in existence
- to keep a relationship in a specified state or condition
- to keep a relationship in a satisfactory condition and
- to keep a relationships in repair.
First, in order to keep a relationship in existence (for example, adult friends that contact each other infrequently, but adequately to maintain the friendship), means the relationship continues without termination. Second, in order to keep a relationship in a specified state or condition, human communication professors Kathryn Dindia and Daniel Canary “refers to sustaining the present level of certain dimensions or qualities thought to be important in relationship development.” There are three elements of a stable relationship:
- the participants reach minimal agreement about the relationship
- relationships can stabilize at different levels of intimacy and
- relationship still has considerable change occurring in it.
Dindia and Canary’s third definition of relational maintenance refers to keeping a relationship in a satisfactory condition or to maintain satisfaction within the relationship. “For example, this third definition implies that no one can be in a stable, but dissatisfying relationship.” Fourthly, to keep a relationship in repair means to keep the relationship in good, sound, or working condition and to repair a relationship that has come apart. Repair of the relationship means “changing a relationship from its present condition and restoring it to a previous (more advanced) state after decline or decay.”