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Putative Secrets and Turmoil in Romantic Relationships Over Time

Aldeis, Michele Desiree
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Communication
Degree Supervisor:
Tamara D. Afifi
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Sociology, Individual and Family Studies and Speech Communication
Putative secrets
Romantic relationships
Reasons for secrecy
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2013

This dissertation examines how the unplanned discovery of secret information can impact turmoil (i.e., conflict, instability, and relational uncertainty) in romantic relationships and explores whether certain factors (i.e., reasons for the putative secret, use of deception, relationship satisfaction, forgiveness) moderate the effects of putative secrets on relationship turmoil over time. The sample consisted of 305 college students who were currently in dating relationships. The participants first reported on any putative secrets their partner was keeping or kept in the past and then completed three-week online diary entries where they tracked their satisfaction and perceptions of turmoil in their relationship.

Several important findings emerged from the study. The results of this investigation indicate that individuals who were currently managing the discovery of a putative secret had more turmoil in their dating relationship over the three-week period than individuals who experienced a putative secret in the past or no putative secrets at all. Analyses also tested the moderating effect of the perceived reasons (i.e., pro-social or selfish) and strategies (i.e., overt deception) for concealing the secret on the relationship between putative secrets and turmoil. Overall, the results suggest that while the reasons for keeping the putative secrets are important, they are not nearly as important as the fact that the secret was kept in the first place. Two of the reasons, protecting the relationship and avoiding negative evaluation, significantly moderated the impact between putative secrets and conflict.

Specifically, when individuals knew a current putative secret and were more likely to perceive that the reason for concealing the secret was to protect the relationship or so the secret keeper could avoid negative evaluation, they reported greater conflict during the three-week study. Avoiding negative evaluation and satisfaction also significantly moderated the association between putative secrets and self-uncertainty and putative secrets and relationship uncertainty. However, the remaining pro-social or selfish reasons did not significantly moderate the association between putative secrets and other types of turmoil such as instability and relational uncertainty. Similarly, overt deception did moderate the association between putative secrets and conflict, but not the associations between putative secrets and instability or relational uncertainty.

Thus, the results of this study suggest the extent that knowing relational partners are deliberately concealing information impacts relational turmoil more than the perceived reasons and strategies for concealing the information.

The results of this study allow several new contributions to be made to scholarship on secret keeping. First, given the inherent relational nature of secrecy, this study addresses the perspective of the individual from whom the secret is being kept. Most models of information regulation do not examine secret keeping from this perspective. Second, this dissertation also illuminates the importance of time with regard to the impact that putative secrets can have on romantic relationships. In general, the findings of this study suggest that individuals who currently know a putative secret their romantic partner is keeping experience increased levels of turmoil in the relationship over time compared to individuals who know a putative secret from the past. The results highlight that individuals seem to recover from the short-term impact (i.e., conflict, instability, and relational uncertainty) of the putative secrets over time. Third, the results suggest that while the perceived reasons for keeping the putative secrets are important, they are not nearly as important as the fact that the secret was kept in the first place. Finally, this dissertation acknowledges that other factors, including satisfaction and forgiveness, may expedite the rate at which relationships can recover from rule violations or relational transgressions such as putative secrets. Specifically, being satisfied with one's relationship and forgiving one's partner for the putative secret could mitigate some of the impact of putative secrets on romantic relationships. Together, these findings highlight the complex nature of putative secrets and the potential factors that can moderate the amount of turmoil individuals experience in their dating relationships over time as a result of those secrets. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).

Physical Description:
1 online resource (193 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Michele Aldeis
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