Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication & Theatre Arts


Lifespan and Digital Communication

Committee Director

Thomas Socha

Committee Member

Gary Beck

Committee Member

Frances Hassencahl


Building on the extant research of on-again/off-again (on-off) romantic relationships, the current thesis focused on building upon past findings by utilizing a unique theoretical methodology in an emerging demographic. A sample of 22 emergent adult (ages 18-29) participants who were currently in or had recently experienced an on-off relationship completed face-to-face interviews discussing communicative processes during romantic reconciliation. The primary purpose of this thesis was to identify and define discursive struggles found within on-off relationships during reconciliation attempts, and understand how they are used between partners to give meaning to the terms "on" and "off" as a precursor to restructuring relational identity after reconciliation. More specifically, the goals of this study were to better understand how on-off partners create meaning through their discourses, rather than focus on previously identified on-off characteristics. As a result, this thesis focused on the unique romantic partnerships at a dialogic level.

Contrapuntal analysis (Baxter, 2011) was performed to answer five proposed research questions. Findings indicated that relational production, in comparison to relational reproduction was a defining discursive struggle during reconciliation. The data suggested partners using relational reproduction were less likely to have a successful reconciliation as they continued to harbor past relational tensions in the present relationship. Further, the production-reproduction discourse was found to produce a nuanced understanding of relational maintenance. Specifically, on-off relationships viewed from a dialogic perspective favor relational maintenance as a form of change versus relational maintenance as continuity of the past status quo. The presence and impact of social network support, relational uncertainty, and ambiguity surrounding on-off terminology within and between partners were also discussed. Finally, potential avenues for future research examining on-off relationships across the life course were discussed.


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