Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This project focused on understanding how past romantic relationships influence subsequent romantic relationships. Participants (n = 147) completed a survey containing repeated measures focusing on a previous romantic relationship and a current romantic relationship. Through the application of Relational Turbulence Model (RTM; Solomon & Knobloch, 2004) as a framework, the evaluation of relational uncertainty and interference in previous romantic relationships and subsequent romantic relationships was determined. The usage of RTM highlights how past experiences of relational uncertainty and interference influence the following romantic relationship and partner. Additionally, an evaluation of how relational uncertainty influences different types of talk in both previous and subsequent relationships was considered. Finally, the Investment Model (Rusbult, 1990) was utilized to evaluate overall commitment experienced by a relational partner in a previous and subsequent relationship, as well as how commitment influences was influenced by relational uncertainty, interference, and different types of talk in previous and subsequent romantic relationships.

Results indicated the experience of past relational uncertainty and interference in a previous romantic relationship increase the experience of current relational uncertainty and interference in a subsequent relationship. The most common types of talk that occur between past relational partners were small talk, joking around, catching up, recapping the day, and conflict, which resembles “everyday relating” (Goldsmith & Baxter, 1996). Additionally, talk about an ex-partner with a new, current partner was found to increase relational uncertainty. This study also found that increased talk about an ex-partner in subsequent romantic relationships is positively associated with appraisals of threat and avoidance of relationship talk, as mediated by current relational uncertainty. Finally, other important findings produced by this study were that relational uncertainty and inference were negatively associated with overall commitment in the current romantic relationship.

Overall, this study exposed how past romantic relationships do not simply dissolve and disappear, but continue to live within relational partners and ultimately impact the following romantic relationships. The components of RTM, different types of talk, and commitment are major contributors to romantic relationships, therefore the application of these frameworks allowed for a closer analysis of the question “if we’re over, are we really “over”?”



Committee Chair

Pecchioni, Loretta