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Review article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Page(s) 106 - 120
Title of proceedings Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences
DOI 10.1037/ebs0000088


Over the past 50 years, psychological science on close relationships has developed a wide range of theories offering explanations of and insight into close and intimate relationships. In the current article, we provide a selective review of those lines of theorizing that are, in our view, most relevant to long-term committed relationships, and that have been most relevant in guiding empirical research on relationship functioning and development. The theoretical strands that we describe here all allow for predictions about the choices individuals make in the context of and based on evaluations of their existing relationships. These choices are relevant for relationship functioning and stability, and cover broad topics such as stay or leave decisions, commitment to persist in a relationship, but also more specific aspects such as how individuals’ behavioral responses during interactions, willingness to make sacrifices, or preferences regarding closeness and dependence. We describe the broad lines of thought that offer understanding of such choices, proposed by interdependence theory, the risk regulation model, social learning theory, attachment theory, and the intimacy process model. We finish with a synthesis in which we outline how the reviewed theoretical strands offer complementary rather than competing views, and we highlight particular strengths of the theories for guiding empirical research.