Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Matthew M. Martin

Committee Co-Chair

Alan K. Goodboy

Committee Member

Megan R. Dillow

Committee Member

Jessica Troilo


The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the connections between relational maintenance behaviors, theoretical factors, and relational characteristics in back burner relationships. A back burner relationship involves at least one individual who is romantically or sexually interested in a target, but they are not currently involved with the target. Given that back burners maintain communication with each other with the possibility of becoming romantically or sexually involved in the future, Study 1 was concerned with inductively identifying the relational maintenance behaviors used in back burner relationships. Following prior typology methods, participants (N = 86) in Study 1 were currently involved in at least one back burner relationship and responded to an open-ended question. The findings revealed that individuals use 10 back burner maintenance behaviors (i.e., Flirting & Humor, Minimize Intimacy, Openness, Positivity & Support, Regular Contact, Relationship Talk, Shared Activities, Social Networks, Special Occasions & Gifts, and Strategic Deceit). Study 2 questioned the behavioral predictability of theoretical factors (i.e., attachment style, relationship uncertainty, and self-expansion) and hypothesized that the use of maintenance behaviors would be positively associated with relational characteristics (i.e., commitment, liking, control mutuality, and relationship satisfaction). Participants (N = 187) were currently involved in at least one back burner relationship and completed an online questionnaire. The results indicated that individuals’ preoccupied attachment, secure attachment, behavioral uncertainty, future uncertainty, and experienced self-expansion each uniquely predicted the use of various back burner maintenance behaviors. The hypothesis was partially supported. Six maintenance behaviors (i.e., Flirting & Humor, Openness, Positivity & Support, Regular Contact, Shared Activities, and Special Occasions & Gifts) were positively associated with commitment, liking, control mutuality, and relationships. The results also revealed several unique associations for the Relationship Talk, Social Networks, Minimize Intimacy, and Strategic Deceit back burner maintenance behaviors.