Publication Date

Spring 2020

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Holly Payne, Ph.D. (Director) Jennifer Mize Smith, Ph.D., Angela Jerome, Ph.D.

Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


While depression communication in romantic relationships has been heavily studied in psychological-based research, there is a lack of research grounded in communication theory. By using Relational Dialectics Theory (RDT) as a framework, communicative tensions and coping strategies were explored within relationships where one partner suffered from depression. Through eleven semi-structured interviews with both depressed and non-depressed individuals in a relationship, three major dialectical tensions and two major maintenance strategies emerged. Findings suggest that couples with a depressed partner faced unique and challenging tensions including involvement/distance, openness/closedness, and revelation/concealment. A number of positive and negative coping strategies for managing the tensions emerged, including selection and integration, with different coping strategies emerging for depressed or nondepressed partners. Practical implications, limitations, and future research directions are addressed.


Communication | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Other Communication