Something to Talk About: Topics of Conversation Between Romantic Partners During Military Deployments

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Abstract

Long-distance communication has been frequently identified as essential to military couples trying to maintain their relationship during a deployment. Little quantitative research, however, has assessed the types of topics discussed during such communication and how those topics relate to overall relationship satisfaction. The current study draws on a sample of 56 Army couples who provided data through online surveys while the service member was actively deployed. These couples provided information on current marital satisfaction, topics discussed during deployment (problem talk, friendship talk, love talk), and how they communicated via synchronous media (e.g., phone calls, video calls) and letters during deployment. Nonparametric Friedman tests followed by paired t tests revealed that synchronous communication was primarily utilized for friendship talk, whereas letters included friendship talk and love talk in similar amounts. Both synchronous communication and letters included less problem talk than other topics. In mixed-level modeling, only topics of communication for synchronous media (not for letters) were related to relationship satisfaction. Love talk via synchronous media was related to higher relationship satisfaction, whereas problem talk via synchronous media was related to less relationship satisfaction. The current study offers the first quantitative assessment of topics within deployment communication media and associations with relationship satisfaction.

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