Intimate relationships can be a source of considerable joy and comfort, and intimate partners play a primary role in fulfilling interpersonal needs such as safety, security, and companionship; therefore, it is not surprising that almost everyone enters into a committed relationship at least once during their lifetime. Nonetheless, intimate relationships are complex, and multiple factors converge to influence their quality. Functioning will inevitably be impaired at times, and couples may not be capable of repairing fractures in their relationships on their own. Indeed, relationship difficulties are one of the most common reasons cited for seeking mental health care, and family therapists report couple problems as the primary presenting concern in over two-thirds of their cases (Gurman, 2010). Although there is overwhelming evidence that couple therapy is effective (Gurman, 2011), a notable proportion of couples who recover eventually relapse (Christensen, Atkins, Baucom, & Yi, 2010; Jacobson & Addis, 1993). Therefore, scientific progress is needed to better understand what contributes to the deterioration of intimate relationships in order to inform the development of novel interventions and refine existing clinical practices. Fortunately, the past decade has yielded innovative research that has the potential to inform couple interventions not only for the prevention and treatment of relationship dysfunction, but also for the promotion of individual health and well-being.
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