Promoting Intimacy: Strategies Suggested by the Appetitive Side

Few people enter intimate relationships for the intended purpose of avoiding conflict, yet the most common interventions focus on preventing or overcoming destructive patterns of communication and interaction. These techniques, essential as they may be to helping couples in distress, address only one side of relationships, the aversive side. In this master class, we take the position that eliminating what is harmful, however successful, does not guarantee relational satisfaction, much less relational thriving. Therefore, we discuss strategies suggested by the appetitive side of relationships – the processes that describe how interdependent partners pursue positively valenced goals. We will review  examples of theory and research that show how appetitive processes contribute to the development and maintenance of intimacy and to the well-being of each person in the relationship. We also will discuss how each of them can suggest novel approaches to intervention. In a broader sense, the goal of this master class is to stimulate intervention strategies that focus less on preventing the deterioration of romantic relationships and more on helping them thrive.