Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2014


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Calvin Troup

Committee Member

Janie Fritz

Committee Member

Richard Thames


biosocial, cohabitation, Interpersonal communication, Intimate communication, marriage


In the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century, egalitarian views regarding gender communication have been dominant in the theory and practice of intimate interpersonal communication (IPC). During the same period research continued to report that the healthiest and most satisfying relationships fit within patterns of traditional marriage. Traditional intimate relationships tend to enact complementarian practices regarding gender roles in intimate IPC. This raises the question how might an exploration of a minimalist complementarian view that informs traditional relationships assist in sustaining healthy intimate IPC today? In the literature concerning the health of intimate relationships, namely marriage and cohabitation, scholars report an emerging sense of decline. In broad terms people are reporting that their expectations and experience in intimate communicative relationships do not align. As a result the viability of family lives and structures are at stake. Studies from a variety of fields connected to intimate communication now intersect at the disconnect between expectation and experience. Three points emerge as we focus on this misalignment: (1) Concern for quality of intimate communication puts IPC literature at the center of today's public conversations about intimate relationships, (2) we see a phenomenological disconnect emerging between what people expect to experience and the actual experience they have within that lifestyle, and (3) the seriousness of the problem invites study from multiple perspectives within intimate IPC. The conventional egalitarian perspective acknowledges biological differences but puts greater emphasis on cultural and social constructs related to femininity and masculinity. However recent neuroscientific studies suggest a biosocial role, involving biological and social factors that should be received as interactive and not dichotomous, making clear that both culture and biology are substantial contributors to femininity and masculinity. Neuroscientific research detailing significant differences between female and male brains suggests we should expect differences in female and male communication patterns. And as IPC literature shows emerging concerns about the decline of sustainable intimate communication we see an invitation for perspectives that consider biosocial understandings. A complementarian view may be one such perspective given it is a view common to a variety of narrative traditions seeking to account for fundamental differences between women and men, both historically and in the present moment.