The purpose of this study was to examine the classic and unique relationship tensions marital partners of non-residential stepfamilies experience. Grounded in relational dialectical theory, transcripts from interviews of five non-residential stepfamily couples were analyzed using qualitative content analysis to search for and identify autonomy-connection and openness-closedness dialectical tensions and coping strategies utilized by the participants. These relational dialectical tensions were illustrated in every interview. Tensions were present not only between the relationship partners, but also in regard to the non-residential children. Participants utilized a variety of coping strategies to deal with the relationship tensions experienced in their marriage within a non-residential stepfamily setting.


Relational Dialectics Theory, Content Analysis, Dialectical Tensions, Stepfamily, Nonresidential, and Marital Partners


This paper is a product of the first author’s master’s thesis written at South Dakota State University under the careful direction of Dr. Elizabeth G. Tolman. The authors are also are deeply grateful for the assistance and feedback provided by the reviewers.

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