Communication in Online Forums About the Experience and Management of Relational Uncertainty in Military Life

Leanne K. Knobloch
Erin D. Basinger
Bryan Abendschein
Erin C. Wehrman, Missouri State University
Kale Monk
Kelly G. McAninch

Abstract

Relational uncertainty is an undeniable aspect of military life, but the literature lacks knowledge about the lived experiences of military couples. We examined how individuals communicate in online forums about relational uncertainty in military life using a grounded theory approach to analyze 1,794 pages of threads. Results demonstrated that posters detected deception and/or recognized change, which led to volatile emotions, and ultimately prompted them to seek help for managing relational uncertainty. Posters dealt with their questions by engaging in self-care, justifying the partner's behavior, postponing action, and doing relationship work. In reply, responders provided emotional support by offering comfort and reframing change. They provided informational support by recommending that posters acknowledge deception, take care of themselves, consider the partner's perspective, defer major changes, and work on the relationship. These findings advance theorizing about relational uncertainty and social support; they also suggest guidelines for helping military couples manage relational uncertainty.