Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication (MA)

Degree Level





Trish Amason

Committee Member

Kasey L. Walker

Second Committee Member

Mengfei Guan


Coping, COVID-19, Long-distance relationships, Public health, Relational Maintenance, Relational Turbulence Theory (RTT), Resilience


Among research that currently exists, no studies thus far combine elements of COVID-19, long-distance relationships, and Relational Turbulence Theory to explain how each of these elements impacts the others, if at all. Previous research does exist on each of these elements individually, although research regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19 on relationships is minimal considering the pandemic is ongoing. Long-distance relationships have been studied using Relational Turbulence Theory in previous studies within military relationships but have not been studied in connection with either COVID-19 or among college students. This study was conducted by way of qualitative, one-on-one interviews to determine the presence of turbulence in long-distance relationships resulting from separation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how couples cope with unexpected turbulence. A sample of nine participants aged 18-30 engaged in long-term, long-distance relationships were interviewed. After interviews were completed, the responses were then coded and analyzed for thematic similarities and differences. Results of this study show that interviewed long-distance couples did not experience more turbulence in their relationships resulting from COVID-19, but instead felt as though their relationships progressed. Although progression was reported by most participants, turbulence was still expressed as well as the use of protective buffering among couples while distanced. Maintenance strategies utilized by long-distance couples during the pandemic were explained to aid in maintaining physical and emotional intimacy while separated as well. This study is a thematic analysis of relational turbulence theory and how turbulence affected long-distance couples facing a global pandemic. As more research regarding the effects of COVID-19 is published daily, more studies might be conducted to better discover relational turbulence and coping strategies used within romantic, long-term relationships to better prevent turbulence in the future during other unprecedented, unexpected events such as the pandemic.