Professor of Communication


DeWitt 101

Jen Theiss studies interpersonal communication in romantic relationships, marriages, and families. She currently serves as Associate Editor for Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (2015-2017) and is on the editorial boards of Communication Research and Journal of Family Communication. Jen lives in Madison, New Jersey, with her husband Kevin and their golden retriever Riley. 


University of Wisconsin
Ph.D., Communication Arts

University of Wisconsin
M.A., Communication Arts

St. Norbert College
B.A., Communication Studies


Jen Theiss' research focuses on the dynamics of interpersonal communication in the context of romantic relationships, marriages, and families. Specifically, she is interested in the ways that certain qualities of relationships shape communication between partners and, in turn, how interpersonal communication influences the development of close personal relationships. She has been working with colleagues to develop the Relational Turbulence Model, which explains why relationships are marked by more extreme emotions, cognitions, and communication behaviors during transitional periods in the relationship trajectory. The RTM argues that transitions are marked by heightened uncertainty about the relationship and increased interference from partners in daily goals. These heightened relationship characteristics make people more reactive to their everyday circumstances. 

Theiss' previous research has employed longitudinal and dyadic data analytic techniques to examine the impact that relational uncertainty and partner interference have on a variety of relational outcomes, such as jealousy, irritations, conflict, hurt, and communication. She has applied the RTM to such contexts as the transition to parenthood, the transition from deployment to reintegration for military couples, and the transition to the empty-nest phase of marriage. 

Theiss' other program of research focuses on the role of interpersonal communication in negotiating sexual intimacy between partners. She has applied the Relational Turbulence Model to understand the relationship dynamics that compromise sexual communication and the consequences that arise when couples fail to communicate about their sexual relationship. 

Centers, Labs, Working Groups, and Clusters

Funded Projects

Research Council Grant, "Communication Dynamics in Families Coping with Alcoholism," Office of Research and Sponsored Programs – Rutgers University ($1,000) 2013-2014

Consultant on NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant, "Active Involvement in Creating High School Substance Use Prevention Messages," NIH-NIDA Grant Number R21DA027146, 2011

Research Council Grant, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs – Rutgers University, "Communicative and Physiological Manifestations of Stress in Empty Nest Couples" ($1,948) 2010-2011

Research Council Grant, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs – Rutgers University, "Relational Turbulence in Military Couples during Post-Deployment Transitions" ($1,200) 2009-2010

Grants to Get Grants, School of Communication & Information – Rutgers University,  "Communication between Married Partners in the United States Military during the Post-deployment Stage" ($2,063) 2008-2009

Selected Publications

Solomon, D. H., Knobloch, L. K., Theiss, J. A., & McLaren, R.M. (2016). Relational turbulence theory: Explaining variation in subjective experiences and communication within romantic relationships. Human Communication Research, 42, 507-532.

Theiss, J. A., & Knobloch, L. K. (2014). Relational turbulence during the post-deployment transition: Self, partner, and relationship focused turbulence. Communication Research, 41, 27-51.

Theiss, J. A., Estlein, R., & Weber, K. M. (2013). A longitudinal assessment of relationship characteristics that predict new parents’ relationship satisfaction. Personal Relationships, 20, 216-235.

Theiss, J. A. (2011). Modeling dyadic effects in the associations between relational uncertainty, sexual communication, and sexual satisfaction for husbands and wives. Communication Research, 38, 565-584.

Solomon, D. H., & Theiss, J. A. (2013). Interpersonal communication: Putting theory into practice. New York: Routledge.

Awards & Recognitions

Rutgers University Chancellor’s Scholar Award, 2015, 2016

Excellence in Research on Military and Veteran Families Award Finalist, Military Family Research Institute – Purdue University

Early Career Award, Interpersonal Communication Division of the National Communication Association, 2013

Distinguished Article Award, International Association for Relationship Research, 2012

John Garrison Award for Interpersonal Communication Research in Applied Contexts, Interpersonal Communication Division, International Communication Association, 2011

Additional Resources

  • New Jersey 101.5 - Are You Guilty of Staying in a Bad Relationship
  • Yahoo! Parenting - 4 Reasons I'm Glad My Kids Are Off To College (and 6 Reasons I'm Not)
  • The Atlantic - Multiple Lovers Without Jealousy
  • Men's Health - Watch Out! Social Media Can Sink Your Love Life
  • Rutgers Today - Diffusing Family Conflict at Holidays
  • Rutgers Today - Valentine's Day Q&A 
  • Rutgers Today - Byrne Seminar on the Communication Dynamics of the Modern Family
  • The Press of Atlantic City - New Jersey has Second Lowest Divorce Rate in US, by Michelle Lee

Research Keywords